Glossary of Linguistic Terms

Discontinuous Constituents

Definition: 

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

(French)

The French negative ne … pas are discontinuous constituents:

Je ne sais pas. ‘I don’t know.’