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Review of  The Interfaces

Reviewer: Dimitrios Ntelitheos
Book Title: The Interfaces
Book Author: Kerstin Schwabe Susanne Winkler
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Semantics
Book Announcement: 14.1889

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Date: Sun, 6 Jul 2003 21:49:05 -0700
From: Dimitris Ntelitheos <>
Subject: The Interfaces: Deriving and Interpreting Omitted Structures

Schwabe, Kerstin and Susanne Winkler, ed. (2003) The Interfaces:
Deriving and Interpreting Omitted Structures, John Benjamins Publishing
Company, Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 61.

Dimitrios Ntelitheos, University of California, Los Angeles

Recent research in elliptical phenomena has shown clearly that the questions
that concern the architectural design of grammar cannot be answered in
strict syntactic, semantic, phonological, or discourse terms. Thus, the
scope of the research has shifted towards the interfaces between the
different grammatical components. Work in the traditionally investigated
interfaces between syntax and semantics or syntax and phonology has been
enriched with additional work on the interaction between these interfaces
and the discourse and information structural component.

The Interfaces: Deriving and Interpreting Omitted Structures is a collection
of 13 papers that explore the various ways in which elliptical structures
are related to the interfaces of syntax with semantics, phonology, and

'Exploring the interfaces from the perspective of omitted structures',
Kerstin Schwabe and Susanne Winkler, 1-26
In the book's introductory chapter, the editors address general issues
related to current work on ellipsis and the syntax/semantics,
syntax/phonology and syntax/discourse interfaces. They offer a brief
historical background on research in ellipsis and the basic questions that
have been formed in the different research programs throughout the years,
provide some evidence drawn from elliptical phenomena, for the architecture
of the interfaces, and finally present a summary of the different sections
and papers that appear in the collection. The rest of the book is organized
into three parts. The first part is entitled "Towards the exploration of
PF-deletion Accounts" and contains four papers that examine phonetic form
(PF) deletion accounts of elliptical structures, a line of thought that was
first presented as the 'phonological reduction hypothesis' in Chomsky and
Lasnik (1993). The second part of the book contains four papers that
investigate elliptic structures from the perspective of the syntax/semantic
interface. The third part contains five papers that explore ellipsis
phenomena from a perspective that concentrates on the relation between
semantics, focus, and discourse structure. The book ends with an extended
section with References (367-387), a Name index (389-393), and a Subject
index (395-399).

The papers are:
'Ellipsis and syntactic representation', Christopher Kennedy, 29-53
Kennedy tries to shed light on the long standing question of whether
constituents targeted by various types of ellipsis-operations have syntactic
structure at some level of representation. It has been known, (see for
example Rooth 1992) that semantic and discourse factors play an important
role in licensing ellipsis. Kennedy shows that a purely syntactic approach
faces certain problems, a fact that has led to the implementation of either
purely semantic approaches or mixed analyses of ellipsis. However, both
semantic and mixed analyses face similar empirical and theoretical problems.
Exploring the interaction of verb phrase (VP)-deletion and parasitic gaps
Kennedy shows that the elided constituent is sensitive to Condition B
effects, strong crossover, and various island constraints (including
wh-islands, Complex noun phrase (NP) Islands, Adjunct Islands and the
Coordinate Structures Constraint). If these are constraints on syntactic
representations, it must then be the case that elided VPs have syntactic
structure. This conclusion is further strengthened by the fact that an
elided VP in these contexts can be shown to require a "non-parasitic" gap
analysis in some contexts and a "missing" parasitic gap analysis in others.
This is a purely syntactic restriction and thus further supports the fact
that ellipsis constructions are sensitive to configurational constraints on
syntactic representations. Kennedy concludes that a solution lies in
maintaining a purely syntactic approach and explains the problematic cases
by assuming that "constraints that make reference to the interface between
the syntax and the phonological component should be vacuously satisfied, and
therefore effectively 'turned off". The idea is that if ellipsis involves
deletion of syntactic structure, then elided constituents should be
sensitive to syntactic constraints in general. However, ellipsis does not
require pronunciation of the omitted structure and so elided constituents
should be insensitive to syntactic constraints that derive from
morpho-phonological properties of lexical items.

