On the properties of attributive phrases in Germanic (and beyond)

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The syntactic structure of attributive constructions and their (corresponding) semantic integration into nominal projections is the subject of a long-standing debate. In this article, we focus on complex attributes in German, Dutch and Standard Arabic. We argue that adjectival, participial and relative clauses attributes are all essentially predicative structures embedded under a special kind of phase head. Morphophonologically, this head is realized as the (alleged) case, number and gender endings on the adjective/participle and on the relative clause marker. Crucially, we argue that these endings are not agreement suffixes, contrary to common assumptions: rather, they are probing heads whose features identify an argument in the attributive structure. The properties attributed to the head noun are derived from the properties predicated of this argument. This analysis also defines a number of properties along which attributive phase heads can vary, yielding a number of typologically attested types of attributive structures.


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