The Swedish Comparative Correlative Construction

Ju… Desto… and Variations

  • Sheila Dooley


The comparative correlative or CC construction refers to sentences of the type which are expressed in English as The more we eat, the fatter we get. In Swedish these occur most commonly as correlations of  the degree adverbs ju and desto. In English such sentences  have been noted for their apparently idiosyncratic syntactic properties (Fillmore 1987, McCawley 1988,Culicover and Jackendoff 1999). This study of the Swedish comparative correlative is based on corpus data from the online Språkbanken corpus available through the University of Göteborg and extends the existing body of cross-linguistic knowledge about the CC construction. Recent studies have either focused on English exclusively or have not considered Swedish.  Den Dikken's  2005 cross-linguistic study of the CC includes data on close relatives of English in the Germanic family such as Dutch and German, but only mentions Swedish in a footnote. The Swedish CC is a robust construction occurring in both written and spoken Swedish. There is variation among speakers, with some using a ju . . . ju. . . combination and others preferring ju. . . desto. . . . These two forms may also occur together in the same text. Corpus data makes it possible to present the full range of speaker variation in the form of the Swedish CC. While most work on comparative correlatives limits discussion to a basic biclausal type of CC, this study establishes the existence of multiclausal CC structures in Swedish. It also demonstrates that the ju. . . ju. . . form has a long history and is not merely part of the informal spoken language register, as prescriptive grammars have claimed.