In my Morphology course, my lecturer introduced something called "phrasal word". Basically, a phrasal word has the structure of a phrase, yet it can function like a word. For example, "jack-in-the-box" is structured like a noun phrase with the head noun "jack" and prepositional phrase modifier "in the box", but it can function as a word "They jumped up and down like jack-in-the-boxes". The same goes for "a couldn't-care-less attitude", etc. My question is that: are words like "five-minute", containing a head noun "minute" and a number "five", also phrasal words because they can function like adjectives? The coursebook I'm using is "An introduction to English Morphology" - A. Carstairs & McCarthy.

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    I would avoid the term 'phrasal word'. In my experience they are called compound words. They may be nouns: "He behaved like a jack-in-the-box" (noun), or adjectives: "It was a five-minute wonder"; "He had a couldn't-care-less attitude to the problem". They are single words, though, not syntactic constructions. Note that in. for example "jack-in-the-box", "Jack" is the head (the central element) with a PP as dependent.
    – BillJ
    Mar 2 at 10:17
  • "Five-minute" or "two-storey" are compound adjectives, each of them lacks the formant, namely the plural suffix that organizes the two words into a phrase, the actual phrases would be "five minutes" and "two storeys".
    – Yellow Sky
    Mar 2 at 10:40
  • Incidentally, we find 'nonce-formations', such as "do-it-yourself skills" / "the buy-me glitter of the duty-free shop". Many are simply concocted 'on-the-hoof', such as "the custard-pie-in-your-face sketch"
    – BillJ
    Mar 2 at 11:58


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