Classification of coordinative constructions

Coordination is an operation, and the relation involved in it, which combines two or more elements of the same type into a complex unit which, except for this complexity, is again of the same type. Semantically, the relation established between the elements is symmetric.

Since we are here considering coordinative nexion as a cognitive, not as a structural relation, the concept implies little for its structural coding by paratactic or hypotactic constructions. This point will be taken up presently. Coordinative constructions differ along two principal parameters:

  1. There are semantically different relations of coordinative nexion.
  2. The elements coordinated may be of different types.

Both of these parameters apply in analogous fashion to the semantic and to the expression structure of these construcions:

    1. At the semantic level, different relations like conjunction and disjunction are at stake.
    2. Structurally, the relations in question differ by such criteria as symmetry and endocentricity. Moreover, different conjunctions may be employed, coding such features as presuppositions.
    1. At the semantic level, the elements coordinated may be propositions, referents, predicates etc.
    2. At the structural level, the elements may be syntagmas of different syntactic levels, like clauses, verbal and nominal syntagmas, adjectives etc. Again, conjunctions employed may differ according to these levels.

As for #1, in and , the #a and #b versions are all but synonymous. They are meant to illustrate that a given logical relation may be coded in a language by paratactic and by hypotactic constructions.

.a.Washington has 1 million inhabitants, but New York has 10 millions.
b.Washington has 1 million inhabitants, whereas New York has 10 millions.
.a.Say that again, and you will lose a friend.
b.If you say that again, you will lose a friend.

As for #2, it may be recalled that the locus of interpropositional relations is the sentence level. However, both from a semantic and from a structural point of view, there is, for various sentence-level coordinative relations, a corresponding relation at lower syntactic levels. Thus, for instance, .a shows coordinative nexion of two clauses and, consequently, an interpropositional relation. In the #b version, the same conjunction coordinates two infinitivals.

.a.In the afternoons, we used to play tennis or we went to the beach.
b.In the afternoons, we used to play tennis or go to the beach.

There is no clear logical hierarchy between the two criteria; they simply cross-classify. To the extent that they are analogous for the semantic and the structural side, this holds for the organization both of the onomasiological and the semasiological description: in principle, either might use parameter #1 as the superordinate and #2 as the subordinate one, or vice versa. However, there are arguments for hierarchizing the criteria as #1 over #2 in the onomasiological description, but as #2 over #1 in the semasiological description: On the one hand, logic recognizes these relations only at the level of the proposition, reducing to coordination of propositions any construction which appears to be coordinating other kinds of elements. And on the other hand, the most general principle of organization of a semasiological description is according to the levels of grammatical structure. For instance, there is a chapter on nominal constructions; and it will contain a final section on nominal constructions which are complex by coordination; and analogously for the other syntactic constructions.


The interpropositional relation of conjunction (represented in propositional calculus by ‘p & q’) is the semantically least specific interpropositional relation. In its elementary shape, it merely serves to convert a sequence of two propositions into a complex unit.

Kinds of conjunction are specified along the following – largely cross-classifying – parameters:


  1. positive: ‘p and q’,
  2. negative: ‘p (and) not q’; ‘not p, (but) q’; ‘neither p nor q’

Semantic specificity of relator

  1. neutral conjunction: ‘and’
  2. additive conjunction: ‘also/too’
  3. contrastive conjunction: ‘but’; ‘while/whereas’. As there are different kinds of contrast, there is a section dedicated to contrast relations.

Level of relation

  1. conjunction of propositions
  2. conjunction of components of propositions.


Disjunction is in a privative opposition to conjunction, in which it is the marked member. Disjunction is a syntagmatic relation between propositions which are also in a paradigmatic relation, viz. in opposition.1 These propositions are presented as paradigmatic alternatives, none of them is asserted, it is left open which one of them is real. Disjunction therefore presupposes the notion of non-reality of propositions (s. Mauri 2008).

The primary subdivision for disjunction is between

.You will give me your money or you will loose your life.
.b.In the afternoons, we used to play tennis or go to the beach.

Diagnostic paraphrases in English are:

The disjunctive relation of relevant choice between p and q may be coded by a conditional construction ‘if not p, q’. Thus, E1' is a way of coding the thought of E1.

'.If you do not give me your money, you will loose your life.

While there is, in , a causal relation between p and q that may seem to justify its conditional formulation, this is not a prerequisite for the paradigmatic relation between disjunction and conditional. It also obtains in .

.This is either an apple or a pear.
'.If this is not an apple, (then) it is a pear.

Other subdivisions of disjunction are analogous to those of conjunction.


Explication is a metalinguistic relation between expressions p and q such that q expresses more adequately what is meant by p. Referentially, this may mean that q spells out in more detail what is implicit in p, or that q corrects an imprecise or even wrong p. Consequently, explication shares with disjunction the paradigmatic relation between p and q. and illustrate this relation.

.I will have to tell or rather write him everything.
.Tengo que recoger datos, o sea, tengo que hacer entrevistas y llenar cuestionarios.
SpanI have to gather data, i.e., I have to make interviews and fill in questionnaires.

As the examples show, expressions p and q may be at various levels of syntactic complexity. They also show that explication may be coded as a kind of disjunction with irrelevant choice.

1 In propositional calculus, the oppositive relation is irrelevant for the logical junctors of disjunction and exclusion.