LINGUIST List 14.1620

Mon Jun 9 2003

Review: Syntax/Typology: Rijkhoff (2002)

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  1. Mohammad Rasekh, The Noun Phrase

Message 1: The Noun Phrase

Date: Sun, 08 Jun 2003 20:13:01 +0000
From: Mohammad Rasekh <>
Subject: The Noun Phrase

Rijkhoff, Jan (2002) The Noun Phrase, Oxford University Press, Oxford
Studies in Typology and Linguistic Theory.

Announced at

Mohammad Rasekh Mahand, Linguistics Department, 
Bu-Ali Sina University, Hamadan, Iran.


This book presents a semantic model to describe the underlying
structure of noun phrase in any natural language. Its author, Jan
Rijkhoff, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics,
University of Aarhus, Denmark.


The book under review tries to achieve three aims: first, to provide a
cross-linguistic account of the constituents of the noun phrase
(NP)(chapters 2-6); second, to present a typologically adequate model
of the NP in the general framework of Simon Dik's Functional
Grammar(chapter 7); and third, to attempt for word order patterns in
NPs as they are attested in languages of the world (chapters
8-10). The theoretical framework selected for this study is that of
Dik (1997), Functional Grammar, which assumes that the languages
should be studied in the light of their communicative function, and
the underlying structure in this theory is semantic, rather than a
syntactic representation. The study is based on data from a sample of
fifty-two languages, mainly selected because of their genetic
diversity. The cross-linguistic investigation of the establishment of
nouns as a word class has shown that languages can be divided into
three types;(1)languages without a major word class of nouns,(2)
languages in which nouns cannot distinguished from other word classes
(verbs, adjectives), and (3) languages with a distinct class of
nouns. The writer has talked about Hengeval's (1992) view that two
basic types of languages should be distinguished, one, flexible
languages which have at least one major class of multifunctional
lexemes and ,two, rigid languages which only have one or more classes
of specialized lexemes.

After the preliminary discussion in the first chapter, the second
chapter is about nominal subcategories. This chapter investigates
certain morpho-syntactic and semantic properties of both flexible and
distinct nouns in different languages. It is argued that four noun
types are used to refer to a singular discrete spatial entity (such as
'dog'); singular object nouns, set nouns, sort nouns and general
nouns. Then the classification is presented in terms of two semantic
features; Shape and Homogeneity. It is concluded that singular object
nouns are (+Shape/ Homogeneity), set nouns (+Shape), sort nouns
(-Shape/ - Homogeneity) and general nouns (-Shape).

Chapter three is also concerned with nouns, not NPs yet. It shows how
real and apparent class distinctions can be relevant for the proper
expression of linguistic structures. There are examples of the effect
of class systems on constituents outside the domain of NP; like
predicates, adpositions and case affixes. Then the writer tries to
show how such systems can influence the form and order of constituents
inside the NP. Following Dixon (1986), he distinguished between noun
classifiers and noun classes. Some semantic features like (+/-Human)
and (+/-Animate) are discussed related to noun class systems. He has
shown that there are some languages in which nouns can be classified
on morphological basis, and some languages in which nouns can be
classified phonologically.

Chapters 4, 5 and 6 are concerned with the properties of modifiers of
the noun in the NP such as determiners, numerals and adjectives.
Chapter four is on qualifying modifiers in the NP. Cross-
linguistically, there are two categories that pertain to quality
features in the NP; one concerns certain dimensional of the property
that is designated by the noun; this is the new grammatical category
of nominal aspect markers. The second category involves lexical
elements that typically specify more or less inherent properties of
the referent: adjectives. The first part of the chapter argues that in
many languages number markers are better analyzed as nominal aspect
markers; they are both used with nouns that can be in a direct
construction with a numeral. They are different in that a number
marker specifies the number of individual object, while the nominal
aspect marker specifies a qualitative property of the referent. The
second part of the chapter talks about the adjectives, as lexical
expressions of quality in the NP. Not all languages have
adjectives. In languages that have no distinct class adjectives, other
lexical means are normally used to express more or less inherent
properties of the referent. At the end of the chapter, there is an
implicational universal, stating that a language can only have
adjectives if it employs singular object and set nouns.

