Friday, August 05, 2011

Endocentric and Exocentric Constructions

Endocentric and Exocentric Constructions
Syntactic Devices, part 2)

The syntactic constructions analysed are of two main types: endocentric and exocentric constructions, depending on their distribution and the relation between their constituents. The terms endocentric and exocentric are used to classify constructions.

ENDOCENTRIC construction is one whose distribution is functionally equivalent to that of one or more of its constituents, i.e., a word or a group of words, which serves as a definable CENTRE or HEAD.

Usually noun phrases, verb phrases, and adjective phrases belong to endocentric types because the constituent items are subordinate to the Head.

An endocentric construction is one in which the primary constituent or constituents are comparable to the complete construction. For example, "Good old John" and "John and Mary" are endocentric because their central contituents. "John and Mary" are nouns that function like the combined construction. These are more examples:

In conclusion, an endocentric construction is a compound word or phrase where one of the words links the other words syntactically. This linking word is called the ‘head,’ and if the head is removed from the phrase, compound or collocation, then so is the meaning. The rest of the phrase, apart from the head, is optional and can be removed without losing the basic meaning. The opposite of an endocentric construction is an exocentric construction.

An exocentric construction is one in which the primary constituent or constituents do not function like the complete construction. For example, "in the house" is exocentric because the constituent "the house" functions differently from a prepositional phrase. Sentences are exocentric because the constituents function differently from the whole. For example, in "John takes coffee" none of the constituents is comparable to the entire sentence.

Part of speech (grammar) is the function a word or phrase performs in a sentence or phrase. Part of speech: adjective, article, adverb, conjunction, interjection, noun, numeral, particle, participle, postposition, preposition, pronoun, verb. In syntactic analysis, a constituent is a word or a group of words that functions as a single unit within a hierarchical structure. Exocentric (linguistics, of a phrase or compound) is not having the same part of speech as any of its constituent words.

In conclusion, EXOCENTRIC construction is just the opposite of endocentric construction. It refers to a group of syntactically related words where none of the words is functionally equivalent to the group as a whole, that is, there is no definable “Centre” or “Head” inside the group. The difference between endocentric and exocentric constructions is also usually the difference between phrases and clauses. In an exocentric construction, the words are not syntactically related, and so words can be removed and there will still be a meaning. Clauses that are exocentric include "we heard her". Exocentric construction usually includes basic sentence, prepositional phrase, predicate (verb + object) construction, and connective (be + complement) construction.
(a) The boy smiled.
(b) He hide behind the door.
(c) He kicked the ball.
(d) John seemed angry.


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  1. Compound nouns are endocentric ( door handle) and exocentric ( pickpocket).

    is the compound noun "The BBC Trust" endocentric because the resulting compound functions as a noun (proper noun) just like its head element "trust"?

    or is it exocentric because the whole compound " the BBC Trust" refers to an organization which makes it like an idiomatic use of the elements , and it does not match the head root "trust"?

  2. please i want a brief different between endocentric and exocentric