Sunday, October 20, 2019

Types of Nouns and Their Forms, Functions, and Meanings

Types of Nouns and Their Forms, Functions, and Meanings In  The Teachers Grammar Book  (2005), James Williams admits that defining the term  noun  is such a problem that many  grammar  books do not even try to do it. Interestingly, however, one of the founders of  cognitive linguistics  has settled on a familiar definition: In elementary school, I was taught that a noun is the name of a person, place, or thing. In college, I was taught the basic linguistic doctrine that a noun can only be defined in terms of grammatical behavior, conceptual definitions of grammatical classes being impossible. Here, several decades later, I demonstrate the inexorable progress of grammatical theory by claiming that a noun is the name of a thing. -Ronald W. Langacker,  Cognitive Grammar: A Basic Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2008 Professor Langacker notes that his definition of  thing  subsumes people and places as special cases and is not limited to physical entities. Its probably impossible to come up with a universally accepted definition of  a noun. Like many other terms in linguistics, its meaning depends on  context  and use as well as the theoretical biases of the person doing the defining. So rather than wrestle with competing definitions, lets just briefly consider some of the conventional categories of nouns- or more precisely, some of the different ways of grouping nouns in terms of their (often overlapping) forms, functions, and meanings. For additional examples and more detailed explanations of these slippery categories, consult the resources in the Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms, covering topics like the possessive case and pluralizing nouns. Abstract Nouns  and  Concrete Nouns An  abstract noun  is a noun that names an idea, quality, or concept (courage  and  freedom, for example). A  concrete noun  is a noun that names a material or tangible object- something recognizable through the senses (such as  chicken  and  egg). But this apparently simple distinction can get tricky. Lobeck and Denham point out that the classification of a noun can change depending on how that noun is used and what its referring to in the real world. When  homework  refers to the idea of schoolwork that will be completed over time, it seems more abstract, but when it refers to an actual document that you submit for a class, it seems concrete. -Navigating English Grammar, 2014. Attributive Nouns An  attributive noun  is a noun that serves as an adjective in front of another nounsuch as nursery  school and birthday  party. Because so many nouns can serve as adjective equivalents, its more accurate to regard  attributive  as a function than as a type. The clustering of nouns in front of another noun is sometimes called  stacking. Collective Nouns A  collective noun  is a noun that refers to a group of individuals- such as  team, committee, and  family. Either a singular or a plural pronoun can stand in for a collective noun, depending on whether the group is regarded as a single unit or as a collection of individuals. (See  Pronoun Agreement.) Common Nouns  and  Proper Nouns A  common noun  is a noun thats not the name of any particular person, place, or thing (for instance,  singer,  river, and  tablet). A  proper noun  is a noun that refers to a specific person, place, or thing (Lady Gaga,  Monongahela River, and  iPad).Most proper nouns are singular, and- with a few exceptions (iPad)- theyre usually written with initial capital letters. When proper nouns are used generically (as in keeping up with the  Joneses or a  xerox  of my term paper), they become, in a sense, common- and in some cases subject to lawsuits. (See  Generification.) Count Nouns  and  Mass Nouns A  count noun  is a noun that has both singular and plural forms- like  dog(s) and  dollar(s). A  mass noun  (also called a  noncount noun) is a noun thats generally used only in the singular and cant be counted- music  and  knowledge, for instance.Some nouns have both countable and non-countable uses, such as the countable dozen  eggs and the non-countable egg  on his face. Denominal Nouns A  denominal noun  is a noun thats formed from another noun, usually by adding a suffix- such as  guitarist  and  spoonful. But dont count on consistency. While a  librarian  usually works in a library and a  seminarian  usually studies in a seminary, a  vegetarian  can show up anywhere. (See  Common Suffixes in English.) Verbal Nouns A  verbal noun  (sometimes called a  gerund) is a noun thats derived from a verb (usually by adding the suffix  -ing) and that exhibits the ordinary properties of a noun- for example, My mother didnt like the idea of my  writing  a book about her.Most contemporary linguists distinguish  verbals  from  deverbals, but not always in precisely the same way.

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