Constraining Head-Stranding Ellipsis

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Ellipsis of a constituent whose head has moved out of it (“headless ellipsis”) is possible in some cases but not in others. Headless ellipsis is licensed only if the stranded head has not crossed a Spell-Out domain. The reason is that the silencing instruction responsible for ellipsis must be PF-visible on the head of the elided constituent, and PF-visibility is cut off at Spell-Out domain boundaries. A parallel effect is observed with remnants of head movement that are frozen for movement (“headless movement”). The two effects can possibly be united if ellipsis and copy deletion recruit the same silencing instruction at PF, hosted on the head of the deleted constituent. A third, mirror-image effect is observed with reprise fragments, which must be visibly headed. This time head movement removes the PF instruction that spares these fragments from ellipsis. Overall, these phenomena establish the significance of headedness for the syntax-PF interface.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-318
Number of pages38
JournalLinguistic Inquiry
Issue number2
StatePublished - 30 Mar 2020


  • ellipsis
  • head movement
  • headless constituents
  • sluicing


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