Coordination as a symmetric structure

Instructor: Ad Neeleman (UCL)

This course argues that syntactic structures are syntactically symmetric. Our starting point is the observation that syntactic representations are overwhelmingly asymmetric and binary branching. We develop an account of this based on the notion that subordination must be licensed through the discharge of a unique selectional requirement. The resulting theory predicts that symmetric structures, if they exist, will have unfamiliar characteristics. Perhaps most strikingly, they should  permit n-ary branching. We show that various properties of coordinate structures can be explained if they are assumed to be symmetric (including their behaviour under selection and the absence of c-command between conjuncts). We then present evidence that coordinate structures are n-ary branching, partly based on the interpretation of attributive modifiers in multitermed coordinate structures. Finally, we show that our proposal permits a straightforward account of the distribution of coordinators in English. With these results in place, we will consider two further topics (time permitting). The first is multidominance, which we argue is available in coordinate structures only. The second is so-called asymmetric coordination, which we argue is best analysed as adjunction.

The course presupposes that students have done syntax as part of their BA/MA training (i.e. four terms of syntax or more).

Format and schedule

Weekly synchronous lecture on Zoom on Tuesdays from 10:30 to 12:00, from 13 October to 1 December

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