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Краткая грамматика английского языка

Е. А. Долгина


1.1. Definition

The noun as a part of speech has the general mean­ing of substance in the widest sense of the term. This is the main nominative class of words for they are used to name living beings (a man, a woman, a girl-friend, a bird, a dog), objects (a pen, a flower) and abstract no­tions, such as qualities (kindness, strength), states (fear, fight, sleep), processes (discussion, reading) viewed as substances.

The most characteristic formal feature of this class of words is the use of the article a specific word of 3 ty­pes — definite (the), indefinite (a(n)) and zero or the meaningful absence of the article, which determines or specifies nouns in the most general way: Anyone who knows a language knows what sounds are in the language. Experts disagree about the origins of language. (For details see Chapter II)

1.2. Morphological structure of nouns

According to their morphological structure nouns may be classified as 1) simple, 2) derivative, 3) compound.

Simple nouns are structurally simple in the sense that they are devoid of affixes — prefixes and suffixes and have only a root-stem. In other words they cannot be further

segmented: book, pen, bird, shirt, 'lamp, house, system, work, etc.

Derivative nouns derive from the root-stem of words which may belong to various parts of speech — nouns, adjectives, verbs. They are formed mainly with the help of numerous suffixes: writer, warmth, linguist, systematization. kingdom, childhood and so on. A great number of derivative nouns may contain prefixes which are traceable to verbs or adjectives and thus are typically verbal or adjectival prefixes, disagreement < disagree < agree, misunderstanding < misunderstand < understand, irres­ponsibility < irresponsible < responsible, impatience < impatient < patient.

The suffixes used in the noun-formation may be productive, i.e. most widely and regularly recurrent, and non-productive one that are characteristic of a limited number of words.

The most productive nounal suffix is -er (with its -or variant) which may theoretically be added to any verbal stem: doer, cleaner, gardener, singer, worker, conductor, inventor, distributor, etc.

Other productive suffixes of nouns are:

-ness: blackness, dullness, uselessness;

-ist: linguist, economist, typist;

-ism: nationalism, capitalism, dualism;

-ion/-ation/-ition: collection, creation, dictation, per­suasion, division/aspiration, consideration, recommenda-tion/acqisition. repetition, disposition.

The non-productive noun-forming suffixes are:

-ess: actress, heiress, waitress, lioness, tigress: -ian: mathematician, historian, librarian; -ure: picture, literature, nature, temperature;

-ant: assistant, attendant;

-ful: handful, spoonful;

-ie/-y: birdie, daddy, Jimmy;

-dom: boredom, freedom, kingdom:

-hood: childhood, brotherhood, motherhood:

-ship: friendship, relationship;

-ance/-ence: resistance, importance/decadence, de­pendence, difference;

-ment: agreement, announcement, statement;

-y/-ry: biology, geography, anatomy/chemistry, psy­chiatry;

-s: economics, linguistics, physics;

-ty/-ity: cruelty, difficulty/generosity, majority, visi­bility;

-th: length, strength, warmth.

Some prefixes rather typical of verbs or, more fre­quently of adjectives, especially negative ones, can still be found in nouns. They are as follows:

anti-: anticlimax, antimatter:

со-: coauthor; copilot, coeducation;

dis-: disagreement, disjuncture, disarmament:

ex-: ex-wife, ex-minister, ex-president;

il-: illegality, illiberality, illiteracy;

in-: indecency, incompatibility, indecorousness;

im-: impracticality, impregnability, impropriety;

ir-: irresponsibility, irresolution, irritability;

mis-: misunderstanding, misfortune, miscalculation, misuse;

поп-: non-smoker, non-event, non-story, non-cha­racter;

un-: unpleasantness, unreality, unruliness.

Compound nouns may be of 2 types. Nouns of the first type are made up of two or more stems — nounal, adjectival, verbal, adverbial, prepositional — which are brought together in an arbitrary way and spelt either as one word or with a hyphen. Here are the subtypes of them:

a) nounal stem + nounal stem: manservant, bath­room, roommate;

b) nounal stem + prepositional stem + nounal stem: brother-in-law, grant-in-aid, man-of-war, commander-in-chief;

c) nounal stem + adverbial stem: looker-on, passer­by, hanger-on;

d) pronounal stem + nounal stem: he-goat, she-goat, he-bear, she-bear;

e) adjectival stem + nounal stem: blackbird, small­pox, tenderloin;

f) adjectival stem + adverbial stem: close-up, grown­up, low-down;

g) adjectival stem + verbal stem + adverbial stem: merry-go -round;

h) adverbial stem + nounal stem: by-stander, by­product, overcoat, overspill;

i) adverbial stem + adjectival stem: bygone, overall, overpowering;

j) adverbial stem + verbal stem: outlook, offshoot, overlap;

k) verbal stem + pronounal stem + adverbial stem: forget-me-not,

I) verbal stem + adverbial stem: sit-in, take-off, feedback, look-out;

m) participial stem + nounal stem: swimming-pool, dining-room, reading-hall.

