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Feature 1: Ellipsis


Ellipsis is the omission of elements nor- mally part of a certain structure and is found in both spoken and written English. For example:

“Do you have any questions?” (No ellipsis) “Any questions?” (Ellipsis—subject and verb omitted)



As Cullen and Kuo (2007) note, while ellipsis is found in both spoken and written English, situ- ational ellipsis—omitting items that are appar- ent, given the immediate situation—is much more common in spoken English. This is in contrast to textual ellipsis, in which the omitted information is retrievable from the text itself (Carter and McCarthy 1995). Unlike textual ellipsis, situational ellipsis often results in the omission of subjects and verbs, a phenomenon not common in written English (Carter and McCarthy 1995; McCarthy and Carter 1995). McCarthy and Carter (1995) cite an abun- dance of ellipsis in corpora data, highlighting fixed phrases and routines such as “sounds good” and “absolutely right” as examples of situational ellipsis of subjects and verbs. Situ- ational ellipsis arises from a “combination of informality and shared context” (Cullen and Kuo 2007, 368) and allows speakers to reduce the length and complexity of their comments (Leech 2000). Thus, the face-to-face nature of spoken language allows speakers to leave out information that is easily retrievable from the situation, which in turn helps them cope with the real-time pressures of conversation by speaking in shorter phrases.

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