Posted on

Teaching The Noun Phrase In English English Language Essay

English sentence structure presents the nominal group or noun phrase ( NP ) as a basic component of the clause ( S ) . Phrase Structure regulations usually represent S as consisting of a Noun Phrase and a Verb Phrase ( VP ) .

( 1 ) S i? NP VP

The components of the clause or sentence are so farther interrupt down into their components. Yet the proposal of other theories to capture the components of S has resulted in more complex but more precise ways of explicating how the components of a sentence relate to each other. An extension on X-bar theory by Santorini and Kroch in their online text edition “ The sentence structure of natural linguistic communication: An on-line debut utilizing the Trees plan ” really identifies NPs as Determiner Phrases or DPs. Although this paper will non dig into the beds of complexness advocated by such theoreticians, it does travel off from the traditional schemes of learning nouns and NPs and seeks to sign attacks for presenting the instruction of NPs in the ESL/EFL context. We shall, hence, depict the construction of the NP, adverting the classs of count and non-count ( or mass ) nouns ; and eventually order a feasible instruction option with regard to the noun phrase.

Nouns and the construction of NPs

Traditional grammar defines the noun as “ the name of a individual, topographic point, animate being or thing ” . This obscure definition succumbs rather readily to unfavorable judgment the minute we move off from keeping it high in the canon of English grammar to one of closer scrutiny. Huddleston ( 84 ) lists a few belongingss that help to sort this word category:

It contains amongst its most cardinal members those words that denote individuals or concrete objects

Its members head phrases – noun phrases – which characteristically function as topic or object in clause construction and refer to participants in the state of affairs described in the clause, to the histrion, patient, receiver, and so on.

It is the category to which the classs of figure, gender and instance have their primary application

It becomes significantly easier for us to specify the noun and later the NP by looking at its map and distribution in the clause.

Brinton and Brinton ( 193 ) expand the NP in a tabular array that has been reproduced below:

Table 1. Expansions of NP

NP i?


Canis familiariss

Det N

the Canis familiariss

Det A N

the big Canis familiariss

Det AP N

the aloud barking Canis familiariss

Det N PP

the Canis familiaris in the pace

Det A N PP

the fierce Canis familiaris behind the fencing


the wildly yapping Canis familiaris on the couch





In all of the enlargements except the concluding two the caput of the NP – the noun ( N ) – is obligatory. In the concluding two enlargements the caput has been substituted by a pronoun and a Proper noun severally. These two are still subsumed under the class of noun so we can still state that the caput subsists to some grade.

The broadest enlargement degree of the NP, Det AP N PP presents classs that may be grouped in relation to the noun caput of the phrase. Therefore, we may speak about pre-head dependants and post-head dependants. Huddleston asserts that “ an NP will dwell of a noun as caput, entirely or accompanied by one or more dependentsaˆ¦pre-head and post-head dependants ” ( 85 ) . He mentions that the pre-head dependants may be clinchers and/or qualifiers and that the post-head dependants consist of complements, qualifiers and peripheral dependants. Where Huddleston calls these elements dependants ( either pre-head or post-head ) , Downing and Locke, in order to simplify affairs, label them qualifiers ( 403 ) . They locate the caput of the phrase as the cardinal component around which are located the pre-modifiers and post-modifiers.

Figure 1 shows a diagrammatic representation of the general components of the NP.

Figure 1. Diagrammatic Representation of an NP

Noun ( Head )




Although the figure of clinchers is rather limited ( Huddleston ( 86 ) provinces that there are about three clinchers slots ) , there seems to be less limitation on what can make full the modifier place.

Clinchers have the signifier of: ( I± ) determinatives – the, some, which, etc ( remember that ‘determiner ‘ is used as the name of a map, ‘determinative ‘ of a category ) ; ( I? ) Poss Ps – the Canis familiaris ‘s, your father’saˆ¦ ( I? ) central numbers: one, twoaˆ¦ ( I? ) embedded NPs showing quantification: a dozenaˆ¦a fewaˆ¦An NP may incorporate up to three determinersaˆ¦ ( Huddleston 86 ) .

Toss offing and Locke ( 404 ) besides suggest that the comparatively restricted list of clinchers ( articles, demonstratives, genitives, Wh-words, distributives and quantifiers ) can be put into three wide classs:

Cardinal determiners: the articles, the demonstratives, the genitives, the quantifiers

Pre-determinatives: all, both, twice, dual, such

Post-determinatives: the ordinal numbers and the semi-determinatives ( same, other, former, latter, ain )

As said before, Santorini and Kroch in Chapter 5 of their on-line book argue a instance for DPs. They believe that “ nounsaˆ¦ can non in general map as statements on their ain, but must be accompanied by a clincher ” . This makes sense even if there is a nothing marker for the clincher. They go on to state to admonish the reader:

aˆ¦the traditional term ‘noun phrase ‘ is a misnomer since noun phrases are maximum projections of D instead than of N. Because the term ‘noun phrase ‘ is steadfastly established in use, we continue to utilize it as an informal equivalent word for ‘DP ‘ . However, in order to avoid confusion, we will utilize the term ‘NP ‘ merely to mention to the subconstituent of a noun phrase that is the complement of a clincher. We will ne’er utilize it to mention to an full noun phrase ( that is, a DP )

The NP can besides be called “ the complement of a clincher ” as suggested by Santorini and Kroch, but in order to maintain constructs simple we should lodge to the differentiation as prescribed by the diagram above where the clincher place is synonymous with specifier.

