Appositive noun phrase

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The term appositive noun phrase is sometimes used for a noun phrase that is coreferential with a bound pronoun and occurs in the same clause, but is not considered to occupy an argument position. The argument position is filled by the bound pronoun (which is not seen as an agreement marker).


Latin Cleopatra in Cleopatra cantat.


In Latin cantat ‘he/she/it sings’ the suffix -t may be interpreted as the (affixal) subject, and in a construction with a full NP. e.g. Cleopatra cantat ‘Cleopatra sings’ Cleopatra is in apposition with the affixal pronominal subject -t (cf. Jelinek 1984 for one influential example of this usage).

The precise grammatical relation between the appositive NP and the bound pronoun has rarely been identified, and the relationship to the adnominal modifier that is also called apposition has apparently not been discussed at all.

"In pragmatically ordered languages, separate noun phrases can function somewhat differently than in languages without bound pronouns. They typically serve more as appositives to the bound pronouns than as primary arguments themselves." (Mithun 1992:59)


The term appositive is also used in connection with:


The origin of this usage of apposition is unclear. In all likelihood it significantly antedates Jelinek (1984).


  • Jelinek, Eloise. 1984. Empty categories, case, and configurationality. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 2. 39-76.
  • Mithun, Marianne. 1992. Is basic word order universal? In: Payne, Doris (ed.) Pragmatics of word order flexibility. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 15-61.