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Gapping vs. Ellipsis

Posted: Wed Jul 01, 2015 11:04 am
by kapvijay
Do gapping and ellipsis denote two different structures or denote the same?

Posted: Sun Jul 05, 2015 8:57 pm
by fluffyhamster
The main area of overlap between the notions appears to be during medial ellipsis (less common than initial or final ellipsis), where there is an absence of a repeated verb in clauses that have been conjoined i.e. a 'gap' appears in the shortened clause. That is, this "overlapping-with-ellipsis" type of gapping occurs when there is medial ellipsis in the second (or later) part of a coordination. For example, I went by train and my friend ^ by car.

More generally though, gaps would seem less recoverable, certainly to the layman, than instances of ellipsis, as gaps relate to unrealized abstractions/purely theoretical positionings or "occurrences", that are merely ways of making syntactic rules supposedly more "comprehensive" and "consistent" (i.e. more complex if not complicated LOL) than they would otherwise be. A somewhat similar concept to this abstract sense of gap is the concept of 'zero' (as in zero article, zero relative clause, and so on).

So if you asked laymen if anything was missing in the example at the end of the above first paragraph, they would likely have little or no problem in answering 'went', but if you asked if anything was missing in sentences such as Who did you invite? or Which film did he criticize without seeing? or Fluffyhamster is indeed fluffy, those laymen would be very unlikely (unless they were passingly familiar with syntactic guff like 'phonologically empty', 'underlying direct object position, 'parasitic gap', and 'zero article') to think anything was missing, and thus press ahead instead to the issue of answering or responding to the sentences "as if" they were actually genuinely communicative questions or statements. In other words, ordinary people won't go looking for or really appreciate the function of so-called gaps, but they will understand and appreciate ellipsis, as ellipsis involves words which could be uttered (but usually aren't, for reasons of efficiency) and are easily recoverable regardless, whereas with gapping one needs to look elsewhere in the context (for example at the answers rather than the questions) and may indeed be dealing with (as already mentioned) purely abstract notions, which aren't ever realized in the actual language itself (versus in the mere notations a linguist may add to it).

Ultimately, the extent to which the various underlying representations of sentences have psychological reality has been and remains controversial, and this is a different matter from simply recovering ellipted words (which anyone can do, and indeed has to effortlessly do, if they are to understand economy in speech, stylistic choices in writing etc).

Sources (from which I've partly quoted or paraphrased some of the above):
Chalker & Weiner's Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar (OUP)
Crystal's Dictionary of Linguistics & Phonetics, Fifth edition (Blackwell)
Leech's Glossary of English Grammar (Edinburgh UP)

Posted: Sun Jul 05, 2015 10:15 pm
by fluffyhamster
"Bonus": One example that I found very unconvincing was this from Trask's Penguin Dictionary of English Grammar's entry on gapping:
It is possible to have more than one gap in a single sentence: Rod gave the museum a T-shirt and Elton e e a pair of glasses. Here the two gaps represent gave and the museum.
NB: Trask describes the e's as representing "silent repetitions".

Surely the most obvious reading of that sentence (without any "giveaway" e's, I mean) would be that Rod, in addition to giving the museum a T-shirt, furthermore gave Elton a pair of glasses.

This wouldn't be the first time that the examples and explanations apparently used to illustrate the principles of Generative Grammar seemed iffy. But perhaps that was ultimately Trask's sly intention? 8)

Posted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 11:14 am
by kapvijay
Thank you very very much for your information Fluffyhmster.....and I have some doubts.
1. If the clause is long, the type of omission is called Ellipsis and in shortened clause, it is called Gapping.(?)
2. Syntacticians see any type of omission as Gapping and Discourse analysts see any type of omission as Ellipsis.(?)
3. If layman answers the omitted part, it is called Ellipsis and if layman do not answer the elipted part, it is called Gapping.(?)

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky,......................(sorry for my open reply to your personal message, as I do not know the way to reply personally in our cafe)

Posted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 4:54 pm
by fluffyhamster
I sent you the PM as a courtesy, as it had been several days since you posted your question and you might've stopped checking regularly for replies. If you want to reply to a PM, simply click the 'Reply' button within that PM (and doing so opens up a new PM back to the original sender, and doesn't appear on the forums). If on the other hand you want to be the one initiating PMing with somebody, find a post of theirs or indeed their profile and click on the 'pm' button. By the way, all those ---- have affected the right margin, so can you reduce (edit down) the length of them to less than the width of the text above them (please) LOL

I'm by no means an expert on formal syntax, so what I said was just based on what I could surmise from the grammar or linguistics dictionaries that I consulted (I don't Google online stuff in cases like this as that would just be duplicating what you may've searched for and already at least skimmed). There may've been a whole monograph written on ellipsis by now for all I know! I was just assuming from your apparent interest in ellipsis that instances of an "initial" and "final" type (my terms LOL) would've been obvious to you, but here are a few additional examples from Chalker & Weiner:

(Is there) Anything I can do to help?

Tom's written to The Times. B: Why [has he written to The Times]?

We're as anxious as you are [anxious to help].

Unless you particularly want to [buy tickets in advance], there's no need to buy tickets in advance/There's no need to buy tickets in advance, unless you particularly want to [buy tickets in advance].

The keyword then is (C&W's) 'medial', in the sense of the omission of an otherwise repeated verb following a coordination, and on this Chalker & Weiner (mainstream grammar) and Crystal (specifically referencing Generative Grammar) agree. (For what it's worth, their representative examples are very similar: I went by train and my friend ^ by car and She went to London and he to New York, in their respective entries on 'gapping').

Given Generative Grammar's penchant for "hard to see" stuff (and here we are dealing with a sort of invisible anaphora), it isn't that surprising that this particular type of ellipsis would be of interest to that camp. Which reminds me, I'm still trying to make sense of the purported meaning of the GG-like example/annotation from Trask ROFL. FWIW his example of a single rather than double instance of gapping is again similar to C&W's, and Crystal's: Jan ordered vegetable pathia and Larry e chicken dhansak.

Posted: Wed Jul 08, 2015 10:25 am
by kapvijay
Thank you for your posts from various resource's books. I got little idea, the way many linguists look at the omissions in the sentences.