Verb Phrase Ellipsis or VPE
Verb Phrase Ellipses, VP Ellipses, or VPE is a phenomenon observed in many languages whereby the main predicate of a sentence can be elided or missed without making any compromise in the intended meaning, or in generating grammatical unacceptability. Ellipsis becomes possible because the elided construction finds its antecedent in the surrounding (logically, preceding) discourse. VPE has garnered profound interest of generative syntacticians from a very early time and has been a hot topic of debate because ellipsis is a cross-linguistic phenomenon that can seemingly reveal a lot about Universal Grammar (UG). VPE is by all means a smart way to reduce redundancy in linguistic utterances and, hence, is economic and preferable for language speakers. VPE could very well be understood as a structure that remains unpronounced by the language speakers, and, thus, pronouncing of this structure is grammatically acceptable and meaningful too.
The elided or missing predicate in Verb Phrase Ellipses derives its semantic content from an antecedent somewhere in the surrounding discourse. If the information gets introduced in the discourse already, VPE ensures it doesn’t get repeated and rambled unwarrantedly. Antecedent to the VPE, in this way, should ideally precede the ellipsis site. The unpronounced syntactic structure inside the VPE site occurs in particular environments with constraints on its size and derivation of meaning from the antecedent.
Languages differ in terms of what goes into the VPE site. For example, in English, everything apart from auxiliary goes inside the VPE. For example,
John can eat asparagus and Mary can ∆ too.
The main verb along with its object gets elided. So we get the above sentence instead of “John can eat asparagus and Mary can eat asparagus too”.
Note that ∆ is used to mark the site of VPE.
Similarly, in Hindi, the main verb along with its internal argument gets elided.
rɑ:m rotɑ: hɛ
ram.III.Sg.M. cry.Sg.M be.PRES.Sg
ɔ:r ʃʲɑ:m bʰi: ∆
and shyam.III.Sg.M. too
and Shyam (cries) too.
© 2014 Payal Khullar. All Rights Reserved.