Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
A Noun Phrase, as its name suggests, is a phrasal constituent whose head is a noun. NPs in English, and most other languages, can function as subjects, primary or secondary objects, and objects of prepositions. In this chapter we will discuss various kinds of dependents (non-head constituents) which may appear in NPs in a large number of languages. The three most important classes of these are determiners, complements, and adjuncts (or modifiers). We will also look at possessors, which function as a kind of determiner in English, but as complements or adjuncts in some other languages. Finally we will discuss some structural features of NPs in English.
Complements and adjuncts of N
In studying the structure of a clause we have distinguished complements, which are selected by the verb, from adjuncts, which are not. Nouns, too, can take complements and adjuncts of various categories. In this section we will discuss some of the criteria for distinguishing complements from adjuncts within an NP.
As mentioned above, adjuncts to an NP are often referred to as modifiers. The most common type of modifier in English is the adjective, which will be discussed in section 6.3. Besides adjectives, NPs can also contain PP modifiers, as illustrated in (1). The prepositional phrase with long hair in these examples functions as an adjunct; it is not selected by the head noun, but may be freely added to any number of NPs, subject to semantic and pragmatic plausibility.