'Subject-auxiliary inversion in comparatives and PF output constraints',
Jason Merchant, 55-77
Merchant's paper is an attempt to explain the fact that I-to-C movement
in comparative clauses can occur only if VP-ellipsis has deleted the VP
complement of the inflection head as in the following example:
1. a. Abby knows more languages than does her father.
b. *Abby knows more languages than does her father know.
Merchant proposes that VP-ellipsis in this case is implemented as a repair
mechanism that saves an otherwise illicit structure brought about by Subject
Auxiliary Inversion (SAI); this defect is the ill-formedness of the
intermediate trace of wh-movement that occurs in the comparative clause.
This ill-formedness comes about because all A'-traces, including the
intermediate trace adjoined to VP, are subject to the Empty Category
Principle (ECP) which Merchant reformulates as a condition that operates at
PF. Assuming that the comparative operator in example 1.b. above, has been
extracted from the object position of 'know', and has moved to specCP by
first adjoining to the VP, I-to-C movement in the comparative clause moves
the auxiliary 'does' out of the IP, forming the chain < does, t >. While the
lower trace satisfies the ECP, I-to-C movement changes the licensing status
of the intermediate trace: the lower copy of 'does', does not PF-head-govern
the trace adjoined to VP because it is not PF-active (i.e. it is not the
link at which lexical insertion occurs; the higher copy in C is). This means
that the ECP as formulated by Merchant is not satisfied. Assuming that
VP-ellipsis is deletion of VP at PF, and because this deletion includes the
offending, intermediate trace of the comparative operator, the ECP is not
violated. Merchant further explores his analysis in three different
contexts: comparatives with overt operators, pseudogapping, and V-to-I
movement, and shows that the empirical facts comply with his proposal.

'Antecedent-containment and ellipsis', Chris Wilder, 79-119
Chris Wilder's paper examines antecedent-contained-deletion (ACD)
structures that involve 'wide scope' VP-ellipsis as in the following example:
2. John said that more trees had died than Mary did
In 2, the comparative clause containing the elided VP is itself contained
in a CP inside the VP that antecedes the ellipsis. These structures seem to
be possible only when the comparative clause is extraposed within this
complement CP in surface order. Wilder shows that previous accounts (i.e.
quantifier raising, extraposition, and A-movement) face empirical problems.
He shows that the traditional constraint that prohibits antecedent-
containment at LF is too liberal to account for the distribution of
well-formed and ill-formed ACDs and that a further constraint is needed,
which prohibits 'PF-containment' of the ellipsis site by its antecedent.
Apparent counterexamples to this proposal are analyzed as resulting from the
interaction of two independent ellipsis rules; pseudogapping and backward
deletion and thus the elliptical sites are claimed not to be

'Background matching in right node raising constructions', Katharina
Hartmann, 121-151
Hartmann's paper departs from the above three approaches in that it
formulates a PF-deletion account of ellipsis that imposes a pragmatic
condition that becomes the licensing condition of ellipsis at PF. The main
focus of the paper is right-node raising (RNR) constructions in German and
in particular the investigation of the distribution of accents and its
consequences on the focus structure of RNR structures. Evidence shows that
RNR does not have to be a syntactic constituent as it can strand
prepositions and violates islands. Hartmann shows that the elements that
immediately precede the targets of RNR in both conjuncts must contrast.
Using Schwarzschild's (1999) theory of GIVENess and an extension of the
notion of discourse antecedents the paper shows that the targets of RNR
serve as discourse antecedents of the other conjunct resulting in
deaccenting. The distribution of accent and the phonetic identity of the
targets are shown to be obligatory conditions for the 'Principle of
Pragmatic Licensing' which states that an utterance is pragmatically
licensed if it has a background match, the latter being defined as GIVENess.
Thus, PF deletion is the result of the interaction between information
structure, a parallel syntactic configuration and a specific intonational
pattern in RNR.

'Merge copy', Caterina Donati, 155-175
Donati argues that both a PF and an LF process are needed to account for
ellipsis but the basic mechanism underlying ellipsis is neither phonological
nor semantic, but purely syntactic. As all syntactic phenomena ellipsis gets
interpreted at both interfaces but it is not in itself an interface process.
She proposes a new mechanism termed "merge copy" which forms part of the
definition of Move. Given a certain numeration and having constructed K by
merging a and b, it is possible to merge K with a copy of b. Under this
perspective, the deletion effect of ellipsis in PF becomes clear: it is
simply an instance of the more general mechanism of "delete copy". Thus
ellipsis in general is reduced to movement. The proposed process has two
distinct instantiations one in standard movement operations and one in
reduplication (i.e. ellipsis phenomena). The main difference is that in
standard movement the copies are links of the same chain while in
reduplication the copies are members of different chains with the result
that no agreement relation holds between them. Donati also discusses the
problem that the optionality of ellipsis poses for a movement analysis and
proposes that this optionality can be accounted for by assuming different
enumerations for the two choices.

