Can one say
a. He had a small nose and mouth.
instead of
b. He had a small nose and a small mouth.
?

Can one say
c. He had a small nose and ears.
instead of
d. He had a small nose and small ears.
?


Many thanks.

Original Post
azz posted:

Can one say
a. He had a small nose and mouth.
instead of
b. He had a small nose and a small mouth.
?

Hi, Azz,

Yes, one can. Example (a) is ambiguous, though. In addition to (b), it can mean: "He had a mouth and small nose."

azz posted:

Can one say
c. He had a small nose and ears.
instead of
d. He had a small nose and small ears.
?

No, one can't. The determiner phrase cannot be headed by both "a" and the zero/null article. But "a small nose" is a determiner phrase, and "a ears" is ungrammatical. Therefore, "ears" must be a separate determiner phrase headed by the null article. Example (c) is unambiguous and is equivalent in meaning to this: "He had ears and a small nose."

Here are some trees illustrating the ambiguity in the first case, and the lack of ambiguity in the second case. DP stands for Determiner Phrase, NP for Noun Phrase, and AP for Adjective Phrase. Tree (1) illustrates the NP "mouth" as subordinate to "small" as a modifier," and tree (2) illustrates how the Adjective Phrase "small" can alternatively be interpreted as modifying only the first NP.

small nose

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