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What is an endocentric construction?



An endocentric construction is a construction that contains

  • a head, which is the single obligatory element in the construction (except in coordinate constructions, which have multiple heads), and
  • one or more optional elements subordinate to the head.

The optional elements can, in the proper context, be omitted without loss of grammaticality. The head is a syntactically adequate substitution for the whole construction.

Examples (English)
  • In the following sentence, the noun phrase wet paint is an endocentric construction. The word paint is the obligatory head and may stand alone in its position in the clause. The word wet is an optional subordinate element.

  • There is wet paint on the bench.
  • The coordinate noun phrase dogs and ponies is an endocentric construction. Both nouns are heads of the noun phrase.
  An endocentric construction is a kind of

Hartmann and Stork 1972 76


Pei and Gaynor 1954 66


Crystal 1985 109


Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, and Svartvik 1985 60

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