These are called bare noun phrases and are of interest cross-linguistically in relation to languages in which noun phrases usually contain Determiners. With regard to English, there are a couple of instances where bare noun phrases occur which readily come to mind. The first concerns bare role NPs (note that this should be parsed as [bare [role-NPs]]. This is when a noun phrase (NP) functioning as a Predicative Complement indicates some kind of unique role, function, office or title and can appear without a Determiner:
- Who'll be maid of honour
- He was appointed managing director.
Bare role NPs often occur more freely in other languages. For example, in Spanish and German, although bare role NPs still have to be Predicative Complements, they do not have to refer to a unique role:
- Soy cirujano. I am [a] surgeon.
- Ich bin Lehrerin. I am [a] teacher.
Another difference here is that whilst an English bare role NP can always be replaced by a regular NP with a Determiner, the same is not true for Spanish or German where the bare role NP is obligatory for this kind of ascriptive (as opposed to specifying) Predicative Complement:
- I was a managing director.
- *Soy un cirujano.
- *Ich bin ein Lehrerin.
The second instance involves coordination. As with many aspects of grammar cross-linguistically, coordination bends many of the rules that otherwise apply in noun phrases. Consider grammatical case. In the French sentence:
- Lui et elle sont allés ensemble
... the coordination with et licences the so-called disjunctive forms of the pronouns (lui and elle), where we would otherwise expect nominative forms (il and elle).
In English we sometimes observe bare coordination in coordinations of NPS. This phenomenon is one that is not at all well understood, and also one which is currently the subject of much academic research. This is when coordinated NPs which we would otherwise expect to take a Determiner of some description appear "bare" with no Determiner or article. These are not restricted to coorrdinations with and, but also with or, but and so forth.
Here are some examples:
- A black cat and a brown dog were fighting in the street. Cat and dog
were equally filthy.
- Are you man or mouse?
- Nursemaid, mistress and mother all at the same time, I doted on those children.
- I had pen and paper ready to make notes
- Mother and child were said to be recovering well.
- He appeared to be millionaire and homeless vagabond at the same time.
Many thanks to Janus Bahs Jacquet for disabusing me of my misunderstandings re dative and disjunctive French pronouns.
Here's a couple of articles on bare coordination: