I have a question about this tree diagram in The Cambridge Grammar of The English Language (by Huddleston and Pullum):

enter image description here

Please see the tree diagram in the red box of the nominal preposterous salary from Lloyds. (In CGEL, a nominal corresponds to N' in the X bar theory, and is written in the tree diagram as 'Nom'.)


In [11], why does preposterous salary form the first nominal and then combine with the complement from Lloyds to form the second nominal (the higher one in the tree)? Shouldn't salary from Lloyds form a first nominal and then combine with preposterous to form a second one?

For comparison, here's another tree diagram in CGEL: enter image description here In [5a], old man forms a nominal as does preposterous salary, but unlike in [11], there's no complement of man.

Here's another diagram in CGEL: enter image description here Here, the nominal careful analysis of the issues contains the same tree structure not as [5a] but as [11]. And I think that's because the noun analysis is followed by the complement of the issues. Hence the question.

  • 1
    I'd consider "from Lloyds" to be an adjunct, not a complement/argument.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 6, 2020 at 4:49
  • @curiousdannii Come to think of it, I also wonder why CGEL calls it a complement. Might this be a typo or even an error on the part of CGEL? This is not listed as such here: lel.ed.ac.uk/~gpullum/cgelerrata.html
    – JK2
    Feb 6, 2020 at 5:05
  • 2
    @curiousdannii "Head: Nom" corresponds to N' in the X-bar tree. There are two things about CGEL's tree. 1. They have "Head: N --- salary" instead of "Head: Nom --- Head: N --- salary", for simplicity. 2. They use the term Mod (modifier) instead of adjunct. So the question boils down to why from Lloyds is a sister to "Head: Nom" and a daughter to "Head: Nom" when it's complement. But if it really is an adjunct as you say, this is merely using the wrong notation 'Comp: PP' instead of using 'Mod: PP' (meaning 'adjunct') at the top of the triangle over from Lloyds, I guess. Am I right?
    – JK2
    Feb 6, 2020 at 6:20
  • 1
    If you mean that the antecedent of "one" may be "salary from Lloyds", then no, I don't have a problem with that. And that was my point. The CGEL structure is mistaken, since "from Lloyds" is actually a complement of "salary", not "preposterous salary".
    – Greg Lee
    Feb 7, 2020 at 4:15
  • 1
    @AlexB. I agree with you. And most likely, so would Araucaria. It's not clear from what BillJ said, whether John Payne did confirm that the tree diagram is correct.
    – JK2
    Aug 26, 2022 at 2:10

1 Answer 1


I've always wondered about this tree too. In particular, I wondered why from Lloyds would be a complement. And so I asked Geoff Pullum, who replied that he thinks that salary doesn't take complements. In other words, it's a mistake.

  • 1
    Thanks for sharing that. I appreciate it.
    – JK2
    Dec 29, 2021 at 0:50
  • I'm not sure it is a mistake. Re 52: "Analysis" selects (licenses) an of PP, and thus "of the issued" is a complement of "analysis". Re 11: On the other hand, "salary" does not select "from", and thus the PP "from Lloyds" is a complement in (and thus part of) the nominal "preposterous salary from Lloyds". PPs like this are complements, not modifiers, the latter typically consisting of those PPs with a locative ot temporal meaning.
    – BillJ
    Dec 30, 2021 at 10:13
  • The important point I was making in my last comment is that from PPs function as complements, not modifiers, so I think GKP is mistaken.
    – BillJ
    Dec 30, 2021 at 21:00
  • @BillJ Complements are licensed by the head of the phrase, so from PPs may be either modifiers or complements, depending on the head. Arrival, for instances takes a from PP complement (e.g., their arrival from Bethlehem), while coffee (e.g., that coffee from yesterday) doesn't. Feb 1, 2022 at 0:27
  • That's a good thought, but if you start assigning functions to constituents based on the function of an anaphorically related gap, you're quickly going to run into all sorts of problem. For instance it would make BillJ in BillJ is the user I met online an object, which simply won't do. Feb 2, 2022 at 12:04

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