Parallelism and prosody in the processing of ellipsis sentences

2001 2001

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Abstract (summary)

This thesis investigates the processing of ellipsis sentences, focusing on the following questions: (i) are ellipsis sentences processed using special routines employed only for ellipsis or are they processed using the same principles needed for unelided sentences? (ii) does parallelism influence sentence processing? if so, what kinds of similarities matter?

The interpretation of ambiguous gapping sentences (e.g., Janie asked my dad about careers and Sharon about politics) is explored first, finding that lexical and prosodic similarities between the DP remnant (Sharon) and either DP in the first clause raise the rate of analyses placing Sharon in a syntactic position corresponding to that of the most similar DP, supporting (1). (1) DP Parallelism Hypothesis. The processor favors analyses in which DPs that share internal properties (have similar syntactic, prosodic, and semantic features) share external properties (appear in similar structural positions within their respective clauses or phrases), and vice versa. The availability of a smaller syntactic structure for the object interpretation of Sharon, however, leads to an overall bias towards that analysis. These results show that parallelism between DPs is indeed favored by the processor, but it modulates the general preference for minimal structure (e.g., Frazier, 1978, 1987).

Further experiments explore whether parallelism is only effective in structures containing and, or whether it has a broader domain of application. Experiments on comparative, stripping, and replacive ellipsis sentences show that (1) applies generally in a range of ellipsis types.

The relationship between focus and prosodic parallelism is explored to investigate whether prosodic similarity of elements in the elided and antecedent clauses is due entirely to their focus structure. An experiment manipulating parallelism of pitch range shows that prosodic properties unrelated to focus can also affect processing. Finally, a production experiment finds that prosodic renditions of ellipsis sentences can be quite similar to those of full conjoined sentences. The overall conclusion is that parallelism between DPs can affect the processing of a range of ellipsis structures, as well as unelided structures (e.g., Black, Coltheart, & Byng, 1985; Frazier, Munn, & Clifton, 2000; Henstra, 1996), but that there is no need for construction-specific mechanisms in processing theory.

Indexing (details)

Cognitive therapy
0290: Linguistics
0633: Cognitive therapy
Identifier / keyword
Psychology; Language, literature and linguistics; Ellipsis sentences; Parallelism; Prosody; Sentence processing
Parallelism and prosody in the processing of ellipsis sentences
Carlson, Katy
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 62/09, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780493391977, 0493391975
Frazier, Lyn
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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