An earlier question (Relative clauses: “I did the best I could.”) asks about the antecedent of the relative clause, and there are two answers there:

The one (by @Man_From_India) accepted as the best answer by the question owner @Araucaria says that the fused-head NP (the best) is the antecedent, whereas the other answer says "best" itself is a noun, which @Araucaria rejects.

I agree with the fused-head analysis but do not agree that the antecedent of the relative clause is the best. I believe it's only best, the fused head itself, that is the antecedent, not the entire the best, because the entire nominal best I could is first formed and then the determines that nominal.

That said, whichever answer you choose -- between the two answers and mine -- all three answers agree that the relative clause (I could) is a postmodifier within an NP (the best I could).

But relative clauses can also be found in an AdjP (Adjective Phrase) or even an AdvP (Adverb Phrase), according to CaGEL* (p 1060):

enter image description here

Here, CaGEL analyzes the phrase (the fastest that he's ever been) in [8i] as an AdjP, not as a fused-head NP. But I wonder why it can't be analyzed as a fused-head NP with fastest being the fused head of fastest and person.

Now, CaGEL does agree with the fused-head analysis in other cases (p 1054):

enter image description here

In [65iii], CaGEL treats the phrase (the biggest that I've ever seen) as a fused-head NP.

If the answers to the quoted question are right in that the phrase (the best I could) is a fused-head NP, and if it's correct to analyze that [8i] has an AdjP whereas [65iii] has an fused-head NP, then how do you determine whether a phrase seemingly headed by a superlative adjective is a fused-head NP or an AdjP?

*The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language by Huddleston & Pullum

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    Please see how posting graphic screen captures helps no-one. Since you did force that upon us, and made it a vital part of the Question, could you explain how your 1st and 2nd examples are in any way related to your 3rd and 4th? Commented May 23, 2018 at 21:58
  • Uh… Is that for real? The examples labelled i, ii, iii and iv in your posted graphic… Commented May 24, 2018 at 23:38
  • Good for you. Please stop playing with screen-grabs and use editable text. Please stop citing chunks of text which don't count, and take the trouble to edit what you post so it suits what you hope people will interpret it to mean. Commented May 25, 2018 at 22:05
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    How is the first available appointment a superlative?? Not buying that.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 26, 2018 at 17:35
  • Thanks, JK2 and can you name anyone else who cares? You chose what to post for your own reasons. No 12-year-old child could have failed to understand my response. You chose to question that response for your own reasons. Please, either explain your reasons or acknowledge that what you posted was far from clear or preferably, both. Commented May 26, 2018 at 21:00

1 Answer 1


It's contextual. Its based off of the context used in the sentence. At many times the division of words stop and we must ask ourselves wherein lies the specific words intended meaning

Amongst all else feeling is invoked in and through sentences. Words have meaning which induces feeling in another. We could chop up words all day and give them fancy names which then give them repositories and we could go on forever....

Because meanings change dependent upon environment, genealogy and interpersonal relationships during certain conversations we could never truly dissect every formidable part; it's not possible. I begulie you to look at the mere definitions of linguistic components; their terms and how their actions; properties if you will, are described. At some point I believe the math stops and we are essentially dividing fractions of fractions, so how long can this go?

Forever? I revoke. Because even the mathematician knows there's a moment of unnecessary splitting of atoms, and in every way words are akin to math. However tho I hope you find the answer you seek.

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