ELLIPSIS Anita D.E, T.B. Endayani, Wuji A.


Introduction The field of Descriptive and Applied Linguistics is a very complex area,

for it has been growing over the last twenty years. One of such area is discourse analysis, a study that is concerned with of the relationship between language and the contexts in which it is used. Discourse analysis is not only connected with the description and analysis of spoken communications, but also of written ones. Spoken and written communications show grammatical connection between individual clauses and statements. Essentially, both texts should show connections from sentence to sentence in terms of grammatical features. One example of grammatical features is ellipsis, which will be the topic of this paper.


Ellipsis Salkie (1995: 56) states that ellipsis, from the Greek word ellipein or to

leave out, means leaving out the words. According to McCarthy, (1997: 43), ellipsis is the absence of otherwise expected elements since they can be regained from the previous text or context, which occurs in spoken language and spoken texts such as diaries, movie scripts, novels, and recipes. It is the absence of normally required elements which the speaker/writer thinks are evident from the context and so need not be explained. In short, ellipsis can be understood as something left unsaid or something understood (by both the speaker and the listener). However, not every un-explicit/implicit utterance is elliptical. Most utterances call for some input from the context in order to be understood. As Halliday and Hasan states in Cohesion in English (1980: 143) that ellipsis is substitution by zero; it is a form of substitution in which the item is substituted by nothing. The information that should be inserted in the opening should be presupposed by both speakers. Therefore, the main principle that should

be taken into consideration is that all elliptical information should be unambiguous; that it should be specified to certain things that both speakers knew. Ellipsis is characterized by some µmissing¶ element in the structure. The speaker does not need to provide some additional information which is required for the listener to understand the utterances fully. In one sentence level, in the example of ³Andy would like to visit the country someday´, a listener will need additional information to decide the exact meaning of µthe country¶ in that utterance, whether it means µrural areas¶ or µnational unit¶. But in the following example, ³Sarah sells fruits, and Celia vegetables´, there is no feasible interpretation for the second clause but ³Celia sells vegetables.´ Ellipsis is a relation within the text. In many examples, the item taken for granted by the speaker exists in the preceding text. Thus, as a rule, ellipsis is an anaphoric relation. English also has cataphoric ellipsis, but as a rule, it is only in subordinate clauses that are placed in front, such as in the sentence, ³If you could, I would like you to come back home by nine.´ The presupposition of ellipsis happens at the words¶ and structures¶ level. The things assumed are items of language such as words, groups, and clauses, while the main source of that presupposition is the text itself. The example in the third paragraph gives example of ellipsis within a sentence. This paper will not elaborate that kind of ellipsis, since it can be clarified in terms of sentence structure and does not create an independent agency of cohesion in the text. However, ellipsis as a form of relation between sentences will be discussed further, in view of the fact that this kind of ellipsis is an aspect of the important quality; its function in grammatical cohesion is its relevance. On ellipsis that occurs between sentences, Nunan (1993: 25) states that it occurs when some essential structural element is omitted from a sentence or clause and can only be recovered by referring to an element in the preceding text. Nunan gives the following illustration to make it clearer: Mary: I prefer the green

From the example above one cannot think the real meaning of green. However, if one knows what was said before, it becomes relatively straightforward. As in the following conversation: Sylvia: I like the blue hat. Mary: I prefer the green. From above conversation one finds out that I prefer the green in the second utterance is an elliptical form of I prefer the green hat. On the basis of the economy principle, then, the use of ellipsis trims down the amount of time and effort in both making and deciphering, preventing redundancy and repetition.


Nominal Ellipsis Nominal ellipsis happens within the nominal group. Nominal group is a

group of words, usually with a noun as head, which functions in a clause like a single noun. It usually consists of a head, which is normally performed by a noun, along with pre-modifier and/or post-modifier. The modifier could be in the forms of deictic, numerative, epithet, classifier, and qualifier. As discussed previously, ellipsis involves presupposition. Nominal ellipsis regularly involves omission of a noun head, and as a general rule, the variety of probable presupposition depends on the structure of the nominal group. The range of presupposition itself can specifically refer to a certain thing or to several. Consider the example below: Here are Ana¶s two black cotton blouses. a. Where are yours? b. She needs to have two more. c. Can you see any white? d. Or would you prefer the silk? In respond a, the presupposed elements include blouses (Thing), cotton (Classifier), black (Epithet), and perhaps two (Numerative). Respond b has three presuppositions namely blouses, cotton, and black. Respond c has two, blouse and cotton, but there may be any number and they may not belong to Ana. Finally, respond d has only one presupposition: blouse.

As seen on the example above, it is quite clear that in ellipsis the Thing is always presupposed. Yet, it does not automatically means that everything that could be presupposed is in fact presupposed clearly. Such is the case of this example: Q: Don¶t you like those Grecian style houses? A: I prefer mine. In this example, the presupposed thing remains unclear. It could be my Grecian style houses, house, or even country style house and timbered one. One would agree to any interpretation that made sense and was in keeping with what one already knew. Several words recurrently function elliptically. Such of those words are all, both, demonstratives (e.g. this, that, these, those), and pro-nominals that function as the Head (e.g. mine, ours, yours). Here are the examples: 1. The boys stopped playing football. All were tired out. (all presupposes the boys) 2. We can¶t contact the parents. It seems that both are abroad. (both presupposes the parents) 3. Take these pills three times daily. And you¶d better have some more of those too. (example taken from Halliday and Hasan, 1980: 157) (those presuppose these pills) 4. Bring all your clothes inside. I¶ll take mine. (mine presupposes clothes) It is important to note that not all sentences which seem elliptical are in fact truly elliptical. Consider the following examples: 1. 2. Rambutans are the cheapest in February. Rambutans are cheapest in February.

