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What is a head?



A head is a constituent of an endocentric construction that, if standing alone, could perform the syntactic function of the whole construction.


It may govern the

  • agreement of grammatical categories, such as person and number, or
  • occurrence of other constituents.
Examples (English)
  • In the following construction, the noun chair heads the noun phrase. It also determines number on the verb:

  • The wooden chairs in the corner are finished.
  • In the following construction, the verb given heads the verb phrase would have given. It also determines the occurrence of a direct object and indirect object later in the clause:

  • Mary would have given Bill a dictionary.
  A head is a kind of

Crystal 1985 146


Hartmann and Stork 1972 34, 102


Pei and Gaynor 1954 89


Mish 1991 557


Pike and Pike 1982 25–26

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Go to SIL home page This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 5.0 published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 2003. [Ordering information.]

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