'Phrase structure paradoxes, movement and ellipsis', Winfried Lechner,
Lechner argues that the systematic differences between traces and ellipsis
copies (for example their varying ability to host reconstruction sites for
movement) do not reveal intrinsic properties of the two different exponents
of copies but can be derived from general principles of economy. Evidence
drawn from ellipsis and movement phenomena shows that there are derivations
in which a category can be potentially merged into two distinct locations
and that the choice between the competing candidates is determined by
economy. The empirical facts in the paper come from two types of
constructions in which a phonetically silent VP is followed by an overt
remnant: so-called Phrase Structure Paradoxa involving VP-fronting and
instances of VP-Ellipsis or pseudogapping. Lechner proposes a movement
analysis of PF-paradoxes assuming extraction of the remnant PP prior to
topicalization. Thus, VP-fronting receives the same analysis as
pseudogapping (Johnson, 1996). The interpretive differences between the two
phenomena are explained via the assumption that VP adjuncts may be merged in
any position in which they are interpretable and that these positions are
determined by economy conditions. The consequence of this is that economy is
a factor that restricts both structure-building operations of movement and

Unpronounced heads in relative clauses Uli Sauerland 205-226
Sauerland investigates English relative clauses. The basic assumption is
that a satisfactory analysis of relative clauses should posit two different
sources for the head: a clause-internal source as in Kayne (1994) and a
base-generated source. Sauerlnd argues further that the structure of the
base-generated relative clause further involves a silent copy of the head in
the corresponding clause-internal position (i.e. a lower copy in a PF chain)
that is deleted. Using diagnostics for wh-movement and especially
reconstruction effects of movement Sauerland shows that it is indeed the
case that both types of relative clauses must exist. Following the standard
assumption that 'vehicle change' is possible in ellipsis but not in movement
chains, he shows that the silent copy of the head is related to the overt
copy not by movement but by ellipsis and specifically a process that he
calls 'relative deletion', an operation similar to comparative deletion

'Variation at the syntax-semantics interface: Evidence from gapping', Luis
López and Susanne Winkler, 227-248
As the title indicates, the main purpose of López and Winkler's paper is
to account for cross-linguistic variation in wh and focus movement structures
within the Minimalist Program. Some languages (Bade, Aghem, Hungarian) move
wh/focus-phrases to a clause internal position, which can be identified as
Spec v. This may be the case for English as well. Johnson (1996) has argued
that the second conjunct of a gapping construction is a vP. Following his
proposals López and Winkler, analyze gapping as vP coordination plus
across-the-board movement. The investigation of the properties of the
movement process provides support to the claim that the focused remnants of
gapping must occur in spec-vP in English. If this argument is on the right
track, then it is not surprising that wh/focus-phrases exist in English
gapping or topicalized constructions. López and Winkler propose that
cross-linguistic variation is the result of different cross-linguistic
interpretive rules and more crucially that these interpretive rules are
ranked. Variation is the result of the alternative rankings of those rules.

'Ellipsis and the structure of discourse', Daniel Hardt, 251-262
Hardt argues that the interpretation of ellipsis is subject to constraints
based on the structure of discourse. He makes two basic claims: ellipsis
resolution requires that a matching relation holds between a containing
clause and some antecedent clause (Rooth, 1992), and that clauses in
discourse are structured according to discourse relations while ellipsis
resolution occurs as a side effect of establishing these discourse
relations. He considers cases problematic for purely semantic analyses of
ellipsis such as the existence of multiple potential antecedents for
VP-ellipsis, the "many clause puzzle" in which two ellipsis occurrences are
preceded by a single antecedent clause, as well as other multiple-ellipsis
data, and shows that semantic matching must be applied according to
discourse structure.

