compounding and attributive modification

Andrew Koontz-Garboden andrewkg at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Mon Jan 30 13:17:40 UTC 2006

Hello.  Does anyone know of any literature that addresses the
relationship between headedness in compounds and headedness in
noun/adjective attributive modification?  (Or, save that, does anyone
simply have any idea/hunch whether there's any relationship?)  What I
have in mind is the following.  In the compound in (1a), the head is
man (ie, a frogman is a kind of man).

a.  frogman
b. the white house.

Similarly for (1b), which is a kind of house.

In the attributive construction in (2), the head is "dog" (i.e., an
ugly dog is a kind of dog).

(2) an ugly dog

Someone suggested to me that there might be a relationship between
headedness of compounds like those in (1) and attributive
constructions in (2).  So, the question I pose is:  if compounds are
right-headed, do attributive constructions tend also to be, and vice
versa?  Similarly for left-headedness?

Among the reasons I ask is that in Ulwa, a Misumalpan language I'm
working on, there is a mismatch in headedness of constructions like
those in (1) and (2), as shown in (3), a kind of woman, and (4), a
kind of man.

(3) was sirau
    water maiden

(4) al yuuhka
   man tall
  `a tall man'

I have independent reasons for actually believing that what look like
attributive constructions (ie, (4)) may instead be internally headed
relative clauses.  I'm wondering if the mismatch in headedness between
compounding and attributive modification can be taken as a(n) (perhaps
weak) argument.  So, if anyone knows of any literature that addresses
this question (or has evidence one way or another), I'd be grateful.


Andrew Koontz-Garboden

Andrew Koontz-Garboden
Department of Linguistics
Margaret Jacks Hall, Bldg. 460
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305-2150

andrewkg at

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list