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The discussion of the choice of language noted that a single concept is often signaled by a variety of words, each word possessing slightly different connotations. We can indicate that people are less than content by saying they are angry, irate , incensed , perturbed , upset , furious , or mad. The broader our vocabulary, the greater our options and the more precisely we can convey our meaning. And yet no matter how wide our vocabulary may be, a single word is often insufficient. A single word, by itself, can appear somewhat vague, no matter how specific that word might seem. The term ³dog´ may be specific compared to ³mammal,´ but it is general compared to ³collie.´ And ³collie´ is general compared to ³Lassie.´ Then again, many different dogs played Lassie!
Suppose you want to indicate a female person across the room. If you don¶t know her name, what do you say? That girl. If there were more than one, this alone would be too general. It lacks specificity. The girl in the blue Hawaiian shirt« The taller of the two cheerleaders by the water cooler« When a single term will not supply the reference we need, we add terms to focus or limit a more general term. Instead of referring to drugs in a discussion, we might refer to hallucinogenic drugs. We might distinguish between hard drugsand prescription drugs . In so doing we modify the notion of a drug to describe the specific one, or ones, we have in mind. (Then again, at times we are forced to use many words when we cannot recall the one that will really do, as when we refer to that funny device doctors pump up on your arm to measure blood pressure instead of asphygmomanometer ).
This section examines how we construct full and specific references using noun phrases. An ability to recognize complete noun phrases is essential to reading ideas rather than words. A knowledge of the various possibilities for constructing extended noun pharses is essential for crafting precise and specific references.
To begin our discussion, we must first establish the notion of a noun. English teachers commonly identify nouns by their content. They describe nouns as words that "identify people, places, or things," as well as feelings or ideas²words like salesman , farm , balcony , bicycle , and trust. If you can usually put the word a or the before a word, it¶s a noun. If you can make the word plural or singular, it's a noun. But don't worry...all that is needed at the moment is a sense of what a noun might be.
What if a single noun isn't specific enough for our purposes? a more specific reference? How then do we modify a noun to construct
English places modifiers before a noun. Here we indicate the noun that is at the center of a noun phrase by an asterisk (*) and modifiers by arrows pointed toward the noun they modify. white house
form a noun phrase . last kitchen. Other types of words often play this same role. hot . To modify means to limit. Order: Location: Source or Origin: second. characterize. Modifiers before the noun are called pre-modifiers. or otherwise focus meaning. such as red . It does not mean to change something. We use this meaning throughout the discussion here. languages such as Spanish and French place modifiers after the noun casa blanca * homme grand * The most common pre-modifiers are adjectives. westerly Canadian .* large man * Modification is a somewhat technical term in linguistics. All of the pre-modifiers that are present and the noun together NOUN PHRASE pre-modifiers noun * By contrast. restrict. long . Not only articles the water * but also verbs white house big man running water * and possessive pronouns her thoughts * Premodifiers limit the reference in a wide variety of ways. as when we "modify" a car or dress.
That prevalence can be seen in the following excerpt from an example from the section on the choice of language: . the. your. below. many These words typically signal the beginning of a noun phrase. Some noun phrases are short: the table p * Some are long: the second shiny red Swedish touring sedan * a large smelly red Irish setter * my carved green Venetian glass salad bowl * the three old Democratic legislators * Notice that each construction would function as a single unit within a sentence. dull A number of pre-modifiers must appear first if they appear at all. oak large. their.) (We offer a test for this The noun phrase is the most common unit in English sentences.Color: Smell: red. every this. scented Material: Size: Weight: Luster: metal. those. Mary¶s one. dark acrid. 5-inch heavy shiny. Specification: Designation: Ownership/Possessive: Number: a. that. its. these my.
The stock market¶s summer swoon turned into a dramatic rout Monday as the Dow Jones industrial average plunged. The most common post-modifier is prepositional phrases: the book on the table * civil conflict in Africa * the Senate of the United States * Post-modifiers can be short a dream deferred * or long. as in Martin Luther King Jr. you have only to see how much you can expand a premodifier in a noun phrase: the book the history book the American history book the illustrated American history book the recent illustrated American history book the recent controversial illustrated American history book the recent controversial illustrated leather bound American history book Noun Post-Modifiers We were all taught about pre -modifiers: adjectives appearing before a noun in school.¶s reference to a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves * and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. The stock market¶s summer swoon turned into a dramatic rout * * Monday as the Dow Jones industrial average plunged. Teachers rarely speak as much about adding words after the initial reference. * * To appreciate the rich possibilities of pre-modifiers. Just as we find pre -modifiers. we also find post -modifiers²modifiers coming after a noun. .
