What features of a noun phrase are appropriate to refer to when summarising a language and giving reference to that languages utilisation of noun phrases? If I were to ask you to tell me about the noun phrases of a language X, what would you talk about?

My initial thoughts were: frequency, position of modifiers and position within sentence but this is more of a hunch rather than an empirical approach.

1 Answer 1


The list of "things that are useful when describing noun phrases" cannot be complete, because there is no one list of what is relevant to every analysis. That being said, here are a few relevant things:

  • What is obligatorily marked? This can include: plurality, case, definiteness
  • Where does marking occur? As an affix to the head, on every word in the phrase?
  • How are things marked? Do you change how roots look to show that? Are markings separate words from the words they modify? Are there special rules for marking multiple things?
  • Is there any agreement? Grammatical gender is one system of agreement that frequently occurs within a noun phrase
  • Can you derive things from the noun phrase?
  • Which words or phrases can be used to modify a noun phrase? Are there adjectives? Do you allow noun-noun compounding?
  • What order do words come in? Do adjectives require an order? They do in English.
  • What words can serve as the head of the noun phrase?
  • Are there subclasses of noun phrases of words that behave similarly or different? For example, some nouns are in phrases that are marked for plurality, and some can never appear in those.

This was just a list off the top of my head - there is a world of other possible relevant ways to describe noun phrases.

  • Fantastic. Thanks this helps a lot and has given me much more to talk about on this topic.
    – Rustang
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 2:47

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