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Gapping is a kind of ellipsis construction in which repeated verbs in coordinate structures are omitted. The term was introduced by Ross (1967) as a kind of conjunction reduction rule.


See the following example from English where the application of gapping on (1a) results in (1b).

(1) Gapping (borrowed from Ross 1967):

(a) The boy works in a skyscraper and the girl works in a quonset hut.

(b) The boy works in a skyscraper and the girl in a quonset hut.

Some languages have "forward gapping" as shown in English (1) above, the common verb in the second conjunct clause is deleted. However, some languages have "backward gapping", thus the common verb from the first conjunct clause may also be deleted.


Gapping is assumed to have properties such as the following: (i) it needs to have lexical material on both its sides, it must occur in a coordinate structure, it may not be a phrase, it may not occur at the sentence boundary or violate complex NP constraint (Lobeck 1995), the gapped elements must be contextually given and the remnants must occur in a contrastive relation to their correlates (Winkler 1997 as mentioned in Winkler 2005, Johnson 1996).

There are two competing analyses for the mechanism of the gapping phenomenon, viz. the deletion of the material, and the across-the board movement of the material from both the conjuncts, which both achieve the similar results.

Related terms


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Johnson, K. (1996) In search of the middle field. ms. Accessed at
  • Kerstens,J.G 1981. Bestaart Gapping eigenlijk wel?, Spektator 11-1, 61-79
  • Koster, J. 1987. Domains and dynasties: The radical autonomy of syntax, Foris, Dordrecht.
  • Lobeck, A. (1995) Ellipsis. Oxford University Press.
  • Neijt,A.H. 1979. Gapping. A contribution to sentence grammar, Foris:Dordrecht
  • Ross, J.R. 1967. Constraints on variables in syntax, doctoral dissertation, MIT (published as 'Infinite syntax!' Ablex, Norwood (1986)).
  • Winkler, S. (2005) Ellipsis and Focus in Generative Grammar. Mouton de Gruyter: Berlin/ New York.

Other languages