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In morphosyntax, co-analysis is a concept proposed by Williams (1979) and Di Sciullo & Williams (1987) to account for a situation where one grammatical function (e.g. possessive) is expressed syntactically as well as morphologically, i.e. by adding a grammatical element both to a phrase as a whole and to the head of that phrase.


The English possessive marker 's sometimes appears to be attached to a possessor phrase as a whole (cf. (i)), and in other cases it seems to be attached to a noun (cf. (ii)):

(i) [the man on the corner]'s hat

(ii) his hat (= [he]'s hat)

Phrases such as the one in (iii) are ambiguous, since the possessive is either attached to the NP the man or to the N man. To account for this ambiguity, Williams & Di Sciullo assign a co-analyzed structure to the NP the man's, cf. (iv):

(iii) the man's hat (= [the man]'s hat or the [man]'s hat)


                      /   \
                     NP    \
                    /  \    \			
                 the   man's hat
                  \	|    /			
                   \    N  /
                    \	 \ /	
                     \	  N
                      \ /


Co-analysis means that a syntactic and a morphological representation are assigned to one phrase.


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Di Sciullo, A. M. & Williams, E. 1987. On the Definition of Word. Cambridge, Mass: MIT-press.
  • Williams, E. 1979. Discourse and Logical Form. Linguistic Inquiry 8-1, 101-139.