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Combinability and functions in the sentence

The combinability of the nouns is closely connected with its lexical-grammatical meaning. Denoting substances, nouns are naturally associated with words describing the qualities of substances , their number and order (numerals) , their actions (verbs ), relations (prepositions). They have left-hand connections with articles (a day , some pronouns ( my friend ), most adjectives ( good relations ), numerals (two visitors ). With prepositions nouns have both left-hand and right- hand connections ( to Moscow ), but only the left-hand connections are a characteristic feature of the nouns, since most parts of speech may have right-hand connections with prepositions (reminds of..., capable of..., the first of..., west of...). With verbs nouns can form both right-hand and left-hand connections (John met Peter).

Of certain interest is the combinability of nouns with other nouns. Combinations like my neighbour's dog, the dog of my neighbour, that dog of my neighbour's show that a noun in the common case may be preceded by another noun in the possessive case and may be followed by a noun with a preposition. There is, however, disagreement among lin­guists as to the combinability of two (or more) nouns in the common case without a preposition.

Linguists are at issue concerning such language units as cannon ball, stone well, speech sound, etc. The essence of the problem is whether they are compound words (like motor-car) or word-combinations, in the latter case, whether the adjunct-word is a noun or an adjective.

Producing the opinions of H. Sweet, 0. Jespersen and G. Weber B. A. Ilyish still considers the first part of the problem debatable. At the same time they maintain that the first components of the units discussed are nouns functionally resembling adjectives, though no arguments are offered.

A. I. Smirnitsky and O. S. Akhmanova regard these units as a kind of unstable compounds easily developing into word-combinations. The first components, they say, are not nouns since:

1. They are not used in the plural (cf. a rose garden and a garden of roses).

2. Nouns are used as attributes only in the possessive case or with a preposition.

Thus, they draw the conclusion that these first components are noun-stems convertible into adjectives (the process of adjectivazation of a noun takes place similar to the process of adjective substantivazation when used independently in the function of a noun). However, the majority of linguists do not find these arguments convincing:

1. The first components of such units do occur in the plural (armaments drive, munitions board). The plural form is mostly observed when there is no 'singular' opposite (a trou­sers pocket), or misunderstanding is otherwise possible (cf. plains people and plain people; the United Nations Organization and the United Nation Organization). In other cases number opposemes are regularly neutralized in this position and the member of neutralization is usually the 'singular'.

2. The first components of such formations may have left-hand connections with adjectives (film exchange new film exchange, wall space the red wall space), nouns in the possessive case (a skin trunk a cow's skin trunk), nouns in the common case (paper writing business paper writing), numerals (32 years practice), etc., like ordinary nouns and not like noun-stems.

3. Practically every noun may be used as the first compo­nent of such combinations, and, vice versa, every first compo­nent of such combinations is identified with the corresponding noun as the same word. This is particularly clear with nouns possessing special stem-building suffixes (e. g. conveyor belt, education authorities, etc.), with proper nouns, (the Kennedy administration) or when the first component consists of two nouns connected by a conjunction (e. g. Mother and child care). Hence they come to the following conclusions:

1. The first components in formations like stone wall, speech sound are nouns, not noun-stems.

2. Consequently these formations are noun word-combina­tions with noun adjuncts.


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 immediately named. 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 with equal ease, are not immediately characteristic of its substantive quality as such. It should be noted that, while performing these non-substantive func­tions, the noun essentially differs from the other parts of speech used in similar sentence positions. This may be clearly shown by transformations shifting the noun from various non-subject syntactic positions into subject syntactic posi­tions of the same general semantic value, which is impos­sible with other parts of speech.

E.g.: Mary is a flower-girl.- The flower-girl (you are speaking of) is Mary.

He lives in Glasgow.-Glasgow is his place of residence.

This happened three years ago.- Three years have elapsed since it happened.

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