An aspect of VP-ellipsis that has been the subject of much theoretical analysis occurs when the ellipsis appears to be contained inside its antecedent. The phenomenon is called antecedent-contained ellipsis or antecedent-contained deletion. Canonical cases of antecedent-contained ellipsis occur when the ellipsis appears inside a quantified object NP, e.g.
- They said everything that we did .
- He is thinking the same thing I am .
If it is assumed that the antecedent to the ellipsis is to be a complete verb phrase, then the only possible antecedent appears to be the VP in bold. This VP, however, contains the ellipsis itself. This analysis would imply an infinite regress, which is an impossibility, since it would mean that the ellipsis could never acquire full semantic content.
One means of addressing antecedent-contained ellipsis that is pursued in some phrase structure grammars is to assume quantifier raising (QR). Quantifier raising raises the quantified NP to a position where it is no longer contained inside its antecedent VP. An alternative explanation, pursued in dependency grammars, is to assume that the basic unit of syntax is not the constituent, but rather the catena. On this analysis, the antecedent to the ellipsis does not need to be a complete constituent (an entire verb phrase), but can be merely a catena (the verbs say and thinking in the above examples), which need not contain the ellipsis.
Read more about this topic: Verb Phrase Ellipsis