Noun Phrase

Hey there,

I have some question about noun phrases in the examples: 

1. 

There is so much about languages I would like to understand. 

--> Is 'so much about languages I would like to understand' a noun phrase? 

2. 

Jack has played the guitar for more than five months. 

--> Is 'more than five months' a noun phrase (as part of a prepositional phrase?) And if yes, is 'more' or 'months' the head of the noun phrase? 

 

3.

With my sister playing the piano all the time, it's hard to focus on my homework.

--> Is 'my sister playing the piano all the time' a NP or a non-finite adverbial clause? 

 

I've spent a long time thinking about these sentences and now I'm really confused. 

Thanks for your help! 

Original Post

Welcome to the Grammar Exchange, NPEXP (does that stand for "noun phrase expert," by any chance? )

I'll give you my view:

Is 'so much about languages I would like to understand' a noun phrase? 

To me, it is a noun phrase, with "much" being a pronoun, similar to "a lot." Actually, "there + be" needs to be followed by a nominal construction.

Is 'more than five months' a noun phrase (as part of a prepositional phrase?) 

I think you are right: "more than five months" is the object to the preposition "for." In my opinion, "months" is the head and "more than five," a premodifier.

Is 'my sister playing the piano all the time' a NP or a non-finite adverbial clause? 

That is an absolute construction functioning as a non-finite adverbial clause, with a subject ("my sister") and a predicate ("playing the piano all the time").

Hey, thanks for your answer! 
Haha you are right with npexp

Now I have two more questions because I'm a little confused with the non-finite clauses: 

1.

A very good student always doing his homework, he will pass the exam. 

--> Is "a very good student always doing his homework" a non-finite clause too or is this a noun phrase? 

and the same question for: The only student to do his homework, he will pass the exam. 

2. 

You have to do your homework before going to bed. 

--> Is "before going to bed" a non-finite temporal adverbial clause or is "going to bed" a NP?

Thanks so much!  

Npexp, next time you add examples in a new post on a thread, please use new numbers so no confusion arises between the first and any following set of examples.

In answer to your first question above, I think "a very good student always doing his homework" and "the only student to do his homework" are noun phrases functioning as adverbials of reason where the introductory participle "being" has been omitted.

In reply to your second question:

Is "before going to bed" a non-finite temporal adverbial clause or is "going to bed" a NP?

the whole phrase is a time adverbial, formed by a preposition (before) and a gerund phrase (going to bed).

Gustavo,

I'm in agreement with everything you say here.  I'm still pondering a few aspects of NPEXP's example (2), though.  That is, his first example (2), not his second example (2).

I agree that a preposition needs a substantive for an object, so "more than five months" must be a substantive.  More specifically, it appears to be a noun phrase, consisting of the noun "months" modified by the quantifier "more than five", as you said.  This position is supported by the fact that the sentence can be shortened to:

1st-2-a: Jack has played the guitar for months.

However, the entire prepositional phrase "for more than five months" is adverbial.  The sentence can also be stated without the word "for":

1st-2-b: Jack has played the guitar more than five months.

Now the phrase "more than five months" is adverbial rather than substantive, since it takes the place of the adverbial prepositional phrase in the original example.  Is "months" still the head of the phrase?  I'm not sure.  Let's make one more change:

1st-2-c: Jack has played the guitar longer than five months.

In this example, it seems clear that "longer" must be the head of the adverbial phrase, since "longer than five" can't modify "months" like "more than five" can.

Your thoughts?

DocV

Hi, DocV,

I think we should differentiate between morphological structures and syntactic functions. A noun phrase can be, according to the role it plays within the sentence, subject, subject complement, direct object, and even an adverbial adjunct.

1st-2-a: Jack has played the guitar for months.

However, the entire prepositional phrase "for more than five months" is adverbial.

I agree.

1st-2-b: Jack has played the guitar more than five months.

