I had a discussion on coordination with one of my friends and thought it would be better to ask it here.

The question is which one of these are coordination and why?

  • Mary likes cakes and hates pies.
  • Mary likes and Jack hates pies.
  • Mary bought an ice cream and ate it.

I believe only the third one is coordination. My reasoning is as follows.

In the first sentence the verbs doesn't depend on each other.

In the second sentence, the pies are not affected by Mary's liking or Jack's hating. They seem independent events.

In the third sentence however, if Mary hadn't bought an ice cream, she wouldn't have eaten it.

Are my arguments correct?


1 Answer 1


All three sentences involve coordination understood broadly, since all three involve two conjuncts linked by a coordinating conjunction (and). The second sentence is the odd one out, as it is what's referred to as a right node raising construction. Note that in the 1st and the 3rd sentences, two constituents are coordinated:

a. Mary [VP likes ice cream] and [VP hates pies]
b. Mary [VP bought an ice cream] and [VP ate it]

The second sentence, on the basis of the surface syntax, looks like it involves coordination of two non-constituents, since the subject and verb don't form a constituent to the exclusion of the object:

c. [Mary likes] and [Jack hates] pies

Given some auxiliary assumptions then, the bracketing given in (c) can't be correct. There's a number of different analyses on the market for (c), including across-the-board rightward movement of the object from out of both of the conjuncts, and ellipsis of the object in the initial but not the subsequent conjunct. Since this isn't relevant to your question, i won't explore it further.

Your arguments seem to be based on the faulty assumption that true coordination must involve coordination of two sentences which are in a specific discourse relationship with one another, such as cause-effect. Coordination is in fact a syntactic phenomenon - what the coordinated constituents happen to mean is irrelevant. If you take 'coordination' to mean something other than syntactic coordination however, then this is just a terminological quibble. If you're interested in the discourse relationships which hold between sentences, and how this interacts with coordination, you might want to take a look at the work of Andy Kehler, who has explored such issues in a number of different articles and books.

  • @JaneMiller I'm afraid i don't have access to a copy of Tallerman's book, and i can't remember exactly which constituency tests she proposes. All of the standard constituency tests will indicate that the subject and verb are NOT a constituent to the exclusion of the object, though. By all means ask another question if you're interested in exploring this further :-)
    – P Elliott
    Jan 25, 2014 at 16:29
  • @P Elliot. The answer is good. I just want to point out one point where I can disagree. You state that the bracketing for (c) cannot be correct. I think that statement is wrong. I have put forth an analysis of RNR in a number of places that refrains from deletions or movements. In other words, the coordinated strings in (c) are exactly as they appear and as you have bracketed them. Feb 17, 2014 at 6:05
  • Thanks for pointing out that alternative analyses are available @TimOsborne - i probably should've made it clearer that the bracketing in (c) cannot be correct only given certain auxiliary assumptions: Namely, only constituents can be coordinated, and the verb and the subject do not form a constituent. Of course these assumptions, although common, may turn out to be incorrect.
    – P Elliott
    Feb 17, 2014 at 19:10

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