Postmodifiers in Noun Phrases

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    Jul 02, 2013
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Modifiers coming after the noun are called postmodifiers. The most common postmodifier is a prepositional phrase: the book on the shelf. Many noun phrases include an -ing phrase: the cat jumping over the fence. Some noun phrases have a relative clause: the vase I bought last week. Some linguists indicate that ``relative clauses are like adjective. They give more information about nouns``. (Soars, 2005: 71).   A noun phrase can be postmodified with a that clause: he thinks that I like him. There are also ed-clauses that act as postmodifiers: the enterprise organized to achieve common goals. To-infinitive clauses are postmodifiers as well: enough patience to embroider. Sometimes, appositive noun phrases can be postmodifiers : a great tennis player, Novak Djokovic. Oaccasionally, adverbs can be postmodifiers in noun phrases: the day before. Despite the fact that adjective phrases normally come before the noun, they can come after it, as postmodifiers: an actress suitable for the role. Although noun complement clauses differ from postmodifiers, they are also present after noun phrases. They include special kinds of that and to- clauses: the notion that life continues after death and an opportunity to do something. Some language experts emphasize ``that postverbal noun phrase is in privileged position compared to its preverbal counterpart – movement is always possible.`` (Moro, 1997 : 18).  Standard English language has eight different relativizers: five relative pronouns (which, who, whom, whose and that) and three relative adverbs (where, when and why). Relativizers relating to people are: who, whom, whose and that. We can find whom only in non-subject noun phrases and whose can occur only with possessive/genitive gaps.  Relativizers relating to things and animals are which and that. Relativizers which are used only with adverbial gaps are: where (for place), when (for time) and why (for reason).  In the subsequent examples, head nouns are in bold and relative clauses are in italic.

1.which-relative pronoun: Susan lost her necklace which was very expensive.
2.who-relative pronoun: I don`t know who did it.
3.whom-relative pronoun: There was a shy girl whom no one noticed.
4.whose-relative pronoun: Jane misses her friend whose support was very precious to her.
5.that-relative pronoun: I read a book that explains differences between men and women.
6.where-relative adverb: This is the cottage where we stayed during our vacation.
7.when-relative adverb: That was the year when I had my first baby.
8.why-relative adverb: I wonder why he did it.

The zero relativizer is to be found exclusively with restrictive relative clauses wherever the gap is not in subject position. The relativizer is usually omitted when the relative clause has a personal pronoun as its subject, which logically marks the beginning of a new clause: One of the best movies I`ve ever seen.
The most common relativizers are: that, which and who.  They usually appear with subject gaps: Would you like a piece of cake that I made especially for you? The handbags which are on sale are always bought. There are several students who are very hard-working and ambitious. These relative pronouns are also used with direct object gaps: Sally bought a lot of furniture that she will put in her new house. Harry went out and returned with a bouquet of white roses which he gave to Sally. He did not respect his wife, who he verbally abused. These three relative pronouns are sometimes used with other gap positions (circumstance adverbial or complement of preposition):
It was after the law was passed that this type of crime ceased. (time adverbial)
This is the only way that this problem can be solved. (manner adverbial)
(…) an old bed, which she had been lying on. (complement of preposition)

Postmodifiers can also be classified by restrictive and non-restrictive functions.  A restrictive postmodifier provides information that is pertinent or essential to the meaning of the sentence. For example: The girl whom I met at the theatre is Bill`s sister. The movie that I like the best is Scent of a Woman. A non-restrictive postmodifier contains information that may be removed from the sentence altogether without changing the overall meaning of the sentence. It adds secondary information to a sentence, almost as an afterthought.  For instance: Jill`s husband, who seemed so nice, cheated on her. The part, who seemed so nice, can be removed from the sentence. Virginia Woolf`s novel, To the Lighthouse, which I read last month, is a classic.  The part, which I read last month, can be removed from the sentence without changing its essential meaning.  

Linguists analyze more complex noun phrases. These phrasal structures are exemplified by the noun phrases shown below:
1.our reviews  2.our favorable reviews  3.our favorable reviews of the market  4.our favorable reviews of the market that were published last week  5.all our favorable reviews of the market that were published last week  6. perhaps all our favorable reviews of the market that were published last week  -  Within phrases we distinguish the following functions: Head (in bold), Complement (underlined), Adjunct (underlined), and, in noun phrases only, Determiners (italic).   (Aarts, 2011 : 10, 11).
Many Complex noun phrases include premodification, head noun and postmodification.  Complex noun phrases can have four major components. This is exemplified in the following noun phrase: a pretty silk scarf that she had. In this noun phrase scarf is head noun;  a is determiner; pretty silk is premodifier and that she had is postmodifier. Noun phrases are often expanded and they usually have premodifiers and postmodifiers. Besause of that, some noun phrases are structurally very complex.

1. Aarts, Bas. (2011). Oxford Modern English Grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2. Moro, Andrea. (1997). The Raising of Predicates. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

3. Soars, Liz and John. (2005). New Headway Upper Intermediate – Student`s Book. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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