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The noun

Chapter 3. The noun


B.S. Khaimovich, B.I. Rogovskaya,

A Course in English Grammar, p. 51-65.


the noun


§ 64. As follows from our previous discussion of the parts of speech in English, the noun may be defined as a part of speech characterized by the following features:

1. The lexico-grammatical meaning of "substance".

2. The categories of number and case.

3. Typical stem-building morphemes, as in: Marx-ist, work-er, friend-ship, manage-ment, etc.

4. Left-hand connections with articles, prepositions, adjectives, possessive pronouns, other nouns, etc.

5. The functions of subject, complement and other parts of the sentence.

§ 65. As already mentioned stem-structure is not a reliable criterion for distinguishing parts of speech. Noun lexemes, like those of other parts of speech, have stems of various types. Still, composite stems are less typical of nouns than of other parts of speech, especially verbs. Cf. look on, look out, look in and looker-on, (to be en the) look-out, (to have a) look-in, or onlooker, outlook, etc. We regard as composite the stems of proper nouns like the Hague, the Urals, the Volga, where the is part of the name. Compound stems, on the contrary, are more typical of nouns than of any other part of speech (greyhound, postmark, pickpocket, son-in-law, passer-by, etc.).

§ 66. Many nouns are related by conversion with lexemes belonging to other parts of speech:

adjectives, e.g. light, native, Russian

verbs, e. g. love, show, picture

adverbs, e. g. home, south, back.

§ 67. The noun is the most numerous lexico-grammatical class of lexemes. It is but natural that it should be divided into subclasses. From the grammatical point of view most important is the division of nouns into countables and uncountables with regard to the category of number and into declinables and indeclinables with regard to the category of case.

All other classifications are semantical rather than grammatical. For instance, when dividing nouns into abstract and concrete ones, we usually take into consideration not the properties of words but the properties of the things they denote. The abstract noun smile does not differ from the concrete noun book in its paradigm (smile smiles, book books) or its lexico-grammatical combinability (He gave me one of hi's best b o o k s (s m i l e s). See, for instance, the 'plural' suffix used with abstract nouns in It is the customary fate of new t r u t h s to begin as h e r e s i e s and to end as s u p e r s t i t i o n s. (Huxley). Certainly, many abstract nouns (pride, darkness, etc.) are uncountables, but so are many concrete nouns (wool, peasantry, etc.).

The group of collective nouns mentioned in many grammars is grammatically not homogeneous. Some collective nouns are countables (government, family, etc.), while others are not (foliage, peasantry, etc.).

The term class nouns is mostly synonymous with the term countables.

Material nouns are a peculiar group of uncountables.

Proper nouns are another, even more peculiar, group of uncountables (though sometimes they form number oppose-mes. Cf. Brown (the) Browns, a week of Sundays).

§ 68. The combinability of the noun is closely connected with its lexico-grammatical meaning. Denoting substances, nouns are naturally associated with words describing the qualities of substances (adjectives), their number and order (numerals), their- actions (verbs), relations (prepositions), etc.

The combinability of nouns is variable. They have left-hand connections with articles (a day, the ink), some pronouns (my friend, that colour), most adjectives (good relations, young Jolyon, but from time immemorial), numerals (two visitors, the third degree, but also page ten). With prepositions nouns have both left-hand and right-hand connections (to Moscow, at the thought of ...), but only left-hand connections are a characteristic feature of the noun, since most parts of speech may have right-hand connections with prepositions (reminds of..., capable of..., the first of..,, west of...). With verbs nouns can form both right-hand and left-hand connections (John met Peter).

§ 69. Of certain interest is the combinability of nouns with other nouns. Combinations like my neighbour's dog, the dog of my neighbour, that dog of my neighbour's show that a noun in the common case may be preceded by another noun in the possessive case and may be followed by a noun with a preposition. There is, however, disagreement among lin­guists as to the combinability of two (or more) nouns in the common case without a preposition.

Linguists are at issue concerning such language units as cannon ball, stone wall, speech sound, etc. The essence of the problem is whether they are compound words (like motor-car) or word-combinations, in the latter case whether the adjunct-word is a noun or an adjective.

Producing the opinions of H.Sweet, O.Jespersen and G.Weber, B.A.Ilyish still considers the first part of the problem debatable. At the same time he maintains that the first components of the units discussed are nouns functionally resembling adjectives, though no arguments are offered.

A.I.Smirnitsky and O.S.Akhmanova regard these units as a kind of unstable compounds easily developing into word-combinations. The first components, they say, are not nouns since:

1. They, are not used in the plural (cf. a rose garden and a garden of roses).

2. Nouns are used as attributes only in the possessive case or with a preposition.

Hence they draw the conclusion that these first components are noun-stems convertible into adjectives. We do not find these arguments convincing:

1. The first components of such units do occur in the plural (armaments drive, munitions board). The 'plural' is mostly observed when there is no 'singular' opposite (a trousers pocket) or misunderstanding is otherwise possible (cf. plains people and plain people; the United Nations Organization and the United Nation Organization). In other cases number opposemes are regularly neutralized in this position and the member of neutralization is usually the 'singular'.

2. The first components of such formations may have left-hand connections with adjectives (film exchange – new film exchange, wall space – the red wall space), nouns in the possessive case (a skin trunk – a cow's skin trunk), nouns in the common case (paper writing – business paper writing), numerals (32 years practice), etc., like ordinary nouns and not like noun-stems.

3. Practically every noun may be used as the first component of such combinations, and, vice versa, every first component of such combinations is identified with the corresponding noun as the same word. This' is particularly clear with nouns possessing special stem-building suffixes (e. g. conveyor belt, education authorities, etc.), with proper nouns (the Kennedy administration) or when the first component consists of two nouns connected by a conjunction (e. g. Mother and child care).

Hence we come to the following conclusions:

1. The first components in formations like stone wall, speech sound are n o u n s, not noun-stems.

2. Consequently these formations are noun word-combinations with noun adjuncts.

§ 70. A noun may be used in the function of almost any part of the sentence, though its most typical functions are those of the subject and the object.


Date: 2015-02-28; view: 2358

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