Processing preferences and ellipsis alternation

Joanna Nykiel (Uniwersytet Śląski)

English elliptical constructions allow an alternation between remnants with prepositions and remnants without prepositions when the remnants’ correlates are prepositional phrases (A: I’m here for the audition. B: Which audition? / For which audition?). I dub this alternation ellipsis alternation. This alternation is found outside English, and available crosslinguistic data show that remnants with prepositions are more acceptable than remnants without prepositions (Rodrigues et al. 2009, Merchant et al. 2013, Nykiel 2013). However, English doesn’t follow this pattern in the sense that remnants without prepositions have higher frequencies than remnants with prepositions (Nykiel 2016). This raises two questions, which I address in this talk: (1) why remnants with prepositions should be the crosslinguisticallly more common option, and (2) why this is not the case in English. I propose a processing account of ellipsis alternation, arguing that it is best suited for handling English data and the available crosslinguistic data in terms of both the availability of this alternation and the frequency of remnants with prepositions vs. the frequency of remnants without prepositions. The data collected for this study total 411 items harvested from three corpora of spoken American English and analyzed by means of binary logistic regression and conditional inference trees.