A Note on the Voice Mismatch Asymmetry in Ellipsis

  • Charles CliftonJr.Email author
  • Ming Xiang
  • Lyn Frazier


Theories of ellipsis differ in the identity condition claimed to hold between an antecedent and an elided constituent. A syntactic identity condition leads to the prediction that syntactic mismatches between an antecedent and elided constituent should give rise to a penalty, and that penalty should be greater than in corresponding examples without ellipsis. Further, if syntactic mismatches are ungrammatical, violating the syntactic identity condition, then in effect they are speech errors and would be expected to be rated higher when a passive clause antecedes an active elided VP than vice versa because people misremember passives as actives more often the reverse. A written acceptability judgment study crossed the voice of the antecedent clause (active/passive), the voice of the ellipsis clause (active/passive) and ellipsis/non-ellipsis in the final clause. Results indicate a syntactic mismatch lowers acceptability in examples with elided VPs but not examples with overt VPs, as predicted by theories with a syntactic identity condition. Passive-active mismatches were rated better than active–passive ones, especially with ellipsis, as predicted by a speech error/repair approach to mismatches. This result eliminates any concern that the appearance of a voice asymmetry might only be due to some incompatibility between VP ellipsis and passive voice.


Sentence comprehension Ellipsis VPE Sentence acceptability 



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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychological and Brain SciencesUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA
  2. 2.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA

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