Can we make heads or tails of Spanish endocentric compounds?
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This paper proposes a unified account of headship assignment in Spanish endocentric compounds with a nominal non-head. It is argued that these compounds follow the universal head-complement word order (Kayne 1994), with the non-head element occupying the rightmost position. This structure surfaces whenever the non-head nominals in the compound are full words, that is, when they appear with their word-class marker (Harris 1991). Surface exceptions result from the insertion of stems instead of words in the non-head position. Nominal stems head a defective phrase that fails to project beyond the NP-level and cannot check features against the missing phrasal projection (ClassP). Therefore, they are forced to move to the left of the head by left-adjunction to circumvent their lack of case. This account, supported with quantitative evidence, is shown to be preferable to previous ones on observational and theoretical grounds. Descriptively, it has no counterexamples in the productive native patterns of Spanish compounding with nominal non-heads. Theoretically, it abides by the principles of procrastination and greed (Chomsky 1995), instead of relying on ad hoc stipulations.
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