Processing verb-phrase ellipsis in Mandarin Chinese: Evidence against the syntactic account

Zhenguang Cai, Martin J. Pickering, Patrick Sturt

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15 Citations (Scopus)


Theories differ as to how people recover the meaning of verb-phrase (VP) ellipsis. According to the syntactic account, people reproduce the syntactic structure of the antecedent during the processing of VP ellipsis. This account thus predicts that the ellipsis site contains syntactic information. Using the structural priming paradigm, we found that, in Mandarin, an ellipsis prime (a double-object or prepositional-object dative antecedent plus a VP ellipsis) was less effective in priming than a full-form prime sentence (the same antecedent plus the full-form equivalent of the VP ellipsis) but behaved similarly to a baseline prime (the same antecedent plus a neutral sentence). The result thus suggests that syntactic structure is not reproduced at the ellipsis site and supports the semantic account in which VP ellipsis is interpreted via a semantic representation. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)810-828
JournalLanguage and Cognitive Processes
Issue number6
Early online date25 Jul 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Language comprehension
  • Syntax
  • Verb-phrase ellipsis
  • Structural priming
  • Chinese

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