Binary Branching Constraint

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In morphology, a Binary Branching Constraint is a constraint on concatenative word formation which says that in the process of word formation only two morphemes can be concatenated at the same time.

In syntax, a Binary Branching Constraint is a constraint proposed in Kayne (1984) which rules out syntactic structures in which a phrase contains more than two immediate constituents (i.e. no node in a tree structure may have more than two branches).


In the first area, the compound a,i,c either has the structure [[[a] [b]] [c]], or the structure [[a] [[b] [c]]], but not the ternary structure [[a] [b] [c]]. Circumfixes are problematic with respect to this constraint.


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Kayne, R. 1984. Connectedness and binary branching. Dordrecht: Foris.
  • Spencer, A. 1991. Morphological Theory. Oxford: Blackwell.