Zero-Adjective Contrast in Much-less Ellipsis: The Advantage for Parallel Syntax
This paper explores the processing of sentences with a much less coordinator (I don’t own a pink hat, much less a red one). This understudied ellipsis sentence, one of several focus-sensitive coordination structures, imposes syntactic and semantic conditions on the relationship between the correlate (a pink hat) and remnant (a red one). We present the case of zero-adjective contrast, in which an NP remnant introduces an adjective without an overt counterpart in the correlate (I don’t own a hat, much less a red one). Although zero-adjective contrast could in principle ease comprehension by limiting the possible relationships between the remnant and correlate to entailment, we find that zero-adjective contrast is avoided in production and taxing in online processing. Results from several studies support a processing model in which syntactic parallelism is the primary guide for determining contrast in ellipsis structures, even when violating parallelism would assist in computing semantic relationships.
Language, Cognition, and Neuroscience, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 77-97.