'Correlate restriction and definiteness effect in ellipsis', Maribel Romero,
This paper is concerned with two ellipsis constructions: Reduced
Conditionals (in German) and Sluiced Interrogatives Clauses (in English and
many other languages), illustrated in 3.a. and 3.b. respectively:
3. a. Wenn ich wen besuche, dann (immer) den Peter.
If I somebody visit then always the Peter
"If / whenever I visit somebody, then Peter / it's Peter."
b. Somebody just left - guess who.
Romero shows that these structures exhibit two peculiar characteristics that
make them look rather different from other types of ellipsis: the
restriction on possible antecedent phrases for the remnants of ellipsis, and
a definiteness effect that makes non-definite phrases behave semantically as
definites in ellipsis sites. Romero argues against current approaches in the
literature that posit an idiosyncratic account for each of these types of
ellipsis and shows that these facts follow from the interaction of fairly
standard assumptions about ellipsis. These include the presence of Focus in
the remnant material and the semantics of conditionals and questions.

'F-marking and specificity in sluicing constructions', Kerstin Schwabe,
Schwabe presents a novel analysis of sluicing constructions investigating
two factors that play a crucial role in the licensing of sluicing: a focus
restriction based on Schwarzschild (1999) and a specificity restriction. She
argues that the wh-phrase in the sluicing sentence and the related phrase in
the antecedent clause must be F-marked. Furthermore, the relatum must be an
indefinite that allows for a specific interpretation, specificity being an
anchoring relation between the discourse referent and a discourse given
item. Since specific indefinite elements present new information (are not
GIVEN) sluicing cannot be licensed in certain contexts including the scopal
domain of definite DPs, the scopal domain of thematic matrix predicates, and
of downward-monotone quantifiers. All these contexts exhibit non-novel

'The semantics of Japanese null pronouns and its cross-linguistic
implications', Satoshi Tomioka, 321-339
Tomioka explores the semantics of silent pronouns in Japanese. He says
that these elements receive a surprisingly wide variety of semantic
interpretations. The paper presents an analysis of these pronouns as a
phonologically null version of bare NPs that requires a short number of
semantic operations for its interpretation. An examination of
cross-linguistic data shows that Tomioka's proposal makes correct
predictions on the semantic variability of null arguments in other
languages. It is predicted that languages like Japanese that allow for both
bare NP arguments and null pronouns will allow for the latter to exhibit a
semantic variability closely tied to the variability of NP interpretation in
general. This is shown to hold for Chinese and Korean. On the other hand
languages that employ only one of the introduced semantic tools will allow
only a certain type of nominal expressions to go phonologically null. Greek
seems to fit this description.

'Omission impossible? Topic and focus in Focal Ellipsis', Petra Gretsch,
Gretsch's paper examines the interdependencies of focus-structure and
topic-interpretation by analyzing focal ellipsis (FE). Her main thesis
states that topic-interpretation (in German) is exclusively dependent upon
the syntactic focus structure of a sentence which is responsible for the
information structuring. Neither accent-driven accounts nor
topological-driven accounts (relying on a functional topic position) are
necessary. Moreover, the commonalities plus differences between internal and
external topics fall out for free. Gretsch differentiates between two cases:
presentational vs. contrastive focus-omission, with the former having one
and the latter two focus domains. The paper further argues that FE are not
hidden wh-questions - contrary to their function - but declarative
structures with a special gap: the focus (exponent) is missing. Gretsch uses
data from German, Chinese, and Korean, to illustrate these points. Thus,
Chinese FE with omission of the contrastive focus have to exhibit the
pragmatically induced sentence-particle '-ne' whereas presentational FE don'
t allow for that particle. Finally, the paper argues for a syntactic
analysis of German without the functional projections 'TopicPhrase' and
'FocusPhrase'. Instead Gretsch assumes an information-structural topic
interpretation which relies on the syntactic focus-structure as exclusive

This volume is a valuable contribution to the study of ellipsis and in
particular the role that the interaction of different grammatical components
play in the licensing of elliptical structures. The contributions to the
volume cover a wide range of theoretical problems that go beyond the
traditionally investigated interfaces between syntax and semantics or syntax
and phonology. Additional work on the interaction between these interfaces
and the discourse and information structural component has received special
focus in line with current approaches in related research. Three equally
important aspects of ellipsis have been covered in detail. The long-standing
problem of whether ellipsis is a PF deletion process is covered in the first
part of the book (Kennedy, Merchant, Wilder, and Hartmann). The authors
present data from different elliptical phenomena (comparative deletion,
antecedent-contained deletion and right-node raising) and argue convincingly
for a PF deletion account of the ellipsis.

