Glossary of Linguistic Terms

Endocentric Construction


An endocentric construction is a construction that contains:

  • a head, which is the single obligatory element in the construction (except in coordinate constructions, which have multiple heads)
  • one or more optional elements subordinate to the head

The optional elements can, in the proper context, be omitted without loss of grammaticality. The head is a syntactically adequate substitution for the whole construction.



  • In the following sentence, the noun phrase wet paint is an endocentric construction. The word paint is the obligatory head and may stand alone in its position in the clause. The word wet is an optional subordinate element.
    • There is wet paint on the bench.
  • The coordinate noun phrase dogs and ponies is an endocentric construction. Both nouns are heads of the noun phrase.
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