(non)federal victims

From the  January 12 NYT story “Legal Strategy Could Hinge on Mental Ills” (on the shootings in Tucson) by Benjamin Weiser:

While the federal government has charged Mr. Loughner in the killings of two federal employees — Judge John M. Roll, the chief federal judge for Arizona, and Gabriel Zimmerman, an aide to Representative Gabrielle Giffords — the Pima County attorney, Barbara LaWall, has said she would “pursue charges on behalf on behalf of the nonfederal victims.”

… The federal complaint against Mr. Loughner charges him with the murders of Judge Roll and Mr. Zimmerman, along with the attempted murders of Ms. Giffords … and of two of her staff members, Pamela Simon and Ronald Barber …  [giving the full list of federal victims]

Ah, (non)federal victims, fine examples of non-predicating modification (cf. cosmetic disease, here): it’s not that some victims are federal and some nonfederal — what would it mean to say that a person is, or is not, federal? — but that some are employees of the federal government (federal government is itself an instance of non-predicating modification) and some are not. Note further that the scope of the negative prefix non- is over the whole composite federal victims, not just over federal, so that we have one type of “bracketing paradox” (for another type, see black historian ‘scholar of black history’, here); syntactically, morphologically, and phonologically, nonfederal victims is

[ [ non- ] [ federal ] ] [ victims ]

but semantically, it’s

[ non- ] [ [ federal ] [ victims ] ]

(To appreciate that the first bracketing above is the right one for syntactic purposes, note the “reduced coordination” in both nonfederal and federal victims, where nonfederal serves as a syntactic constituent.)

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