Nonsentential Constituents

A theory of grammatical structure and pragmatic interpretation

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Linguists traditionally have assumed that full sentence sources truncated by ellipsis rules account for the grammatical structure as well as the semantic interpretation of fragments like B below: A: What happened in 1974? B: A scandal in the White House. A sentential structure dominated by the initial node of S is reduced to a fragment by the operation of ellipsis, and it is the full sentential source that provides the semantic interpretation for the remaining fragment.Barton argues against both of these assumptions. She claims that independent major lexical categories like the example above are generated within a grammar as syntactic structures dominated by the initial node of NP, VP, and so on, rather than S. Her second claim is that the major part of the interpretation of these independent constituent utterances takes place within a pragmatic context, rather than in the semantic component of a grammar. A theory of nonsentential constituents is presented consisting of two interacting models: an autonomous competence model of the grammar of nonsentential constituent structures, and a modular pragmatic model of the interpretation of independent constituent utterances in context.

Subjects: Semantics; Theoretical linguistics; Pragmatics; Syntax

  • Affiliations: 1: Wayne State University

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