Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 277–287 | Cite as

Argument or no argument?

  • Geoffrey K. PullumEmail author
  • Kyle Rawlins
Research Article


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.


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


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bresnan J.W., Kaplan R.M., Peters P.S., Zaenen A. (1982). Cross-serial dependencies in Dutch. Linguistic Inquiry 13: 613-635Google Scholar
  2. Chomsky N. (1963). Formal properties of grammars. In: Luce R.D., Bush R.R., Galanter E. (eds) Handbook of mathematical psychology (Vol. II). New York, John WileyGoogle Scholar
  3. Culy C. (1985). The complexity of the vocabulary of Bambara. Linguistics and Philosophy 8: 345-351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dalrymple M., Kehler A. (1995). On the constraints imposed by respectively. Linguistic Inquiry 26: 531-536Google Scholar
  5. Daly R.T. (1974). Applications of the mathematical theory of linguistics. The Hague, MoutonGoogle Scholar
  6. Dayal, V. (1997). Free relatives and ever: Identity and free choice readings. In Proceedings of SALT VII(pp. 99-116). Ithaca, NY: CLC Publications.Google Scholar
  7. Gawron, J. M. (2001). Universal concessive conditionals and alternative NPs in English. In C. Condoravdi & G. R. de Lavalette (Eds.), Logical perspectives on language and information. Stanford: CSLI Publications.Google Scholar
  8. Geurts B. (2005). Entertaining alternatives: Disjunctions as modals. Natural Language Semantics 13: 383–410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Harkema H. (2001). A characterization of minimalist languages. In: de Groote P., Morrill G., Retoré C. (eds) Logical aspects of computational linguistics: 4th international conference. Berlin, Springer Verlag, pp. 193–211Google Scholar
  10. Higginbotham J. (1984). English is not a context-free language. Linguistic Inquiry 15: 119–126Google Scholar
  11. Higginbotham J. (1985). Reply to Pullum. Linguistic Inquiry 16: 298–304Google Scholar
  12. Hopcroft J.E., Ullman J.D. (1979). Introduction automata theory, languages, and computation. Reading, MA, Addison-WesleyGoogle Scholar
  13. Huddleston R., Pullum G.K. et al. (2002). The Cambridge grammar of the English language. Cambridge, Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  14. Izvorski R. (2000). Free adjunct free relatives. In Billerey R., Lillehaugen B.D. (eds) Proceedings of the 19th West Coast conference on formal linguistics. Somerville, MA, Cascadilla Press, pp. 232–245Google Scholar
  15. Kobele, G. M., & Michaelis, J. (2005). Two type 0-variants of minimalist grammars. Presented at the 2005 FG-MoL (Formal Grammars/Mathematics of Language) FG-MoL ’05: The 10th conference on formal grammar and the 9th meeting on mathematics of language. University of Edinburgh. Proceedings to be published by CSLI Publications, Stanford, California.Google Scholar
  16. Manaster-Ramer, A. (1986). Copying in natural languages, context-freeness, and queue grammars. In Proceedings of the 24th annual meeting of the association for computational linguistics (pp. 85–89). New York: Columbia University.Google Scholar
  17. Manaster-Ramer A. (1991). Vacuity. Linguistics and Philosophy 14: 339–348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Michaelis J. (2001). Transforming linear context-free rewriting systems into minimalist grammars. In: de Groote P., Morrill G., Retoré C. (eds) Logical aspects of computational linguistics: 4th international conference, LACL ’01. Berlin, Springer Verlag, pp. 228–244Google Scholar
  19. Pelletier F.J. (1988). Vacuous relatives and the (non-)context-freeness of English. Linguistics and Philosophy 11: 255–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Potts C. (2005). The logic of conventional implicatures. Oxford, Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  21. Pullum G.K., Gazdar G. (1982). Natural languages and context-free languages. Linguistics and Philosophy 4: 471–504CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Pullum G.K. (1985). Such that clauses and the context-freeness of English. Linguistic Inquiry 16: 291–298Google Scholar
  23. Shieber S. (1985). Evidence against the context-freeness of human language. Linguistics and Philosophy 8: 333–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Simons M. (2001). Disjunction and alternativeness. Linguistics and Philosophy 24: 597–619CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Stabler E.P. (1997). Derivational minimalism. In: Retoré C. (eds) Logical aspects of computational linguistics: LACL ’96. Berlin, Springer-Verlag, pp. 68–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ullian J. (1966). Failure of a conjecture about context-free languages. Information and Control 9: 61–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Zimmermann T.E. (2000). Free choice disjunction and epistemic possibility. Natural Language Semantics 8: 255–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Zwicky A.M., Sadock J.M. (1985). A note on xy languages. Linguistics and Philosophy 8: 229–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA

Personalised recommendations