The first example is elliptical; the cheapest here presupposes some item such as fruit. On the other hand, the word cheapest in the second sentence is not elliptical since it does not presuppose other item. It simply states that the price of rambutan is cheapest in February.


Verbal Ellipsis Verbal ellipsis occurs in verbal group. An elliptical verbal group takes for

granted one or more words from a preceding verbal group. For example, in the sentences: 1. 2. Q: Has she been sleeping? Q: What has she been doing? A: Yes, she has. A: Sleeping.

Both verbal groups in the answers, has (in yes, she has) and sleeping in example 2, are examples of verbal ellipsis. Both can be stated as representing has been sleeping, and there is no other choice. One cannot change the answer sleeping with we will be sleeping or I am sleeping, and can only be replaced by she has been sleeping. The English verbal group is reasonably regular yet quite complex. It shows a large number of general choices, especially those connected with tense. Thus, unlike with nominal group, one cannot instantly say that a verbal group consists of an elliptical item. Frequently, it is necessary to check the related text of a certain verbal group to determine whether that verbal group is elliptical or not. In the following examples, those on the left side are all non-elliptical, while those on the right are elliptical: a. Reading novels is one of my a. hobbies. b. Shelly joined the girl guide once b. when she was in Junior high, but I don¶t think Sita ever has been. c. Has she a bike? She may have. c. Has she sold it? She may have. What are you doing? Reading novels. Ary should have been invited, but I don¶t think she has been.

Thomas in McCarthy (1997: 43 ± 44) states that there are two common types of ellipsis, namely echoing and auxiliary contrasting. Echoing duplicates an element from the verbal group, for instance: Q: Will anyone be attending the ceremony? A: Tino will, I suppose.

The word will in the answer signifies and elliptical items, that is will be attending (the ceremony). On the other hand, contrasting happens when the auxiliary changes, as can be observed in the next example: Q: Has Professor Larson discussed the topic in the class? A: No, but she will next week. In this example, the first person asks whether Professor Larson has already discussed a certain topic in the class and the second person replies that she has not done it yet, but that she will discuss the topic next week. Furthermore Thomas adds that in English, various levels of ellipsis are probable within the same verbal group. For instance: Q: Will anyone be invited? A: Herman will. will be. will be invited. These variations cannot easily be translated to other language and will have to be learnt. On the other hand, Halliday and Hasan (1980) differentiate ellipsis into two types: lexical ellipsis and operator ellipsis. Lexical ellipsis occurs when a verbal group does not contain a lexical verb. The verbal group in question consists only of the operator expressing modality or tense. Consider the following example: Q: Is he complaining? A: He may be; I won¶t worry about it. In this example, the answer he may be is an elliptical form of he may be complaining. Operator ellipsis, alternatively, involves the omission of the operator; the subject is omitted from the sentence and must be presupposed. The following elements of the aforementioned sentence may also be omitted but the lexical verb. When it happens across sentences, operator ellipsis involves closely connected sequences such as question and answer. For example: Q: Has he been studying?

A: No, sleeping. In this example, the answer No, sleeping here stands for No, he has been sleeping. That ellipted answer will be undecipherable if seen outside the context of the question.


Clausal Ellipsis Clausal ellipsis involves the omission of other elements of the clause

belonging to a verbal group. The structure of the English clause consists of modal element and propositional element, for example: The sculptor is (modal element) going to sculpt a masterpiece (propositional element)

Based on the structure, clausal ellipsis has several possibilities. There is a modal element ellipsis, in which the modal element is omitted, such as: Q: What is the sculptor going to do? A: Sculpt a masterpiece. In the answer, the modal element is deleted; a full complete sentence will be The sculptor is going to sculpt a masterpiece. Another possibility is a propositional element ellipsis, in which the propositional element is deleted, such as: Q: Who is going to sculpt a masterpiece? A: The sculptor is. Here an omission of proposition occurs. A complete answer would be The sculptor is going to sculpt a masterpiece. Other possible clausal ellipses are part and whole ellipses. The first takes place when individual clause elements are omitted, while the second happens when the whole clausal components are absent. Consider the following instances: 1. Q: Must a name mean something? A: Of course it must. 2. Q: Can you ride a bike? A: Yes.

In the first instance, only parts of the clause are omitted. The full text will be Of course it must mean something. In the second example, a whole clause is deleted. The full text will be Yes, I can ride a bike. Whole clausal ellipsis may also happen with Wh-questions, such as in the following example: Q: Celia always avoids Daniel. A: Why? In this example, the answer Why? stands for Why does Celia always avoid Daniel? Based on the examples presented above, it is quite clear that clausal ellipsis is usually related to the question-answer process in a dialogue. This type of ellipsis expresses only the focus component of the response, allowing both speakers to converse effectively.


Conclusion Ellipsis is a linguistic phenomenon which usually occurs in conversational

exchanges. It mainly characterizes spoken discourse, but it can also happen in spoken text. It can also occur in certain kinds of text which are personalized; such as diaries and movie scripts, and also appear in instructions and signs. Ellipsis is very complex. Therefore, one must be careful when using it, paying attention to the omitted information and making sure that there is no ambiguous information that appears because of the omission.

References: Halliday, M.A.K. & Hasan, Ruqaiya. 1980. Cohesion in English. London: Longman Group Ltd. Lock, Graham. 1997. Functional English Grammar: An Introduction for Second Language Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. McCarthy, Michael. 1997. Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Nunan, David. 1993. Introducing Discourse Analysis. London: Penguin Books Ltd. Salkie, R. 1995. Text and Discourse Analysis. London: Routledge. Stubbs, Michael. 1983. Discourse Analysis: The Sociolinguistic Analysis of Natural Language. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publisher Limited.