• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents the category

This section attempts to give a provisional definition of the picture and story nouns, which refers to the nature of the denotation of the noun and the realization of its arguments. If these definitions are near the mark, we should conclude that some nouns that at first sight seem to belong to the class of picture or story nouns actually do not belong to this category.

[+]  I.  Picture nouns

The discussion in the two preceding sections suggested that the category of picture nouns has two defining properties: (i) picture nouns denote a concrete object that is the result of a creative process and that depicts or represents some other object; (ii) both the agent and the theme can be expressed in the form of a van-PP. If this is indeed correct, this means that not all depicting nouns are picture nouns even if they do have both a creator and an object depicted. An example of such a noun is plaatje'picture'. The examples in (499) show that construal of the PP van Rembrandt or the genitive noun phrase Rembrandts as an agent gives rise to a highly questionable result; each can only be interpreted as a possessor or, if the PP van de Westertoren is left out in (499a), as a theme.

Example 499
a. *? In het boek stond een plaatje (van de WestertorenTheme) van RembrandtAgent.
  in the book stood  a picture  of the Westertoren  of Rembrandt
  'The book gave a picture (of the Westertoren) by Rembrandt .'
b. *? RembrandtsAgent plaatje van de WestertorenTheme
  Rembrandtʼs  picture  of the Westertoren

Something similar seems to hold for nouns like poster'poster' or affiche'poster', although the facts are less clear in this case: the examples in (500) show that simultaneously expressing the agent and the theme give rise to a degraded result; if the theme is left out, however, the agent reading of the van-PP/genitive noun phrase is readily available.

Example 500
a. *? Er hing een poster van Jane AvrilTheme (*?van Toulouse-LautrecAgent).
  there  hung  a poster  of Jane Avril      of Toulouse-Lautrec
  'Hanging on the wall was a poster of Jane Avril (by Toulouse-Lautrec).'
a'. Er hing een poster van Toulouse-LautrecAgent.
  there  hung  a poster   of Toulouse-Lautrec
b. Toulouse-LautrecsAgent poster (??van Jane AvrilTheme)
  Toulouse-Lautrecʼs  poster      of Jane Avril

The examples in (499) and (500) differ markedly from those in (501), in which simultaneously expressing the agent and theme is acceptable. We may therefore conclude from the definition given above that, whereas foto can be considered a picture noun, plaatje and poster resemble relational nouns; see also Section 2.2.2.

Example 501
a. Aan de muur hing een foto van de WestertorenTheme van Jacob OlieAgent.
  on the wall  hung  a photo  of the Westertoren  of Jacob Olie
  'On the wall hung a photo of the Westertoren by Jacob Olie.'
b. Jacob OliesAgent foto van de WestertorenTheme hing aan de muur.
  Jacob Olieʼs  photo  of the Westertoren  hung  on the wall
[+]  II.  Story nouns

The discussion in the two preceding sections suggests that the category of story nouns has two defining properties: (i) they denote an object that is the result of a creative process with abstract content; (ii) the agent can be expressed in the form of a van-PP, whereas the theme takes the form of an over-PP. If this is indeed correct, this means that not all nouns denoting created objects with abstract content are story nouns, even if they do have both a creator and a subject matter. This will become clear by comparing the examples in (502). Example (502a) shows that the noun film'movie' exhibits the two defining properties of story nouns: it refers to an object with abstract content, and the agent and theme can be expressed by means of, respectively, a van- and an over-PP. In this respect, the noun film differs sharply from the noun verfilming'film version': example (502b) shows that the theme argument of the latter noun cannot appear in the form of an over-PP, and that the agent argument cannot take the form of a van-PP. In addition, (502b') shows that mention of the agent is not sufficient for felicitous reference: it is rather the theme argument that is obligatory (unless the theme is implied or the construction can be given a generic interpretation). On the basis of the definition given above, the conclusion must therefore be that the noun verfilming is not a story noun but a deverbal state-of-affairs noun; see Section on ing-nominalizations.

Example 502
a. een film van Theo van GoghAgent over de zelfkant van de maatschappijTheme
  a film  of Theo van Gogh  about the fringe of the society
  'a film by Theo van Gogh about the fringe of society'
b. een verfilming van/*over de roman Karakter door/*van Mike van Diem
  a film version  of/about the novel  Karakter  by/of Mike van Diem
b'. *? een verfilming door Mike van Diem
  a film version  by/of Mike van Diem
[+]  III.  A note on conversion

The fact that theme arguments of story nouns are introduced by the preposition over, whereas the theme arguments of picture nouns take the form of a van-PP, can sometimes lead to a reinterpretation of the head noun. Example (503), for example, is not a counterexample to the general rule that the theme of a picture noun is expressed by a van-PP, but forces a story noun reading of the picture noun schilderij'painting'; the noun phrase does not refer to an entity that only depicts a certain theme, but to an entity that, in doing so, tells a story.

Example 503
Picassoʼs beroemde schilderij over de Spaanse burgeroorlog
  Picassoʼs  famous  painting  about the Spanish Civil War