In standard English, one can’t put a PP before a head noun that the preposition modifies. For example, the NP in (a) is completely ungrammatical.

a) *The with milk coffee.

But there is a major chain of coffee stores whose employees seem to allow a different ordering of elements in NPs:

b) A venti with room Americano.

Let’s call this dialect Starbuckese. Starbuckese also appears to allow with soy and with skim to precede the head noun. The phenomenon might also be seen in certain fixed phrases like at issue content, in house lawyer and over the counter medicine, which are not limited to the employees of ubiquitous coffee dispensaries.

What changes would you have to make to the English phrase structure rules to allow Starbuckese NPs like (b) above?

*this is from the book Syntax A Generative Introduction (2012) by Andrew Carnie

I thought of many ways to answer this but I feel like it would be most plausible to "allow AP rules to take PP so that AdjP→(AdvP)Adj(PP). Because in this case "venti with room" is sort of like ADJ and modifies the N "americano"?

  • 1
    It's allowed because "with room" modifies "venti", then the whole phrase modifies "americano".
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 0:42
  • What are the 6 and 7 footnotes from? Please edit this to add citations.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 0:44

1 Answer 1


I would analyze this as the result of a fixed phrase (which contains a preposition) fossilizing and becoming used as an adjective.

  • An (in house) lawyer
  • An (over the counter) drug
  • A (venti with room) Americano

You'll often see these phrases written with hyphens for clarity: over-the-counter medicine, in-house consultants.

  • 3
    The adjectival fossilisation/use is also evident from the fact that it has a different stress pattern than the underlying PP: over the ˈcounter becomes ˈover-the-ˌcounter (with secondary or primary stress on counter) when used attributively. And of course lexically, as well: the object in a regular PP is subject to the normal rules of definiteness, so *in house isn’t valid as a regular PP. Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 2:40
  • I.e, it's not a problem in real language, just written English.
    – jlawler
    Commented Feb 5, 2022 at 20:09
  • Couldn't in-house be ancient? Similar formations were used as titles in German, eg. Geheimrat, besides adv. insgeheim (cp. home), analoguous to secretary and secret, I guess. Also, I'argue that "Americano" is an adverb, always has been, and Venti is a substantive, ie. a certain cup.
    – vectory
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 19:34

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