Righthand head rule

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Righthand Head Rule is a principle proposed in Williams (1981a) which says that the righthand member of a morphologically complex word is the head of that word. This entails that the rightmost constituent determines all the properties of the whole. The RHR explains, among other things, the fact that the righthand member of compounds as well as the suffix of derived words determine uniquely the lexical category.


Compare the following examples:

(i)  offP + whiteA	->  off whiteA
     dryA + dockN	->  dry dockN
     barN + tendV	->  bar tendV
(ii) feverN + ishA	->  feverishA
     instructV +ionN	->  destructionN
     standardN + izeV	->  standardizeV



  • Di Sciullo, A. M. and E. Williams 1987. On the Definition of Word, MIT-press, Cambridge, Mass.
  • 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