Chapter five is on quantifying modifiers in the NP and it discusses
the constituents of the NP that specify quantitative purposes of the
referent: number markers and numerals. The chapter concerns both the
grammatical expression of quantity (quantity operators) and lexical
expressions (quantity satellites).

Chapter six discusses localizing modifiers in NP. Localizing operators
and localizing satellites are related to locative properties of the
referent of the matrix NP. Demonstratives, and articles are examples
of localizing operators, relative clause, possessive modifier and
locative modifiers are examples of localizing satellites.

After discussing some of the important properties of nouns and their
modifiers in previous chapters, chapter seven looks at the NP
structure in Dik's Functional Grammar. It is argued that the NP and
the clause can be analyzed in a similar way and they could share same
grammatical and lexical modifier categories. The analysis is based on
the Aristotle's description of physical phenomena using three notions:
Quality, Quantity and Location. The morpho-syntactic manifestations of
these notions at the clause and NP level are discussed. The
symmetrical relations in the underlying structure of NPs and sentences
are presented. The chapter concludes that clauses and NPs can be
analyzed in the same manner, according to the theory of Functional
Grammar (Dik 1997).

Chapters 8,9 and 10 discuss the order of constituents in the noun
phrase. Chapter 8 introduces an overview of the main morpho-syntactic
properties of the selected languages and a typology of constituent
ordering principles. The principle of Domain Integrity accounts for
the syntactic phenomena captured by notions like constituency or
dependency in other grammatical theories and also explains why the
preferred position of embedded domains is in the periphery of the
matrix domain.

Chapter 9 is concerned with the Principle of Head Proximity,
originally formulated to account for some of the Greenbergian
Universals. The Principle has two predictions: first, modifying
adjectives occur immediately before or after the head noun, and
second, noun modifiers tend to precede the noun in a head-final
language but to follow the noun in a head-initial language. For the
first prediction, only Oromo is an exception but for the second
prediction, it is argued that it mostly holds for embedded modifiers,
not modifiers of simple NPs. It is also shown that the Principle of
Head Proximity accounts for several of Dryer's correlation pairs
(Dryer 1992).

The third principle that determines ordering patterns in the noun
phrase is the Principle of Scope, presented in chapter 10. It predicts
that modifiers occur next to the part of expressions they have in
their scope. For the simple NP, this means that in actual ordering the
localizing modifier, which has the largest scope, is always the first
or the last; the qualifying modifier, is always the adjacent to the
noun and the quantifying modifier never appears between qualifying
modifier and noun.

The last chapter of the book is an epilogue which summarizes the
previous chapters. The book also includes references, an index of
subject, an index of languages and an index of authors.


The volume under review is a complete study of the structure of NPs in
different languages. The number of languages covered in this study is
considerable, though they could be more to give comprehensive results.
Discussing NP structure from semantic point of view is not something
which is previously talked about, and the book is a milestone from
this perspective. The first six chapters comprehensively cover the
different kinds of modifiers. Only chapter seven is based on a
definite theory. Although the Functional Grammar, discussed in this
chapter, is a proper theory for discussing the semantic structure of
NPs, the underlying assumptions of this theory are not well discussed
in this chapter. In other words, there is only one chapter in the book
that both tries to cover the theoretical background and to give a
description of the NP's structure on this basis. One of the main
points of the book is providing several examples for each discussion,
which also helps the reader to grasp the theoretical ideas mentioned
in the book. Moreover, from typological studies perspective, the book
is promising, since it studies a syntactic structure on the basis of
semantic foundations. The book is highly recommended for those
interested in typological studies and functional grammar. Also the
data included in the book can provide authentic language data
accessible to other researchers.


Mohammad Rasekh Mahand is a member of Linguistics Department, at
Bu-Ali Sina Universty, Hamadan, Iran. His research interests include
syntax, syntax-pragmatics interface and typology.
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