The Big Mess Construction




There is a construction in English, exemplified by 'how long a bridge', which is so irregular that it has been named the Big Mess Construction (Berman 1974). This paper first sketches its main characteristics and a treatment of the internal structure of the noun phrase which serves as a background for the analysis. It then presents three ways in which the Big Mess Construction can be analysed; two of them are lexicalist and are shown to be implausible; the third is constructivist and is argued to be superior. In a next step, the discussion is extended to two other types of constructions. The first concerns the English adnominal reflexives, as in 'the children themselves', and is shown to require a constructivist analysis which is similar but not identical to the one for the Big Mess Construction. The second concerns the combination of 'such' and 'what' with the indefinite article, as in 'such a pleasure'. In spite of its obvious resemblance with the Big Mess Construction this combination does not require a constructivist analysis; instead, it fits the lexicalist mould of most of the rest of HPSG.




How to Cite

Van Eynde, Frank. 2007. The Big Mess Construction. Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar 415–433. (doi:10.21248/hpsg.2007.24) ( (Accessed December 8, 2022.)