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Profile: Jason Merchant (University of Chicago)
  1. Jason Merchant, An Asymmetry in Voice Mismatches in VP-Ellipsis and Pseudogapping.
    VP-ellipsis and pseudogapping in English show a previously unnoticed asymmetry in their tolerance for voice mismatch: while VP-ellipsis allows mismatches in voice between the elided VP and its antecedent, pseudogapping does not. This difference is unexpected under current analyses of pseudogapping, which posit that pseudogapping is a kind of VP-ellipsis. I show that this difference falls out naturally if the target of deletion in the two cases differs slightly: in VP-ellipsis, a node lower than [voi(ce)] is deleted, while in pseudogapping (...)
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  2. Jason Merchant, Voice and Ellipsis.
    Elided VPs and their antecedent VPs can mismatch in voice, with passive VPs being elided under apparent identity with active antecedent VPs, and vice versa. Such voice mismatches are not allowed in any other kind of ellipsis, such as sluicing and other clausal ellipses. These latter facts indicate that the identity relation in ellipsis is sensitive to syntactic form, not merely to semantic form. The VP-ellipsis facts fall into place if the head that determines voice is external to the phrase (...)
     
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  3. Anastasia Giannakidou & Jason Merchant, On the Interpretation of Null Indefinite Objects in Greek.
    In this paper, we examine the properties of a novel kind of nominal ellipsis in Greek, which we call indefinite argument drop (IAD), concentrating on its manifestation in object positions. We argue that syntactically these null objects are present as pro, and we show that semantically they are licensed only by weak DP antecedents (in the sense of Milsark 1974). We compare IAD with NP- internal ellipsis, as attested also in English among many other languages, and show that IAD has (...)
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  4. Christopher Kennedy & Jason Merchant, Attributive Comparative Deletion.
    Comparatives are among the most extensively investigated constructions in generative grammar, yet comparatives involving attributive adjectives have received a relatively small amount of attention. This paper investigates a complex array of facts in this domain that shows that attributive comparatives, unlike other comparatives, are well-formed only if some type of ellipsis operation applies within the comparative clause. Incorporating data from English, Polish, Czech, Greek, and Bulgarian, we argue that these facts support two important conclusions. First, violations of Ross’s Left Branch (...)
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  5. Jason Merchant, Antecedent-Contained Deletion in Negative Polarity Items.
    This squib investigates a paradox that arises from the interaction of two well-studied domains of grammar: antecedent-contained deletion and the licensing of negative polarity items. The conflict arises from a simple set of facts that have been overlooked in the literature, given in (1).
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  6. Jason Merchant, Gender Mismatches Under Nominal Ellipsis.
    Masculine/feminine pairs of human-denoting nouns in Greek fall into three distinct classes under predicative ellipsis: those that license ellipsis of their counterpart regardless of gender, those that only license ellipsis of a same-gendered noun, and those in which the masculine noun of the pair licenses ellipsis of the feminine version, but not vice versa. The three classes are uniform in disallowing any gender mismatched ellipses in argument uses, however. This differential behavior of gender in nominal ellipsis can be captured by (...)
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  7. Jason Merchant, Genitives of Comparison in Greek.
    Abstract Standards of comparison in Greek can be marked either by a preposition or by use of the genitive case. The prepositional standards are compatible with both synthetic and analytic comparative forms, while genitive standards are found only with synthetic comparatives. I show that this follows if genitive case is assigned by the affix to its complement, and that this structure furthermore supports a straightforward semantic composition, both in predicative and attributive uses.
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  8. Jason Merchant, Not All Genders Are Created Equal: Evidence From Nominal Ellipsis in Greek.
    It is well understood that the analysis of elliptical phenomena has the potential to inform our understanding of the syntax-semantics interface, as it forces the analyst to confront directly the mechanisms for generating meanings without the usual forms that give rise to them. But facts from ellipsis have an equal potential to illuminate our understanding of the structure of the lexicon. A close investigation of nominal ellipses in Greek shows that gender features are not all created equal: the values of (...)
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  9. Jason Merchant, Polyvalent Case, Geometric Hierarchies, and Split Ergativity.
    Prominence hierarchy effects such as the animacy hierarchy and definiteness hierarchy have been a puzzle for formal treatments of case since they were first described systematically in Silverstein 1976. Recently, these effects have received more sustained attention from generative linguists, who have sought to capture them in treatments grounded in well-understood mechanisms for case assignment cross-linguistically. These efforts have taken two broad directions. In the first, Aissen 1999, 2003 has integrated the effects elegantly into a competition model of grammar using (...)
