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Review of  The Noun Phrase

Reviewer: Mohammad Rasekh Mahand
Book Title: The Noun Phrase
Book Author: Jan Rijkhoff
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Issue Number: 14.1620

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Date: Sun, 8 Jun 2003 11:38:32 -0700 (PDT)
From: Mohammad Rasekh
Subject: The Noun Phrase

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

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

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

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.

ABOUT THE REVIWER 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.

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0199269645
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 440
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Format: Hardback
ISBN: 0198237820
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Pages: 432 pp
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