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Nouns and noun phrases

The noun phrase (or NP) is a structure built around a noun. Most nouns are words which denote persons or things, and can be divided into two broad categories: proper nouns and common nouns (see Figure 1). Common nouns can further be divided into abstract nouns and concrete nouns. Concrete nouns have four more subcategories: count nouns, mass nouns, collective nouns and measure nouns. For each of these, examples are given below, and the noun is emphasised in the sentence.

Figure 1: Taxonomy: Nouns
Taxonomy of nouns in Afrikaans
[click image to enlarge]
Proper noun
Nou kan Simon vir 'n week lank huis toe gaan.
now can.AUX.MOD Simon for a week long house to go.
Now Simon can go home for a whole week.
Common abstract noun
Ons harte loop oor van blydskap en verwagting.
our hearts walk over from happiness and expectation.
Our hearts are overflowing with joy and expectation.
VivA-KPO (adapted)
Common concrete count noun
Ons kon nie toe 'n klavier bekostig nie.
we can.AUX.MOD.PRT not then a piano afford PTCL.NEG
Then we couldn’t afford a piano.
Common concrete mass noun
Nou lyk dit asof die olie by die olie-plug se gaatjie deurkom.
now look it as.if the oil by the oil-plug PTCL.GEN hole.DIM through.come
Now it seems as though the oil is seeping through the hole of the oil plug.
Common concrete collective noun
Ons sien 'n groot trop leeus wat aan 'n sebra vreet.
we see a herd lions that.REL on a zebra eat
We see a large herd of lions eating a zebra.
Common concrete measure noun
Die prys van 'n liter petrol het die afgelope week tot 'n rekordvlak van R7,04 gestyg.
the price of a litre petrol have.AUX the past week to a record.level of R7,04 rised.PST
The price of a litre of petrol rose to a record level of R7.04 last week.

Nouns can have complements, usually in the form of a prepositional phrase, but a noun can also have a clausal complement.

PP Complement
Dit was die hewige rusie oor die brug wat oor die Dieprusrivier sou gebou word.
it be.PRT the hefty fight over the bridge that.REL over the Dieprusrivier want.to.AUX.MOD.PRT build.PASS be.AUX.PASS.PRS
It was the fierce quarrel over the bridge that would have been built across the Dieprus River.
Clausal complement
Later kry ek weer die boodskap dat ons moet bid.
later get I again the the message that.COMP we must.AUX.MOD pray.
Later I get the message again that we should pray.

Furthermore, nouns can be modified by adjective phrases, adpositional phrases, adverbial clauses, and relative clauses. These modifications are illustrated by the examples below.

Adjective phrase
Nou kan ons warm somer maar kom.
now can.AUX.MOD our warm summer just come
Now our warm summer can arrive.
Adpositional phrases
Die vrugte op die tafeltjie langs sy bed in sy kamer is vrot.
the fruit on the table.DIM next his bed in his room be.PRS rotten
The fruit on the little table next to his bed, are rotten.
Adverbial clauses
Nou vier ons ons lang geskiedenis sedert 1918.
now celebrate we our long history since 1918.
Now we celebrate our long history since 1918.
Relative clauses.
Dit was die hewige rusie oor die brug wat oor die Dieprusrivier sou gebou word.
it be.PRT the hefty fight over the bridge that.REL over the Dieprusrivier want.to.AUX.MOD.PRT build.PASS be.AUX.PASS.PRS
It was the fierce quarrel over the bridge that would have been built across the Dieprus River.

Binominal constructions
Binominal constructions (also sometimes referred to as partitive constructions) involve a special type of modification, syntactically involving two nouns, of which the first noun provides a measure of quantification for the second noun. One of these constructions is illustrated with the example below.

'n boksie Smarties
a box Smarties
a packet of Smarties

The class of determiners may be split into articles, and demonstrative determiners, and possessive determiners. The group of articles consists of the definite article, the indefinite article and the negative article, each illustrated with examples below.

Definite article
Die boeke staan op die boekrak.
the books stand on the bookshelf
The books are on the bookshelf.
Indefinite article
Daar lê 'n boek op die tafel.
there lay a book on the table
There is a book on the table.
Negative article
Daar is geen boeke in die kas.
there.EXIST be.PRS no books in the closet
There are no books in the closet.

Quantifiers are used to delimit a noun in a NP in terms of an indefinite amount or number. Some quantifiers indicate a whole group or collection (for examplealle all in the first example below); others indicate a large or small amount or number (such as baie many in second example); others are negative quantifiers (such as nie veel … nie not much in the last example below).

Om 14:00 moet alle leerders op die pawiljoen sit.
at 14:00 must.AUX.MOD all learners on the pavilion sit
At 14:00 all learners should be seated on the pavilion.
Nou skenk baie mense aandag.
now give many people attention
Now many people pay attention.
Hy het nie veel tyd oor nie.
he have.PRS not much time over PTCL.NEG
He does not have a lot of time left.

Apart from determiners and quantifiers, other elements such predeterminers can also be used for the modification of a noun phrase. This is illustrated by the example below with the predeterminer al drie all three.

Nou staar al drie die meisies by die tafel vir Ousus met oop monde aan.
now stare all three the girls at the table to Ousus with open mouths at
Now all three the girls at the table are staring at Ousus with open mouths.

Nine types of pronouns may be distinguished, namely:
  • personal pronouns (hy he, sy she, ons we, etc.);
  • impersonal pronouns (such as mens human one);
  • possessive pronouns (such as sy his, haar her, etc.);
  • reflexive pronouns (jou you, jouself yourself, etc.);
  • reciprocal pronouns (such as mekaar each other);
  • interrogative pronouns (such as wat what, waar where, etc.);
  • demonstratives (such as hierdie this/these, daardie that/those);
  • relative pronouns (such as wat what and wie who); and
  • indefinite pronouns (such as iemand someone and iets something.

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