Syntactic Theory

The Noun: Problems with the Tests

  • semantic test:
    • Nouns name persons, things or places
      • Abstract nouns (often properties): honesty, happiness
      • Nouns denoting events or activities: party, rodeo, development

  • morphological test:
    • Nouns can combine with a plural morpheme (-(e)s)
      • not all nouns form plural in -s: children
      • not all nouns have singular/plural distinction: milk (no plural); scissors, cattle (no singular); sheep (identical form in sg. and pl.)
  • syntactic test
    • Nouns can occur with the possessive 's, i.e. in the environment:
      __ 's
      • The possessive 's is a phrasal affix, i.e. it attaches to the right edge of a noun phrase, independent of the part of speech of the word at the right edge. We can construct examples where this word is NOT a noun: [a colleague of mine]'s car got stolen.
    • Nouns can occur between a determiner and a verb, i.e. in the environment:
      Det __ V
      • not all nouns can combine with a determiner, in particular proper names cannot: (*The) Pat walked.

Back to the page on nouns, major parts of speech, or parts of speech