multi-word nouns?

This is the place to post questions and discussions on usage and style. The members of the Wordwizard Clubhouse will also often be able to help you to formulate that difficult letter.

multi-word nouns?

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Fri Nov 23, 2012 11:01 pm

We all glibly call such words as boy, dog, box, smell, hole, silence, temperature, mankind, allusion, circumstance, lack, hubris, fate ... nouns (when they're not being used as other parts of speech). I believe that the term part of speech has been traditionally thought of as referring to individual words.

We call forms such as the following compound nouns: basketball; mother-of-pearl; distance learning; waste-paper basket.

This demands that there must be multi-word nouns (the open compound nouns at least).

However, dictionary definitions seem divided:

AHDEL:

noun (noun)
n. Abbr. n.
1. The part of speech that is used to name a person, place, thing, quality, or action and can function as the subject or object of a verb, the object of a preposition, or an appositive.
2. Any of the words belonging to this part of speech, such as neighbor, window, happiness, or negotiation.

Collins:

noun [naʊn]
n
(Linguistics / Grammar)
a. a word or group of words that refers to a person, place, or thing or any syntactically similar word
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: multi-word nouns?

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sat Nov 24, 2012 5:02 am

.. Ed I think the sun will still come up tomorrow .. if your revelation gets too much for you then take 2 aspirin and have a good lie down .. the multiword nouns will still be where they have always been when you wake up ..

WoZ having a day in the wine cellar
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Re: multi-word nouns?

Post by dante » Sat Nov 24, 2012 12:19 pm

Here are two interesting articles dealing with this Edwin http://www.stanford.edu/~zwicky/forestr ... stress.pdf http://www.merriam-webster.com/help/faq/compound.htm
Chicago Manual of Style gives a brief categorization of composite nominals/ compound noun:
An open compound is spelled as two or more words (high school, lowest common denominator). A hyphenated compound is spelled with one or more hyphens (mass-produced, kilowatt-hour, non-English-speaking). A closed (or solid) compound is spelled as a single word (birthrate, notebook). A permanent compound is one that has been accepted into the general vocabulary and can be found in the dictionary (like all but one of the examples in this paragraph thus far). A temporary compound is a new combination created for some specific, often one-time purpose (dictionary-wielding, impeachment hound); such compounds, though some eventually become permanent, are not normally found in the dictionary. Not strictly compounds but often discussed with them are words formed with prefixes (antigrammarian, postmodern);
CGEL states that "what distinguishes the syntactic construction from the compound noun is that the component parts can enter separately into relations of coordination and modification". So, we can say "new and used cars", "London and Oxford colleges", "television and computer screens", "microfilm and microfiche readers" etc. which means that none of the individual nouns forms a compound with the head noun it modifies. Thus, for example, television screen is not a compound noun.
On the other hand, ice in ice-cream, which is taken as an example, cannot be coordinated this way: *ice- and custard- creams is ungrammatical, the required coordination pattern is ice-creams and custard-creams. Further examples of compounds are provided in the following text: swimwear, sunset, toothache, matchbox etc
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: multi-word nouns?

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Sat Nov 24, 2012 4:28 pm

Do any of these support either of the positions:

(1) particle board is a noun consisting of two orthographic words OR

(2) we cannot use the word _noun_ to describe multi-orthographic-word terms (open compounds) like particle board, even though we would happily call the legitimate variants particle-board and particleboard compound nouns?

I can't find a definitive pronouncement in the above references. And Collins (see above) allows for multi-word nouns whereas Wikipedia doesn't ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proper_noun ).
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: multi-word nouns?

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sun Nov 25, 2012 12:58 am

.. Ed I am not being unkind or negative when I think that you are trying to make something out of nothing .. anybody who has had lessons in grammar or linguistics recognises that some nouns consist of two words, or even more, like your example .. it is also patently true that the 3 ways of spelling your example are all acceptable, to the majority of english speakers, and would be recognised as such .. particle board/particleboard/particle-board is a recognised entity so to a native speaker there is no chance of particle board being described as being /adj/+/noun/ .. I cannot understand what you are trying to delimit .. depending upon the dictionary the phrase "word or group of words" is used in defining noun ..

WoZ perplexed
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Re: multi-word nouns?

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Sun Nov 25, 2012 9:12 am

Wizard of Oz wrote:... .. anybody who has had lessons in grammar or linguistics recognises that some nouns consist of two words, or even more, like your example ..
I am part of the set of all anybodies who have had lessons in grammar, but am confused because I was taught:

(1) sets of parts of speech or word-classes consist of solely single-word members

(2) 'post office' is a compound noun.

The reason I am posting on this subject is because I think this issue of terminology needs addressing; the whole issue of how loosely- or tightly-bounded word groups are (eg contrast he looked up the road with he looked up the definition) is central to grammatical analysis. And as is usual in these tricky areas, one needs to be sure everyone is using terminology the same way or the whole debate becomes hopelessly confused. When different authorities use the most basic of words with conflicting meanings (eg Wikipedia says that most linguists nowadays insist on rule 1 as being inviolable) ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proper_noun ) -

A distinction is normally made in current linguistics between proper nouns and proper names. By this strict distinction, because the term noun is used for a class of single words (tree, beauty), only single-word proper names are proper nouns: Peter and Africa are both proper names and proper nouns; but Peter the Great and South Africa, while they are proper names, are not proper nouns. )

- the situation, in my opinion, needs rectifying.

