Is the hyphen in the adjective phrase “just-[past participle]” mandatory?

I came across the following sentence:

The target can be resolved through one of the just mentioned record types.

I believe it should have been written as “… just-mentioned record types”, with a hyphen.

Reasoning

The word “just” has 2 meanings which are relevant here (definitions from Oxford Languages):

  1. (adjective) based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair
  2. (adverb) very recently; in the immediate past

With the given sentence, I believe that the first meaning of the word, as an adjective, takes precedence. To make it clear that the word is used in the second meaning, as an adverb, I would expect hyphenation (“one of the just-mentioned types”).


Is the hyphen in “just-mentioned” obligatory or optional?

Answer

The hyphen is most certainly optional unless you are following a specific style-guide that dictates otherwise.

If, as a reference, we accept VPs consisting of just and past participles other than mentioned acting as pre-head modifier in an NP, there are plenty of examples of non-hyphenated instances in well edited publications.

For example, the just completed $4 million Yukon-Kuskokwim youth
correctional facility will probably never open its doors. (In Alaska:
Boom Times Yield to a Bitter Bust; PAUL A. WITTEMAN; Time Magazine:
1987/03/30)

The just released Birth of a Nation (Crown; 140 pages) by Aaron
McGruder, creator of the controversial comic strip The Boondocks, and
Reginald Hudlin, director of the 1990 movie House Party, began as a
movie script that used race as the centerpiece of a political satire.
(Black Humor; ANDREW D. ARNOLD; Time Magazine: 2004/08/02)

during the just begun dry season, they will be able to make their
point to the insurgents (Dana Adams Schmidt Staff correspondent of The
Christian Science Monitor, Christian Science Monitor: 19740125)

The development occurred as a natural continuation of Baade’s
population concept of 1944, leading as it did to the just
discovered
main sequence of globular clusters in one of the first
completed programs using the new 200-inch Palomar telescope. (The
summer of 1953: A watershed for astrophysics; Gingerich, Owen; Physics
Today: Dec94)

With that leaning, I nominate Andrew Roberts’s Masters and Commanders:
How Roosevelt, Churchill, Marshall andAlanbrooke Won the War in the
West (Allen Lane), a just published account of relations and
strategic debates between Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt,
and their chief military advisers, Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke and
General George C. Marshall. (Books for Christmas; Jonathan Aitken;
American Spectator, 2008)

A just released state police report alleges that a top former
Detroit police official, James Tolbert, committed perjury in his
testimony against Sanford, and pressured the boy into confessing.
(Editorial: Wider probe needed of prosecutor, cops; The Detroit News,
2016)

It was one course in a just concluded " Road to GABF " beer dinner
series. (Crafting a fine beer menu; Eric Gorski; Denver Post, 2013)

I eventually find him down the street at a just opened coffeehouse
called Astro. (RISE AND SHINE DETROIT; Nelson, Andrew; National
Geographic Traveler, 2012)

Of course, the hyphenated versions are generally more frequent. For example the ratio of the string ‘the just-completed NOUN’ to ‘the just completed NOUN’ is 24 to 4 in the Corpus of Contemporary American English, 1 to 6 in the Time Magazine Corpus, 5 to 3 in the Corpus of Historical American English, and 161 to 109 in the iWeb Corpus.

When we try the same with a wider range – the strings ‘the just-*ed NOUN’ and ‘the just *ed NOUN’, the results are similar: 118 to 60 in COCA, 21 to 27 in TIME, 52 to 23 in COHA, 514 to 329 in iWeb

A difference in frequency might just indicate a less popular style, not the unacceptability of the less frequent version. In fact, in the TIME corpus, the un-hyphenated version even seems to be preferred!

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language notes that the hyphen is used to reduce ambiguity.

Hyphens are also used to join into a single orthographic word
sequences of two or more grammatical words functioning as attributive
modifier in the structure of a nominal

The hyphen explicitly indicates that the linked items form a
constituent and hence may remove potential constituent structure
ambiguities. Thus small-business sector, for example, means “sector
comprising small business”, while small business sector can mean
either that or “business sector of small size”.

There doesn’t seem to be any ambiguity in the original example given, or in the examples above, hyphen or no. Record types are hardly spoken of as ‘based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair’. For that matter, most head nouns would be hard to mistake as taking just as a separate modifier. Even with personal nouns / nouns indicating rules or laws, the interpretation is still unlikely:

The just mentioned man made the perfect judge.

The just published laws were enforced rigorously.

The just requested recompense was denied.

It’d be hard to imagine anyone treating just and the past participles above as separate modifiers of the head nouns unless they were separated by a comma.

Attribution
Source : Link , Question Author : hb20007 , Answer Author : DW256

Leave a Comment