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Argument or no argument?


We examine an argument for the non-context-freeness of English that has received virtually no discussion in the literature. It is based on adjuncts of the form ‘X or no X’, where X is a nominal. The construction has been held to exemplify unbounded syntactic reduplication. We argue that although the argument can be made in a mathematically valid form, its empirical basis is not claimed unbounded syntactic identity between nominals does not always hold in attested cases, and second, an understanding of the semantics of the construction removes the necessity of making reference to any syntactic reduplication.

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Author information

Correspondence to Geoffrey K. Pullum.

Additional information

The first author’s interest in this topic was sparked many years ago, when Robert Berwick brought to his attention the observations of Alexis Manaster-Ramer. Gerald Gazdar, Uwe Mönnich, James MoRogers, Stuart Shieber and Alia Sperling have supplied useful ideas in conversation and in comments on an earlier draft. Versions of this paper were presented at MIT in May 2005 and at University College London in September 2005, and the members of both audiences are thanked for their valuable discussion. The work of Pullum on this paper was partially supported by a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University.

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Pullum, G.K., Rawlins, K. Argument or no argument?. Linguist and Philos 30, 277–287 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10988-007-9013-y

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  • Formal language theory
  • Context-freeness
  • Syntax
  • Reduplication
  • English
  • Computational linguistics
  • Linguistic engineering
  • Semantics
  • Corpus linguistics
  • Conventional implicature
  • Expressive epithets