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What are discontinuous constituents?



Discontinuous constituents are constituents which are

  • separated from each other by one or more intervening constituent, and
  • considered either

    • syntactically contiguous and unitary, or
    • realizing the same, single meaning.
Examples (English)

Here are some examples of discontinuous constituents in English:

  • Certain phrasal verbs, such as “switch the light on”
  • Word segments separated by expletive insertions, such as “abso-bloomin-lutely”
  • Inflectional agreement markers
Example (French)

The French negative ne … pas are discontinuous constituents:


Je ne sais pas. ‘I don’t know.’

  Discontinuous constituents are a kind of

Crystal 1980:114


Hartmann and Stork 1972:68–69


McCarthy 1982:575

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