Ellipsis and discourse coherence

Linguistics and Philosophy 29 (3):315 - 346 (2006)
Abstract
VP ellipsis generally requires a syntactically matching antecedent. However, many documented examples exist where the antecedent is not appropriate. Kehler (2000, Linguistics and philosophy 23(6), 533–575. 2002, Coherence, Reference and the Theory of Grammer, CSLI Publications. Stanford.) proposed an elegant theory which predicts a syntactic antecedent for an elided VP is required only for a certain discourse coherence relation (resemblance), not for cause-effect relations. Most of the data Kehler used to motivate his theory come from corpus studies and thus do not consist of true minimal pairs. We report five experiments testing predictions of the coherence theory, using standard minimal pair materials. The results raise questions about the empirical basis for coherence theory because a syntactically-matching antecedent is preferred for all coherence relations, not just resemblance relations. Further, strict identity readings, which should not be available when a syntactic antecedent is required, are influenced by parallelism per se, holding the discourse coherence relation constant. This draws into question the causal role of coherence relations in processing VP ellipsis.
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