Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 330):
Within this logical structure there may be ‘sub-modification’: that is, internal bracketing … . Sub-modification may have the effect of disturbing the natural order of elements in the group … .
Within this logical structure there may be ‘sub-modification’: that is, internal bracketing … . Sub-modification may have the effect of disturbing the natural order of elements in the group … .
… seeing [the nominal group] as a logical structure … means seeing how it represents the generalised logical-semantic relations that are encoded in natural language. … for the purposes of the nominal group we need to take account of just one such relationship, that of subcategorisation: ‘a is subset of x’. This has usually been referred to in the grammar of the nominal group as modification …
Textual meaning is embodied throughout the entire structure, since it determines the order in which the elements are arranged, as well as patterns of information structure just as in the clause (note for example that the unmarked focus of information in a nominal group is on the word that comes last, not the word that functions as Thing).
Interpersonal meanings are embodied (a) in the person system, both as pronouns (person as Thing) and possessive determiners (person as Deictic); (b) in the attitudinal type of Epithet; (c) in connotative meanings of lexical items functioning in the group, and (d) in prosodic features such as swear-words and voice quality.
… the kind of meaning that is expressed in a particle-like manner is the experiential; it is this that gives us our sense of the building blocks of language.
The interpersonal meanings are expressed by the intonation contour; by the ‘Mood’ block, which may be repeated as a tag at the end; and by expressions of modality which may recur throughout the clause. The pattern here is prosodic, ‘field’-like rather than wave-like.
The textual meaning of the clause is expressed by what is put first (the Theme); by what is phonologically prominent (and tends to be put last — the New, signalled by information focus); and by conjunctions and relatives which if present must occur in initial position. Thus it forms a wave-like pattern of periodicity that is set up by peaks of prominence and boundary markers.
… it is a general principle of linguistic structure that it is the experiential meaning that most clearly defines constituents. Interpersonal meanings tend to be scattered prosodically throughout the unit; while textual meanings tend to be realised by the order in which things occur, and especially by placing of boundaries. These are very general tendencies, worked out differently in every language but probably discernible in all.
On this scale, the most general type of noun is in fact a pronoun, which is the limiting case of anaphoric generalisation … There is no clear grammaticalising towards the ‘particular’ end of the cline, though it is perhaps worth remarking that the function of Classifier in the nominal group provides the resource for expanding any class of thing into more particular subclasses.
Here again the grammar makes a categorical distinction: (a) conscious things, which are those referred to as he/she, (b) non-conscious things, those referred to as it. … while there is a clear foundation in the world of experience, with people at one end and inanimate or abstract objects at the other, many things (like non-human animals) lie in between; and, as always, the grammar is free to construe the world as it pleases. The conscious/non-conscious distinction can also therefore be looked at as a cline …
Mass nouns representing abstract things, and also things which are concrete but general, often move into the count category … . We could think in terms of a cline of countability, ranging from those nouns (and pronouns) which construe things as fully itemised, at one end, to those which treat them as totally unbounded at the other. Typically, living beings and concrete objects are itemised, abstract entities (and nominalised processes and qualities) are unbounded, with institutions and collectives falling in between. But the distinction is made in the grammar, so the same entity may be construed in more than one way … .
Things are represented in English as either (a) discrete, and therefore countable, or (b) continuous, and therefore uncountable; … count nouns select for number: singular/plural, while mass nouns do not. … The distinction is not quite as clear-cut as this suggests. Mass nouns are often itemised, and hence also pluralised; the meaning is either ‘a kind of’ … or ‘an amount of’ … . There will then be an agnate expression having a measure/type word as Head …
… we can identify a small number of vectors along which words capable of functioning as Thing are ordered in terms of the grammar, so that the functional potential of any one noun or pronoun will be suggested by its location on each of these vectors. These are:
- countability: count/mass
- animacy: conscious/non-conscious
- generality: general/particular …
We can use these scales — countability, animacy, generality — as a way of locating things in lexicogrammatical space.
