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On Nouns and nominalisations Lise Fontaine Cardiff University How Does Language Work? Aston University June 2013.

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Presentation on theme: "On Nouns and nominalisations Lise Fontaine Cardiff University How Does Language Work? Aston University June 2013."— Presentation transcript:

1 On Nouns and nominalisations Lise Fontaine Cardiff University How Does Language Work? Aston University June 2013

2 Objectives and outline Aim: to explain the main function and structure of nouns and to understand how we can recognise each one. Outline: Recognising words – how useful is this? The structure (or form) of nouns The function of nouns The noun phrase and how to recognise it

3 Resources Teaching Grammar, maintained by Geoff Dean and Dick Hudson – Functional Grammar for Teachers, maintained by Alan Hess – Functional Grammar, maintained (2007) by Lyle Walker –

4 Identifying nouns, verbs etc. is only a small part of the picture. Only asking for a label for an item doesn’t build understanding. It’s open to interpretation Find … x …

5 Find a noun

6 Find a pronoun

7 Find an adjective

8 Find an article

9 Find a preposition

10 Find a phrase

11 Why is x there? What else could be? What does it mean? What is its context? a b c a2a2 b2b2 a b c c2c2 a b c a b c a b c a 2 + b 2 = c 2 x x

12 Some preliminary ideas Every ‘word’ used is doing a job Every word in a sentence is related to at least one other word in the sentence – i.e. no dangling items; they depend on each other and they work together Some kinds of words tend to cling together more than others There is a difference between ‘word’ and ‘phrase’ and we need to understand the relationship they have Phrase Word Every ‘phrase’ used is doing a job

13 The problems with a uniquely ‘find the noun’ approach: NOUN is just a category – Categories are useful but not perfect It doesn’t explain why the noun is in the sentence It doesn’t help us understand how it relates to other words It doesn’t capture the fact that nouns can do different kinds of jobs (different functions)

14 Let’s start with a word… FRIEND Can I friend you on Facebook? People can't friend request me on facebook? Like if they go to my profile there is no button that says "add as friend". If I turned on followers does it turn off friending capabilities? It's easy to drop your guard while socializing with your friends on Facebook, but careless friending, posting, liking, and sharing jeopardizes more than just your reputation and privacy -- it can also cost you your job.

15 But if… Noun = person place or thing Car, apple, flower, flour, dog, pencil, city, man, woman, … John, Tom, Sue, Jane, … Time, evil, spirit, health, … Earthquake, avalanche, circus, sneeze, yawn, … Destruction, rise, production Verb = action word Kick, eat, pick, draw, write, sit, run, drive, … Think, understand, like, love, learn, see, … Have, be, … Spill the beans, kick the bucket, let the cat out of the bag, … The very unattainableness of it. There is also an ethicisation of the poor. You were the great attentionist in the business.

16 Killing [an example] (1) The cat is killing that poor moth. (2) Killing moths is illegal. (3) The killing of moths is illegal. I’m suggesting we need to develop a level of ‘dexterity’ when it comes to words and grammar.

17 Packing in meaning: event nouns (or ‘Grammatical Metaphor’) process to participant Event nouns: e.g. eruption, downfall – encode or carry additional meaning (event information) – Either ‘natural’ or derived My dog died. Her death was upsetting for our family Napoleon felt betrayed by some members of his family. Their betrayal was very hurtful. o The density of the air can change and this makes the air pressure change. ?A change in air density causes air pressure change

18 A more ‘political’ example: Shooting accident involving Dick Cheney (02/2006). Was alcohol involved? To the best of my knowledge there was no alcohol involved No alcohol was consumed in the field I am unaware the hunting party had had any alcohol. There was no consumption of alcohol in the field

19 Form vs function Have you ever used a rock as a hammer? Have you ever used a hammer as a bottle opener? Have you ever used a teatowel as a trivet? Have you ever used a colander as a fruit bowl?

