WORD CLASS: NOUNS IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE



What is Part of Speech? This refers to the formal classification of words in a language into groups according to the grammatical and syntactic function they perform.

In English Language, words can be considered as the smallest element that have distinctive meaning. Based on their use and functions, these words are categorized into several parts of speech there are eight major parts of speech. These are:

   1.    Nouns
   2.    Verbs
   3.    Adjectives
   4.    Adverbs
   5.    Pronoun
   6.    Prepositions
   7.    Conjunctions
   8.    Determiner

In Each section, we will look at each part of speech on the following basis
   a.    Definition
   b.    Identification
   c.    Types/forms
   d.   Inflections
   e.    Functions

Nouns
A noun can best be defined as a part of speech that accounts for names in English language. This means all word forms that expresses the function of giving identities can be referred to as a noun. This include: Names of persons such as John, names animals such as dog, name of places such as Uyo, Name of things such as cup, name of ideas such communism, concepts such as tragedy, names of actions such as killings, name of events such as marriage, et cetera.

Identification of Nouns
there are some techniques that can be used to identify nouns. The first is the Definitional Approach, the second is the Determiner Experimentation and the third is the Pictorial Approach.

Definitional Approach: This is a simply approach of identifying a noun simply by following the definition of a nouns as a name of a person, animal place or thing. This approach is reliable except that students are likely to make great mistakes using his approach. Example in a sentence like

         God gave us a clement weather.

Students are likely to pick the word ‘clement’ as a noun because it’s a name of a person. Actually, in the sentence above, the word clement is an adjective.

Determiner Experimentation: This approach can help learners to identify nouns is English easily and more reliably than the first approach. This is because, most nouns in English makes use of determiners except, proper nouns and where there are no traditional determiners (a, an, the), the noun makes use of quantity words (some, a lot, ten) or adjectives that can serve that purpose. The order of nouns in English is ‘article + noun’ as in the sentence

John met with the boys last night.

The noun ‘boys’ is preceded by a specific determiner ‘the’ and the noun ‘night’ is also covered with an adjective ‘last’ which helps to determine the noun. But, this approach can also give students problems. For instance, a student is likely to pick an adjective with the thought that it is a noun. Example, in the sentence,

         A big black poisonous snake crawled into the vegetable garden.

A learner, following the rule that nouns come after determiners in English will consider the words ‘big’ and ‘vegetable’ to be nouns. This leads us to the next approach which is the Pictorial Approach.

Pictorial Approach: The pictorial approach is only used as a remedy to the determiner experimental approach and can only be used when there are collections of adjectives. This approach states in a collection of adjective between a determiner and a noun head, the noun is the last word which can be visualized. Example in the sentence,

    The tall, fair, smiling, handsome man in the market square, whose            mother died last month is dead.

The word ‘tall’ gives a picture of height, the word ‘fair’, gives a picture of complexion, the word ‘smiling’ gives a picture of cheerfulness, the word ‘handsome’ gives a picture of good appearance, the word ‘man’ gives a picture of maleness, the word ‘in’ has not picture at all. Therefore, the noun there is ‘man’.

Types of Nouns
There are different types of nouns namely:
   1.    Proper Nouns – These are names of specific names of persons of persons, places, or things. Proper nouns always start with a capital letter and has no determiner. Examples: John, Game of Thrones, Nigeria
    2.    Common Nouns – these are the opposite of proper nouns. These are just general names of persons, things, or places. Examples: car, cup, parlour, doctor.
    3.    Concrete Nouns – these refers to nouns that be felt by the sense organ. Examples: folder, sand, board, sweetness, bitterness.
    4.    Abstract Nouns - unlike concrete nouns, abstract nouns are those which you can’t perceive through your five senses. Examples: happiness, grudge, bravery
   5.    Count Nouns – These refers to nouns that are countable and has a singular and plural form. Examples:  kitten, video, ball
    6.    Non-Count Nouns – these are the opposite of count nouns. Non-count nouns are also called mass nouns. They need to have “counters” to quantify them. Examples of Counters: kilo, cup, meter. Examples of non-count nouns: rice, flour, garter
   7.  Collective nouns – refers to a group of persons, animals, or things. Example: faculty (group of teachers), class (group of students), pride (group of lions)

Inflections in Nouns
Inflection refers to the degree of changes in which words under go, to show their grammatical relationship with other words in a sentence. In English, all items of the open class elements inflect. The open class elements include: nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. Items of the close system element such as determiners, conjunctions, prepositions, et cetera, do not inflect.
In English, nouns inflect to show number, person, and possession. Example, nouns inflect to show number by taking a plural inflectional morpheme ‘-s’ or ‘-es’.
1.    One boy
2.    Two boys (boy + -s)
3.    One Box – Two boxes

In words that are loaned into English form Latin, the nouns do not take ‘-s’ to inflect for number. Instead, they mostly take ‘-a’ or ‘-i’. Example
1.    One Stadium
2.    Two Stadia
3.    A medium
4.    Many Media
5.    A Radius – Two Radii

In words that are loaned into English from Greek, the nouns mostly take ‘-e-’ to indicate plurality. Example
1.    Analysis – Analyses
2.    Hypothesis – Hypotheses
3.    Crisis – Crises
4.    Basis – Bases

Still, some take the 'zero' morpheme as in the case of nouns like sheep, pair, equipment, furniture etcetera.

In English, nouns also inflect to show person. In this respect, the person indications in pronouns are considered where there is a shift from First Person to Second Person and then to Third Person. Example

I (First Person), you (Second Person) he/she/it (Third person)
In English, nouns also inflect to show possession. This is done by taking the English possessive indicator (-’). Example

1.    James’ Book
2.    John’s Book

Functions of Nouns in English

Nouns perform the following functions

   1.    Noun as Subject: Carpenters drive nails with air powered guns.
 James was a famous Nigerian Politician.

   2.   Noun as Direct Object: Mr. Liu washed his car.
  The authorities commended Roberta.

A direct object can be identified by asking what or whom. In the First sentence. Mr. Liu washed what? Answer: car. Car is the direct object of the verb, washed. In the Second sentence. The authorities commended whom? Answer: Roberta. Roberta is the direct object of the verb, commended.

   3.   Noun as Indirect Object: I sent Stephanie the camera.
    He bought the dog a kennel.

Indirect objects can be Identified in English by asking ‘to what’, ‘for what’, or ‘to whom’, and ‘for whom.’ In the first sentence. I sent the camera to whom? Answer: Stephanie. Stephanie is the indirect object while the camera is the direct. In the Second sentence. He bought a kennel for what? Answer: dog. Dog is the indirect object while the kennel; is the direct object.

   4.   Noun as object of a Preposition:
a.   He pulled the little red wagon to the store.
b.   From her perspective, the meeting was a success.

In the first sentence. The preposition is to, and the object of that preposition is the noun store. Also, in the Second sentence: The preposition is ‘from’, and the object of that preposition is the noun, perspective.

   5.    Nouns as Appositives: In English Language, an appositive is a noun or pronoun placed near another noun or pronoun. The appositive enhances our understanding of the original noun or pronoun. Example: My sister, Ann, is in town for the reunion.

Udo, the labour prefect, is dead.

   6.   Noun as Possessive Modifier: A noun can be used to modify another noun. That is, a noun can function as an adjective or adverb. A noun can also convey a sense of possession. Example.

The town's water supply is in jeopardy.

    7.    Nouns functioning as an adjective: The water pump is broken.

The word water is a noun, but in this application, it functions as an adjective that describes the kind of pump.


 Idiongo Ebong

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