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Query:   Prenominal Adjectives with Complements
Author:  Dimitris Ntelitheos
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Syntax

Summary:   Dear List Members,

In my original query (LINGUIST List 14.1440.2) ten days ago, I asked whether people knew of papers/grammars and/or data from languages that allow for prenominal adjectives to take prepositional or clausal complements. I received some answers and would like to thank the people that took the time to respond to my query.

Apart from Greek and Bulgarian which I mentioned in my original e-mail, Wayles Browne, Kevin Caldwell, and Peter Zubkov indicated that Russian follows the same pattern in allowing for prenominal adjectives to take complements to the right of the adjectival head. Wayles Browne informed me that Serbo-Croatian (Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian) is like German in that adjectives and participles with complements usually follow nouns but Russian is like Greek. Kevin Caldwell sent me the following two examples of participles with complements from ''Continuing with Russian'', by Charles E. Townsend (1981, Slavica Publishers, Inc., Columbus, OH)

1) Ya plokho ponimayu reshennuyu etim professorom zadachu.
Literally: I poorly understand the solved by that professor problem.
I poorly understand the problem which that professor solved.

2) Boston yavlyaetsya odnim iz samykh starykh sushchestvovavshikh vo vremya amerikanskoy revolyutsii gorodov.
Lit.: Boston is one of the oldest existed at the time of the American Revolution cities.
Boston is one of the oldest cities that existed at the time of American Revolution.

Finally, Peter Zubkov transliterated my Greek example into Russian

gordyj svoim synom otec
proud himself's son father
'[The] father proud of his son'.

and suggested looking for such facts in other Slavic languages as well.

I would especially like to thank J L G Escribano for sending me a detailed bibliography on the problem from his article ?Head Final Effects and the Nature of Modification?, to appear in Journal of Linguistics. I reproduce the bibliography at the end of this message.

Finally, I would like to thank Tom Roeper and Mark Donohue for mentioning two interesting, related facts. Tom Roeper informed me that both English and German allow recursive adjectives before the noun although he is not sure that they can be recursive with a complement. Mark Donohue mentioned that some speakers of Blue Mountains Australian English seem to be able to topicalize the adjectival complement within the DP allowing for expressions of the form: ?For you good?.

Thanks again to everyone that replied.

Dimitris Ntelitheos



Abney, S. P. (1987). The English noun phrase in its sentential aspects. Ph.D. Thesis. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT.
Abney, S. P. (1991a). Parsing by chunks. In Berwick, R. W., S. P. Abney & C. Tenny, C. (eds.) Principle-based parsing. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. 257-278.
Abney, S. P. (1991b). Syntactic affixation and performance structures. In K. Leffel, & D. Bouchard, eds., Views on phrase structure. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. 215-227.
Bernstein, J. B. (1995). Adjectives and their complements. Unpublished LSA paper.
Cinque, G. (1993). A null theory of phrase and compound stress. Linguistic Inquiry 24. 239-297.
Di Sciullo, A. M. & E. Williams (1987). On the definition of word. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Dowty, D. (1996). Towards a minimalist theory of syntactic structure. In H. Bunt & A. van Horck (eds.) Discontinuous constituency. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.11-62.
Emonds, J. (1976). A transformational approach to English syntax. New York: Academic Press.
Emonds, J. (1985). A unified theory of syntactic categories. Dordrecht: Foris.
Escribano, J L G (2002). Head Final Effects and the Nature of Modification. To appear in Journal of Linguistics.
Fabb, N. A. (1984). Syntactic affixation. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Dissertation.
Hawkins, J. A. (1994). A performance theory of order and constituency. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hawkins, J. A. (2001). Why are categories adjacent?. Journal of Linguistics 37. 1-34.
Hendrick, R. (1978). The phrase structure of adjectives and comparatives. Linguistic Analysis 4. 255-299.
Levin, B. & M. Rappaport. (1986). The formation of adjectival passives. Linguistic Inquiry 17. 623-661.
Liberman, M. & R. Sproat. (1992). The stress and structure of modified noun phrases in English. In I. A. Sag & A. Szabolcsi, eds., Lexical matters. Chicago: CSLI-University of Chicago Press. 131-182.
Longobardi, G. (1991) Extraction from NP and the proper notion of head government. In A. Giorgi & G. Longobardi, The syntax of noun phrases. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 57-112.
Quirk, R. et al. (1985). A comprehensive grammar of the English language. London: Longman.
Sadler, L. & D. J. Arnold (1994). Pre-nominal adjectives and the phrasal/lexical distinction. Journal of Linguistics 30. 187-226.
Smith, C. (1961). A class of complex modifiers in English. Language 37. 342-365.
Smith, C. (1964). Determiners and relative clauses in a generative grammar of English. Language 40. 37-52.
Sproat, R. (1985). On deriving the lexicon. Ph. D. Thesis. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT.
Sproat, R. & Ch. Shih (1987). Pre-nominal adjectival ordering in English and Mandarin. NELS 18. 465-489.
Stowell, T. (1981). Origins of phrase structure. Ph. D. Thesis. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT.
Uriagereka, J. (1998) Rhyme and reason. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Williams, E. (1982). Another argument that passive is transformational. Linguistic Inquiry 13. 160-3.

LL Issue: 14.1546
Date Posted: 30-May-2003
Original Query: Read original query


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