What are lists?

Lists are linguistic objects characterized by two or more elements occupying the same structural position in a given construction. The most obvious kind of list is coordination, but repetitions and reformulations also qualify as lists.

This is an instance of what we call list:


The phrase morning, noon and night is not an exact sum of ‘morning’, ‘noon’ and ‘night’. Rather, morning, noon and night here means ‘all the time, always’.

Here comes another example:

  • These are the stuff of physics. Chimps and dogs and bats and cockroaches and people and worms and dandelions and bacteria and galactic aliens are the stuff of biology.

This list contains a number of entities studied by biologists. Clearly, we don’t interpret this as an exhaustive list. In other words, we expect biology to deal with racoons, too, even though they are not mentioned explicitly in the list, because what the list does is evoking more than is just said.

Natural language – both spoken and written – is full of lists of different nature and complexity. The project described in this webpage is devoted to the study of this widespread phenomenon along different dimensions.