as in the last example above. when where ). but recognize structure.. are . What did he eat? The boy ate the apple in the pie. At the point that we recognize structure within the sentence. Once we are sensitive to the existence of noun phrases. The noun together with all pre.. a noun phrase that indicates the complete reference...) Post-modifiers commonly answer the traditional news reporting questions of who . Here we recognize a noun phrase with a very long post-modifier²thirty-two words to be exact. Consider: The boy ate the apple in the pie.. Not so. or that or which after a noun.. who. He has a specific dream... Pronoun replacement thus offers a test of a complete noun phrase. when .What does King have? A dream? No. (Notice also that post-modifiers often include clauses which themselves include complete sentences. We do not get lost in the flow of words. where . The Pronoun Test In school.. Pronouns replace complete noun phrases . -ing verb form.word ( which. what . we recognize a relatively simple structure to the sentence. we were taught that pronouns replaced nouns . so a plural form of the verb is called for (not a singular form to agree with the singular house) . The boys on top of the house * Here the noun at the center of the noun phrase is plural. how . wh . .. orwhy . Any agreement in terms of singular/plural is with the noun at the center. Noun post-modifiers commonly take the following forms: prepositional phrase the dog in the store * _ing phrase the girl running to the store * _ed past tense the man wanted by the police * wh . we recognize meaning.clauses the house where I was born * that/which clauses the thought that I had yesterday * If you see a preposition.and post-modifiers constitutes a single unit. you can suspect a post-modifier and the completion of a noun phrase...
The boy ate the apple in the summer. Consider one of the examples above of a prepositional phrase as a post-modifier: the book on the table Book is a noun at the center of the noun phrase. Only the first includes a noun phrase longer than two words: the apple in the pie. we noted above. the apple in the pie . and in that act recognize broader aspects of sentence structure. Boxes Within Boxes: Testing for a Complete Noun Phrase The goal of reading. In other words. but to find meaning. is not to recognize grammatical features. completely. The boy ate the apple in a hurry. 3. The web page on distinguishing sentence and predicate modifiers (www. This pronoun substitution test can be particualrly useful. 3. on all levels. 2. If we analyze the noun phrase * We can have prepositional phrase within prepositional phrase within prepositional phrases: «the book on the table in the kitchen« * on the table in the kitchen« * .htm) discusses the three sentences: 1. we must not only identify noun phrases.com/sentence_predicate_modifiers.criticalreading. If a pronoun truly replaces a noun. we must parse out other material. but to break it into chunks in such a way that fosters the discovery of meaning. 1. we find: the book on the table * on the table p But table is also a noun. The pronoun replaces the complete noun phrase.* Want proof? Introduce the pronoun ³it´ into the sentence. The goal is not to break a sentence or part of a sentence into as small pieces as possible. Not all prepositional phrases after a noun are necessarily part of the noun phrase ± they could be later predicate or sentence modifiers. we¶d get *The boy ate the it in the pie. No native speaker would say that! They¶d say The boy ate it. The boy ate the apple in the pie. 2.
We can add long phrases which themselves contain complete sentences. The full Senate consists of two from each state (100 people). we miss the meaning. * The sentence within the post-modifier is printed in boldface. * If we read the sentence as The Senate of the United States is composed of two legislators from each State. The answer is the complete phrase ««« the book by Mark Twain about the Mississippi that he took out of the library on Sunday before the game so that he could study during half time when his brother was getting popc orn. The following sentence indicates something was lost. The book is not "on the table. What was lost? He lost the book by Mark Twain about the Mississippi that he took out of the library on Sunday before the game so that he could study during half t ime when his brother was getting popcorn. a word or two at a time. Noun phrase post -modifiers can be expanded to much greater lengths. Question: Who is in the Senate? a) two legislators b) two legislators from each State? The answer is b). the park where I hit a home run when I was in the ninth grade . We want to recognize the larger ones that shape the meaning." The book is "on the table in the kitchen. ." The Senate of the United States is composed of two legislators from each State.in the kitchen « * We don't want to recognize every little noun phrase. not simply two! We read the sentence as The Senate of the United States is composed of two legislators from each State. For the most part. we increased the length of the pre-modifier by adding additional adjectives. Earlier we noted that pre -modifiers in noun phrase can be expanded to significant length.
