Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Linguistics, Language Acquisition, Ellipsis, Japanese

Major Advisor

William Snyder

Associate Advisor

Jonathan Bobaljik

Associate Advisor

Diane Lillo-Martin

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


This dissertation investigates the acquisition of Argument Ellipsis (AE). In Chapter 2, I discuss two theoretical approaches to the cross-linguistic distribution/acquisition of AE, namely, the Scrambling Analysis (Oku 1998) and the Anti-agreement Analysis (Saito 2007), and show that neither can be maintained, based on the facts from cross-linguistic distribution of AE and learnability considerations. Then, I propose that the cross-linguistic distribution/acquisition of AE are best accounted for by the morphology of extended nominal projections such as case and number. More specifically, it is argued that only languages that exhibit non-fusional, agglutinating (case) morphology allow AE. This proposal correctly explains the facts that are problematic for the previous analyses. Chapter 3 takes up the question of whether agreement actually blocks AE. Although the data reported by Şener and Takahashi (2010) suggest that subject agreement in Turkish blocks AE, in conformity to the Anti-agreement Analysis, I point out that AE in subject position can be blocked by various as-yet-unknown factors, and it is necessary to look at object agreement languages to test whether agreement blocks AE. The data from Hindi and Basque indicate that object agreement does not necessarily block AE, which supports the morphology-based analysis of AE put forth in this dissertation. Chapter 4 investigates how Japanese-speaking children acquire AE. It has been observed in the literature that Japanese-speaking children acquire case-markers quite early (Matsuoka 1998). Given that, the analysis proposed in this dissertation predicts that Japanese-speaking children acquire AE very early, despite the fact that direct positive evidence indicating that Japanese allows AE is virtually non-existent in child-directed speech. To test the prediction, I conducted three experiments with Japanese-speaking children. What makes these experiments different from previous studies is that the sloppy/quantificational reading, which is a crucial indicator of ellipsis, is separated from the indefinite reading. The results from the experiments suggest that Japanese-speaking children aged four to six have knowledge of AE. These findings are consistent with the current proposal that relates the acquisition of AE and the acquisition of case markers.