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Noun ellipsis in English: adjectival modifiers and the role of context

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 June 2011

Institut für Deutsche Sprache, R5, 6-13, D-68161 Mannheim,


This article analyses adjectival modification in elliptical NPs based on a corpus analysis. It illustrates the fact that descriptive adjectives can be used without nominal heads in English. Whereas in spoken language adjectives denoting more inherent properties feature prominently when the referents are present in the text-external world, no particular types of adjectives appear in written language. In terms of the latter, two major types of linguistic contexts are identified which do not require the use of a nominal head. It is argued that a conception of ‘contrast’ as a ‘non-identity’ condition cannot account for the variation between one-replacement and noun ellipsis since it holds for both phenomena. Similarly, partitivity is argued not to be a relevant requirement for the use of adjectives without nouns.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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