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 the 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, & Neuroscience, 1, 77-97

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