Tema 38- El grupo nominal. El sustantivo: sus clases. La sustantivación. La premodificación y la postmodificación

Tema 38- El grupo nominal. El sustantivo: sus clases. La sustantivación. La premodificación y la postmodificación

Nouns fall into different classes:


1. Concrete nouns are those accessible to the senses, observable, measurable.

2. Abstract nouns are those typically non-observable, non-measurable.

3. Proper nouns have unique reference and determiner and number contrast cannot occur (*The Indonesia, * Some Chicagos) which contrast with common nouns (the butter, some difficulties).

4. Common nouns can be count (also called countable) and nouncount (also called mass)

In describing complex noun phrases, we distinguish three components:

1. The head around which the other components cluster and which dictates concord and other kinds of congruence with the rest of the sentence outside the noun phrase.

– Those tall girls standing in the corner are….

2. The premodification which comprises all the items placed before the head, notably determiners, adjectives and nouns.

– Some very expensive office

3. The postmodification comprising all the items placed after the head, notably prepositional phrases, non-finite clauses and relative clauses.

– The chair by the wall

– All the boys playing in the garden

– A car which she bought recently

Modification can be restrictive or non-restrictive:

a) It is restrictive or defining when the head can be viewed as a member of a class which can be linguistically identified only through the modification that has been supplied.

b) Any modification given to a head which is not essential for identifying it, thst is, it is additional information, we call it nonrestrictive or nondefining.


1. Postmodification by relative clauses:

Expliciteness is greater in the finite relative clause than in the non-finite clause

– The taxi which is waiting outside

– The taxi waiting outside

This is due to the specifying power of the relative pronoun. It is capable of showing agreement with the head and of indicating its status as an element in the relative clause structure. Agreement is on the basis of a two-term gender system, personal and non-personal (who/which)

Case in the relative pronoun:

If the pronoun is in a genitive relation to a noun head the pronoun can have the form whose

– The woman whose daughter you met is Mrs. Brown

But when the antecedent head is non-personal there is tendency to avoid the use of whose (f.i: the roof of which)

With a personal antecedent, the relative pronoun can show the distinction between who and whom depending on its role as subject of the relative clause as object or as prepositional complement

– The girl who spoke to him

– The girl to whom he spoke

– The girl who(m) he spoke to

When the preposition precedes its complement the choice of whom is obligatory, if not there is a choice between who and whom.

Relative pronoun and the adverbial:

The relative pronoun can be replaced by special adjunct forms for place, time and cause

– That is the place where he was born

– That is the period when he lived here

– That is the reason why he spoke

Defining or restrictive relative clauses: They don´ t take commas

Choice of the relative pronoun: In restrictive clauses, frequent use is made of a general pronoun that which is independent of the personal or non personal character of the antecedent and also of the function of the pronoun in the relative clause.

– The boy that is playing the piano (who)

– The table that stands in the corner (which)

Provided the relative pronoun is not the subject of the relative clause, we can have no relative pronoun at all.

– The boy we met (who(m), that)

There is a choice in placing a preposition which has a wh-pronoun as its complement

– The girl to whom he spoke

– The girl who(m) he spoke to.

But there is no choice with that and zero, where the preposition must be postponed:

– The man That/— I glanced at……

Non-defining or non- restrictive relative clauses: They go between commas

They are often semantically indistinguishable from coordination or adverbial subordination. They never take that.

– I met Barbara, who invited him to a party

and invited him to a party

– He got lost in Snowdon, which he was exploring

while he was exploring it

Sentential relative clauses:

One type of non- restrictive clauses has as it antecedent not a noun phrase but a whole clause or sentence or even sequence of sentences.

– He admires him, which surprises me.

Appositive clauses:

It resembles the relative clause in being capable of introduction by that and in distinguishing between restrictive and non- restrictive.

It differs in that the particle that is not an element in the clause structure as it must be in a relative clause. It differs also in that the head of the noun phrase must be an abstract noun such as fact, proposition, remark, reply, answer etc.

