You are here: Home Publications Head-marking languages and linguistic theory

Head-marking languages and linguistic theory

Van Valin Jr., R. D. (2013). Head-marking languages and linguistic theory. In B. Bickel, L. A. Grenoble, D. A. Peterson, & A. Timberlake (Eds.), Language typology and historical contingency: In honor of Johanna Nichols (pp. 91-124). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
In her path-breaking 1986 paper, Johanna Nichols proposed a typological contrast between head-marking and dependent-marking languages. Nichols argues that even though the syntactic relations between the head and its dependents are the same in both types of language, the syntactic “bond” between them is not the same; in dependent-marking languages it is one of government, whereas in head-marking languages it is one of apposition. This distinction raises an important question for linguistic theory: How can this contrast – government versus apposition – which can show up in all of the major phrasal types in a language, be captured? The purpose of this paper is to explore the various approaches that have been taken in an attempt to capture the difference between head-marked and dependent-marked syntax in different linguistic theories. The basic problem that head-marking languages pose for syntactic theory will be presented, and then generative approaches will be discussed. The analysis of head-marked structure in Role and Reference Grammar will be presented
About MPI

This is the MPI

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.


Street address
Wundtlaan 1
6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Mailing address
P.O. Box 310
6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Phone:   +31-24-3521911
Fax:        +31-24-3521213

Public Outreach Officer
Charlotte Horn