7. Adjective + Noun sequences in attributive or NP-final positions: Observations on lexicalization

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Frequent Adjective + Noun sequences in the British National Corpus based on the most frequent ‘central’ adjectives were examined in their use as noun premodifiers and in other uses (predicative, adverbial, or with N being the head of a noun phrase). Hyphenated and non-hyphenated occurrences were taken into account. An investigation of the presence of these sequences in dictionaries shows a relatively strong correlation with frequency of occurrence, as well as with hyphenated spelling. Six Adj + N sequences were more closely examined in the Periodicals and Spoken sections of the BNC, and evidence of reanalysis was found in changes of scope, predicative uses of an adjectival nature, adverbial uses, and occurrences of Adj + N as subjects or objects with restricted sense. A small, but not negligible, proportion of unambiguously lexicalized occurrences was found. Finally, the accentual behaviour of Adj + N sequences was investigated in a laboratory experiment. The prevalence of the /12/ accentual pattern across the frequency of occurrence range and in attributive as well as predicative uses showed that degree of lexicalization had no influence on the stress pattern.


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