I am coming up with constituency tests to distinguish between complements and adjuncts. But I was thrown off by the fact that I can coordinate "the jam to Pam on a holiday" as if it is a constituent. But "to Pam" and "on a holiday" should be adjuncts of the verb phrase, so they shouldn't form a phrase with "the jam" without also including "sold".

  • They sold [the jam to Pam on a holiday] and [the flan to Don on a Monday].

I suppose the adjuncts could've been adjoined to the verbal projection before the verb moved, but I wanted to see what other analyses people gave, if mine was even correct.

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    They are separate constituents: "They sold [the jam] [to Pam] [on holiday]". "The jam" is direct object and the PP "to Pam" is second complement of "sold". The PP "on holiday" is an adjunct within the VP – BillJ Dec 8 '17 at 9:54
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    Your analysis is wrong, this is an example of ellipsis (it’s a coordination of two clauses but from the latter one the verb’s left out). – Atamiri Dec 8 '17 at 13:42
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    There is a coordination. The sequences the jam to Pam on a holiday and the flan to Don on a Monday form the bare coordinates, and by virtue of that they are constituents. The term 'nonce-constituent' is intended to convey, therefore, that the constituent status is conferred on the sequence simply by the coordination relation -- they are constituents for the nonce as it were, just by virtue of the coordination. It's called 'right' nonce-constituent coordination because the coordinates follow the head element on which the component parts are dependent, in this case sold. – BillJ Dec 8 '17 at 14:36
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    @BillJ: Nonce-constituent is an interesting term; who came up with it? I.e, is there a source in the literature, or did you coin it? – jlawler Dec 8 '17 at 15:19
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    @jlawler turns out nonce constituent is a valid term - proposed by Huddleston and Pullum? e.g. they propose right nonce-constituent coordination in "She worked [in London for three years and in Paris for two]." – Alex B. Dec 9 '17 at 1:10

As @BillJ said in the comments above, one can analyze this example as a case of non-constituent coordination. Non-constituent coordination occurs when two sequences can be coordinated, giving evidence that they are constituents, even though they fail all (or almost all) other constituent tests.

This example reinforces the point that one should always perform multiple constituency tests and remember that each successful test only provides more evidence for the claim that the tested sequence is a constituent.

It should also be noted that there are other analyses of similar examples e.g. double-object constructions:

(1) They gave the butter to the Medici.

Here, it is increasingly common to analyze [the butter to the Medici] as an actual constituent (as opposed to a nonce-constituent) from which the verb moved out of, and into the vP above the VP. This analysis is not hindered by the possibility of attaching adjuncts like [on a holiday] to [the butter to the Medici] because [the butter to the Medici] is already posited to be a phrase, namely VP.

  • Some of the jargon here is baffling to me, so I will inject that direct objects can just as well be evaluated as adverbials with an elided case marker, and all coordinations can be stored as separate clauses, or coordinated noun phrases can be stored as supersets. Lumping objects and adverbials as a constituent doesn't help me store them any better than before. – amI Feb 7 '18 at 21:15

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