Speakers often use ordinary words and phrases, unembedded in any sentence, to perform speech acts’ or so it appears. In some cases appearances are deceptive: The seemingly lexical/phrasal utterance may really be an utterance of a syntactically eplliptical sentence. I argue however that, at least sometimes, plain old words and phrases are used on their own. The use of both words/phrases and elliptical sentences leads to two consequences: 1. Context must contribute more to utterance meaning than is often supposed. Here’s why: The semantic type of normal words and phrases is non-proppositional, even after the usual contextual features are added (e.g., reference assignment and disambiguation). Yet an utterance of a word/phrase can be fully propositional. 2. Often, a hearer does not need to know the exact identity of the expression uttered, to understand an utterance. The reason: Typically, words/phrases in context will sound the same, and mean the same, as some elliptical sentence token.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1075/pc.5.1.06sta
Journal Pragmatics and Cognition
Stainton, R.J. (Robert J.). (1997). Utterance meaning and syntactic ellipsis. Pragmatics and Cognition, 5(1), 51–78. doi:10.1075/pc.5.1.06sta