This is the forum for discussing language usage, I believe.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: multi-word nouns?

Post by tony h » Sun Nov 25, 2012 10:22 am

Wizard of Oz wrote:.. Ed I think the sun will still come up tomorrow .. if your revelation gets too much for you then take 2 aspirin and have a good lie down .. the multiword nouns will still be where they have always been when you wake up ..

WoZ having a day in the wine cellar
I read this with so much hope only to have it dashed. Grey, rain, flooding and no sun!

PS just found a multi word noun hiding in the truckle bed.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: tony

I'm puzzled therefore I think.

Re: multi-word nouns?

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Sun Nov 25, 2012 1:18 pm

Is multi-word noun accepted as a multi-word noun?
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: multi-word nouns?

Post by zmjezhd » Sun Nov 25, 2012 3:07 pm

The way I've always come to terms with compounds of all sorts, is that the phrase itself takes the part-of-speech-ness of its head. I am sure I was influenced by X-Bar theory at some point early on. English orthography is a mess at best. I have never much been concerned with how compounds appear in written form. Why is blackbird or baseball any different from its constituent (stand-alone) words separated by white space or a hyphen? (FTR: I don't think my view is original or controversial.)
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: multi-word nouns?

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Sun Nov 25, 2012 4:39 pm

We obviously need to communicate, and we need a set of rules that are generally agreed on to be able to do so. We needn't have 26 letters in our alphabet, but that seems about the optimum number to fit with the number of different phonemes we can produce - though some might argue that we need extra vowels (resulting in accented 'variants' in many languages). The constraint on the number of letters inevitably leads to a finite number of sensibly-sized words. We seem to need more than this number, and resort to pressing words into new usages (increasing polysemy) and compounding words.

'Black bird' is not a compound noun but an adjective + noun string, perhaps used commonly enough to be termed a collocation.

'Blackbird' is a compound noun, the common name given to some species of the thrush genus Turdus. Not all blackbirds are black.

However, particleboard, particle-board and particle board are all just variants of the same - am I allowed to use the term compound noun for the open form? According to Collins, yes, but according to Wikipedia (and apparently 'most modern linguists', who, one assumes decide how we should use metalanguage), no.

According to one analyst, English orthography is a mess at best.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: multi-word nouns?

Post by tony h » Sun Nov 25, 2012 10:54 pm

Edwin F Ashworth wrote:We needn't have 26 letters in our alphabet, but that seems about the optimum number to fit with the number of different phonemes we can produce
I don't really follow your logic here. I think there are 40+ phoenetic symbols used in English alone, whilst many alphabets have 30 - 40 characters. So how does 26 letters work out as optimum?
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: tony

I'm puzzled therefore I think.

Re: multi-word nouns?

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Sun Nov 25, 2012 11:42 pm

I was using phoneme-mapping as a lower-limit estimator, Tony - obviously one letter per phoneme would be better in some respects. There are various other factors, and these tend to suggest upper limits below 40+ are to be preferred. Teachers are probably happy there are only 26. And we do get by with 26, except perhaps when it comes to explaining how words should be pronounced, in print. Many countries have standardised on the Latin alphabet. I'd guess that, with the number of words we use in English, if we had 45 letters most people would give up on spelling (and maybe writing). Cyrillic alphabets use between 28-32 letters, I think. We only use 10 digits in the standard numeration system; this is a convenient compromise between too few and too many (base 16 might be preferred by some mathematicians). The ITA had 43 - 4 - 5 symbols, and gained popularity as a more logical English alphabet in teaching English, but is not used much nowadays.

In any case, my point was not what might be, but what we have to deal with in English - we seem to need more words than there is room for - so we invent new senses, and compound shorter words.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: multi-word nouns?

Post by zmjezhd » Sun Nov 25, 2012 11:49 pm

'Black bird' is not a compound noun but an adjective + noun string, perhaps used commonly enough to be termed a collocation.

Yes, but I was just trying to widen the field a bit. I think that any theory that will hold true for compound words made up of only nouns, should apply to adjectives and nouns mixed, or even if you throw in a verb. Syntax and phonemic stress will play a part no doubt also.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: multi-word nouns?

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Mon Nov 26, 2012 12:11 am

But this is English.

If by 'any theory' you have the idea of a universal consistent interpretation of two orthographic words (ie separated by a white space) being two separate parts of speech (eg adjective + noun, or noun + noun) and never one, this isn't the way the language always works:

(a) windscreen wiper refers to a single concept - like ice-cream or blackbird;

(b) quick cuppa refers to two concepts which are often associated;

(c) amethyst car refers to two concepts which are rarely associated.

You'd expect to find only the compounds - (a) above - as entries in a dictionary. I'm asking whether windscreen wiper should be regarded as a noun. It's undisputedly a compound.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: multi-word nouns?

Post by zmjezhd » Mon Nov 26, 2012 2:44 pm

But this is English.

OK. Confine yourself to English.

If by 'any theory' you have the idea of a universal consistent interpretation of two orthographic words (ie separated by a white space) being two separate parts of speech (eg adjective + noun, or noun + noun) and never one, this isn't the way the language always works:

I just don't see why you're so invested in an orthographic answer. (I was thinking of languages that are not written, including some dialects of English.) Our system is not really much of one, and it's a mess. I think that whether a compound word (made up of nouns) has a space, a hyphen, or nothing between the constituent words has nothing to do with what's going on in the language. But, I obviously misunderstood your initial question. I think you'll work out an answer on your own.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Post Reply