No Phrase Constraint

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The No Phrase Constraint is an alleged constraint on word formation, which says that word formation rules never take syntactic phrases as their input, only stems. This constraint was first formulated (and named) by Botha (1981).


The derivational suffix -hood can be attached to nouns (e.g. mother-hood), but not to phrases such as single mother (*single motherhood).


In English, this constraint does not hold for compounds. The term no phrase constraint itself contains the phrase no phrase. However, in many other languages, it seems to hold for compounds as well.


  • Botha, Rudolf. 1981. “A Base Rule Theory of Afrikaans Synthetic Compounding”. In: The Scope of Lexical Rules, ed. by M. Moortgat, H. v.d. Hulst and T. Hoekstra. 1-77. Dordrecht: Foris.