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Detail of contribution

Auteur: Liliane HAEGEMAN

Register variation and formal syntax

Abstract/Résumé: This paper illustrates register-based language internal variation, using data from subject omission in English abbreviated styles, focussing mainly on diaries. This register-specific pattern might be seen as some kind of ‘extragrammatical’ culturally-determined stylistic convention associated with this particular register, but a survey of the relevant data shows that the omission of the subject in diary styles is subject to the core syntactic constraints that have been identified in formal syntax. The observed restrictions on subject omission do not follow from a functional account according to which recoverable subjects can be omitted: while recoverability plays a role, precise syntactic constraints govern the positions in which recoverable subjects can be omitted. The empirical generalisation ges is that subjects can be omitted in root clauses. Moreover, apart from fronted adjuncts no other constituent can precede the non-overt subject. The generalisation applies both to English and to French. The paper develops an account for subject omission which, in addition to standard assumptions about phrase structure, makes use of (i) the Phase based theory of ellipsis, (ii) the hypothesis of the articulated subject field. It is shown that other instantiations of subject omission such as that found, for instance, in note style journalese are governed by the same principles. It is shown that subject ellipsis in second conjuncts, a phenomenon independent of register variation, is subject to the same restrictions as subject omission in the diary style and can be accounted for using the hypotheses developed here.