World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000369154
Reproduction Date:

Title: Specifier  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Inflectional phrase, V2 word order, Quebec French syntax, Spec, M-command
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


In X-bar theory in linguistics, specifiers, head words, complements and adjuncts together form phrases. Specifiers differ from complements and adjuncts because they are non-recursive, as you can only have one specifier.[1] They are not sisters of the head, but rather sisters of the phrase formed by the head and the complement or adjunct. In English, some example of specifiers are determiners such as the, a, this, quantifiers such as no, some, every, and possessives such as John’s and my mother’s, which can precede noun phrases. Verb phrases can be preceded by quantifiers such as each, and all. Adjective phrases and adverbial phrases can be preceded by degree words such as very, extremely, rather and quite.[2]

These specifiers are so called because they further qualify the category of the head - in these examples nouns and adverbs - in the phrase.

For example:

  • My friend likes [Jane Austen’s novels] - Jane Austen’s specifies novels in this noun phrase
  • She is [quite certain of success] - quite specifies certain of success in the adverbial phrase quite certain of success

In recent transformational grammar, the term specifier is not normally used to refer to a type of word or phrase, but rather to a structural position provided by X-bar theory or some derivative thereof. In this usage, a phrase (usually a full XP, though in bare phrase structure it could in theory be an intermediate category) is said to occupy the specifier (SpecXP for short) of a head X.

In technical syntax terminology, specifier is a YP that is the sister of X′, and the daughter of XP. The rule is XP → (YP) X′, where YP is the specifier. The X-bar schema of this phrase structure can be seen in the tree diagram below (where XP corresponds to X″):

Different form classes can occupy a specifier position, typically determiners and possessors in noun phrases (N″), and an auxiliary verb in a verb phrase (V″).


  1. ^ Carnie, Andrew (2013). Syntax: A Generative Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell. p. 184.  
  2. ^ Sobin, Nicholas (2011). Syntactic Analysis: The Basics. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 104–13.  

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.