Marjorie McShane presents a comprehensive theory of ellipsis that supports the formal, cross-linguistic description of elliptical phenomena taking into account the various factors that affect the use of ellipsis. A methodology is suggested for creating a parameter space describing and treating ellipsis in any language. Such "ellipsis profiles" of languages will serve a wide range of practical applications, including but not limited to natural language processing. In contrast to earlier work, this theory focuses not only on what can, in principle, be elided but in what circumstances a given category actually would or would not be elided--that is, what renders ellipsis mandatory or infelicitous.
A theory of ellipsis has been elusive because to produce an adequate account of this ubiquitous phenomenon one needs to address and integrate data from a wide variety of linguistic research areas. Using data primarily from Russian, English, and Polish, McShane looks at the big picture of ellipsis, integrating the syntactic, semantic, morphological, and pragmatic heuristics and bridges work on ellipsis with the larger study of reference. This is groundbreaking linguistic scholarship that bridges the theoretical and the applied, and will interest scholars in the fields of computational, descriptive, and theoretical linguistics.