There is a long tradition of characterising such phenomena, in grammar books, as a list of very general categories, for example ‘persons, other living beings, objects (concrete or abstract), collectives, institutions’. These are relevant grammatically because they relate to a cline of potential agency — that is, the likelihood of functioning as Actor/Agent in the clause; the most likely being persons (human nouns), and the least likely being concrete objects.
Common nouns … are nouns that are common (ie generalised) to a class of referents. These name all the classes of phenomena that the language admits as things, and hence as participants in processes of any kind.
Personal pronouns and proper names are alike in that, for both, the reference is typically unique. With pronouns, the referent is defined interpersonally, by the speech situation. With proper names it is defined experientially: there exists only one, at least in the relevant body of experience.
The personal pronoun represents the world according to the speaker, in the context of a speech exchange. The basic distinction is into speech rôles (I, you) and other rôles (he, she, it, they); there is also the generalised pronoun (one).
A clause functioning as Qualifier in the nominal group is referred to as a relative clause; more specifically, as a defining relative clause (in contrast to a non-defining relative clause, which is not embedded but hypotactically dependent).
It is also possible for a nominal group to function as Qualifier inside the structure of another nominal group, for example my brother the lawyer, where the lawyer defines which brother is being referred to. Such instances typically have a possessive determiner as the Deictic element.
But the characterisation here is in terms of some process in which the Thing is, directly or indirectly, a participant. It may be a major process — that is, a clause, finite or non-finite; or a minor process — a prepositional phrase. … The non-finite clause may appear in this environment with no verb present, eg the poles with flags on …
Like the other, ‘ranking’ (ie not embedded) elements of the nominal group, the Qualifier also has the function of characterising the Thing; and again the Deictic the serves to signal that the characteristic in question is defining.
… this term is often used to cover both rank shift (where the item is downgraded as a constituent) and hypotaxis (where the item is dependent on another one but is not a constituent of it …). Here we shall use embedded only as an alternative term synonymous with rankshifted.
With only rare exceptions, all Qualifiers are rank–shifted. What this means is that position following the Thing is reserved for those items which, in their own structure, are of a rank higher than or at least equivalent to that of the nominal group; on these grounds, therefore, they would not be expected to be constituents of a nominal group. Such items are said to be ‘rank–shifted’, by contrast with ranking ones which function prototypically as constituents of the higher unit.
A sequence of Classifier + Thing may be so closely bonded that it is very like a single compound noun, especially where the Thing is a noun of a very general class … In such sequences the Classifier often carries the tonic prominence, which makes it sound like the first element in a compound noun. … the line between a compound noun and a nominal group consisting of Classifier + Thing is very fuzzy and shifting, which is why people are often uncertain how to write such sequences, whether as one word, as two words, or joined by a hyphen …
The range of semantic relations that may be embodied in a set of items functioning as Classifier is very broad; it includes material, scale and scope, purpose and function, status and rank, origin, mode of operation — more or less any feature that may serve to classify a set of things into a system of smaller sets …
Classifiers do not accept degrees of comparison or intensity … and they tend to be organised in mutually exclusive and exhaustive sets …
The Classifier indicates a particular subclass of the thing in question … Sometimes the same word may function either as Epithet or as Classifier, with a difference in meaning …
Interpersonal Epithets also tend to be reinforced by other words, or other features, all contributing to the same meaning: synonyms … , intensifiers, swear–words, particular intonation contours, voice quality features and the like.
But whereas with adjectives of experiential quality the difference between Epithet and post–Deictic is rather clear (eg the three famous musketeers, the famous three musketeers), with the interpersonal ones the difference is much less, and there is no sense of ambiguity in the meaning (contrast those lovely two evenings in Bali and those two lovely evenings in Bali).
