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Generl Chrcteristics. The noun is the centrl nomintive lexemic unit of lnguge

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Lecture 5.

The Noun.

5.1. General Characteristics.

The noun is the central nominative lexemic unit of language. 

As any other part of speech, the noun can be characterised by three criteria: semantic (the meaning), morphological (the form and grammatical categories) and syntactical (functions, distribution).

The features of the noun within this triad are, correspondingly, the following:

1) The semantic features of the noun.

The noun possesses the categorial grammatical meaning of substance (‘thingness). Nouns are divided into several subclasses, which can be grouped into four oppositional pairs.

1) According to the type of nomination they may be proper and common;

2) According to the form of existence they may be animate and inanimate;

) According to their personal quality animate nouns fall into human and non-human;

) According to their quantitative structure there may be countable and uncountable nouns.

The division of English nouns into concrete and abstract is realised less explicitly and rigorously.

2) The morphological features of the noun:

a) the changeable forms of number and case;

b) the specific suffixal forms of derivation (prefixes in English do not discriminate parts of speech as such);

c) compound stem models, conversion patterns;

In accordance with the morphological structure of the stems all nouns can be classified into: simple, derived ( stem + affix, affix + stem); compound ( stem+ stem) and composite ( the Hague ).

3) The syntactical features of the noun

a) the substantive functions in the sentence (subject, object, predicative other syntactic functions of the noun (attributive, adverbial) can be referred to as non-substantive functions, i.e. not immediately characteristic of its substantive quality).

b) special types of combinability: prepositional connections with another noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb; modification by an adjective; the casal (possessive) combinability with another noun; combinability with another noun by sheer contact.

As a part of speech, the noun discriminates the grammatical categories of gender, number, case, article determination.

5.2. The Noun: Number.

The grammatical category of number is the linguistic representation of the objective category of quantity. The category of number is expressed by the opposition of the plural form of the noun to the singular form of the noun. The strong member of this binary opposition is the plural. Its productive formal mark is the grammatical suffix -(e)s [-z, -s, -iz ]. It correlates with the absence of the number suffix in the singular form of the noun.

Non-productive ways of expressing the number opposition are:

  1.  vowel interchange (manmen, womanwomen, toothteeth, etc.),
  2.  the archaic suffix -(e)n supported by phonemic interchange (oxoxen, childchildren, cowkine, brotherbrethren),
  3.  the correlation of individual singular and plural suffixes in a number of borrowed nouns (formulaformulae, phenomenonphenomena, alumnus—alumni, etc.).
  4.  in some cases the plural form of the noun is homonymous with the singular form (sheep, deer, fish).

The grammatical meaning of number may not coincide with the notional quantity: the noun in the singular does not necessarily denote one object while the plural form may be used to denote one object consisting of several parts.

The singular form may denote:

1) oneness (individual separate objecta cat);

2) generalization (the meaning of the whole classThe cat is a domestic animal);

3) indiscreteness (money, milk).

The plural form may denote:

1) the existence of several objects (cats);

2) the inner discreteness (jeans).

Soplurality in the grammatical sense, should be described as the potentially dismembering reflection of the structure of the referent, while ‘singularity will be understood as the non-dismembering reflection of the structure of the referent, i.e. the presentation of the referent in its indivisible entireness.

Therefore nouns may be subdivided into three groups:

1) The nouns in which the opposition of explicit discreteness/indiscreteness is expressed : catcats; (‘correlative/common singular and plural)

2) The nouns in which this opposition is not expressed explicitly but is revealed by syntactical and lexical correlation in the context. In terms of oppositions in the formation of the two subclasses of uncountable nouns the number opposition is ‘constantly (lexically) reduced either to the weak member (singularia tantum) or to the strong member (pluralia tantum).

a) Singularia tantum (the absolute singular) It covers different groups of nouns: abstract notions,  names of the branches of professional activity,  the names of mass-materials,  the names of collective inanimate objects {foliage, fruit, furniture, machinery, etc.).

