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Colloquium by Dr. Joanna Nykiel, Monday Nov. 30, 10am-12pm

Dr. Joanna Nykiel, Assistant Professor at the University of Silesia will be giving a talk November 30th, 10-12 in 273 Kerr Hall. The title and abstract are below. 


Ellipsis alternation: synchronic variation and lessons for cross-linguistic variation


In this talk, I explore the nature of constraints on the alternation between two kinds of stranded phrases (remnants) that can be used under ellipsis. One kind repeats the preposition present in the antecedent clauses (A: I’m here for the audition. B: For which audition?) and the other kind omits it (A: I’m here for the audition. B: Which audition?). I begin with the Preposition Stranding Generalization of Merchant (2001), which frames this alternation in syntactic terms by connecting its availability to the availability of underlying sentential sources that allow both preposition pied-piping and preposition stranding. Cross-linguistic research has already shown that the Preposition Stranding Generalization is too strong. Drawing on English corpus data, I offer reasons why this is so. I provide evidence that the patterns the Preposition Stranding Generalization captures don’t reflect categorical grammaticality (and hence syntax-relevant information), but rather performance-based preferences. I discuss four constraints operating on English remnants that follow from the architecture of sentence production: (1) semantic and syntactic content of the remnant’s correlate, (2) structural priming, (3) semantic dependencies between lexical categories, and (4) whether or not the antecedent is elliptical. Statistical analysis of the data reveals that (3) is the strongest of these constraints in English. I first explore the implications of these findings for our understanding of the cross-linguistic availability of remnants with and without prepositions, and then I discuss the extent to which the findings provide support for the relationship between competence and performance, as articulated by Hawkins (2004).