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4th Lecture: Noun Phrases II

LT 3209 Syntax
Prof. Matthias GERNER
Room B 7622

Assignment Locker:
Outline of session:
1 Complements and Adjuncts

1.1 Differences between Complements and Adjuncts

1.2 Complex Complements and Adjuncts
2.1 Nominal Premodifiers
2.2 Adjectival Premodifiers

In this lecture, we are going to deepen our understanding about Complements and Adjuncts. In the
second part we will explore the counterpart of (postmodifying) Complements and Adjuncts, namely
(premodifying) Complements and Attributes.
1 Complements and Adjuncts
In this section, we are going to investigate more dividing features of Complements and Adjuncts (in
addition to those we introduced in the last lecture). Furthermore we will represent the structure of
complex Complements and Adjuncts.
1.1 Differences between Complements and Adjuncts
In the last lecture we have posed the difference between Complements and Adjuncts as a difference
of tree level:
(1) Adjunct are sisters of N and daughters of N.
(2) Complements are sisters of N and daughters of N.
In this part I would like to list some further differences between Complements and Adjuncts:
A) The Semantic Argument
Roughly speaking, a Complement completes the information that is already contained in the head
noun. The meaning which is contributed by the Complement forms one semantic unit with the
meaning of the head noun, whereas Adjuncts always add new meaning not already contained in the
head noun. The N-bar formed by an N and a Complement contains one unique piece of information,
whereas the N-bar consisting of an N and an Adjunct incorporates at least two pieces of information

(the information about the referent of the head noun N plus the information emerging from the
Adjunct). In concrete situations the semantic criterion is not always easy to apply. One hint may
come from the head noun itself. Consider:
(3) a student [of high moral principles]
The head noun student is derived from the verb to study. Sentence (3) has therefore a double
(4) (a) a person who studies high moral principles
(b) a student who has high moral principles
A constituent is likely to be interpreted as Complement when it may occur as the object-complement
of a derived verb, as it is paraphrased in (4a). The interpretation (4b) does not take the constituent
[high moral principles] as an object of the activity study. Therefore, according to (4b), the
sentence (3) may also be interpreted as an Adjunct. There are thus two possible syntactic structures
for (3):
(5) (a) a [N' [N student] of high moral principles] (corresponding to interpretation 4a)
(b) a [N' [N' [N student]] of high moral principles] (corresponding to interpretation 4b)
The semantic argument must be applied with caution as many head nouns cannot be derived from
B) The Recursive Argument
During the last lecture, we defined Complements and Adjuncts also in terms of Phrase Structure
(6) (a) N'' (D) N' [Determiner Rule]
(b) N' N' (PP) [Adjunct Rule]
(c) N' N (PP) [Complement Rule]
The Adjunct rule is recursive in that the symbol N' occurs on both sides of the arrow, whereas the
Complement rule is not recursive. The consequence of recursive rules is that they may be applied an
indefinite number of times generating structures stacked on top of each other. The repeated
application of the Adjunct rule would then generate grammatical structures as the following:
(7) the student [with long hair] [in blue jeans]
As the Complement rule is not recursive, we would expect that Complements of head nouns cannot

