analyzing head word in an English phrase

head word in English Phrase

By , Guide

Definition : The key word that determines the nature of a phrase (in contrast to any modifiers ordeterminers).
For example, in a noun phrase, the head (also known as the headword) is a noun or pronoun("a tiny sandwich"). In an adjective phrase, the head is an adjective ("completely inadequate"). In an adverb phrase, the head is an adverb ("quite clearly").

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautifulfriendship."
    (Humphrey Bogart as Rick in Casablanca, 1942)

  • "As the leader of all illegal activities in Casablanca, I am an influential and respected man."
  • (Sydney Greenstreet as Senor Ferrari in Casablanca

  • "The head of the noun phrase a big man is man, and it is the singular form of this item which relates to the co-occurrence of singular verb forms, such as is, walks, etc.; the head of the verb phrase has put is put, and it is this verb which accounts for the use of objectand adverbial later in the sentence (e.g. put it there). In phrases such as men and women, either item could be the head."
  • (David Crystal, A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics. Wiley-Blackwell, 2003)

  • "There are two main definitions [of head], one narrower and due largely to Bloomfield, the other wider and now more usual, following work by R.S. Jackendoff in the 1970s.
    1. In the narrower definition, a phrase p has a head h if h alone can bear any syntactic function that p can bear. E.g. very cold can be replaced by cold in any construction: very cold water or cold waterI feel very cold or I feel cold. Therefore the adjective is its head and, by that token, the whole is an 'adjective phrase.'
    2. In the wider definition, a phrase p has a head h if the presence of h determines the range of syntactic functions that p can bear. E.g. the constructions into which on the tablecan enter are determined by the presence of a prepositionon. Therefore the preposition is its head and, by that token, it is a 'prepositional phrase.'"
    (P.H. Matthews, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics. Oxford Univ. Press, 1997)
Also Known As: head word (HW), governor

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