[ These measures ] failed.) We assume that he has another book by Twain about the Mississippi that he did not lose. which struck in [ an epidemic ]. movie critic for The New York Times . her review stated: John Grisham¶s "The Rainmaker" is Mr.000 soldiers ]were diagnosed with[ venereal diseases ]between April 1917 and December 1919 and lost [ seven million days of active duty ]. [ Only influenza ]. prostitutes . complained when an advertisement for the video tape of John Grisham¶s "The Rainmaker" quoted her as describing the movie as director Francis Ford Coppola¶s ³best and sharpest film.[ the United States ]decided to give [American soldiers ][after-the-fact. or should there be [ his social history of venereal disease ]. going beyond talking in vague generalities. qualified (restricted in some way). but to his ³best and sharpest film in years. Coppola¶s best and sharpest film in years. topic (about the Mississippi). or limited (made more specific or less encompassing). and largely ineffective. but to string together larger phrases. which gave[ condoms ]to[ their soldiers ]. We must read each grammatical construction as a single unit. (1) The original quotation does not refer to the ³best and sharpest film´ of Coppola¶s career. [ Allan M. Janet Maslin. (1) In ] in the US military about preventing venereal disease among soldiers during World War I ]. in fact. We don¶t really make sentences longer by adding at the end so much as expanding each chunk . [ American soldiers ]also were subject to [ court martial ] if they contracted[ a venereal disease ]. chemical prophylaxis ]. was [ a more common illness among servicemen ].Needle Exchange Programs and the Law . [ More than 383. [ No Magic Bullet ]. but chunk by chunk. ] Brandt describes the controversy [ Should there be a disease prevention effort that recognized that many young American men would succumb to the charms of French [ [ a more punitive approach to discourage sexual contact ]? Unlike[ the New Zealand Expeditionary forces ]. Remarks can be y y y extended (made broader or more general) .´ when. Want proof? What would be replaced by ³it´? The full reference of a noun phrase is often ³conveniently´ ignored in movie advertisements.´ Noun Phrases: The Dominant Construction Finally. to create full references that carefully distinguish one idea from another. y Sophisticated thought is qualified thought.Time for a Change. Deciphering sentences involves isolating phrases within a sentence and recognizing where long phrases begin and end. y We do not read texts word by word. We can increase the clarity and sophistication of our thought by using extended phrases instead of single words.The base term book is modified as to author (Mark Twain). The complete noun phrases appear within square brackets and appear in red. as well as intent or purpose (that he took out of the library on Sunday before the game so that he could study during half time when his brother was getting popcorn. To write well is not to string words together. the degree to which noun phrases are the dominant construction within texts can be seen in the opening paragraph of the Text for Discussion: Annotation . Intelligent discussion goes beyond either/or or black-or-white views of the world to recognize nuances and distinctions. Implications For Reading and Writing The above discussion introduces a number of concepts crucial to effective reading and writing.
³When Phrases That Flatter Are Misused. or circumstances an assertion is true.´ The New YorkTimes . condition. some. and lawmakers should resist the temptation to push for amendments every time an election year rolls around. When drawing careful distinctions. They are simply being precise. few. and one.and postmodifier "slots". . many. many ." some for given conditions. The Constitution of the United States is the nation¶s bedrock charter. The Constitution is the nation¶s charter. Some claims are made for certain. authors are not being wishy-washy or nit picking. some "in all probability" or "within a specific margin of error. or otherwise shape a specific idea. (1) Janet Maslin. Some claims are made for certain. Weak writers can achieve an immediate gain in the level of thought of their writing by taking advantages of the opportunities for adding pre. 1998. Good writers carefully distinguish between all. Notice how much richer the next sentence is (additional modifiers in bold face) . They are saying exactly what they want to say or feel secure in saying based on the available evidence. limit. They specify the specific time. condition. They specify the specific time. some. For writers. this model is a reminder of the opportunity to extend. Arts & Leisure section. You can greatly increase the sophistication and depth of thought of your work by taking advantage of these pre. August 23. and one. few. or circumstances an assertion is true. 9. and devoted lawmakers sworn to uphold it should resist the dangerous temptation to push for pandering amendments every time an election year rolls around. Having written a statement. most." some for given conditions. most.Good writers carefully distinguish between all.and post-modifiers. you might go back in editing to see how you can further shape your thoughts by making use of these slots. p. some "in all probability" or "within a specific margin of error.
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