Nouns of the second type called unstable compound (нестойкое сложное слово) consist of the two separate nouns and function in speech as a complex equivalent of one word: stone wall, life span, college courses, surface differences, etc. The first element of the unstable com­pound describes the second one and therefore is pro-sodically brought out by stress. Not infrequently unstable compounds are equivalent to and used on a par with the corresponding attributive word-combinations: language change — linguistic change, grammar rules — rules of grammar, grammatical rules, speech sounds — sounds of speech, language origin — origin of language.

Sometimes the first element of unstable compounds may be complex itself: phrase-structure rules, second-lan­guage learning and so on.

1.3. Classes of nouns

As far as their lexical meaning is concerned nouns -are traditionally divided into a number of lexical categories or classes each of which is formed by the op-positional pair: 1) proper vs common nouns (собствен­ныенарицательные), 2) concrete vs abstract nouns (конкретныеабстрактные}, 3) countable vs uncoun­table nouns (исчисляемыенеисчисляемые}, 4) ani­mate vs inanimate nouns (одушевленные неодушевлен­ные}, 5) human (person) vs non-human (non-person) nouns (обозначающие человека не обозначающие человека).

1.3.1. Proper vs common nouns

The division of nouns into proper and common is based on the type of nomination.

Proper nouns are special names given to human beings or things to single out and individualize them by means of capitalization. In accordance with the object of nomination proper nouns may be personal names (Mary, John, Dickens), geographical names (Moscow, the Thames, the Alps), the names of the months and of the days of the week (January, Sunday), names of hotels, ships, etc. (the Ritz, the Titanic).

Common nouns are the names which may refer to any person or thing (man, woman, doctor, bird, dog), a group of similar individuals or things (family, government, machinery, foliage), materials (cotton, iron, rubber), abst­ract notions (kindness, strenght, friendship, love).

Proper nouns may turn into common nouns. For example, such words as champagne (a sort of white wine), ulster, mackintosh (special types of a coat), Wellington (boots) trace back to and correlate with the existing proper names denoting either the places of origin (Cham­pagne, Ulster) or the inventor (Wellington, Mackintosh).

At the same time most of surnames like Mason, Smith, Bush originated from common nouns as well as some place names like the City (an area in central London which is the British centre for money matters) or the Globe (the theatre in London where Shakespeare's plays were first performed).

1.3.2. Concrete vs abstract nouns

Within the category of common nouns lies the second nounal opposition, namely between concrete and abstract nouns.

Concrete nouns are further subdivided into a) class nouns which denote individuals — persons or things as belonging to a class: a man, a woman, a bird, a dog, a pen, a flower, b) collective nouns, i.e. names of a group of living beings or things considered as a unit: family, crowd, police, poultry, cattle, foliage, machinery; c) names of materials indicating a mass of air, water, iron, gold, sugar, etc.

Abstract nouns are conventionally grouped though less explicitly and rigorously into a) the names of qualities (kindness, strength, courage, sadness), b) states (fear, fight, sleep), c) processes (conversation, discussion, read­ing), d) fields of knowledge or activities (linguistics, ma­thematics, economics, physics, gymnastics), e) phenomena (weather, rain, thunder, storm, lightning, earthquake, ra­diation), f) periods of time (minute, hour, week, day, night, summer), g) generalized notions (direction, tenden­cy, accommodation, time, space).

Abstract nouns may convert into concrete nouns if they refer to concrete objects. Compare: beauty (красо­та) a beauty (красавица), youth (юность) a youth (юноша), glass (стекло) — a glass (стакан), crime (пре­ступность) a crime (преступление).

1.3.3. Countable vs uncountable nouns

The third nounal opposition differentiates between the names of individuals (living beings and objects) which can be counted and those that cannot. Countables as compared with uncountables are able to be used with the indefinite article in the singular and have a plural form.

