The notion has been introduced into morphology by Williams (1981a) to account for the fact that a complex word shares most, if not all, properties with one of its constituents. The constituent that determines the properties of the complex word as a whole is called the head of that word. The head of a word is either the rightmost or the leftmost morpheme of a word. This generalization lies at the heart of the so-called Righthand Head Rule.
See head vs. dependent.
The term head has been unchallenged in English at least since Bloomfield (1933:195). The German and French equivalents (Kopf, tête) have become current in the 1980s, especially in Generative syntax.
- Bloomfield, Leonard. 1933. Language. London: Allen & Unwin.
- Di Sciullo, A. M. and E. Williams 1987. On the Definition of Word, MIT-press, Cambridge, Mass.
- Spencer, A. 1991. Morphological Theory, Blackwell, Oxford.
- Williams, E. 1981a. On the notions 'Lexically Related' and 'Head of a Word', Linguistic Inquiry 12, pp. 245-274