Now the phrase "more than five months" is adverbial rather than substantive

In the absence of the preposition "for," I'd be inclined to say that "more" (which is an adverb) is the head of the adverbial adjunct. However, a noun can be the head of an adverbial. Although this is less frequent than the prepositional phrase with "for," I think we can use "five months" as an adverbial, especially in the presence of another adverbial, don't you agree?:

4.  Jack played the guitar five months before joining the band.

5. Jack played the guitar five months at the Music Conservatory.

1st-2-c: Jack has played the guitar longer than five months.

In this example, it seems clear that "longer" must be the head of the adverbial phrase, since "longer than five" can't modify "months" like "more than five" can.

I agree. "longer" is a standalone adverb, while "more" is not.

Gustavo,

Thank you for sharing this.  These are all excellent points.

I especially like this:

In the absence of the preposition "for," I'd be inclined to say that "more" (which is an adverb) is the head of the adverbial adjunct. However, a noun can be the head of an adverbial. Although this is less frequent than the prepositional phrase with "for," I think we can use "five months" as an adverbial, especially in the presence of another adverbial, don't you agree?

I was (and am) also inclined to consider "more" the head of the adverbial, in parallel with the "longer" version.  But the fact that the simple noun phrase "five months" puts an intriguing twist on things.

And it doesn't even need the presence of another adverbial.  I can say "I waited there an hour", so why not "He played the guitar five months"?

DocV

Hey, 

thanks for all your answers, it's really interesting. 

--

5. Jack played the guitar five months at the Music Conservatory.

1st-2-c: Jack has played the guitar longer than five months.

In this example, it seems clear that "longer" must be the head of the adverbial phrase, since "longer than five" can't modify "months" like "more than five" can.

I agree. "longer" is a standalone adverb, while "more" is not.

I also agree with 'longer' as the head of an adverb phrase. However, in 1st-2b to me 'more' also seems like the head of an adverb phrase. 

 

I've got another example: 

6. Sue is not only the best student, but also one of the loudest. 

--> Are "the best student" and "one of the loudest" two single NPs or can "not only the best student, but also one of the loudest" be regarded as one NP with ", but also one of the loudest" as a postmodifier? 

 

Looking forward to you answers!

npexp

Ok thanks, that makes sense! Is the same true for:

 Jack is both a good student and a talented soccer player --> Are "both...and" also conjunctions or is "both" rather a predeterminer of both NPs?


I came across a few other things (I'm just reading a lot about syntax/NPs right now and am constantly thinking about NPs when reading sth). I hope I don't bother you.

7. Spend a day in the park, with flowers and green spaces. --> I'm not sure if "with flowers and green spaces"  is a postmodifier of the NP "in the park" or an adverbial?

 

8. All our products are made of the best material, completed with the great work of our staff. --> Is "completed with the work of our staff" part of the NP "the best material"? I would say yes, but I'm confused because of the comma after materials  (so it can't be a relative clause, right?).

 

9. A popular spot for the youth, the community center is a great place to hang out, organizing a wide range of activities throughout the year. --> the same question for this example: Is "organizing a wide range of activities throughout the year" part of the NP "a great place to hang out"?

 

10. This house has bigger windows than any other in the street. --> Is it right that "than any other in the street" is the postmodifier of the NP "bigger windows"?

 

I hope I don't bother you.

Of course you don't. Answering questions to the best of our knowledge is our mission here (actually, nobody forces us to do so), so we are always happy to be of help.

Jack is both a good student and a talented soccer player.

Just like "not only/but also" in your example (6) further above, "both/and" are correlative conjunctions, and this makes the whole structure a single (though compound) NP. "both" will be a determiner only when modifying a plural noun and meaning "the two of them": Both students are good.

7. Spend a day in the park, with flowers and green spaces.

"with flowers and green spaces" is a non-restrictive postmodifier for the noun "park" ("in the park" is a prepositional phrase, formed by a preposition "in" and an object, "the park," modified by the "with..." phrase). I say the modifier is non-restrictive because the information provided does not define "park" but is only additional, as if all parks had flowers and green spaces. That phrase is not an adverbial because it does not stand alone, since this does not make sense: Spend a day with flowers and green spaces. It would be a separate adverbial if we said, for example: Spend a day in the park(,) with friends and family.

