Glossary of Linguistic Terms



A head is a constituent of an endocentric construction that, if standing alone, could perform the syntactic function of the whole construction.

It may govern the:

  • agreement of grammatical categories, such as person and number, or
  • occurrence of other constituents.


In the following construction, the noun chair heads the noun phrase. It also determines number on the verb:

  • The wooden chairs in the corner are finished.
  • In the following construction, the verb given heads the verb phrase would have given. It also determines the occurrence of a direct object and indirect object later in the clause:

  • Mary would have given Bill a dictionary.
  • Glossary Hierarchy