Nicola Grandi Malvina Nissim Fabio Tamburini

Noun-clad adjectives. On the adjectival status of non-head constituents of Italian attributive compounds

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In Italian appositive compounds like parola chiave 'keyword', the non-head constituent (N2) often undergoes a metaphorical interpretation and behaves like an adjective, emphasising a property of the head (N1). The main research question of the work described in this paper is: Are these really nounclad adjectives? Specifi cally: (i) Do N2s "formally" show a morpho-syntactic behaviour typical of adjectives? (ii) Do N2s "semantically" show a selection of features that are normally associated with real adjectives modifying N1 (e.g. riunione lunga lit. meeting long 'extremely long meeting' and riunione fi ume lit. meeting river 'a never-ending meeting')? We have designed some corpus-based studies to address these questions, and we observed that (i) "formally", N2s do share some of the typical properties of adjectives, but not all, thus implying gradience in the defi nition of part-of-speech classes; (ii) "semantically", N2s do behave like adjectives and the implied sense of N2 can be obtained via objective criteria, exploiting corpus data.


  • compounding
  • parts of speech
  • adjective
  • corpus evidence


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