be stacked on top of each other in the same way as Adjuncts. Phrases as the following are thus
(8) *the student [of Linguistics] [of Computer Sciences]
Moreover, the Adjunct rule predicts that Adjuncts may not only be stacked on top of each other, but
may be stacked on the top of each other in any arbitrary order:
(7) (a) the [N' [N' [N' student] in blue jeans] with long hair]
(b) the [N' [N' [N' student] with long hair] in blue jeans]
C) The Syntactic Argument(s)
There are three syntactic tests that permit to clearly delimit Complements and Adjuncts. The first test
that can reveal whether a constituent is a Complement or an Adjunct is Ordinary Coordination. Note
that we can coordinate two constituents that are either two Complements or two Adjuncts but we
may not coordinate a Complement with an Adjunct.
(8) (a) a student [of Physics] and [of Chemistry] {two Complements}
(b) a student [with long hair] and [in blue jeans] {two Adjuncts}
(c) *a student [of Physics] and [with long hair] {one Complement, one Adjunct}
(d) *a student [with long hair] and [of Physics] {one Adjunct, one Complement}
This confirms our initial analysis that positioned Complements and Adjuncts at different levels of the
N-double structure. Complements expand N-constituents into N-bar and Adjuncts expand
N-bar-constituents into N-bar-constituents. The input of Complements is different from that of
Adjuncts. For this reason it is not possible to coordinate Adjuncts and Complements in an Ordinary
On the other hand it is possible to coordinate two N-bar constituents into one global N-bar
constituent such that one is built up of a Complement and the other of an Adjunct.
(9) (a) the [students of Chemistry and professors of Physics]
(b) the [students with long hair and professors with short hair]
(c) the [students of Chemistry and professors with short hair]
The second test is the Movement Test (also sometimes called Extraposition Test). Concerning the test
of postposing, it appears that Adjuncts can be more easily detached from their noun heads than
Complements. Consider for instance.

(10) (a) A student came to see me yesterday [with long hair].

(b) *A student came to see me yesterday [of Physics].
From the point of view of head noun, the Complement is a sister and the adjunct an aunt (i.e. its
mothers sister):
N [student]

Adjunct [with long hair]

Complement [of Physics]

The explanation for the grammaticality of (10a) and the ungrammaticality of (10b) is that sisters
reveal greater structural affinity to the head than aunts and are therefore more resistant to be moved
to other positions of the sentence.
A third syntactic test for discriminating between Complements and Adjuncts is the so-called test of
Co-occurrence Restrictions. It is possible to test the relationship between a head noun and a PP by
replacing the head noun by other head nouns. If there are obvious restrictions on the type of nouns
allowed to co-occur with the PP, then we may deduce that there is evidence for regarding PP as
compliment. For example, only some nouns, not others permit an of-phrase Complement:
(11) (a) a student of Physics
(b) *a boy of Physics
(c) *a girl of Physics
(d) *a teenager of Physics
When there are no restrictions on the type of nouns that can co-occur with the PP in question, then
there might be evidence for regarding the PP as adjunct.
(12) (a) a student with long hair
(b) a boy with long hair
(c) a girl with long hair
(d) a teenager with long hair
However, even for the adjunct with long hair, there are restrictions on the type of noun that may
co-occur with it:
(13) (a) #a fish with long hair
(b) #a bird with long hair
The impossibilities (13a-b), however, are of a different kind than those of (11b-d). The

impossibilities in (13) are purely semantic or pragmatic in nature. In our world system there are no
fish or birds with hair. In (11b-d), the impossibility is syntactic. The preposition of is unable to
communicate any reasonable relationship between, for example, boy and Physics. There could
be a relationship between boy and Physics, for example a relation of love or of hate, but the
preposition of is unable to convey any relationship. There is thus a syntactic ungrammaticality
involving the preposition of with boy and Physics.
D) Types of Complements
Generally speaking, only Prepositional Phrases and Clauses can function as the Complement of
Nouns. Consider some more examples of Complement PP:
(14) (a) your reply [to my letter]
(b) the attack [on the Prime Minister]
(c) the loss [of the ship]
(d) her disgust [at his behavior]
As for Complement clauses, consider the following examples:
(15) (a) the SUGGESTION [that we should go on]
(b) the DEMAND [for him to resign]
(c) the QUESTION [whether euthanasia is ethical]
E) Types of Adjuncts
By contrast, a much wider range of constituents may function as post-nominal adjunct, not just PPs,
but also temporal NPs, APs and Clauses (more precisely, Restrictive Relative Clauses). Consider the
following examples:
(16) the [N' [N' ABOLITION OF TAXES] [NP next year]]
(17) the [N' [N' STUDENTS OF PHYSICS] [AP absent from class]]
(18) the [N' [N' KING OF ENGLAND] [S who abdicated]]

