Relativized head

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Relativized head is a notion proposed in DiSciullo & Williams (1987) which replaces Williams' (1981a) notion of head. They define the notion 'relativized head' as in (i).

(i) The headF (= head with respect to the feature F) of a word is the
    rightmost element of the word marked for the feature F

The difference between the notions 'head' and 'relativized head' is far from trivial. The notion 'head' is an absolute notion, in the sense that one constituent of a complex word is marked as the head, and features marked on this constituent undergo Feature Percolation. The notion 'relativized head' entails that a constituent can be the head with respect to one particular feature, but a non-head with respect to another.


If the rightmost constituent has the feature [+F] and [uG] (where [uG] means 'not marked for feature G'), and its lefthand sister constituent has the feature [+G], the righthand constituent is the relativized head with respect to the feature [F], whereas the lefthand constituent is the relativized head with respect to the feature [G]. As a consequence the Feature Percolation Conventions percolate up the feature [+F] from the righthand constituent and [+G] from the lefthand one.



  • Di Sciullo, A. M. and E. Williams 1987. On the Definition of Word, MIT-press, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Lieber, R. 1980. On the Organization of the Lexicon, PhD diss. Univ. of New Hampshire, reproduced by the IULC.
  • Selkirk, E. O. 1982a. The Syntax of Words, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Williams, E. 1981a. On the notions 'Lexically Related' and 'Head of a Word', Linguistic Inquiry 12, pp. 245-274