Can nouns license their complements to be followed?


The spying row between Australia and Indonesia shows no sign of easing, and overnight a powerful minister within the Indonesian government said talks about any future cooperation on asylum seekers have also been suspended, throwing the Abbott Government's turn-back the boats policy into disarray. (

It seems like turn-back is a noun. But what I’m wondering is whether nouns can license complements, in this case ‘the boats’, to be followed like intransitive verbs?


Posted 2013-11-20T23:43:40.447

Reputation: 25 811

1Nouns can license a few kinds of complements: preposition phrases (*loss of blood*, *an attack by Godzilla), finite subordinate clauses (suspicion that he wasn't really a butler), and non-finite subordinate clauses (the ability to drink milk through one's nose*). – snailplane – 2013-11-21T03:24:47.583



I think this is a mistake. Turn-back as a single word doesn't mean anything that I'm aware of. I think what was intended was for "turn back the boats" to be a compound adjective describing policy. It should have been written as:

...throwing the Abbot Government's turn-back-the-boats policy into disarray.

That many hyphens can be a bit unwieldy, however, and although the above is correct I probably would have written it this way instead:

...throwing the Abbot Government's "turn back the boats" policy into disarray.

Either way, "turn back the boats" is a descriptor of policy.


Posted 2013-11-20T23:43:40.447

Reputation: 14 749