Discourse coherence and referent identification of subject ellipsis in Japanese

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This paper discusses two ellipsis-related issues using the MIC theory as the backbone of explanation: (1) ellipsis as a discourse coherence marker, which answers the question, why use ellipsis (i.e. the pragmatic issue); and (2) referent identification of ellipsis, which answers the question, how do we know who/what a zero encoding of ellipsis refers to? (i.e. the semantic issue.) The former is an issue also related to the speaker’s cognition whether or not to utilize ellipsis for enhancing a discourse coherence based on the speaker’s assumption of the addressee’s knowledge and ability to make sense of the zero encoding. On the other hand, the latter deals with a matter stemming from the other side of the same issue; namely, the addressee’s cognition to interpret and retrieve the referential identity of ellipsis. The paper examines the mechanisms of referent identification of ellipsis found in Japanese, the language that is said to utilize ellipsis with extremely high frequency but without conventional cross-referencing systems. It shows that Centre of Attention plays a central role in providing an adequate and consistent explanation of the mechanism of ellipsis. It also presents the importance of implicit lexical knowledge of Japanese that contributes to referent identification of ellipsis.


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