1.2 Complex Complements and Adjuncts

Up to now, we have only considered simple NPs, i.e. NPs with one head noun, with or without
optional Determiner, Complement or Adjunct. What we have not yet considered is the structure of
complex complements and/or Adjuncts.
(19) (a) an advocate of the [abolition of indirect taxation] {Complement of a Complement}
(b) a woman with an [umbrella with red handle] {Adjunct of an Adjunct}
(c) her dislike of [teachers with long hair] {Adjunct of a Complement}
(d) a girl with a [dislike of teachers] {Complement of an Adjunct}

Sentences (19a-d) all incorporate two PPs. In each case, the second PP is built on the head noun of
the first PP; it is not the case that both PPs are built on the initial head noun, as it was the case in the
examples seen so far. The trees presenting (19a-d) have greater depth.
(19a) an advocate of the [abolition of indirect taxation] {Complement of a Complement}










of indirect taxation

(19b) a woman with an [umbrella with red handle] {Adjunct of an Adjunct}








with a red handle


(19c) her dislike of [teachers with long hair] {Adjunct of a Complement}








with long hair



2.1 Nominal Premodifiers

So far we have only considered the syntax of postnominal modifiers, namely Complements and
Adjuncts. We have not yet considered the prenominal modifiers. There are basically three types of
nominal premodifiers, namely




These premodifiers act at different levels of the Noun Phrase.

Determiners expand N-bar into N-double-bar
Attributes recursively expand N-bar into N-bar
(iii) Complements expand N into N-bar
Premodifying Attributes thus act in the same way as postmodifying Adjuncts. They could just be
named Adjuncts. But for the sake of tradition we will call them Attributes.
For the rest of this section we will analyze the difference between premodifying Attributes and
premodifying Complements. Consider the following example:

(20) a [Cambridge] [Physics] student

This Noun Phrase has the interpretation
(21) a student of Physics at Cambridge
The structure of this noun phrase is introduced below. The structure can be tested through methods
introduced in the above sections. Without going into detail it is obvious that [of Physics] is a
complement and [at Cambridge] an adjunct.
(21) a student of Physics at Cambridge






of Physics

at Cambridge

In order to obtain maximal structural symmetry between (20) and (21), we are tempted to interpret
[Physics] in (20) as a Complement and [Cambridge] as an attribute. How would a symmetric
structure look like? We propose that the structure of nominal premodifiers follows the following



According to this overall structure, we would have a symmetric tree of the following type:

(22) a [Cambridge] [Physics] student






NP simply means Noun Phrase whose internal structure is not the focus of our interest and that we
are not going to represent.
(23) (a) N'' (D) N' [Determiner Rule]
(b) N' (NP) N' [Attributive Rule]
(c) N' (NP) N [Complement Rule]
Note that Determiners, Attributives and Complements are optional elements in a Noun Phrase. We
said before that Complements are closer attached to the head noun than Adjuncts. Is this also true for
Attributes? Yes, (premodifying) Complements are closer attached to the head noun than Attributes.
The following example constitutes a syntactic test.
(24) (a) a [Cambridge] [Physics] student
(b) *a [Physics] [Cambridge] student
Furthermore, let us prove the categorical status of [Cambridge] and of [Physics]. Our proposed
structure above predicts that [Physics student] and [Cambridge Physics student] are N-bar
constituents, whereas [student] is simply an N-constituent. We may prove this by applying the
Proform test. In the last lecture we have seen that one is an N-bar proform for postmodifying
structure. This applies also to nominal premodifiers. The following examples reveal that one can
stand for the N-bar constituents [Physics student] and [Cambridge Physics student] but not for the
N-constituent [student].
(25) (a) Which [Physics student]? The Cambridge one?
(b) Which [Cambridge Physics student]? This one?
(c) Which [student]? *The Cambridge Physics one?
Another argument for the N-bar status of [Physics student] and [Cambridge Physics student] comes

