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Symmetry Breaking and Symmetry Restoration

Evidence from English Syntax of Coordination


Szymon J. Napierała

This book treats the faculty of language as part of the Universe subject to physical laws. It presents phenomena from syntax and semantics in the interdisciplinary context. The author analyses the origin of syntax and semantics as autonomous modules (asymmetry), even though they display parallelisms (symmetry). He presents linguistic phenomena in the interdisciplinary context where spontaneous symmetry breaking has a central explanatory role, as it is the case in the physical world.

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Chapter 4: Empirical evidence: coordination


4.1     Coordination – introduction

Still another empirical field to test the SSB hypothesis advocated in this book as well as the related issue of the autonomy of syntax is linguistic coordination. Coordinate structures appear to be more symmetric than subordinate structures at what Carston (2003:254) would call a pre-theoretic level of analysis. As they involve two (or more) phrases that appear to have similar linguistic status conjoined with a conjunction, they used to be considered an exception to X-bar theoretic binary syntax. Namely, coordinate structure like (98) were described by means of ternary branching.

As illustrated in (99), coordinate constructions including two or more coordinated conjuncts and subordinate constructions involving minimally two recursively embedded phrases differ in terms of endocentricity, at least at a pre-theoretic level of analysis.

The subordinate constructions from (99) are clearly endocentric, as one of the elements (X) projects its Label to the entire clause, whereas coordinate structures are more problematic and might be analyzed either in terms of two or more heads symmetrically conjoined with a coordinator (which is too symmetric for the traditional X-bar theory) or as exocentric constructions without any heads at all. As for the coordinated constructions, the endocentric solution was less obvious in the earlier X-bar theoretic era (until it was proposed that the conjunction/coordinator might be analyzed as the head of the coordinated construction, as will be discussed below). Thus, one could treat coordination as an exception to the overall endocentric X-bar...

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