A bolder syntactic approach is implemented in the second part of the book.
The papers here (Donati, Lechner, Sauerland, López & Winkler) try to reduce
ellipsis to syntactic movement. If this is on the right track it will
definitely be a desired consequence, as it would drastically simplify
Universal Grammar. The main argument against such approaches comes from the
fact that ellipsis and movement exhibit different properties with respect to
island constraints. These ideas have precedents in for example, Johnson
(2001) where VP Ellipsis is shown to be subject to licensing conditions that
recall conditions on traces, ultimately suggesting that we should derive VP
Ellipsis by way of movement. Lechner in the present volume, shows that this
is actually the case, i.e. that VP-fronting and VP-ellipsis are essentially
the same and that any differences in their distribution can be accounted for
if we assume certain principles of economy in the syntactic derivation.
Finally, López & Winkler's paper is also based on Johnson's work in gapping,
assuming an across the board (ATB) movement of the verb and not deletion.
This is taken as a starting point for a successful investigation of
linguistic variation.

The third part of the book is dedicated to an approach towards ellipsis,
that explores semantic and discourse aspects of the phenomena involved. The
approaches in this part follow a line of research that relies heavily on
Rooth (1992) and Schwarzschild, (1999) and the association of ellipsis to
semantic focus restrictions. The problem with the syntactic approaches is
that they seem to be unable to account for a number of puzzles (i.e. the
many-clause puzzle investigated in Hardts paper, specificity effects in
sluicing in Schwabe, semantic diversity in the interpretation of null
pronouns in Tomioka). Most of the semantic approaches towards ellipsis
associate the licensing mechanism of ellipsis to some sort of focus
condition that licenses the omission of backgrounded material. However,
Gretsh's paper shows that this is not always true. She provides very
interesting data from German that shows that ellipsis of focused material is
also possible and that the semantic approaches need to be modified in order
to capture this type of ellipsis too.

As the editors state in their introduction, the goal of the volume is to
present an overview of the current state of the art in research of ellipsis
and omitted elements. As far as work in the interfaces is concerned this has
been achieved with the collection of papers included in the volume. However,
there are alternative approaches towards ellipsis that receive no attention
at all in any of the three parts of the volume. In the domain of syntax for
example, Lobeck (1995, and subsequent work) followed by a number of
different researchers has argued equally successfully that ellipsis involves
a null pronominal element (pro) explaining the pronoun-like properties that
VP-ellipsis and N'-Drop exhibit. The discussion would have been benefited if
a related approach were included in this first part of the book. Obviously
the inclusion of every available proposal on ellipsis cannot be achieved in
a collection of this size. Consequently, the final table of contents is an
excellent representation of the diversion of approaches towards elliptical
phenomena cross-linguistically.

Chomsky, Noam & Lasnik, Howard (1993) The Theory of Principles and Parameters,
in J. Jacobs et al (eds.) Syntax: An International Handbook of Contemporary
Research [Volume 1], Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 506-569.

Johnson, Kyle (1996) In Search of the English Middle Field, unpublished

Johnson, Kyle (2001) What VP ellipsis can do, what it can't, but not why, in
M. Baltin and C. Collins (eds.) The handbook of contemporary syntactic
theory, Blackwell Publishers, pp. 439-479.

Kayne, Richard (1994) The Antisymmetry of Syntax. Cambridge, Mass: MIT

Lobeck, Anne (1995) Ellipsis: Functional Heads, Licensing and
Identification. New York, Oxford University Press.

Rooth, Mats (1992) Ellipsis redundancy and reduction redundancy, in S.
Berman and A. Hestvik (eds.) Proceedings of the Stuttgarter Ellipsis
Workshop, Arbeitspapiere des Sonderforschungsbereichs 340, 29.

Schwarzschild, Roger (1999) GIVENness, AVOIDF, and Other Constraints on the
Placement of Accent, Natural Language Semantics 7, 141-177.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER Dimitris Ntelitheos is a graduate student at the Department of Linguistics, University of California, Los Angeles. His academic interests include nominal ellipsis, discontinuity in the DP, word order variation, adjectival syntax and other DP-internal syntactic phenomena in Greek and other languages.