The Korean Association for the Study of English Language and Linguistics
[ Article ]
Korea Journal of English Language and Linguistics - Vol. 20, No. 1, pp.475-495
ISSN: 1598-1398 (Print)
Print publication date 31 Mar 2020
Received 02 Jun 2020 Revised 23 Aug 2020 Accepted 23 Sep 2020

Mismatches in Ellipsis: Category Mismatch Asymmetry in English VP-ellipsis

Sun-Woong Kim
Kwangwoon University

Copyright 2020 KASELL
This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This paper is purposed to explain the asymmetry of category mismatch in English VP-ellipsis and to argue that the simple set-theoretic comparison of inclusion (or containment) between the antecedent phrase and the elided phrase is neither sufficient nor necessary. The reason is explored for why the antecedent noun triggers VP-ellipsis in the subsequent clause, while the antecedent verb rarely triggers NP-ellipsis in the subsequent clause (Sato 2018). This paper looks for a syntactic answer to the question in the dynamicity of phase theory (Bošković 2014, den Dikken 2006, 2007, 2017). For a proper morphological derivation, the notation ([CAPITAL]) is adopted to denote the lexeme/root status of a lexical category. On top of it, to take care of the idea that only nouns of concealed polar interrogation can trigger VP-ellipsis (Miller and Hemforth 2014), PolP is located above VP in the second conjunct to carry polar properties (Culicover 1992, Laka 1990). If polarity is not involved, PolP is not needed because Pol is for a (concealed) yes/no question. Under the dynamic definition of phases, a phase and the complement of its head, but not the complement of a complement, are eligible for ellipsis (Bošković 2014). VP in the second clause can be elided if the clause has PolP because the VP counts as the complement of a phase PolP. In contrast, VP in the second clause cannot be elided without PolP, since it is not a complement but the complement of a complement of a phase. This explains why VP-ellipsis is not possible when the non-polar concealed questions of nominals are an antecedent. Regarding the opposite direction, differently from Sato’s analysis, this paper assumes that one is n, which is the head of nP. Above RP, NP, nP and DP are capped in a row to host lexical items. Here DP is a phase and NP is the complement of a complement, hence it is not elidable according to Bošković (2014). It will also be shown that the proposed analysis has a desirable consequence in that the syntactic behavior of other types of mismatch in ellipsis like voice mismatch, polarity mismatch, and type mismatch can be predicted.


mismatch, category, VP-ellipsis, phase, dynamic phasehood


This paper has been greatly benefited by the discussion in the meetings of Dongguk Roundtable on Linguistics during 2018-20. An earlier version was presented in the Spring Joint Conference of Linguistics held in Chonbuk National University, May 16, 2020. The author appreciates their interest and comment on earlier versions of this paper. Three Korean Journal of English Language and Linguistics reviewers thankfully provided valuable comments for improvement as well. This work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2019S1A5A2A01036282).


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Sun-Woong Kim, ProfessorKwangwoon UniversityDepartment of English20 Kwangwoon-ro, Nowon-guSeoul, KoreaE-mail: