Ellipsis and sentence fragments in Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam : their effect on meaning



Year of publication 2014
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Ian McEwan's fiction offers numerous opportunities to observe highly interesting patterns, especially in the characters' discourse. One of them may be the pattern which involves omitting one or more words which are usually parts of the grammatical structure of the English sentence (Subject, Verb, Object) – fragments or cases of linguistic ellipsis. There are, of course, various options as to what can be omitted from the characters' utterances, and therefore also several possibilities to categorize ellipsis. We will take a look at examples from the text of Amsterdam (1998), a novel by Ian McEwan, and at how can these fragments be interpreted as well as how they actually affect the way the characters' utterances are understood. The questions raised here are: does the fact that there is actually less than a full sentence make the conversation more difficult to comprehend (for the reader as well as the characters themselves), or actually rather the contrary? Does it in any way affect the meaning? Does it violate Grice's four conversational maxims (or, more specifically, the maxim of quantity?) What may possibly lead the author to including such pattern in the characters' discourse so frequently?
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