In generative grammar, be it transformational or not, is the first auxiliary always the head of an interrogative clause? For example, in (1), is the first auxiliary will always the head of (1)?

(1) Will you have finished it by tomorrow?

Since in dependency grammar it's always the head, I'd like to know whether there's any branch of phrase structure grammar in which it can not be the head.

1 Answer 1


Not always. In the Aspects model, there is no concept "head". In Burt's exposition, the auxiliary is moved into a node PreS which is a sister to the NP, Aux and VP.

  • Is there a branch of phrase structure grammar in which the first auxiliary will is the head of declarative clause I will have finished it by tomorrow but is not the head of interrogative clause Will you have finished it by tomorrow??
    – JK2
    Aug 25, 2021 at 0:07
  • In McCawley's syntax, there's no syntactic concept of "head", either.
    – jlawler
    Aug 25, 2021 at 14:29
  • The "Aspects model" does not elaborate the concept of a head, but I don't think it claims human language is exocentric. Aspects of the Theory of Syntax mentions "head" a couple times: e.g., "the selectional features must involve the lexical categories that are the heads of grammatically related phrases..." The book mentions the term "Complement" numerous times. Were it not an endocentric model, why would "Complement" be mentioned so many times? Moreover, Chomsky developed X-bar theory, which is centered around the concept of "head", based on, rather than rejecting, the Aspects model.
    – JK2
    Aug 27, 2021 at 6:51
  • 1
    @jlawler The Syntactic Phenomena of English (p13) says: In virtue of the fact that the syntactic behavior of a phrasal unit depends on the part of speech of its head (the word on which the other parts of the unit are dependent), categories of the second sort are given names in which the symbol for the part of speech of the head is combined with a symbol (the prime) indicating "phrasal unit." V' means "phrasal unit whose head is a V"; thus, a unit consisting of a verb plus whatever objects or complements it may have is a V'. So "head" is a technical term used throughout the book.
    – JK2
    Aug 28, 2021 at 1:16
  • 1
    @jlawler Moreover, The book's index at the end shows that the term "head" was used throughout the book: Head, 13, 15, 189, 206-9, 756-60, 767-69 Although he doesn't adopt X bar theory as presented by Chomsky, McCawley's syntactic theory is very similar to X bar theory in that it views human language as endocentric.
    – JK2
    Aug 28, 2021 at 1:25

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