8. All our products are made of the best material, completed with the great work of our staff.

I don't think this is a good sentence. "completed" is not adjectival but a passive participle (it refers to the action of being completed), and, that being the case, I find that the preposition "by" (meaning "by means of," not "through the agency of") would be required:

8'. All our products are made of the best material, (and are) completed by the great work of our staff. (I think adding "and are" would be advisable to avoid ambiguity.)

9. A popular spot for the youth, the community center is a great place to hang out, organizing a wide range of activities throughout the year.

"organizing a wide range of activities throughout the year" is a reduced relative clause ("which organizes..."). Because of its position, it seems to refer to "place." However, it could be easily moved to the front (which I find better than the original position), in which case, just like "a popular spot for the youth," it could be said to refer to "community center" although it could also refer to "spot":

9'. A popular spot for the youth (and) organizing a wide range of activities throughout the year, the community center is a great place to hang out.

10. This house has bigger windows than any other in the street. 

The NP is of course "bigger windows than any other in the street." The "than" phrase complementizes the comparative adjective "bigger." Notice that you can say:

10'. The windows of this house are bigger than those of any other in the street.

Thanks, that makes things a lot clearer for me. 

I also agree that in 9' it makes sense to move "organizing..." to the front. However, would it also be possible like this: 

9''. A popular spot for the youth, organizing a wide range of activities throughout the year, the community center is a great place to hang out.

--> Could "organizing a wide range of activities throughout the year" here be seen as a reduced non-restrictive relative clause that postmodifies "A popular spot for the youth"?  

11: The house is only a 5 minute bike ride from the school.  

--> I would say "only a 5 minute bike ride from the school" is one NP? Is that right?

 

And is there a difference between postmodifiers and complements? e.g.:

12: It is the dream of my father to travel to China. 

--> Is it right that "of my father to travel to China" is a complement instead of a postmodifier? Or are complements a type of postmodifiers? 

9''. A popular spot for the youth, organizing a wide range of activities throughout the year, the community center is a great place to hang out.

Although its function is adverbial, the NP "A popular spot for the youth" is a sort of loose subject complement within the predicate (notice it comes from "Being a popular spot for the youth") which does not have sufficient syntactic hierarchy to accept the addition of a non-restrictive participial post-modifier. Even at first sight that comma before "organizing" looks really confusing. I think we should eliminate it. Now that I reread (9'), I would add "and" only if "being" were used at the beginning so as to ensure grammatical parallelism:

9'''. Being a popular spot for the youth and organizing a wide range of activities throughout the year, the community center is a great place to hang out.

10: The house is only a 5 minute bike ride from the school.  

--> I would say "only a 5 minute bike ride from the school" is one NP? Is that right?

Yes, it is one NP with "ride" as its head.

12: It is the dream of my father to travel to China. 

Only "of my father" is a postmodifier of "dream." "to travel to China" is an infinitival clause functioning as the real subject anticipated by "it." Notice we can say:

12'. To travel to China is the dream of my father.

I understand your explanation for 12. What about this case?

13: The classroom is nicely decorated with a variety of artworks to create a pleasant learning environment.

--> Here you could also say "To create a pleasant learning environment the classroom is nicely decorated with a variety of artworks". 

--> However, could you also consider "a variety of artworks to create a pleasant learning environment" a NP?

 

 

NPEXP wrote:

could you also consider "a variety of artworks to create a pleasant learning environment" a NP?

My take on it is that "to create a pleasant learning environment" complements "decorated", not "artworks" or "variety", so no.  "[W]ith a variety of artworks" and "to create a pleasant learning environment" are adverbials, and "a variety of artworks", by itself, is an NP headed by "variety" and acting as the object of "with".

