No-Phrase Constraint

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No-Phrase Constraint is a constraint proposed by Botha (1983) which says that root compounds may not contain syntactic phrases. This constraint accounts for the unacceptability of compounds such as *black-as-coal bird and *slightly-used-car salesman. However, there are many counterexamples, the first one being the constraint itself. Other counterexamples are car-of-the-month election and (the) why-does-it-always-happen-to-me complaint. Compounds having the structure [XP + N] are fully productive in Dutch: oudemannenhuis 'old men's home', onderwatergedeelte 'submerged part' (Lit. 'under water part'), and God-is-dood-these 'God-is-dead thesis'.


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Botha, R. 1983. Morphological mechanisms, Pergamon Press, Oxford.
  • Hoeksema J. 1985. Categorial Morphology, PhD. diss. Groningen University.
  • Lieber, R. 1988. Phrasal compounds in English and the morphology-syntax interface, Papers from the parasession on agreement in grammatical theory; CLS 24, 202-222, .