Frames and the interpretation of omitted arguments in English

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Despite the idiosyncratic properties of null-complement phenomena observed by Fillmore (1986), Lambrecht and Lemoine (2005), and others, many researchers have pursued large-scope, single-factor explanations of the distributional and interpretive restrictions on null complements – in particular, explanations based on Aktionsart (Rappaport Hovav and Levin 1998) and selectional restrictions (Resnik 1993, 1996). We argue instead for a limited implicational regularity tying the interpretation type of an omitted argument to the frame membership of its predicator. We show that our account is robust, that exceptions can be explained based on independently motivated principles, and that the proposed generalization can be motivated by reference to the discourse status of comparable overt arguments in both lexically and constructionally licensed omissions. Finally, we argue that successful generalizations in the realm of null complementation are likely to be narrow rather than broad in scope.


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