DocV

"[W]ith a variety of artworks" and "to create a pleasant learning environment" are adverbials

I agree with DocV. "with a variety of artworks" expresses the manner in which, or the instrument with which the classroom is decorated. "to create a pleasant learning environment" expresses the purpose for which the classroom is thus decorated.

"to create a pleasant learning environment" could modify "artworks" in a sentence like this one:

14: This store specialized in classroom resources sells artworks to create a pleasant learning environment as well as pedagogical devices to facilitate teaching.

"to create a pleasant learning environment" describes the type of artworks, not the purpose for which the store sells them. Similarly, "to facilitate teaching" modifies "devices," or "pedagogical devices."

The difference between (13) and (14) lies in the function of the infinitive: while in (13) it refers to the main verb (is decorated), in (14) it refers to the preceding noun (artworks, devices).

Thanks to both of you! I assumed that, but wasn't sure. 

Again to 10: The house is only a 5 minute bike ride from the school.  

If it was 10': The house is just over a 5 minute bike ride from the school. --> "just over" would also be a modifier of the NP "a 5 minute bike ride from the school", wouldn't it?

Yes, "just over" modifies "a five-minute bike ride" just as "only" does.

I'm not so sure that we should leave "from the school" within the phrase. Actually, we can say:

Q: How far is the house from the school?
A: Only a five-minute bike ride.
A': Just over a five-minute bike ride.

The only difference I seem to find is that, even if it wouldn't be so usual or natural, "only" could be placed at the end:

A'': A five-minute bike ride only.

Instead, because of its typical usage with numbers (meaning "more than"), "(just) over" needs to appear before the number, as in A' or A''' below:

A''': A bike ride of just over five minutes.

Even if we can say "a bike ride of only five minutes," my impression is that, placed at the beginning of the phrase, "ony" will modify the whole phrase, so that if we want to make clear that it only restricts the length of the ride, we should say "of only five minutes."

 

Ok, I'll have to think again if "from the school" is a postmodifier of the NP or a separate phrase. What if I have a sentence like this: 

11'': The house, situated only a 5 minute bike ride from the school, is very big.

--> Would you consider "only a 5 minute bike ride" and "from the school" here as two separate phrases too? It's not possible to say *"The house, from the school situated only a 5 minute bike ride, is very big".

11''': The house is within walking distance to the school. --> Is "walking distance to the school" one NP or is "to the school" a separate prepositional phrase?

 

15: The school is  a great place for children who are eager to learn. 

15': For children who are eager to learn the school is a great place. 

--> In 15 and 15' "a great place" and "for children who are eager to learn" can be seen as two different phrases. However, in 15, could you also see "a great place for children who are eager to learn" as one NP (with "for children who are eager to learn" as a postmodifier that specifies the kind of place)?

 

I'll have to think again if "from the school" is a postmodifier of the NP or a separate phrase.

To tell you the truth, NPEXP, I'm not sure myself. Even in the question "How far is the house from the school?" (which I used to try to show that the prepositional phrase could be separated from the rest of the noun phrase), from the school  can be connected with how far: How far from the school is the house?

11'': The house, situated only a 5 minute bike ride from the school, is very big.

"only a 5 minute bike ride" and "from the school" work as a unit, in this case as an adverbial of place of the past participle "situated." The whole structure is a reduced relative clause (which is situated...)

11''': The house is within walking distance to the school.

 The same comments I made in relation to "from the school" would apply here.

15: The school is  a great place for children who are eager to learn. 

15': For children who are eager to learn the school is a great place. 

I find "for children who are eager to learn" to be semantically and functionally related to "a great place" (a great place for them, not for anyone). In (15ยด), which can be paraphrased as "In the case of children...," the syntactic connection is not so clear.

Syntactic analysis is largely dependent on word order. A change in word order may lead to a change in how we parse an otherwise similar or comparable sentence.

Add Reply

Likes (0)
×
×
×
×