Common concrete class nouns are always countable: a man men, bird — birds, a pen pens. Proper nouns are usually uncountable with the exception of very few cases like two Marys. There were two Marys in our group. Concrete nouns denoting materials such as air, snow, gold, sugar are always uncountable though in cases like wine, water, sand plural forms are also recurrent: a wide choice of French wines, across the burning sands of the desert, fishing in Icelandic waters. Collective nouns con­stitute a special group of words which may be either co­untable or uncountable. Countables are as follows: family, crowd, committee, team, government, club, school, union, choir, orchestra, staff, jury, firm, the B.B.C., the Bank of England, etc. When used as subject of a sentence they can be associated with both singular and plural verb: Our family has/have lived in this house for over a century. The government wants/want to reduce taxes. Uncountable col­lective nouns fall into 2 groups. The first one comprises nouns which denote a number of things collected together and regarded as a single object: foliage, furniture, luggage, baggage, machinery, money, scenery. They take a singular verb: New machinery is being installed in the factory. Where is the money? It is on the table. The second group consists of nouns expressing multitude: police, gentry, cattle, poultry. In a sentence they are used with a

plural verb: The police have caught the criminal. The cattle are in the shed.

Sometimes a word may be both countable and uncountable with a difference in meaning. The collective noun people is the case in point. It is countable in the sense of «a race or a nation» and uncountable in the meaning of «persons, human beings». Compare: Were there many people at the meeting? — The Chinese is a hard-working people. More examples of the kind: I bought a paper, (a newspaper) — I bought some paper, (material for writing); We had many interesting experiences during our day. (things that happened to us) — You need expe­rience for this job. (knowledge or skill which comes from practice).

Abstract nouns are most multifarious and irregular that makes them particularly difficult to classify as coun-tables or uncountables. This applies to any group they fall into. Those which indicate qualities (kindness, sadness, courage) are usually uncountable though some of them -may be both countable and uncountable. Compare: to succeed by strength of will the strengths and weaknesses of the argument. As the example shows the uncountable noun may become countable if it is supposed to express an instance or instances of a certain quality. The same double nature can be observed in a number of abstract names referred to states, processes, generalized notions and periods of time: to have a fear of something to fight without fear, to have a (telephone) conversation to be in conversation with somebody, to move in the direction of London to have a sense of direction, to be on holiday in summera hot summer.

At the same time certain abstract nouns denoting states, processes and generalized notions, such as beha­viour, chaos (states), progress, traffic, travel, business, work (states or processes), accommodation, advice, infor­mation, news, permission (generalized notions) are un­countable.

Yet quite a bit of nouns used to name periods of time are always countable: a minute, an hour, a week, a year, a century and so on.

Abstract names for phenomena may be either coun­table (storm, earthquake) or uncountable (weather, light­ning) or both: The crops need rain. A heavy rain began to fall.

Abstract nouns denoting fields of knowledge or acti­vities like linguistics, gymnastics are usually uncountable and take a singular verb: Linguistics is the study of lan­guage in general and of particular languages, their struc­ture, grammar and history.

1.3.4. Animate vs inanimate

The fourth nounal opposition distinguishes between living beings — people and animals, on the one hand, and things, on the other, and thus is relevant within the classes of proper, common, concrete countables.

1.3.5. Human (person) vs non-human (non-person)

This pair is the result of the division of animate nouns into those which are intended to name human beings or people and those that represent names of animals at large.

1.3.6. Gender

The opposition of human (person) and non-human (non-person) nouns is related to the further lexical divi­sion of human (person) nouns into those denoting male persons and those which name female persons. Both op­positions together constitute the lexical category of Gender which is realized by means of the three categorial forms: the neuter (i.e. non-human or non-person) gender, the masculine (i.e. masculine person) gender, the feminine (i.e. feminine person) gender.

Each opposition has its strong and weak members. The strong member of the first opposition is the class of human nouns with its semantic mark «person»: son, daughter, man, woman, bride, bridegroom, lord, lady, master, mistress, doctor, teacher, pupil, etc. The weak member is the class of non-human nouns which includes both animate nouns, i.e. collective nouns, names of animals and inanimate nouns, i.e. names of things, facts, abstract notions: crowd, government, organization, bear, wolf, hen, cock, cow, bull, book, love, fear, reading, and so on.

The strong member of the second opposition is traditionally considered to be the feminine gender while its weak member is the masculine gender. This may be accounted for by the fact that in English there exist a few pairs of person nouns like actor — actress, author — authoress, host hostess, master mistress, mayor — mayoress, peer — peeress, steward — stewardess, waiter — waitress in which the gender opposition is indicated grammatically: the feminine counterpart is marked by the suffix -ess, thus being its strong member. This type of

gender which is assigned to nouns as a constant may be called intrinsic. It may also be applied to such pairs as man woman, lady — lord, bride — bridegroom, girl — boy, mother — father, brother — sister, son — daughter

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