Fragment answers may convey a complete thought, hence being complete sentences on their own. They've been analysed to involve either sluicing or the elision of a copular construction (pseudosluicing).

What did Mary eat?

Cake1 Mary ate t1

Cake1 it was t1

An imperative may convey a complete thought and is regarded as a complete sentence even if it is only a VP, because it actually is underlyingly a complete sentence - the subject is omitted.

You stop!

Has anyone ever regarded isolated NPs like the ones below as complete sentences and extended the pseudosluice analysis to such isolated NPs?

Look! A bird.

What a pretty flower!

It does seem that pseudosluicing is involved.

[A bird]1 it is t1

[What a pretty flower]1 it is t1

This could be supported by data from Japanese where such phrases are ended with the copula だ(da)/です(desu).

見て! 鳥   だ.
Mite! Tori da.
Look! Bird COP
Look! It's a bird.

なんて きれい-な 花      だ!
Nante kirei-na hana   da!
EMPH  pretty   flower COP
What a pretty flower it is.
  • The real question is hidden approximately in the middle of this post, it could be more visible. Dec 18, 2015 at 15:47
  • @jknappen I'm sorry. I don't quite get your drift. Dec 19, 2015 at 7:49
  • Because this is a question-and-answer site it is good to make very explicit and clear where and what the question is. Can you reformulate your post such that your question is either at the very beginning or the very end of it? Dec 20, 2015 at 12:58

2 Answers 2


It's easy enough to go from the sluiced construction to the one word question. Instead of

John and someone were dancing; guess who.

we'll use

John and someone were dancing. Who?

Shall we say then that "Who?" is a reduced form of a full form sentence with all its parts?

*Who is it that John and were dancing?

But how can it be? If it were, the "Who" form would be ungrammatical, because the full version breaks the Coordinate Structure Constraint.

The importance of John Ross's paper on sluicing, "Guess who", is that it gives evidence against deriving the small form sentences from the full forms. Not for, against. Someone seems to have missed the point.


The purpose of language is to move memories from one brain to another. To be efficient, nothing that is already known by both brains should be transmitted. Besides entire (redundant) clauses, individual words may be elided if the result is not ambiguous (if there is only one part-of-speech that makes sense and that part has an agreed-on null component for that part). Fragmentary questions are appended to the previous statement ([Mary did eat], when) Fragmentary answers replace the query pronoun in the question ([Mary did eat] cake), fragmentary statements are demonstrative (A bird [is there]), and all imperatives are fragmentary predicates ([You shall] stop).

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