Noun Phrase (NP) Analysis

A Noun Phrase consists of a head noun, and optionally a determiner, some pre-modification and post-modification. Here is an analysis of a text to show you how to identify noun phrases.

By 1980 my three children were adults and away at their universities. Within a  year or two they would leave home and begin their careers apart from me, and the richest and most fulfilling period in my life would abruptly come to an end. I had already had a foretaste of this. As every parent knows, infancy and childhood seem to last forever. Then adolescence arrives and promptly leaves on the next bus, and one is sharing the family home with likeable young adults who are more intelligent, better company and in many ways wiser than oneself. But childhood has gone, and in the silence one stares at the empty whisky bottles in the pantry and wonders if any number of drinks will fill the void.

(Ballard, JG. (2008) Miracles of life: Shanghai to Shepperton. London: Fourth Estate)

 

Task: list all the NPs

  • my three children
  • adults
  • their universities
  • a year or two
  • they
  • home
  • their careers
  • me
  • the richest and most fulfilling period in my life
  • an end
  • I
  • a foretaste of this
  • every parent
  • infancy and childhood
  • adolescence
  • the next bus
  • one
  • the family home
  • likeable young adults who are more intelligent, better company and in many ways wiser than oneself
  • oneself
  • childhood
  • the silence
  • one
  • the empty whisky bottles in the pantry
  • any number of drinks
  • the void.

Some issues

my three children were adultssome people believe that this is an NP. Need to know that although NPs take post modification, the main verb in the sentence is not post mod.

adults – should we analyse this as a noun or an adjective? We note that it is in the plural so that would suggest a noun. If it were ‘adult’ then we could reason it to be an adjective.

By 1980 – why is this not an NP? Because it is a time adverbial. Even though we can talk of the 1980s as being something as in ‘in the 1980s’, the way it is acting here is to show the time of the occurrence of the verb

Note the tests for NPs: 1. Can take plural in many cases; 2. Accept determiner and 3. Pre mod by adjective.

a year or two; infancy and childhood  – these are coordinated NPs.

Pronouns – the pronouns are: they, me, I, one, oneself – note how they are all single word NPs. But look at the possessive pronouns: ‘their universities’ – their is a possessive pronoun, or pronoun in the genitive case (dependent)

likeable young adults who are more intelligent, better company and in many ways wiser than oneself – post modification is more explicit and flexible, but pre-mod is more defining and permanent: likeable more-intelligent in-many-ways-wiser young adults

Then adolescence – note the Then is not a determiner

every parent – is the every a determiner or pre-modifier. We would normally class it as a determiner because it determines the reference of the NP, in this case it is pointing to all possible parents.

What would we do without NPs?

The meaning of the paragraph is completely lost.

By 1980 ——————  were ——- and away at —————. Within ————— —— would leave —– and begin —————— apart from –, and ———————————————————–would abruptly come to ———. — had already had ——————–. As ——- ———–knows, ——————————–seem to last forever. Then ——————— arrives and promptly leaves on —————-, and — is sharing ——————- with ————————————– ——————————————————————————-. But ————— has gone, and in ——————  — stares at ———– ————————————— and wonders if —————————— will fill the void.

What happens if we substitute pronouns into the text for each NP?

By 1980 they were themselves and away at those. Within something they would leave it and begin those apart from me, and it would abruptly come to that. I had already had this. As everyone knows, they seem to last forever. Then it arrives and promptly leaves on that, and one is sharing it with them. But it has gone, and in everything, one stares at something and wonders if anything will fill the void.

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