DGfS 2018 – AG12
Relating Elliptical Utterances to Information in Context
Stuttgart, March 07-09, 2018

Invited Speakers

Jason Merchant (University of Chicago)
Colin Phillips (University of Maryland)


Ingo Reich (Universität des Saarlandes)
Susanne Winkler (Universität Tübingen)

Workshop Description

Intuitively, the explanation of elliptical utterances seems to be straightforward at first sight: When we as a hearer or reader stumble across a non-sentential or elliptical utterance, we start from the assumption that the unarticulated information is in one way or another accessible from the context of utterance. Likewise, we as a speaker or writer will (arguably) leave only those parts of an utterance or message unarticulated, which we think the addressee can easily reconstruct from the context of utterance. In a sense, then, ellipsis is simply a matter of redundancy: If some information can be easily reconstructed from the context, it is redundant; if it is redundant, it can be left unarticulated.

As we learned from the rich research on ellipsis in the last 30-40 years or so, things turn out to be more complicated though: Some kinds of ellipses need to be related to a linguistic antecedent and are licensed by information-structural notions like e-Givenness (Merchant 2001) which might add to the rapid access found in psycholinguistic studies (cf. Phillips & Parker 2014). Other kinds of incomplete utterances – like the (in)famous A decaf cappucino, please! – directly relate the fragment to the context of utterance (e.g. Klein 1993). Here, it has been argued that this needs to be understood as a process of pragmatic or conceptual enrichment (e.g. Carston 2002, Stainton 2006). Still other kinds of incomplete utterances like the omission of functional expressions (e.g. complementizer deletion or article drop in headlines). have been argued to be constrained by information theoretical principles like the »uniform information density« principle (e.g. Jaeger 2010).

In this workshop, we would like to explicitly reconsider the way elliptical utterances of very different sorts relate to the information provided by the context of utterance (including visual and prosodic information, script knowledge etc.). In particular, we would like to ask the following two questions: Is it possible that there is one overarching principle or mechanism that relates the relevant information to the ellipsis site? And what are the core factors that are necessary to identify / predict the relevant information? (And the reverse question: what happens if redundancy formation fails and reduction still takes place?). We invite papers from all kinds of approaches (formal, functionalist, cognitive, information-theoretical) and from all relevant fields (in particular theoretical syntax, semantics/pragmatics, computational linguistics, psycholinguistics and language acquisition).

Selected References: • Carston, R. (2002): Thoughts and Utterances. Blackwell. • Jaeger, F. (2010). Redundancy and Reduction: Speakers Manage Syntactic Information Density. Cognitive Psychology 61, 23-62. • Klein, W. (1993). Ellipsis. In: Jacobs et al. (eds.): Syntax. An International Handbook of Contemporary Research. De Gruyter. 763-799. • Merchant, J. (2001). The Syntax of Silence. OUP. • Phillips, C. & D. Parker (2014): The Psycholinguistics of Ellipsis. Lingua 151, 78-95. • Stainton, R. (2006). Words and Thoughts. OUP.

DGfS 2018

For more information on the 40th Annual Conference of the DGfS, please visit the website of the conference.