Coordination (as a structural relation) is a particular kind of sociation such that the relata are of equal rank in the following sense:

  1. The structural relation between each pair of relata is symmetric.
  2. The construction functions as a composite whole vis-à-vis its context.
  3. In terms of constituent structure, the relata belong to the same category, and the coordinative construction again belongs to the same category. In other words, each member can represent the construction grammatically.
  4. The semantic relation between the relata is additive.

This, however, requires more precision:

The chapter on nexion contains a section on coordinative nexion. The term ‘coordination’ is unfortunately ambiguous between a structural sense as defined here and a semantic sense as defined there. The distinction between a semasiological and an onomasiological perspective makes us see that not every coordinative nexion takes the form of coordination in structure. In languages such as Japanese and Yucatec Maya, Irvin and Linda is translated as something corresponding to Irvin with Linda (or Linda with Irvin). This construction does not fulfill the above criteria for coordination.

Coordinative constructions are described along the following parameters:

Levels of coordination

In principle, syntagmas at all the grammatical levels can be coordinated. We thus get coordination of

  1. sentences
  2. clauses
  3. phrases: nominal, verbal, adjectival, adverbial syntagmas
  4. word forms: tonic forms, clitics
  5. morphological units: stems, affixes.

There are structural differences among coordinative constructions of these levels, which mainly result from the fact that a sentence may function as an independent utterance and a clause may function as a sentence, while phrases and subphrasal units are by definition constituents of clauses. In principle, coordinative constructions are described independently for each of these levels. The question of whether coordination at some lower level may be analyzed as a reductive variant of coordination of some higher level is an empirical one to be answered for every language. In some languages like English, coordinative constructions at the various syntactic levels are maximally alike, involving always the same connectives, while in other languages such as Japanese constructions and connectives are specific to each syntactic level.

With respect to the levels of coordinative constructions, the following implicational generalization holds as a tendency: If coordination is possible for syntagmas of a given level, then it exists for syntagmas of the higher levels. Specifically, while coordination at the highest syntactic levels is always possible, coordination at the lowest levels is rare and tied to special conditions. German has coordination of derivational prefixes (though not of other affixes or of clitics), as in .

.be- und entladen
Germanupload and download

The question concerning the possibility of analyzing coordination at a lower level by reduction of coordination at a higher level – usually, the clause level – arises on the basis of examples like :

.a.[ Linda is intelligent] and [she works hard].
Engb.Linda [[is intelligent] and [works hard]].

In a semasiological grammar of English, an analysis of E1 recognizes that E1.a involves coordination of two clauses, while E1.b involves coordination of two predicates, as indicated by the bracketing. So far, the two sentences, although being in a paradigmatic relationship, have a different syntactic structure. One may wish to analyze E1.b by some kind of zero anaphora, i.e. as a variant of E1.a in which the pronoun she has been omitted, but otherwise with the same syntactic structure as E1.a. This is taken up in the section of conjunction reduction and zero anaphora.

Number of coordinates

Since coordination is additive, it may be iterated, and then the potential number of coordinates is infinite. Many languages have different rules for just two coordinates vs. more than two coordinates; cf. e.g. the section on topology of connectives. This differential treatment results from the fact that a binary coordinative construction is symmetric, while an n-aryn>2 coordinative construction is not.

Explicitness of linking

The following is an application of the parameter ‘explicitness of linking’ to coordinative constructions.

Asyndetic coordination

In asyndetic coordination, coordinates are serialized, and the construction is interpreted as coordinative nexion.

.veni vidi vici
LatinI came, I saw, I conquered

In (the most celebrated example of an asyndetic construction), the interpropositional relation is one of immediate temporal sequence (“no sooner did I arrive than I saw ...”). The sequential order of the clauses iconically reflects the order of the events they designate. This is not so in a sentence like I could not come earlier, the train was late (cf. the section on asyndetic subordination). Nevertheless, the temporal order of events is part of the linguistic meaning of . It can be inferred on the following basis:

Under such circumstances, the inference that the events occurred in the order of the clauses is cogent (it would also be the default interpretation if the subjects differed). Moreover, the asyndesis iconically reflects absence of delay between the phases. At the stylistic level, simplicity and asyndesis generate an effect of conciseness.

Syndetic coordination

Classes of connectives are introduced in the section on syndesis. The present section describes the constructions in which they are used.

In constructions with two coordinates below the clause level, connectives are used in most languages.

.a.We went to Rome and Florence.
b.We went to Rome, Florence ...

Thus, .a is the standard construction if two noun phrases are coordinated. The variant #b rather gives the impression of an unfinished enumeration.

In constructions with more than two coordinates, syndesis and asyndesis are often combined by a principle according to which the first to the one-but-last coordinate units are juxtaposed asyndetically and only the last one is linked by syndesis, as in .

.a.Linda woke up, brushed her teeth, took a shower and prepared her breakfast.
b.Do you want to play football, go for a walk or stay at home?

Coordination reduction

Reduction phenomena in coordination are dealt with in the section on fusion of clauses.