The principal difference is that experiential Epithets are potentially defining, whereas interpersonal ones are not. … Even in the superlative …Note that, in general, the same word may act as either experiential or interpersonal Epithet … there are very few words that serve only an attitudinal function.Interpersonal Epithets tend to precede experiential ones.
The Epithet indicates some quality of the subset … This may be an objective property of the thing itself [ie experiential]; or it may be an expression of the speaker’s subjective attitude towards it [ie interpersonal] …
An inexact Numerative expression may be exact in the context; for example, just as many trains (‘as mentioned before’), the next train (‘from now on’). On the other hand, an exact Numerative expression may be made inexact by submodification, as in about ten trains, almost the last train.
The ordering Numeratives (or ‘ordinatives’) specify either an exact place in order (ordinal numerals …) or an inexact place ( eg … subsequent …). …
An ordinal is a kind of superlative cardinal: third = ‘three-est’; that is, identified by being at number three.
… many of them may also occur as post–Deictic; in that case their deictic function consists rather in referring to, or even constructing, an occasion of shared experience as in a miserable few dishes of peanuts.
Also found in the post–Deictic position in the nominal group are words expressing the speaker’s attitude (to the thing, or else to the world in general), such as wretched, miserable, lovely, splendid, as in those lovely two evenings in Bali.
These can be interpreted in terms of
(1) the categories of expansion [elaborating (identity vs exemplification), extending and enhancing (space–time vs comparison)] and
(2) the categories of projection [modality (modalisation vs modulation) and report (locution vs idea)].
The post–Deictic identifies a subset of the class of ‘thing’ by referring to its fame or familiarity, its status in the text, or its similarity/dissimilarity to some other designated subset.
If there is no Deictic element, the nominal group is non-specific and, within that, non-singular. In other words, a nominal group may have no Deictic element in its structure, but this does not mean it has no value in the Deictic system — simply that the value selected is realised by a form having no Deictic in the expression.
… there are two different systems of number in the English nominal group, one associated with each of the two kinds of Deictics.
- (i) With specific Deictics, the number system is ‘non-plural/plural’; mass nouns are grouped together with singular, in a category of ‘non-plural’. …
- (ii) With non-specific Deictics, the system is ‘singular/non-singular’; mass nouns are grouped together with plural, in a category of non-singular.
Thus the so–called ‘articles’ of English, ‘definite article’ the and ‘indefinite article’ a(n), are terms in, respectively, the specific and non–specific systems of nominal deixis. … Historically, the and a(n) are reduced forms of (respectively) that and one …
Non–specific Deictics are … total or partial determiners. These convey the sense of all, or none, or some unspecified sub–set …
The word the is a specific, determinative Deictic of a peculiar kind: it means ‘the subset in question is identifiable; but this will not tell you how to identify it — the information is somewhere around, where you can recover it’. … Hence the is usually accompanied by some other element which supplies the information required; … If there is no such information supplied, the subset in question will either be obvious from the situation, or else will have been referred to already in the discourse …
The two are closely related, both being (as indicated by the term ‘deixis’) a form of orientation by reference to the speaker — or more accurately, to the ‘speaker–now’, the temporal–modal complex that constitutes the point of reference of the speech event.
The specific Deictics … are demonstrative or possessive determiners, or embedded possessive nominal groups. The sub-set in question is specified by one of two possible deictic features: either (i) demonstratively, that is, by reference to some kind of proximity to the speaker … or (ii) by possession, that is, by reference to person as defined from the standpoint of the speaker … together with the possibility of an interrogative in both these categories … All these have the function of identifying a particular subset of the ‘thing’ that is being referred to.
The nature of the Deictic is determined by the system of determination. The primary distinction is between (i) specific, or (ii) non-specific
By and large, the more permanent the attribute of a Thing, the less likely it is to identify it in a particular context. So we proceed with the very impermanent, quantitative characterisation, which is nearest to a Deictic … through various qualitative features … and end up with the most permanent, the assignment to a class … Within the qualitative characteristics, if more than one is specified there is again a tendency to move from the less permanent to the more permanent …
So the principle which puts the Theme first in the clause is the same as that which puts the Deictic first in the nominal group: start by locating the Thing in relation to the here–&–now — in the space–time context of the ongoing speech event. From there we proceed to elements which have successively less identifying potential — which, by the same token, are increasingly permanent as attributes.
