Cross-linguistic Differences in English and French VP-Ellipsis

Hafissatou Kane

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The aim of this paper is to investigate the construction of Verb Phrase ellipsis in both English and French. More specifically, the paper examines whether English and French form the verbal ellipsis in a same way. The study also tests an assumption, stating that the semantic opposition between deontic and epistemic modal auxiliaries distinguishes English and French VP-ellipsis. In doing so, a number of French and English elliptical verb phrases have been examined using the contrastive method. After analysing several examples gathered from some studies in the existing literature, it is argued that these elliptical VPs are differently conventionalized in the two languages. What has been found is, English often expresses VP-ellipsis using an auxiliary or a modal verb followed by a gap (e.g. absence of the past participle or main verb) while this is rarely acceptable in French. Exceptions only exist after modal verbs. French on the other hand, has various means to form VP-ellipsis. The analysis finally confirms that ellipsis is possible in English after both deontic and epistemic modal verbs while French only accepts ellipsis after deontic modals such as devoir ‘must, should’ and pouvoir ‘can, may’.




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