Fit and proper? A diachronic perspective on motivations and forms of binomials in English

Joanna Kopaczyk (Speaker)

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk


The talk concentrates on coordinated constructions built of the same word-class, such as man and wife, grant and give, fit and proper or in and out, usually referred to as binomials. I start by outlining the structural and semantic characteristics of binomials and propose a core-and-periphery framework which captures different types and degrees of repetition involved in the formation of binomials. Against this background, I move on to discuss why binomials arise in selected genres in the history of English. The motivations range from phonological (e.g. alliteration) and semantic (e.g. complementation) to visual (e.g. the arrangement of the text on the page). Since binomials are claimed to be conspicuous in legal discourse, and therefore actively discouraged by Plain Language activists as superfluous, for present-day English I zoom in on the UK and Scottish legislation. I compare the inventories of nominal binomials in 2001-2010 acts of both parliaments and draw conclusions about the frequencies and semantics of shared and unshared binomials.
Period30 Mar 2016
Event titleLinguistic Circle
Event typeOther
LocationEdinburgh, United Kingdom


  • phraseology
  • Historical linguistics
  • history of English