Common number with uncountable singular nouns can be expressed by means of combining them with words showing discreteness (such as bit, piece, item, sort).

b) Pluralia tantum (the absolute plural). Here belong nouns denoting objects consisting of two halves(jeans), nouns rendering the idea of indefinite plurality, both concrete and abstract (supplies, outskirts, clothes, parings; tidings, earnings, contents, politics; police), nouns expressing some sort of collective meaning (cattle, poultry), etc names of sciences (mathematics), names of diseases, games, etc.

The absolute plural forms can be divided into set absolute plural (objects of two halves) and non-set absolute plural (the rest). The set plural is also distinguished among the common plural forms (nouns denoting fixed sets of objects: eyes of the face, legs of the table, wheels of the vehicle, etc.)

The necessity of expressing definite numbers in cases of uncountable pluralia tantum nouns has brought about different suppletive combinations (collocations with such words as pair, set, group, bunch, etc).

Varieties of the absolute plural (distinguished by way of functional oppositional reduction):

1) multitude plural 

This type is characterized by the use of the absolute plural with countable nouns in the singular form (collective nouns are changed into ‘nouns of multitude’):

The family were gathered round the table. The government are unanimous in disapproving the move of the opposition.

2) descriptive uncountable plural

This type is characterized by the use of the absolute plural with uncountable nouns in the plural form and results in expressive transposition:

the sands of the desert; the snows of the Arctic; the waters of the ocean; the fruits of the toil; etc

3) repetition plural

This type of oppositional reduction concerns common countable nouns used in repetition groups. The nouns in repetition groups may be used either in the plural (‘featured form) or in the singular (‘unfeatured form):

There were trees and trees all around us. I lit cigarette after cigarette.

3) The nouns with homogenous number forms.

The number opposition here is not expressed formally but is revealed only lexically and syntactically in the context: e.g. Look! A sheep is eating grass. Look! The sheep are eating grass.

5.3. The Noun: Case

Case is the immanent morphological category of the noun manifested in the forms of noun declension and showing the relations of the nounal referent to other objects and phenomena. The category of case correlates with the objective category of possession.

This category is expressed in English by the opposition of the form in -'s [-z, -s, -iz], usually called the ‘genitive case , to the unfeatured form of the noun, usually called the ‘common case. 

There can be singled out four approaches to the analysis of the problem of case of English nouns advanced at various times by different scholars:

1) the theory of positional cases (J. C. Nesfield, M. Deutschbein, M. Bryant, etc). 

The unchangeable forms of the noun are differentiated as different cases on the basis of their functional positions in the sentence.

Thus, the English noun would distinguish

1. the inflexional genitive case,

. the non-inflexional (purely positional cases):

Nominative: Rain falls. (subject to a verb)

Vocative: Are you coming, my friend? (address)

Dative: I gave John a penny. (indirect object to a verb)

Accusative: The man killed a rat. The earth is moistened by rain. (direct object, and also object to a preposition)

This view substitutes the functional characteristics of the part of the sentence for the morphological features of the word class. 

2) the theory of prepositional cases (G. Curme, etc)

Combinations of nouns with prepositions in certain object and attributive collocations are understood as morphological case forms. So there are distinguished:

  1.  thedative case: (to + Noun, for + Noun)
  2.  the ‘genitive case (of + Noun).

These ‘prepositional cases coexist with positional cases and the classical inflexional genitive of the English noun.

The blunder of this theory: it is well known from noun-declensional languages, all their prepositions require definite cases of nouns (prepositional case-government); then it should follow from this that not only the of-, to-, and for-phrases, but also all the other prepositional phrases in English must be regarded as ‘analytical cases’which leads to illogical redundancyprepositional cases.

3) the limited case theory (H. Sweet, O. Jespersen).

It has since been radically developed by the Soviet scholars A. I. Smirnitsky, L. S. Barkhudarov and others.

This theory recognises a limited inflexional system of two cases in English:

  1.  The Common/Non-Genitive Case (unfeatured) and
  2.  The Possessive/Genitive Case (featured).

This opposition is effected in full with animate nouns and in a restricted use with inanimate nouns.

