Faculty Research at Morehead State University


Focus and VP Ellipsis

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In spoken English, pitch accents can convey the focus associated with new or contrasted constituents. Two listening experiments were conducted to determine whether accenting a subject makes its predicate a more tempting antecedent for an elided verb phrase, presumably because the accent helps focus the subject of the antecedent clause, increasing its likelihood of contrasting with the subject of the elided clause. The results of Experiment 1 supported the predictions of this “Contrasted Remnant hypothesis” but in principle could also be caused by listeners avoiding antecedents containing a focused (F-marked) constituent. Experiment 2 disconfirmed the hypothesis that listeners avoid antecedents containing a focused constituent, although pitch accents within a potential antecedent VP affected ellipsis resolution.