Ellipsis, Right Node Raising, and Across-The-Board Movement

This dissertation investigates two unique syntactic structures in natural language, known as Right Node Raising (RNR) and Across-The-Board (ATB) constructions. It establishes a connection between these constructions and the more familiar ellipsis phenomenon, reducing RNR and ATB to special cases of backwards ellipsis under coordination. First, I review previous accounts of RNR - movement, phonological deletion, and multiple dominance - and provide arguments against them. I propose that RNR is best understood as an ellipsis phenomenon, on the grounds that RNR shares many properties with ellipsis such as sloppy identity and Vehicle Change (Fiengo and May 1994). Second, I discuss licensing conditions for RNR. I argue that the licensing conditions can be reduced to semantic identity; namely, the conjuncts must stand in a mutual entailment relation, modulo existential closure over focused material, at the point of semantic interpretation. Following Merchant's (2001) feature analysis of sluicing, I propose that ellipsis in RNR is triggered by an ellipsis feature (the E-RNR feature). An E-RNR feature is only valued if three requirements are met: i) it enters the derivation with a contrastively focused lexical item, ii) at PF, the complement of the feature is forced to be silent, and iii) a mutual entailment relationship between the conjuncts must be established. When all the conditions are satisfied, RNR is licensed. Third, I turn to the striking similarities between RNR and ATB constructions and argue that RNR constructions are the underlying structures for ATB constructions. A single occurrence of the RNR target undergoes movement to the topmost position, stopping by every intermediate phase. With this analysis, we can solve several long-standing mysteries about ATB constructions. The conceptual problem of two independent movement operations targeting a single landing site does not arise. Furthermore, the proposed analysis sheds new light on the origin of the "single-identity reading" of ATB constructions.
Ellipsis, Right Node Raising, and Across-The-Board Movement [PDF]