Pancake sentence

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Pancake sentences are a phenomenon in Scandinavian languages where sentence agreement does not follow conventional linguistic patterns. The phrase appears to have been coined by Hans-Olav Enger in a 2004 academic paper, "Scandinavian pancake sentences as semantic agreement" but it was well-known also by classic grammar and was dubbed "constructio ad sensum" or "syllepsis"; see zeugma and syllepsis. Enger states that pancake sentences are "where the predicative adjective apparently disagrees with its subject". This phenomenon may be related or compared to English language linguistics, where American English speakers might say "the team has arrived", syntactically agreeing the singular team, versus British English speakers saying "the team have arrived", agreeing semantically to the collective noun team. A common French example with quantifying expressions such as "la plupart de" or fractions like "la moitié, un tiers...", with countable nouns: A cause des embouteillages, la plupart ne sont pas venus. → "la plupart" is grammatically singular, but has a plural meaning, thence the plural agreement of the verb.

An example from Swedish is the sentence "Pannkakor är nyttigt":







Pannkak-or är nyttig-t

Pancake-C.PL COP healthy-NEUT.SG

'It's healthy to have pancakes.'

While Pannkakor 'pancakes' is plural and of common gender, nyttigt 'healthy' is inflected to singular and neuter.

A similar phenomenon also occurs in Hebrew, where the copula (and adjectives) appear to disagree with the subject.[1]


  • Enger, Hans-Olav (December 2013). "Scandinavian pancake sentences revisited". Nordic Journal of Linguistics. Cambridge University Press. 36 (03): 275–301.
  • Josefsson, Gunlög (2012). "Pancake sentences and gender system changes in Mainland Scandinavian" (PDF). Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Josefsson, Gunlög (2014). "Pancake sentences and the semanticization of formal gender in Mainland Scandinavian". Language Sciences. 43: 62–76.
  • Josefsson, Gunlög (December 2012), "Disagreeing doubling det" (PDF), Working Papers in Scandinavian Syntax, 90
  • Polysemy and Pancakes


  1. ^ מה זה זה? ניתוח תחבירי של האוגד "זה" בעברית המודרנית [What is ze? A syntactic analysis of the copula ze in Modern Hebrew] (PDF) (in Hebrew)