The pre-modifier place ( labeled AP in Brinton and Brinton ‘s largest enlargement above ) can be filled with a figure of categories: adjectives ( and adverbs ) , nouns, participial signifiers of verbs and genitives. Due to the recursive belongings of this place, there is a complex telling sequence of these categories. This can be seen rather clearly if we entirely look at the ordination of adjectives ( Parrot 54 ) :

Table 2. Order of adjectives in the NP

1 Size

2 Shape

3 Coloring material

4 Beginning

5 Material

6 Use















The order besides places the sentiment of the talker ( subjective facet ) before a description ( nonsubjective facet ) of the object.

The post-modifiers, on the other manus, can be as complements, qualifiers and peripheral dependants ( Huddleston 93 ) . X-bar theory histories for these elements by the usage of the footings adjunct and complement. In the diagram below, these post-head elements are shown to the right of the X ‘ circles.


Ten ‘

Ten ‘




Ten ‘


Head Figure 2. Template for an XP in X-bar theory

Whereas adjuncts are seen as optional qualifiers, complements are shown to be obligatory. The diagram shows their differing places within the hierarchy of the phrase ( XP ) , where the complement appears closer to the caput. Although this information may be helpful for the instructor, it would be better to remain off from X-bar theory when seeking to explicate phrase formation to the pupil unless the pupil has already had interaction with it.

One can non advert the noun, and even the noun phrase, without adverting an facet of nouns that is comparatively alone to them – their countability. Allan mentions that the impression of countability varies and has to make with the perceptual experience of the talker and hearer:

aˆ¦that which is denumerable is countable. Although countability is a lingual class, it typically has perceptual correlativities: the mention of what is linguistically denumerable is normally perceived in footings of one or more distinct entities. What is uncountable is typicallyaˆ¦perceived as an uniform integrity. ( 565 )

The countability of the noun is linked to its ability to be inflected for plurality and is besides linked to the usage of certain clinchers. Uncountable or mass nouns in English are non usually pluralised unless the talker is utilizing some type of slang peculiar to a field. However, the impression of countability besides carries across into the NP. If the noun, as caput of the phrase, is denumerable, it besides means that the NP would be denumerable as good.

Teaching the NP to ESL/EFL pupils

The NP should non be introduced explicitly to low-level proficiency ESL/EFL pupils. Although the pupils may hold some unconscious cognition of the NP in their ain linguistic communications, it is a more appropriate attack to learn Upper-Intermediate and Advanced degree pupils about the workings of the NP to better their stylistic capablenesss and besides to better their communicative options. The instruction of the NP, like everything else, must be contextualised and non needfully bogged down by entirely learning the pupils grammar.

It is rather of import to associate the instruction of the NP to old cognition gained by the pupils so that its syntactic construction can be used as a refresher for pupils with regard to things like count and non-count nouns, adverbials and clinchers.

Students can be taught inductively by instructors where sentences are put on the board and pupils can besides be asked to place the syntactic classs that make up the phrase and besides the evident regulations for the ordination of classs. Nevertheless, an indispensible instruction tool in this country would be to allow the pupils be these classs. What do I intend by be? Well, if we look singly at the AP component of the NP and wish to assist pupils to hold on the order of the adjectives ( as listed in the tabular array above ) , the instructor can set an AP on the board incorporating quite a figure of these adjectives. Then random pupils can be asked to come to the forepart of the category and the instructor can delegate the pupils a word. The pupils can compose this word on a page and lodge it to their thoraxs or keep them up. Subsequently, the instructor can inquire the pupils to travel about in a line to stand for the phrase, trading places with each other and promoting the category to read the phrase harmonizing to the new orders. The instructor will hold to hold some cognition of APs and be able to explicate why random ordination of lexical points is unacceptable in APs.

This exercising can besides be done with NPs to some extent. The instructor can utilize it to demo the recursivity of the qualifier places particularly ( vis-a-vis embedded clauses and other qualifiers ) and to solidify the ordination of the components. This kinesthetic attack can besides be complemented by a musical one where a vocal can be used to demo the significance every bit good as the functional usage of NPs. Gardner ‘s Multiple Intelligences is a good tool to take advantage of when learning these chiefly grammar-oriented subjects, but calls on a batch from the instructor in the kingdom of creativeness and readying.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.