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  • Frank Wijnen Centre for Language and Cognition (CLCG), Faculty of Arts & Research School for Behavioural and Cognitive Neurosciences (BCN), University Medical Centre; University of Groningen


This paper gives a brief introduction to the linguistic phenomenon of ellipsis, and summarizes two experimental studies on the interpretation of elliptic structures, focusing on its time course. The first study uses ERPs to trace the processing of coordinate sentences with a verbal gap. The results suggest that the gap is detected at the very first position allowing it, and that reconstruction of the missing verb is immediate. The second study deals with the interpretation of bare cardinals in two-sentence texts. It is shown that such cardinals are preferably interpreted as denoting a subset out of a set described in the preceding context. A self-paced reading experiment shows that this interpretation is created immediately upon perceiving the bare cardinal, and suggests that the subsequent processing of information contradicting this interpretation leads to a re-analysis of the original interpretation – analogous to incremental models of sentence parsing. Despite the temporal processing similarity, the two types of ellipsis discussed are argued to invoke different levels of representation, and this leads to some suggestions as to the processing and interpretation of such structures by persons with different forms of aphasia.