Saving Hamlet Ellipsis

  • Kristina LiefkeEmail author
Part of the Studies in Computational Intelligence book series (SCI, volume 860)


Hamlet ellipsis (see Parsons 1997) is a propositionalist account of depiction reports (e.g. Mary imagines/paints a unicorn) that analyzes the object DPs in these reports as the result of eliding the infinitive to be (there) from a CP. Hamlet ellipsis has been praised for its uniformity and systematicity, and for its ability to explain the learnability of the meaning of depiction verbs (e.g. imagine, paint). These merits notwithstanding, recent work on ‘objectual’ attitude reports (esp. Forbes 2006; Zimmermann 2016) has identified a number of challenges for Hamlet ellipsis. These include the material inadequacy of this account, its prediction of unattested readings of reports with temporal modifiers, and its prediction of counterintuitive entailments. This paper presents a semantic save for Hamlet ellipsis, called Hamlet semantics, that answers the above challenges. Hamlet semantics denies the elliptical nature of the complement in depiction reports (s.t. object DPs are interpreted in the classical type of DPs, i.e. as intensional generalized quantifiers). The propositional interpretation of the object DPs in these reports is enabled by the particular interpretation of depiction verbs. This interpretation converts intensional quantifiers into ‘existential’ propositions during semantic composition.



I wish to thank three anonymous referees for SCI-LACompLing2018 for valuable comments on an earlier version of this paper. The paper has profited from discussions with Sebastian Bücking, Eugen Fischer, Friederike Moltmann, Frank Sode, Carla Umbach, Dina Voloshina, Markus Werning, and Ede Zimmermann. The research for this paper is supported by the German Research Foundation (via Ede Zimmermann’s grant ZI 683/13-1).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Linguistics, Goethe University FrankfurtFrankfurt am MainGermany

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