… there is a progression in the nominal group from the kind of element that has the greatest specifying potential to that which has the least; and this is the principle of ordering that we have already recognised in the clause. In the clause, the Theme comes first. We begin by establishing relevance: stating what it is that we are using to introduce this clause into the discourse, as ‘this is where I’m starting from’ — typically, though by no means necessarily, something that is already ‘given’ in the context. In the nominal group, we begin with the Deictic: ‘first I’ll tell you which I mean’ …
Often the participle is itself further modified … What is happening here is that some part of the experiential structure of the clause is being downgraded to function as Epithet or Classifier; it is a reduced form of a non-finite clause and hence agnate to a (finite or non-finite) Qualifier.
… words of the class verb … may function as Epithet or Classifier. Verbs function in the nominal group in one of two forms:(i) present (active) participle …(ii) past (passive, or intransitive) participle …
These word classes — noun (= common noun), adjective, numeral and determiner — are all different kinds of noun; they are subclasses of this one primary class. This larger class are [sic] sometimes referred to as ‘nominals’, to avoid confusion with ‘noun’ in its narrower, more specific sense.
The classes of word which most typically realise these functions are as follows:
Deictic: determiner; Deictic2: adjective; Numerative: numeral; Epithet: adjective; Classifier: noun or adjective; Thing: noun
But there are other possibilities: eg numeral occurring as Classifier … or embedded nominal group as possessive Deictic …
… experiential structure … has the function of specifying (i) a class of things … and (ii) some category of membership within this class. We shall refer to the element expressing the class by the functional label Thing. Categorisation within the class is typically expressed by one or more of the functional elements Deictic, Numerative, Epithet and Classifier. They serve to realise terms within different systems of the system network of the nominal group.
There is also some overlap between nominal groups and prepositional phrases. … the distinction between participants and circumstances is less clear in the ergative organisation of the clause, and this means that certain participants (Agent, Range, Beneficiary) are realised by prepositional phrases to indicate a special status in the clause as message (when they are presented as early or late news … ). At the same time, circumstances of location and extent may be realised by nominal groups without a preposition marking the circumstantial relation … .
But prepositional phrases encroach on the functional ground of adverbial groups, partly by means of phrasal templates) … ; and adverbial groups may serve as Location in time or space. These latter often have as Head an adverb that derives from preposition + noun (for example upstairs, ouside, overseas; today, tomorrow).
While adverbial groups tend to realise circumstances of Manner: quality … and Manner: degree … — as well as modal and textual Adjuncts, other, experientially more complex circumstances that are more like indirect participants (for example Location, Cause, Accompaniment) tend to be realised by prepositional phrases.
… there is functional overlap between adverbial group (and conjunction group) and prepositional phrase. They have the same general functional potential; but they differ in two related respects.(1) Since prepositional phrases include a nominal group, they have greater expressive potential than adverbial groups.(2) Consequently they can construe more experientially complex circumstances.
In terms of the modal structure of the clause, nominal groups serve as Subject or Complement, verbal groups as Finite + Predicator, and adverbial groups as Adjunct; and in terms of experiential structure, nominal groups serve in participant rôles, verbal groups as Process, and adverbial groups in circumstance rôles.
A phrase is different from a group in that, whereas a group is an expansion of a word, a phrase is a contraction of a clause. Starting at opposite ends, the two achieve roughly the same status on the rank scale, as units that lie somewhere between the rank of a clause and that of a word.
… a group is in some respects equivalent to a word complex — that is, a combination of words built up on the basis of a particular logical relation. This is why it is called a group (= ‘group of words’).