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LINGUIST List 20.2320

Mon Jun 29 2009

Diss: Neuroling/Psycholing: Poirier: 'Finding Meaning in Silence:...'

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        1.    Josée Poirier, Finding Meaning in Silence: The comprehension of ellipsis

Message 1: Finding Meaning in Silence: The comprehension of ellipsis
Date: 27-Jun-2009
From: Josée Poirier <joseeucsd.edu>
Subject: Finding Meaning in Silence: The comprehension of ellipsis
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Institution: San Diego State University / University of California, San Diego
Program: Language and Communicative Disorders
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2009

Author: Josée Poirier

Dissertation Title: Finding Meaning in Silence: The comprehension of ellipsis

Linguistic Field(s): Neurolinguistics

Dissertation Director:
Lewis P. Shapiro

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation examines the real-time processing and interpretation of
Ellipsis. Ellipsis refers to a family of elements that are absent from the
input but crucial for the overall interpretation of a sentence. Ellipsis
therefore offers a unique opportunity to study the form-meaning
correspondence in language comprehension, since the intended meaning is
transmitted without recourse to a fully-fledged signal. The studies in this
dissertation aimed to determine the meaning that is attributed to silent
constituents in auditory sentence comprehension, with an emphasis on
Verb-Phrase Ellipsis and Sluicing. Furthermore, the time-course of
interpretation computation was examined using a methodology sensitive to
online processing (Cross-Modal Priming).
Chapter 2 investigated the processing of unaccusative and unergative verbs
in Verb-Phrase Ellipsis (e.g.: The dog disappeared in the crowded street
fair and the child did too). Chapter 3 examined the interpretation of
Sluiced sentences (The handyman threw a book to the programmer, but I don't
know which book). Chapter 4 presents neuropsychological evidence on the
recovery of meaning in Verb-Phrase Ellipsis. Taken together, these studies
indicate that ellipsis is interpreted in real time, as the sentence
unfolds, by retrieving the mnemonic representation of the antecedent (the
intended meaning provided in the early part of the sentence). The parser
only reactivates the syntactically-defined antecedent; no more material
than necessary is reconstructed at the ellipsis. However, the meaning
assigned to the ellipsis may differ from the antecedent: in Sluicing, the
parser might assign a partial or temporarily mismatching interpretation to
the ellipsis. Additionally, these findings point to a role of parallelism
expectations in the timely postulation and resolution of ellipsis. Lastly,
the linguistic properties of Ellipsis were exploited to test specific
hypotheses on language representation and processing in normal and
disordered language. For instance, Chapter 2 aimed to determine whether
traces are represented as silent syntactic phrases during processing and
Chapter 4 evaluated aphasic patients' ability to process, in real time, a
complex but canonically-ordered construction.

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