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  10. Jason Merchant, Resumptivity and Non-Movement.
    ÂÜóåé äåäïì_íùí äéáöüñùí ãëùóó_í, ôï _áñüí Üñèñï _ñïôåßíåé ìéá êáéíï_ñãéá ãåíßêåõóç ó÷åôéêÜ ìå ôçí äéáíïì_ ôùí wh-ôåëåóô_í ïé ï_ïßïé äåóìå_ïõí å_áíáëç_ôéê_ò áíôùíõìßåò åíôüò íçóßäùí: ô_ôïéïé ôåëåóô_ò äåí _÷ïõí êëßóç _ô_óçò. Áõô_ ç ãåíßêåõóç _ñïê__ôåé á_ü ôçí õ_üèåóç üôé ï wh-ôåëåóô_ò _áñÜãåôáé óôïí _ñïóäéïñéóô_ CP, ìáêñéÜ á_ü ï_ïéáä__ïôå êåöáë_ _ïõ äßíåé _ô_óç. Áí åßíáé óùóô_, ç áíÜëõóç áõô_ êáèéóôÜ Üêõñåò ôéò _ñïçãï_ìåíåò áíáë_óåéò _ïõ õ_ïè_ôïõí üôé ïé å_áíáëç_ôéê_ò áíôùíõìßåò á_ïôåëï_í «spellouts» ìéáò wh-ìåôáêßíçóçò ç ï_ïßá _áñáâéÜæåé íçóßäá.
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  11. Jason Merchant, Sluicing.
    Contents 1. Introduction 2. Movement vs. non-movement approaches 3. Theoretical consequences 3.1. Non-movement approaches 3.2. Movement approaches 4. Puzzles and prospects 4.1. Sluicing-COMP generalization puzzles 4.2. Sluicing in non-wh-in-specCP languages 4.3. Multiple sluicing 4.4. Swiping 5. Conclusion References Glossary..
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  12. Jason Merchant, Swiping in Germanic.
    Establishing the level of representation or the point in a derivation at which movement takes place has never been a trivial matter, and as such remains an topic of substantial ongoing interest. For overt movement, this question is complicated by the availability in principle of two components in which movement could take place with indistinguishable effects on word order: in the derivation leading to Spell-Out, or in the mapping from Spell-Out to PF. To a great extent, the reasoning brought to (...)
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  13. Jason Merchant, Subject-Auxiliary Inversion in Comparatives and PF Output Constraints.
    This paper establishes the novel generalization that Subject-Auxiliary Inversion (SAI) in comparative clauses requires the co-presence of VP-ellipsis, and argues that this peculiar fact follows from a disjunctive formulation of an ECP that applies at PF. The analysis relies crucially on the presence of an intermediate trace of the A'-moved comparative operator at the edge of VP, which is subject to the ECP at PF, and which interacts with the head movement involved in SAI. This trace is unlicensed (...)
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  14. Jason Merchant, Variable Island Repair Under Ellipsis.
    One of the most startling, and hence theoretically challenging, properties of wh-movement in Sluicing is that it can move wh-phrases out of islands, an important observation which goes back to Ross (1969). Equally challenging is the fact that similar wh-movement out of VP Ellipsis sites remains for the most part illicit. Briefly put, it seems that for a wide range of cases, deletion of an IP containing an island voids the effect of that island for wh-movement, while deletion of a (...)
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  15. Jason Merchant, Why No(T)?
    This note presents a simple, novel diagnostic for determining the phrase structural status of negative markers cross-linguistically, a topic of enduring interest (for recent approaches and references see Haegeman; Zanuttini; Giannakidou, Landscape and Polarity). If the sentential negative marker in a given language is phrasal (an XP, generally adverbial), it will occur in the collocation why not?; if it is a head (an X 0, generally clitic-like), it will not. In the latter languages, the word for ‘no’ can sometimes be (...)
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  16. Jason Merchant, Alignment and Fricative Assimilation in German.
    An account of the distribution of the dorsal fricative in German has generally been assumed to require cyclic derivation and/or multiple phonological levels (Hall 1989, Moltmann 1990, Noske 1990, MacFarland and Pierrehumbert 1991, Iverson and Salmons 1992, Borowsky 1993). In this squib, I argue that the facts of fricative assimilation can be accounted for without cyclicity or separate phonological levels within Optimality Theory (OT) (Prince and Smolensky 1993) by employing a version of the theory of alignment proposed by McCarthy and (...)
