Hello all,

I am a native English speaker with only an elementary level of grammar knowledge. I am attempting to learn a middle-indian language called "Pali." There is a particular type of compound in that language called a "bahubbiihi compound." I am trying to figure out what grammatical term for English pertains to this type of compound. I will give a couple of examples of analogous compounds in English:

1) Hello, red-head.

2) Hey, big-nose.

In these two cases "red-head" and "big-nose" are not really complete because we are not really talking to a "head that is red" or a "nose that is big." Rather, we are talking to a person who HAS red hair or HAS a big nose. This is why these types of compounds are often translated from the term "bahubbiihi" as "possessive compounds." It is because there is an external referent that possesses the compound in question. Without knowing what this external referent is, these compounds are incomplete in meaning.

The problem I am having is that sometimes people call these compounds "adjectives," and I was under the impression that there are only three types of English adjectives:

predicative, post-positive, and attributive, and I don't think that any of these fit the example of this type of compound. Perhaps I am wrong about this.

To make things easier we can translate these two examples above as:

1) Hello, person who has a red-head (red hair).
2) Hey, person who has a big nose.

This makes me think that they serve the function of a relative clause (if I understand this technical term correctly), and in this case it might make sense to call them relative compounds. However, regardless of what we call them, what I am really wanting to know is:

Should these compounds be considered "adjectives," when keeping English grammatical terms in mind? Or, is it possible to say that they have another roll but that they function adjectivally though they are not formally adjectives? Does the fact of possession make anything clearer?

Thanks for your help, I'm not having an easy time with this one.

1 2
Hi A_M,

Welcome to the Forum.

I am a native English speaker with only an elementary level of grammar knowledge. You could have fooled me! This is a sophisticated question.

First of all, I did a google search on bahubbiihi. To my surprise, I got 10 hits! These seem relevant to your query. Have you checked them all out?

I'm not good at naming things in grammar. However, lots of people on the Forum are, so perhaps they will offer advice.

Best wishes, Clive
Dear Clive,

Thanks for recommending the google hits. I actually have looked at them. In fact, a few of the hits are conversations in which I am taking part or documents I have created.

Actually I have quite a few grammar books related to Pali and Sanskrit too (with which Pali shares many features). However, the problem is that various authors use terminology differently, so it gets very confusing. One uses the word "adjective" one way, and another another way. It ends up that all of them are supposed to be correct to some extent, but they seem to contradict each other sometimes. My assumption is that there really is no, or at least not much of a, contradiction, but that they are explaining things on different levels. However, I need to be able to differenciate between those levels, and in order to do this I need to understand the English grammar that corresponds to these tricky bahubbiihi compounds. It certainly is not an easy topic, and I wish I had the best English grammar references at my disposal, but I don't. Checking Amazon, they seem to be over $100 apiece, so if I purchase one at all, it will likely be ONLY one, and I would like to solve this dilemma soon rather than wait for such a book.

I am hoping that some people here could help me out with the English grammar side because I have given a lot of thought to this issue and it just simply isn't getting much clearer for me. Let no one ever say that grammar is self-explanatory, even to a native speaker!


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Hello all,

If anyone needs anymore information to make this question clearer please don't hesitate to ask. Additionally, if there is another web-based forum where this question might be better asked, I would appreciate any information pertaining to it.

Thank you,


Thanks. I didn't know that one, but that is not it. I looked it up and that would be something like:

"The Whitehouse said today that there will be war"

"Whitehouse" replacing "Pres. Bush" in this case would be a metonymy. The compounds I mention above aren't actually a substitute for the main substantive, but help define it in the sense that they are possessed by the main substantive, even though the main substantive may only be implied.

I'm sorry if I am not being clear on any points. It is my lack of grammatical knowledge that leads to my imprecision.


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Dear A_m,
I'm that anon. I might have missed your point (I've googled your term, but I checked only several posts).

Have you tried this site?


Good luck!
Dear Rho,

Thanks for the help. I'll look into that site.



My question may be off the original topic. "I've googled your term, but I checked only several posts". Is 'only several' a meaningful phrase?
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