3.5 Features of speech: ellipsis
Another feature of relying on the shared linguistic or sociocultural context is ellipsis. This occurs when some elements of a phrase or other unit of language are not specified because they can be inferred from the context. Ellipsis occurs in both speech and writing, but is more common in speech. The following two-part exchange between myself and my daughter is an illustration. We have a cordless phone which can be used anywhere in the house and my daughter, like many teenagers, is constantly phoning and being phoned by her friends.
MOTHER Suzanne, have you got the phone up there?
SUZANNE No. Dad's using it.
The ellipsis occurs in the first part of Suzanne's response. No could be expanded to ‘No, I haven't got the phone up here’, but this is unnecessary because we both know what she is saying ‘no’ to.
In the examples below there is ellipsis. Try to work out what words have been omitted. The place where they could go has been indicated with the symbol ^. Write a version of each of these sentences with the ellipsed material included.
- He and his mate both jumped out, he ^ to go to the women, his mate ^ to stop other traffic on the bridge.
- Perhaps, as the review gathers steam, this can now change. It needs to ^.
- A: Have you got an exam on Monday? B: ^ Two exams ^.
(Biber et al., 1999, pp. 156–7)
Ellipted material is enclosed in 〈 〉.
He and his mate both jumped out, he 〈jumped out〉 to go to the women, his mate 〈jumped out〉 to stop other traffic on the bridge.
Perhaps, as the review gathers steam, this can now change. It needs to 〈change〉.
A: Have you got an exam on Monday?
B: 〈I've got〉 two exams 〈on Monday〉.