– The belief that no one is infallible is well-founded.

2. Postmodification by non-finite clauses:

1. Restrictive postmodification:

a) –ing participle clauses:

– The man writing the obituaries is my friend

b) –ed participle clauses:

– The only car repaired by that mechanic is mine

c) infinitive clauses:

– The next train to arrive was from York

But the subject of an infinitive clause need not to be the antecedent. It may be separately introduced by the for-device

– The man for John to consult is Wilson

The sentence:

– The man to consult is Wilson

means the man that everyone should consult

2. Non-restrictive postmodification: Postmodification with non-finite clauses can also be non-restrictive:

– The apple tree, swaying gently in the breeze, had a good crop of fruit (-ing clause)

– The substance, discovered almost by accident, has revolutionized medicine (-ed clause)

– This scholar, to be seen daily in the British Museum, has devoted his life to the history of science (infinitive clause)

3. Appositive postmodification:

It is fairly common by means of infinitive clauses. A restrictive example:

– The appeal to join the movement was well received

It is the same as: that people should join the movement

A nonrestrictive example:

– This last appeal, to come and visit him, was never delivered.

3. Postmodification by prepositional phrases:

1. Relation to more explicit modifiers: A prepositional phrase is by far the commonest type of postmodification in English. It is 3 or 4 times more frequent than either finite or non-finite clausal postmodification. The full range of prepositions is involved, including the complex ones.

– The road to Lincoln

– Action is in case of fire

It is natural to relate such prepositional postmodifications to sentences or relative clauses with “be”.

– The man in the corner (the man (who) is in the corner)

2. The of-genitive: It is with “have” sentences that we must find the most obvious resemblance of the of-phrase:

– A man of courage (the man has courage)

3. Restrictive and non-restrictive: Prepositional phrases can be restrictive or non-restrictive

– This book on grammar (restrictive)

– This book, on grammar, (nonrestrictive)

4. Position and varied relationships: With prepositional phrases, the non-restrictive function merges with adverbial expressions

– The children behind the fence jeered at the soldiers

on the bus


When we have a correspondence between clause elements (f.i: the verb) and noun-phrase constituents we can speak of such noun phrase as a nominalization.

– They quarrelled in the morning over the pay

– The quarrel in the morning ruined their friendship

– She refused to answer

– Her refusal to answer

– He writes well

– He is a good writer

Minor types of postmodification:

These are by:

1. Adverb phrases:

Time: The meal afterwards was the best one

Space: The road back was dense with traffic

2. Postposed adjectives:

– Something strange happened last night

3. Postposed “mode” qualifiers:

– Lobster Newburg is difficult to prepare

Multiple postmodification:

1. A head may have more than one postmodification:

– The girl in the corner (and) talking to Peter

2. A modification may be applicable to more than one head:

– The girl and boy in the corner

3. The head of a modifying phrase may itself be modified:

– The girl in the corner nearest the door


Two or more noun phrases are in apposition when they have identity of reference. The appositives may be juxtaposed (1), separated by a conjunction (2) by that is or namely.

The apposition often involves explanatory paraphrase:

– A professional singer, someone trained in Paris, had been engaged for the concert (1)

– The outcome, that is her re-election, was a complete surprise (2)

Apposition can also be expressed by that-clauses, non-finite clauses and by prepositional phrases. The apposition can be restrictive Restrictive and non-restrictive:

– He was examined by James Kelly, a doctor (non-restrictive)

– He was examined by James Kelly the doctor (restrictive)


Types of premodifying item: We have the following range of premodifying items:

1. Adjective: I visited his delightful cottage

2. Participle: I visited his crumbling cottage (-ing)

I visited his completed cottage (-ed)

