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Noun phrase (NP)

At phrase level, the noun phrase is probably the least problematic of the categories to be dealt with. In general, a noun phrase will a have noun or a pronoun as its head, and included within the noun phrase are the determinative elements, any premodification, and any postmodification. The examples below, 14 to 17 show noun phrases with the head noun/pronoun in bold:

(14)  [NP He NP] was a tiny man
(15)  [NP his white shirt cuffs NP]
(16)  [NP his surprisingly thick and hairy wrists NP]
(17)  [NP some wholly unanticipated but remotely possible event of absorbing interest NP]
However, noun phrases may also occur with adjectival heads, as in 18 and 19:

(18)  [NP The unemployed NP] have had enough
(19)  We've beaten [NP the best NP]
or with a head which is a cardinal or ordinal number, as in 20 and 21:
(20)  [NP The ninth NP] is my particular favourite
(21)  [NP The other seven NP] continued with the trip
In `pro-drop' languages, such as Spanish and Italian, pronominal Subjects are usually not expressed. Depending on the chosen type of analysis, this may require another definition of noun phrase, in order to include `empty noun phrases', in which the pronoun is not actually present, but may be inferred from the verb ending.

A classic constituency test for Noun Phrases is that only whole NPs can be moved within the same sentence. In English, constituents can be preposed to achieve some effect, as in 23 (from Radford 1988: 70):

(22)  I can't stand your elder sister
(23)  Your elder sister I can't stand (though your brother's OK).
Examples 24 and 25 show that it is not possible to move only part of the NP:

(24)  *Your elder I can't stand sister
(25)  *Elder sister, I can't stand your
However, this test should be used with caution. It works well in English, but not always in other languages. For example, in 26 Neue Bücher is moved to the beginning of the sentence while keine is left at the end:

(26) NeueBücherhabeichkeine
 `I have not got any new books'

next up previous contents
Next: Verb phrase (VP) Up: Recommended annotations Previous: Clause (CL)