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  17. Jason Merchant, An Alignment Solution to Bracketing Paradoxes.
    This paper attempts to give an account of bracketing paradoxes by developing the theory of alignment (McCarthy and Prince 1993b). The rubric ‘bracketing paradox’ (BP) has been used to cover a number of disparate phenomena, though it is not obvious that these phenomena should be given a unitary analysis. I will confine my attention here to the kind of BP illustrated in (1).
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  18. Jason Merchant, Aleut Case Matters.
    Aleut shows a remarkable alternation in its case and agreement patterns: roughly put, one pattern appears when a non-subject argument is syntactically unexpressed in a predicate, and the other pattern appears otherwise. This paper is devoted to an attempt to provide a coherent analysis for this alternation: the missing argument is analyzed as a pro which must move into a local relation with the highest T; in this position, it triggers additional agreement on the verb, and blocks normal case assignment (...)
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  19. Jason Merchant, Economy, the Copy Theory, and Antecedent-Contained Deletion.
    This squib investigates the nature and syntactic placement of the restriction of quantificational determiners under the copy theory of movement and presents a brief argument from the interaction of antecedent-contained deletion (ACD) and Principle C that while relative clauses in ACD must be deleted from their base positions, complements and adjuncts in NP need not be, and hence must not be.
     
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  20. Jason Merchant, Two Ways of Measuring Time: Can Keats Have Done Anything Before Shakespeare?
    A usual semantics for times1 assumes that the domain of quantification for times is an ordered set of times Tu called a ‘timeline’, with a total ordering relation < over Tu which is transitive, irreflexive, and antisymmetric. The default timeline is from the beginning of the universe to the end of the universe, passing through now, with a one-to-one mapping to ℜ (Tu is dense). Predicates can be modeled as functions from individuals to times to truth values, > (...)
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  21. Jason Merchant, WCO, ACD, and the Positions of Subjects.
    This paper presents a brief argument from the interaction of weak crossover (WCO), antecedent-contained deletion (ACD), and other facts of VP-ellipsis that subjects are base-generated in a predicateinternal position but move through an intermediate A-position on their way to their final landing site (the specifier of TP) and can take scope in this intermediate position.
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  22. Jason Merchant (2010). Three Kinds of Ellipsis: Syntactic, Semantic, Pragmatic? In Francois Recanati, IIsidora Stojanovic & Neftali Villanueva (eds.), Context-Dependence, Perspective, and Relativity (pp. 141-192).
    The term ‘ellipsis’ can be used to refer to a variety of phenomena: syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic. In this article, I discuss the recent comprehensive survey by Stainton 2006 of these kinds of ellipsis with respect to the analysis of nonsententials and try to show that despite his trenchant criticisms and insightful proposal, some of the criticisms can be evaded and the insights incorporated into a semantic ellipsis analysis, making a ‘divide-and-conquer’ strategy to the properties of nonsententials feasible after all. (...)
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  23. Jason Merchant (2010). Three Types of Ellipsis. In François Recanati, Isidora Stojanovic & Neftali Villanueva (eds.), Context-Dependence, Perspective and Relativity. Mouton de Gruyter. 6--141.
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  24. Jason Merchant (2005). Fragments and Ellipsis. Linguistics and Philosophy 27 (6):661 - 738.
    Fragmentary utterances such as short answers and subsentential XPs without linguistic antecedents are proposed to have fully sentential syntactic structures, subject to ellipsis. Ellipsis in these cases is preceded by A-movement of the fragment to a clause-peripheral position; the combination of movement and ellipsis accounts for a wide range of connectivity and anti-connectivity effects in these structures. Fragment answers furthermore shed light on the nature of islands, and contrast with sluicing in triggering island effects; this is shown to follow from (...)
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  25. Jason Merchant, Ellipsis.
    The term ellipsis has been applied to a wide range of phenomena across the centuries, from any situation in which words appear to be missing (in St. Isidore’s definition), to a much narrower range of particular constructions. Ellipsis continues to be of central interest to theorists of language exactly because it represents a situation where the usual form/meaning mappings, the algorithms, structures, rules, and constraints that in nonelliptical sentences allow us to map sounds and gestures onto their corresponding meanings, break (...)
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