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University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics

Abstract

French allows ellipsis after a number of verbs that express priority or dynamic modality. This phenomenon is known as ‘modal ellipsis’ and, in the past ten years, its syntactic status has been hotly debated in the literature on Romance syntax in ways reminiscent of the controversy surrounding the proper syntactic treatment of English VP ellipsis and Sluicing that started with the early works of Ross (1967) and Sag (1976). What has been established so far with some degree of certainty is that unlike English VP-ellipsis, French modal ellipsis is ellipsis of a TP (Dagnac, 2010). Also established by Busquets and Denis (2001) is the fact that modal ellipsis allow syntactic extraction out of the elision site. This weighs heavily in favor of a PF-deletion approach because it suggests that the ellipsis site has inner structure and therefore provides an extraction site that would remain unavailable under a pro-form approach. In this paper, I explore a novel formulation of the licensing conditions on modal ellipsis that takes as a point of departure a suggestion by Johnson (2001) that English VP-Ellipsis should be derived by way of movement and that elided VPs stand in a topic position though they are not spelled out at PF. I argue that adopting a similar approach to French modal ellipsis correctly predicts (a) the class of French verbs that license modal ellipsis, (b) some novel grammaticality contrasts involving infinitival forms of these verbs, and (c) the fact that French does not have VP-Ellipsis and that English does not have modal ellipsis.

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