20 Word categories – they are helpful! Some words are more about meaning – Content words (sometimes called lexical words) Nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs Some words are more about relations – Function words (sometimes called grammatical words) Articles, conjunctions, auxiliary verbs, pronouns Prepositions?

21 “ Categorization is not a matter to be taken lightly. There is nothing more basic than categorization to our thought, perception, action, and speech. Every time we see something as a kind of thing. For example, a tree, we are categorizing. Whenever we reason about kinds of things - chairs, nations, illnesses, emotions, any kind of thing at all - we are employing categories.” Lakoff, G. (1987) Women, Fire and Dangerous Things. University of Chicago Press p5-6

22 The category NOUN The category for words that are used to denote (mean) conceptual things – i.e. the labels we give to the things we want to say something about (or anything that could be referred to by it/he/she/they) They are needed when we want to refer to something – They can be specific or not (the dog) – They can be singular or plural (five dogs) – They can be described (cute dogs) – They can be expanded (dogs that bark)

23 The category NOUN They can be sub-categorised: – ‘discrete’ status: [a division we invented] Concrete (what we can see and touch) e.g. dog, house, chair, book, child, … Abstract (concepts, ideas, feelings etc.) e.g. love, hate, love, illness, … – ‘countability’ status: [an important grammatical distinction] Count nouns – A dog is barking but *dog is barking Mass nouns – Blood is red but *A blood is red

24 I will adopt __________________. [participating entities] the cat near the bedthe new sorting method

25 The noun… Categorises the thing/concept you are talking about It ‘anchors’ the expression used to refer to whatever it is you are talking about It is (almost) always part of a noun phrase Nouns are just labels for things, they don’t do anything on their own.

26 But what are the main functions of nouns? To categorise the conceptual thing we want to refer to (the referent) e.g. My friend vs my colleague vs my sister To sub-categorise the referent (e.g. a kind of …) e.g. police station, garden hose, steam train To further specify the referent e.g. my friend, John To establish a meaningful construction e.g. a cup of coffee, a bunch of flowers

27 Structural units “Describing a sentence as a construction of words is rather like describing a house as a construction of bricks, without recognizing the walls and the rooms as intermediate structural units”. – Halliday (1994:180)

28 ENRAGED COW INJURES FARMER WITH AX nounadjectiveverbprepositionnoun cowenragedinjureswithfarmer axe noun cowenragedinjureswithfarmer axe

29 The NOUN phrase [or nominal group] Tools and resources are needed to manipulate language so that it reveals its nature to us (dexterity) The enraged cow injured the farmer with the axe. The enraged cow injured him with the axe. The farmer with the axe was injured by the cow. PRONOUNS do not replace NOUNS, they replace the PHRASE The noun phrase (nominal group) is the main grammatical resource for introducing and maintaining participants in language

30 The ELEMENTS of the Nominal Group Ngp th Ngp → (d)* (m)* th (q)* d m q cat the black by the bed the black cat by the bed is cute it is cute th it Pronoun Replacement Test: Ngp (determiner), (modifier), thing, (qualifier)

31 Determiners: Articles Numerals Possessives Tend to express which? Whose? or how many/much? Modifiers Adjectives/Adjective phrases Nouns Tend to express a property or a quality Thing: Noun One Pronouns Categorizes the referent Qualifiers Phrases (prepositional phrases, clauses, nominal groups and adjective phrases) Tend to expand the expression by description – Location, Relation, etc.

32 The ELEMENTS of the Nominal Group Ngp th d m q cat the black by the bed d: determiner m: modifier th: thing q: qualifier frame a steel apples five determination her reluctance John’s to stay one the that I bought yesterday

33 Some practice with student texts Find the noun phrases/nominal groups – How did you know where it started and ended? – What category of thing do you find? – What other elements (if any) do you find? – Why are they there? – What is the role of the expression (e.g. is it the Subject of the sentence?) – What other expressions would work well here? And what ones would not work at all? (within reason!) For example, could event nouns be used to pack in more information?


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