The NP

I. The noun

For detailed information on nouns, see the page from the Selected Subfields section (Syntactic Theory) of ELLO.

II. Basic structure of NPs

Example: NP [young teacher of English from Braunschweig]

III. Complements and adjuncts in the NP

NPs are constituents whose heads are nouns. Complements are possible but are commonly not a feature of NPs. Compare for example: a student [of physics], the father [of the bride], a man [of few words], the children.

Because many nouns do not take complements, complements are often difficult to distinguish from adjuncts. However, there are two criteria to identify complements:

(a) The noun and its complement commonly have the form [N of NP], in which the N is a deverbal noun (i.e. a noun formed from a verb) and [of NP] corresponds to the NP complement of the original V. For example:
[VP study [NP linguistics]] > [NP a student [PP of linguistics]]
[love [NP music]] > [NP a lover [PP of music]]
[announce [NP the news]] > [NP the announcement [PP of the news]]
(b) If there is more than one PP, complements must be closer to the N, and adjuncts can be further away. Compare for example: a student of linguistics with long hair vs. *a student with long hair of linguistics; an appointment with the dean on Monday vs. an appointment on Monday with the dean. In the first example of linguistics must be a complement, and with long hair an adjunct, while in the second example both PPs must be adjuncts.

IV. Specifiers in the NP

In earlier versions of X-Bar Theory, two standard types of specifiers in the NP have been assumed:
(a) determiners
(b) NPs: possessive pronouns (e.g. his) or genitive-marked full NPs (e.g. Sally's)
Note that this assumption has been modified by virtue of the so-called DP-analysis. Here, determiners are considered to be the functional head (D) of a determiner phrase (DP), requiring a full NP as a complement. Possessive pronouns and genitive-marked full NPs (DPs) can occur in the specifier-position of DPs.
For further information on DPs click here.

V. Pronouns and X-Bar theory

Pronouns do not to permit complements and can not be preceded by determiners:
* he of the bride
* the they
Since pronouns replace a full NP/DP consisting of a determiner and a noun (e.g. he replacing the man), it has been suggested that they are NPs/DPs with no internal structure.
For further information on DPs click here.

Exercises on the NP