Processing ambiguous stripping ellipsis structures in Persian


Previous studies have shown that English speakers use a range of factors including locality, information structure, and semantic parallelism to interpret clausal ellipsis structures. Yet, the relative importance of each factor is currently underexplored. As cues to information structure and semantic parallelism are often implicit in English, we turned to Persian which marks information structure overtly via word order scrambling and uses the -rā morpheme to indicate definiteness/specificity on direct objects. To determine what strategies Persian speakers use to disambiguate clausal ellipsis, we conducted a naturalness rating study and sentence completion task on polarity stripping structures. Our results show that information structure and parallelism strongly influence correlate resolution in both tasks, but that a weaker preference for a local correlate emerges in scrambling in the sentence completion task. As these results diverge from those obtained in English studies, we speculate that the morphosyntactic properties of Persian constrain the strategies the processor uses in selecting a contrastive correlate and resolving ambiguity in stripping ellipsis.

Glossa: A journal of general linguistics