About Dangling Prepositions related to Complements vs Adjuncts

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New Member
a. a student (of physics) ----> (of physics) is a complement of the noun phrase(NP)

b. a student (with red hair) ----> (with red hair) is an adjunct of the NP

a-1. What branch of Physics are you a student of?

b-1. *What kind of hair are you a student with?

Q1. Why is the sentence b-1 ungrammatical? Is it related to the fact 'with x hair' is an adjunct?

Q2. If the b-1 is changed into 'With what kind of hair are you a student?' , does it become grammatical?

Q3. If it is still ungrammatical, please tell me why and how I can express a grammatical sentence while maintaining the overall meaning.

Q4. If the a-1 is changed into 'Of what branch of Physics are you a student?', is it grammatically correct?
  • boozer

    Senior Member
    B-1 does not sound very ungrammatical to me, just completely bizarre. As though the hair of the student was his/her ultimate defining feature as a student. :)

    Also, after reading it again, it may suggest that your listener studies together with a certain kind of hair. :D Nonsense...


    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Q4. Yes, 'of' can be moved to the front, and as always is rather formal. As to the rest, I agree with boozer that it's just bizarre to try to ask such questions. With a more sensible question, you still get sentences so bad they're borderline ungrammatical.

    a student from Korea: adjunct that we might actually want to ask about

    :cross:/:thumbsdown: What country are you a student from?
    :cross:(?) From what country are you a student?

    There's no general prohibition on extraction from adjuncts ('What room were you playing chess in?'), so the barrier might be an adjunct inside an NP. Certainly, some features of complex NPs are barriers to extraction. (I always forget which.)
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