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1 Characteristics and Classification of NPs

NPs can be simple, consisting of only a noun or pronoun, or they can be quite complex with a number of components such as determiners, quantifiers, adjectives, and modifiers. In terms of meaning, the primary function of NPs is to refer to all kinds of things, although they can also be used descriptively and in the vocative.

A noun phrase (NP) has one obligatory component, which is a noun or a pronoun. A number of other components can be used in an NP, and they would be in the order: (pre)determiner, quantifier or numeral, adjective(s), noun, PP or clause.

We will very briefly review the role of the various syntactic categories which may appear within the Noun Phrase (NP). In addition, some semantic properties of NPs are briefly mentioned.

[+]1. NP

A Noun Phrase (NP) may occur within an NP to form various constructions. So, an NP within an NP may be used in various functions.

An NP before the head Noun functions as a possessor. The NP has a designated NP position for the possessor. The possessor NP precedes the noun and it is either doubled by a pronoun, as in the first two examples, or marked with the genitive, as in the last example. Some examples are given below:

[Johnny] sin Noome.
Johnny his name
Johnny’s name.
[Dän Buur] sien Gäärs.
the farmer his grass
The farmer’s grass.
[Pestoors] Tuun.
pastor’s garden
The garden of our pastor.
[Johnnys] Babe.
Johnny’s father
Johnny’s father

The prenominal possessor must be a person and it must be expressed prenominally as a NP.

An NP after the head Noun functions as a partitive, as in the following example:

‘n Säk [Säid], twäin Säkke [Säid].
a sack seed two sacks seed
A sack of seed, two sacks of seed.

Such a construction is also referred to as a binominal construction, since it involves two NPs. Nevertheless, it is not an adequate term since a possessive construction also involves two NPs.

[+]2. Adposition Phrase (PP)

An Adposition Phrase (PP) may occur within a Noun Phrase (NP) to form various constructions. A PP within an NP may be used in various functions. Some examples are given below.

Die Skauploats [fon uus Wienachts-Fertälster].
the scene of our Christmas-tale
The scene of our Christmas tale.
Een Biljät [ätter Bupperbaiern].
a ticket to Upper.Bavaria
A ticket to Upper Bavaria.
Dät Internoat [fon dät Johann Sigismund-Gymnoasium] [in Kirchberg].
the boarding.school of the Johann Sigismund-high.school in Kirchberg
The boarding school of the Johann Sigismund high school in Kirchberg.

The first example involves a PP functioning as an inanimate possessor. The second example involves a PP of direction and place. The third example involves two PPs in the postnominal field. The first one is an inanimate possessor. The second one is a PP of location. As can be seen from the examples above, all PP’s must be placed after the head noun. Apart from semantic and pragmatic considerations, there is no syntactic limit on the number of PPs occurring or being stacked in the postnominal field.

[+]3. Adjective Phrase (AP)

APs and PPs can both be stacked within NP. There is no syntactic limitation on their occurrence within NP, but they contrast nicely with respect to their placement. Whereas PPs must be placed in the postnominal field, APs must be placed in the prenominal field. APs immediately precede the noun:

Mien [ljowe] [goude] Mäme.
my dear good mother
My dear good mother.
In een [blaue] Kuutske.
in a blue carriage
In a blue carriage.

The first example involves two APs, the second example involves one AP. APs show a limited form of agreement with the following noun for number and gender, but the agreement process is governed and affected by the nature of the preceding determiners: see The AP in Saterland Frisian. APs can occasionally be found as an apposition following the noun, separated from it by a comma intonation. In that case, the adjective bears no agreement, as shown below:

In een Kuutske , [blau].
in a carriage blue
In a carriage, blue.

The schwa (-e) is found on the adjective only in case it occurs in prenominal position, so this is a necessary but not a sufficient condition. The schwa is not found in any other function such as adverbial, apposition, and so on, except that a few adjectives such as ganse ‘very’ may feature a schwa when they modify an attributive AP.

[+]4. Clause

A clause may occur within a Noun Phrase (NP) to form various constructions. Correspondingly, a clause within an NP may be used in various functions. One of the most common functions is that of a relative clause, as in the two examples shown below:

Din Foar [die dät Ferbuurgene sjucht].
your father who the hidden.thing sees
Your father who sees what is hidden.
Een Laie uut Pappe [deerap Johnny sin Nome stude.]
a sign out cardboard it.on Johnny his name stood
A cardboard sign on which Johnny’s name was written.

The second example involves a PP and a clause, which both are placed in the postnominal field. Clauses always occur in the postnominal field, and they may be stacked like APs and PPs. Note further that clauses follow PPs. Incidentally, deer is not generally used anymore as a relative pronoun targeting adpositional complements. More common is wier. Furthermore, it is probably due to German influence that the R-pronoun is not split off from the adposition, with the adposition placed left-adjacent to stude ‘stood’ (deer Johnny sin Nome ap stude).

[+]5. Quantifier

Quantifiers are syntactic elements introducing NPs. Quantifiers have a logical meaning. They include articles, determiners and predeterminers. The NP as a whole may also be termed a quantifier. Quantifiers correspond to mathematical expressions from a semantic point of view. Quantifiers provide utterances with as much exactness and precision as is needed. Articles provide the basic type of quantifiers, as in the example below:

Die ene moaket ‘t dän uur ätter.
the one.NOM makes it the.NNOM other after
One imitates the other.

A quantifier like die ‘the’ or dän ‘the’ indicates that a definite element is involved. The relation between determiners and mathematics is most obviously clear from the numerals existing in natural language, as in the example in which the noun is elided:

Do twäin musterden him ferwunnerd.
the two.MSC looked him amazed
The two looked at him in amazement.

Here the number is made to refer directly to the number of persons involved in the act of looking in amazement. The basics of mathematics are already present in the quantifiers of natural language.

[+]6. Semantic properties of nouns

The most frequent category of words is the noun. Nouns are used to describe or name objects, things, persons, places, quantities, times, and so one. Nouns are traditionally divided into the following semantic classes:

  • proper nouns Marron ‘Marron’
  • common nouns
    • abstract nouns Bliedighaid happiness
    • concrete nouns
      • count nouns Mjukshuus ‘barn with roaming cattle’
      • mass nouns Mjuks ‘manure’
      • collective nouns Koppel ‘herd’
      • measure nouns Mängel ‘liter’

The distinction between count nouns and mass nouns is relevant foar numerals, since numerals can only precede count nouns.

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