Interpretation of Vp Ellipsis Sentence

Akihiro Ito
Seinan Gakuin University


The present study investigated which properties of verb phrase (VP) ellipsis sentences determine their semantic interpretation among Japanese learners of English as a foreign language. It is generally accepted that VP ellipsis sentences (example: Taro washed his car, and Jiro did, too.) have two possible interpretations: (a) a coreferential (CR) interpretation, in which Taro washed Jiro’s car, or (b) a Bound Variable (BV) interpretation, in which Taro washed his own car. Recent research has suggested that such properties of the possessed noun phrase (NP) in VP ellipsis sentences as (1) alienability (alienable/inalienable) and (2) animacy (animate/inanimate) trigger the choice of interpretation of VP ellipsis sentences. The results of an interpretation test and questionnaire on alienability conducted with 77 Japanese learners of English indicate that animacy is the primary factor determining the interpretation when the possessed NP is inanimate, while the degree of ‘empathy’ conditions the choice between BV and CR when the possessed NP is animate. As a consequence, ‘the animacy-empathy interaction hypothesis’ is proposed in the concluding remark. Directions for further research on VP ellipsis sentences are also discussed.


Ask a question to the author or share your ideas about this paper