from the test of Ordinary Coordination. If [Physics student] and [Cambridge Physics student] have
the N-bar status, then we should expect that both can be coordinated with another N-bar such as
[hockey player]. This is indeed the case.
(26) (a) a Cambridge [hockey player and Physics student]
(b) a [hockey player and Cambridge Physics student]
For postmodifiers we have seen that Adjuncts can only be coordinated with Adjuncts and
Complements only with Complements. We would expect that for premodifiers the same situation
holds. (27a) and (27b) are indeed grammatical since they coordinate two complements respectively
two attributes, whereas (27c) and (27d) are ungrammatical because they represent a mixed
coordination of Complements and Attributes.
(27) (a) several [Physics] and [Chemistry] students
(b) several [Oxford] and [Cambridge] students
(c) *several [Physics] and [Cambridge] students
(d) *several [Cambridge] and [Physics] students
The Phrase Structure Rules in (23) that mirror closely the Phrase Structure Rules of postmodifiers,
incorporate a Recursive Rule:
(23) (b) N' (NP) N' [Attributive Rule]
The consequence of this rule is that, similar to postmodifiers, Complements cannot be stacked on the
top of each other, whereas Attributes can. Moreover Attributes can be stacked on the top of each
other in any order.
(24) (a) a [Cambridge] [high quality] [middle class] student {Attribute + Attribute + Attribute}
(b) a [Cambridge] [middle class] [high quality] student {Attribute + Attribute + Attribute}
(c) a [high quality] [Cambridge] [middle class] student {Attribute + Attribute + Attribute}
(d) a [high quality] [middle class] [Cambridge] student {Attribute + Attribute + Attribute}
(e) a [middle class] [high quality] [Cambridge] student {Attribute + Attribute + Attribute}
(f) a [middle class] [Cambridge] [high quality] student {Attribute + Attribute + Attribute}
On the other hand, it is not possible to stack premodifying Complements on the top of each other.
(25) *a [Physics] [Economics] [Agriculture] student
The parallel between postnominal PP and prenominal NP is in fact very close. For example all the
postnominal PP Complements in the following (a) examples have prenominal NP Complement
counterparts in the (b) version.

(26) (a) recruitment [of personnel] {postmodifier}

(b) [personnel] recruitment {premodifier}
(27) (a) the appeal [for charity] {postmodifier}
(b) the [charity] appeal {premodifier}
(28) (a) the investigations [into fraud] {postmodifier}
(b) the [fraud] investigations {premodifier}
Also, the postnominal PP Adjuncts in the (a) versions below have prenominal NP counterparts in the
(b) version.
(29) (a) the shop [on the corner] {postmodifier}
(b) the [corner] shop {premodifier}
(30) (a) the lady [of iron] {postmodifier}
(b) the [iron] lady {premodifier}
(31) (a) tea [from China] {postmodifier}
(b) [China] tea {premodifier}
2.2 Adjectival Premodifiers
Until now we have only encountered Nominal Attributes. But the most important group of Attributes
consists of Adjectival Attributes. Consider the following attributive APs:
(32) (a) a [really excellent] film
(b) a [most entertaining] evening
(c) a [delightfully mysterious] stranger
Attributive APs and attributive NPs often closely correlate.
(33) (a) a [prestige] project {Attributive NP}
(b) a [prestigious] project {Attributive AP}
(34) (a) the [winter] weather {Attributive NP}
(b) the [wintry] weather {Attributive AP}
In terms of Phrase Structure Rules, it means that we have to enrich our set of rules (23) by the
following item:
(35) N' (AP) N' [optional Attributive Rule]
As this new rule is recursive, it follows that attributive APs can be stacked on the top of each other in
any order.

(36) (a) a [handsome] stranger

(b) a [dark] [handsome] stranger
(c) a [handsome] [dark] [tall] stranger
(d) a [tall] [dark] [intelligent] [handsome] stranger
As our phrase structure rules contain now two recursive rules (for attributive NPs and APs), the
following grammatical sentences in a free relative order can be generated as well:
(37) (a) a [AP Japanese] [NP toy] [NP plastic] duck
(b) a [NP toy] [AP Japanese] [NP plastic] duck