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Complements in other phrase types, adjuncts in phrases, Complements and Adjuncts Compared, Specifier


13.2 Complements in other Phrase Types

Complements also occur in all of the other phrase types. We exemplify each type in the following table:

 

Phrase Type

Head

Typical Complements

Examples

Noun Phrase (NP)

noun

PP
 
 
clause

respect for human rights
 
 the realisation that nothing has changed

Verb Phrase (VP)

verb

NP
 
 
clause
 


PP

David plays the piano
 
They realised that nothing has changed
 
 She looked at the moon

Adjective Phrase (AP)

adjective

clause 
 
PP

easy to read 
 

fond of biscuits

Adverb Phrase (AdvP)

adverb

PP

luckily for me

Prepositional Phrase (PP)

preposition

NP 
 
PP

in the room

from behind the wall

 

 

Adverb phrases are very limited in the Complements they can take. In fact, they generally occur without any Complement.

Noun phrases which take Complements generally have an abstract noun as their Head, and they often have a verbal counterpart:

 

the pursuit of happiness

~we pursue happiness

their belief in ghosts

~they believe in ghosts

the realisation that nothing has changed

~they realise that nothing has changed

 

13.3 Adjuncts in Phrases

The term "Complement" is not simply another word for the "post-Head string" -- post-Head strings are not always Complements. This is because the post-Head string is not always required to complete the meaning of the Head. Consider:

[NP My sister, who will be twenty next week,] has got a new job.

Here the relative clause who will be twenty next week is certainly a post-Head string, but it is not a Complement. Notice that it contributes additional but optional information about the Head sister. In this example, the post-Head string is an ADJUNCT. Like the other Adjuncts we looked at earlier, it contributes additional, optional information.

Adjuncts can occur in all the phrase types, and they may occur both before and after the Head. The following table shows examples of each type:

 

Phrase Type

Head

Typical Adjuncts

Examples

Noun Phrase (NP)

noun

PP

AP

clause

the books on the shelf

the old lady

cocoa, which is made from cacao beans

Verb Phrase (VP)

verb

AdvP

PP

she rapidly lost interest

he stood on the patio

Adjective Phrase (AP)

adjective

AdvP

it was terribly difficult

Prepositional Phrase (PP)

preposition

AdvP

completely out of control

 

13.4 Complements and Adjuncts Compared

Complements differ from Adjuncts in two important respects:

1. Complements immediately follow the Head

In most phrases, the Complement must immediately follow the Head:

David [VP plays [Complement the piano] [Adjunct beautifully ]]

In contrast, the reverse order is not possible:

*David [VP plays [Adjunct beautifully] [Complement the piano]]

Similarly:

fond [Complement of biscuits] [Adjunct with coffee]

~*fond [Adjunct with coffee] [Complement of biscuits]

Complements, then, bear a much closer relationship to the Head than Adjuncts do.

2. Adjuncts are "stackable"

In theory at least, we can "stack" an indefinite number of Adjuncts, one after another, within a phrase. For example, consider the NP:

 

Adjunct

Adjunct

Adjunct

Adjunct

the book

on the shelf

by Dickens

with the red cover

that you gave me...

In contrast with this, phrases are limited in the number of Complements that they can take. In fact, they usually have only one Complement. Ditransitive verb phrases are an exception to this. Recall that they take two Complements:

We [VP gave [Complement James] [Complement a present]]

13.5 Specifiers

Adjuncts can appear before the Head of a phrase, as well as after the Head. For example, in the following NP, the Adjunct sudden is part of what we have been calling the pre-Head string:

?

Adjunct

Head

Complement

the

sudden

realisation

that nothing has changed

 

 

In this section we will look at the function of the remaining part of the pre-Head string. In this example, what is the function of the in the phrase as a whole?

We refer to this part of the phrase as the SPECIFIER of the phrase. Again, Specifiers may occur in all the major phrase types, and we exemplify them in the following table:

 

Phrase Type

Head

Typical Specifiers

Examples

Noun Phrase (NP)

noun

Determiners

the vehicle
an objection
some people

Verb Phrase (VP)

verb

`negative' elements

not arrive

never plays the piano

Adjective Phrase (AP)

adjective

AdvP

quite remarkable

very fond of animals

Prepositional Phrase (PP)

preposition

AdvP

just across the street

 

 

An important point about Specifiers is that they relate to the Head + Complement sequence, and not to the Head alone. For example, in the AP very fond of animals , the Specifier very relates to fond of animals, not just to fond:

Amy is very fond of animals

Q. Amy is very what?

A. *Fond

A. Fond of animals

In functional terms, then, the three-part structure of a phrase can be summarised as:

(Specifier) -- [Head -- (Complement)]


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