3. –s genitive: I visited his fisherman´ s cottage

4. Noun: I visited his country cottage

5. Adverbial: I visited his far-away cottage

6. Sentence: I visited his pop-down-for-the-weekend cottage

1. Premodification by adjectives:

A premodifying adjective can itself be premodified

– His really quite unbelievably delightful cottage

However, some intensifiers tend to be avoided with premodifying adjectives f.i: would be replaced by such

– A cottage which is so beautiful

– Such a beautiful cottage

There is resistance also to transferring clause negation to a structure of premodification

– The dinner was not very pleasant/ unpleasant

– The not very pleasant/ unpleasant dinner

2. Premodification by participles:

a) –ing participles: Everything here depends on the potentiality of the participle to indicate permanent or characteristic feature

– She has a very interesting mind

The indefinite article favours the habitual or permanent, the definite article the specific or temporary

b) –ed participles: An –ed participle can be active or passive, but as with postmodification, the active is rarely used in premodification

– The immigrant who has arrived

– * The arrived immigrant

But an active participle can be adverbially modified

– The newly-arrived immigrant

Most –ed participles are of agential type and naturally only a few will easily admit the permanent reference that will permit premodifying use

– * The found purse was returned to its owner (The purse was found at a particular moment)

– The wanted man was last seen in Cambridge (The man goes on being wanted by the police)

3. Premodification by genitives:

– A fisherman´ s cottage

It can mean:

a) The cottage belongs to a fisherman

b) The cottage belonged to a fisherman

c) The cottage resembles the cottage of a fisherman

Any intermediate modifier between the determiner and the genitive must also refer only to the genitive

– These French women´ s clothing

It must mean the clothing of these French women and not the French clothing of these women.

4. Premodification by nouns:

Noun premodifiers are often so closely associated with the head as to be regarded as compounded with it

– The cupboard door (The door of a cupboard)

Noun premodifiers usually have prepositional-phrase analogues

2 important features in premodification by nouns:

1. Plural nouns usually become singular, even those that have no singular form

– The trouser leg (The leg of the trousers)

2. The accent will fall on the premodifier or the head according to the relationship between 2 nouns.

A. Single-accented compounds:

I. Performer: baby-sitter

II. Type: school bag

B. Double-accented compounds:

I. Position: country house

II. Made of: plum pudding

Multiple premodification:

1. With single head: More than one premodifier may be related to a single head, with no grammatical limit on the number

– His last brilliant book

2. With multiple head: modification may apply to more than one head

– The new table and chairs

3. With modified modifier: We have already seen 2 types of modification with modified modifier

– His really quite unbelievably delightful cottage (1)

– These French women´ s clothing (2)

In a third type the noun premodifier can be itself pre modified by either an adjective or a noun

– The small office furniture

– The tax office furniture

Other complexities in premodification:

A noun phrase in which there is noun premodification can be given the denominal affix which puts it into the “consisting of” class of adjectives while retaining the noun premodifier.

– Party politics

– A Party political broadcast

Relative sequence of premodifiers:

The item that must come next before the head is the type of denominal adjective meaning “consisting of”, “involving” or “relating to”

Next, closest to the head is the noun premodifier. When 2 nouns premodify, one which corresponds to the head as object to verb will follow one relating to material or agency.

– A cardboard detergent container

Next, before a noun modifier, the most important class of items is the adjective of provenance or style

– A Russian trade delegation

Preceding this type is the participle

– A carved Gothic doorway

Preceding the participle we have adjectives of colour

– A green carved idol

These are preceded by adjectives of age.

– An old blue dress

Next, comes the large class that we call” general”, except that between general and colour comes the diminutive unstressed use of little

– A beautiful little old blue ornament

General adjectives are themselves preceded by quantifiers, numerals and determiners

Discontinuous modification:

It is not uncommon for a noun phrase to be interrupted by other items of clause structure

– You´ ll meet a man tomorrow carrying a heavy parcel (the time adjunct is between the head and the postmodifier)

Another kind is with prepositional phrases

– Different production figures from those given earlier

The prepositional phrase does not directly relate to the head but to the premodifying adjective: figures different from those