General characteristics of the noun
The noun as a part of speech has the categorial meaning of "substance" or "thingness". Thus, the noun is the main nominative part of speech.
The noun has the power, by way of nomination, to isolate different properties of substances (i.e. direct and oblique qualities, and also actions and states as processual characteristics of substantive phenomena) and present them as corresponding self-dependent substances. This practically unlimited substantivization force establishes the noun as the central nominative lexical unit of the language.
The categorial functional properties of the noun are determined by its semantic properties. The most characteristic substantive function of the noun is that of the subject in the sentence, since the referent of the subject is the person or thing. The function of the object in the sentence is also typical of the noun as the substance word. Other syntactic functions, i.e. attributive, adverbial, and even predicative, although performed by the noun quite frequently, are not immediately characteristic of its substantive quality as such.
The noun is characterized by some special types of combinability. In particular, typical of the noun is the prepositional combinability with another noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb.
E.g.: an entrance to the house; to turn round the corner; red in the face; far from its destination.
The possessive combinability characterizes the noun alongside of its prepositional combinability with another noun.
E.g.: the speech of the President — the President's speech;
the cover of the book — the book's cover.
English nouns can also easily combine with one another by sheer contact, without the use of any special means. In the contact group the noun in pre-position plays the role of a semantic qualifier to the noun in post-position.
E.g.: a cannon ball; a log cabin; a sports event; film festivals.
The lexico-grammatical status of such combinations has presented a big problem for many scholars, who were uncertain as to the linguistic heading under which to treat them either as one separate word, or a word-group. In the history of linguistics the controversy about the lexico-grammatical status of the constructions in question has received the name "The cannon ball problem".
Taking into account the results of the comprehensive analysis undertaken in this field the combination may be defined as a specific word-group with intermediary features.
Cf: a cannon ball - a ball for cannon;
the court regulation— the regulation of the court
The corresponding compound nouns (formed from substantive stems), as a rule, cannot undergo the test into isolated elements quite easily.
As a part of speech, the noun is also characterized by a set of formal features determining its specific status in the lexical paradigm of nomination. It has its word-building distinctions, including typical suffixes, compound stem models, conversion patterns. It discriminates the grammatical categories of gender, number, case, article determination.
In synthetic languages nouns have multiple synthetic paradigms. Moreover, the paradigmatic noun-forms are syncretic. It follows that nounal categories are realized all together by the same grammatical forms. Such grammatical forms occur as fused categorial forms.
Every nounal category is realized through the opposition of its own categorial forms: case-forms and number-forms, each having particular categorial markers for the signification of particular categorial case or number meanings.
The most commonly accepted division of nouns is that into 4 oppositional pairs:
- proper and common (with the foundation of this division being the type of nomination);
- animate and inanimate (on the basis of form of existence);
- countable and uncountable (on the basis of quantitative structure);
- concrete and abstract (on the foundation of the quality of substance)
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