4) the theory of the possessive postposition (postpositional theory)

According to it the English noun has completely lost the category of case in the course of its historical development. All the nounal cases are considered as extinct, and the ‘genitive case is in reality a combination of a noun with a postposition. 

The solution of the problem is a critical synthesis of the positive statements of the two theories: the limited case theory and the possessive postposition theory.

A two case declension of nouns is recognised in English:

1. The common case (the direct case)

. The genitive case (the only oblique case).

The case system in English is founded on a particle expression. The particle nature of -'s is evident from the fact that it is added in post-position both to individual nouns and to nounal word-groups of various status, rendering the same essential semantics of appurtenance. Within the expression of the genitive in English, two not inflexional, but particle case-forms subtypes are to be recognised:

  1.  the word genitive;
  2.  the phrase genitive.

The semantic types of the English genitive:

1) thegenitive of possessor’(The Possessive Genitive)

Christines living-room; the assistant managers desk; Dads earnings; Kate and Jerrys grandparents.

The diagnostic test: Christines living-room – the living-room belongs to Christine (the idea of possession inherent in the form).

2) the ‘genitive of integer/ the genitive of organic possession.

Janes busy hands; Patricks voice; the patients health; the hotels lobby.

Test: ... the busy hands as part of Jane's person; ... the health as part of the patient's state; ...the lobby as a component part of the hotel, etc.

Its subtype is thegenitive of received qualification’(expresses a qualification received by the genitive referent through the headword).

Mr. Dodsons vanity; the computers reliability.

3) thegenitive of agent’(Subjective Genitive)

This form renders an activity or some broader processual relation with the referent of the genitive as its subject.

the great man's arrival; Peter's insistence; the councillor's attitude; Campbell Clark's gaze; the hotel's competitive position.

Test: ...the great man arrives; ...Peter insists; ...the hotel occupies a competitive position, etc.

A subtype of the agent genitive is thegenitive of author (expresses the author, the producer of the referent of the head-noun).

Beethoven's sonatas; John Galsworthy's "A Man of Property"; the committee's progress report.

Test: ...—» Beethoven has composed (is the author of) the sonatas; ...the committee has compiled (is the compiler of) the progress report, etc.

4)  the "genitive of patient" (The Objective Genitive)

This type expresses the recipient of the action or process denoted by the head-noun.

the champion's sensational defeat; Erick's final expulsion; the meeting's chairman; the St Gregory's proprietor; the city's business leaders; the Titanic's tragedy.

Test: ...the champion is defeated (i.e. his opponent defeated him); ...Erick is expelled; ...the meeting is chaired by its chairman; ...the St Gregory is owned by its proprietor, etc.

5) the ‘genitive of destination.

This form denotes the destination, or function of the referent of the head-noun.

women's footwear; children's verses; a fishers' tent.

Test: ...footwear for women; ...a tent for fishers, etc.

6) thegenitive of dispensed qualification.

The meaning of this genitive type is some characteristic or qualification, not received, but given by the genitive noun to the referent of the head-noun.

a girl's voice; a book-keeper's statistics;

Test: ...a voice characteristic of a girl; ...statistics peculiar to a book-keeper's report;

Its subtype is thegenitive of comparison.

the cock's self-confidence of the man; his perky sparrow's smile.

Test: ...the self-confidence like that of a cock; ...the smile making the man resemble a perky sparrow.

7) thegenitive of adverbial.(Adverbial Genitive)

The form denotes adverbial factors relating to the referent of the head-noun (mostly the time and place of the event).

 the evening's newspaper; yesterday's encounter; Moscow's talks.

Test: ...the newspaper issued in the evening; ...the encounter which took place yesterday; ...the talks that were held in Moscow.

8) thegenitive of quantity.

This type of genitive denotes the measure or quantity relating to the referent of the head-noun (mostly concerns units of distance measure, time measure, weight measure).

three miles' distance; an hour's delay; two months' time; a hundred tons' load.

Test: ...a distance the measure of which is three miles; ...a time lasting for two months; ...a load weighing a hundred tons.

The identified types are open both to subtype specifications, and inter-type generalisations (for instance, on the principle of the differentiation between subject-object relations), and the very set of primary types may be expanded.




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