Finding common nouns and determiners

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Thinking about word classes
Finding common nouns and determiners
(Part of Dick Hudson's web tutorial on Word Grammar)
Some general principles
• Always start with the easy words – the ones
you feel most confident about classifying.
• Think globally – choose analyses for each
word which make sense in terms of the
neighbouring words as well.
• If in doubt, check the WG Encyclopedia.
The sentence to be analysed
“This short sentence contains a verb.”
• Task 1: find all the common nouns.
• A test frame for common nouns: “the __.”
– i.e. if it’s a common noun, you can use it
between the and the end of the sentence.
Results
“This short sentence contains a verb.”
• …. the this.
– NO!
• …. the short.
– NO!
• …. the sentence.
– YES! e.g. I’m analysing the sentence.
• …. the contains.
– NO!
• …. the a.
– NO!
• …. the verb.
– YES! e.g. I’ve found the verb.
Record the results
This short sentence contains a verb.
N
N
• Technical point:
– To locate the N’s under the right words, use
either tabs or the space-bar.
Find the determiners
Reminder:
• A ‘determiner’ is really a pronoun (n) that
stands before a common noun (N).
• The determiner is grammatically necessary
if the common noun is:
– singular and
– countable (i.e. names a countable unit).
How to find a determiner
• Find a common noun (N).
• Test whether N is
– singular (no {s})
– and countable (could have {s})
– but beware of irregular plurals (e.g. feet)
• If it is, find the word just before it that can’t
be omitted.
Results (1)
“This short sentence contains a verb.”
N
N
• Test sentence:
– is it singular? YES
– is it countable? YES (evidence: sentences)
• Which word before it can’t be omitted?
– This: can’t be omitted (*Short sentence …)
– short: can be omitted (This sentence …)
Results (2)
“This short sentence contains a verb.”
n
N
N
• Test verb:
– is it singular? YES
– is it countable? YES (evidence: verbs)
• Which word before it can’t be omitted?
– a: can’t be omitted (*Short sentence …)
– contains: not a candidate for determiner!!!
Conclusion
“This short sentence contains a verb.”
n
N
n N
• Tests are helpful if you’re not certain.
• But any test, however mechanical, needs
thought and sensitivity
– e.g. don’t decide that contains is a determiner!
• With practice tests become automatic.
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