The Coordinate Structure Constraint: evidence from Irish


Ross’s 1967 MIT thesis Constraints on Variables in Syntax introduced, among other things, the Coordinate Structure Constraint, which is a generalization of the intuitive notion that coordinators (in English, “and”, “but”, “or” and so on) coordinate nouns with nouns (“fish and chips”), verbs with verbs (“come and go”) to exclude sentences like “Whose tax did the nurse polish her trombone and the plumber compute?”

While keeping my eyes peeled for examples of non-constituent coordination in Gaelic, and I should note that I have a blogpost in preparation with examples from William Lamb’s Scottish Gaelic, including the constructions that are examples of “cosubordination”, I’ve been reading Mícheál Ó Siadhail’s Learning Irish, which has some examples of what the author calls “idiomatic uses of agus“. These first five coordinate non-constituents:

Bhí Bríd ann agus í tinn. (1)

Tá Cáit ansin agus leabhar mór aici. (2)

D’imigh Máirtín amach agus gan aon chóta air. (3)

Bhí an bosca ansin is mé ag tíocht abhaile. (4)

Bhí an lá gearr is thú ag imeacht thart mar sin. (5)

(1) coordinates NP + existential ANN with NP + ADJ. (2) coordinates NP + ADV with NP + PP. (3) coordinates ADV with PP. (4) coordinates NP + ADV with NP + small clause. (5) coordinates NP + ADJ with NP + small clause. Sadly there are no counterexamples of uses that are unidiomatic. is also shows up in constructions with chomh (like Gaelic cho, which is similar):

chomh sásta is a bhí Máirtín (6)

“as pleased as Martin was”. Here is coordinates ADJ with a direct relative clause.

There are also some non-coordinative-looking uses:

An bhfuil sé míle as seo go Carna? Tá agus deich míle! (7)

Tá mé ag imeacht anois. Tá agus mise! (8)

Is maith liom an áit seo. Is maith agus liomsa! (9)

Any account of coordination in Irish at least has to be able to cope with examples (1) to (6). I hunt on for examples in Gaelic.

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