Information structure preferences in focus-sensitive ellipsis: How defaults persist


We compare the roles of overt accent and default focus marking in processing ellipsis structures headed by focus-sensitive coordinators (such as Danielle couldn’t pass the quiz, let alone the final/Kayla). In a small auditory corpus study of radio transcripts, we establish that such structures overwhelmingly occur with contrastive pitch accents on the correlate and remnant (the quiz and the final, or Danielle and Kayla), and that there is a strong bias to pair the remnant with the most local plausible correlate in production. In two auditory naturalness ratings experiments, we observe that marking a non-local correlate with contrastive pitch accent moderates, but does not fully overturn, the bias for local correlates in comprehension. We propose that the locality preference is due to a sentence-final default position for sentence accent, and that auditory processing is subject to ‘enduring focus,’ in which default positions for focus continue to influence the focus structure of the sentence even in the presence of overt accents. The importance of these results for models of auditory processing and of the processing of remnants in ellipsis structures is discussed.

Language & Speech, 61, 480-512