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The syntax of what’s left unsaid: A view of ellipsis from Mayan and Spanish by Rodrigo Ranero
Ellipsis is structure and meaning without form. In spoken languages, it is silence whose meaning must be recovered from a linguistic antecedent in the discourse. This talk proposes a new perspective on ellipsis based on a novel investigation of Spanish and Kaqchikel, a Mayan language of Guatemala. The unresolved question regarding ellipsis that I address concerns the precise nature of the relationship that must hold between the silence and its antecedent—what has come to be known as the identity condition underpinning ellipsis. Based on my cross-linguistic approach, I argue for a new understanding of the identity condition, proposing that syntax is a crucial component, but strict identity is not required (contra a long tradition). The crucial data that support my analysis involve the tense system of Spanish and the rich voices of Kaqchikel (which go beyond the familiar active and passive voices). The perspective provided by my comparative investigation thus brings us closer to understanding a universal condition regulating when silence can and cannot be employed in discourse.