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Singularia tantum (only singular) and pluralia tantum (only plural)

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Morphological Categories of Noun

Yesterday my brother bought a car. The car turned out to be very expensive, but the prize can be paid in portions.

Ways of Expressing the Theme and the Rheme

In Eng. there are certain definite markers of the Theme (Topic) and Rheme (Comment):

1. Articles: the definite article is the signal of the Theme, the indefinite – of Rheme. In Russian this difference is expressed through the change of word order. – К воротам подошла машина / машина подошла к воротам. = A car pulled over to the gate / The car …

2. The Theme can be modified by the demonstrative and possessive pronouns. It can be expressed by personal pronouns and Proper names.

3. The initial position in a sentence is typical for the Theme. Though to the sake of emphases it can be placed after the Rheme. Ex. Very ill (comment) she was that day.

4. The Rheme is marked by the indefinite pronouns – some, somebody; negative words; the final position in a s-ce.

5. In a text the former comment may turn into the topic of the next s-ce.


The noun as a part of speech has the categorial meaning of "substance" or "thingness". It follows from this that the noun is the main nominative part of speech. Usually we speak of 4 Noun categories:

n Number

n Case (??? Declension)

n Gender (???)

n Article Determination

1) The category of number is expressed by the opposition of the plural form of the noun to the singular form of the noun. The strong (marked) member of this binary opposition is the plural.

There are also non-productive ways of expressing the number opposi­tion: vowel interchange in several relict forms (man - men, woman-women, tooth-teeth, etc.), the archaic suffix -(e)n supported by phonemic interchange in a couple of other relict forms(ox-oxen, child-children), the corre­lation of individual singular and plural suffixes in a limited number of borrowed nouns (formula - formulae, phenomenon - phenomena, alumnus-alumni, etc.). In some cases the plural form of the noun is homonymous with the singular form (sheep, deer, fish, etc.).

In terms of oppositions we may say that in the for­mation of the two subclasses of uncountable nouns the number op­position is "constantly" (lexically) reduced either to the weak mem­ber (singularia tantum) or to the strong member (pluralia tantum).

The absolute singular excludes the use of the modifying numeral one, as well as the indefinite article.

The absolute singular is characteristic of the names of abstract notions (peace, love, joy, courage, friendship, etc.), the names of the branches of professional activity (chemistry, architecture, mathe­matics, linguistics, etc.), the names of mass materials (water, snow, steel, hair, etc.), the names of collective inanimate objects (fruit, furniture, machinery, etc.).

The absolute plural, as different from the common plural, cannot directly combine with numerals, and only occasionally does it combine with discrete quantifiers (many, few, etc.): trousers, scissors, spectacles. Here we also observe the nouns expressing some sort of collective meaning, both concrete and abstract (supplies, outskirts, clothes, contents, politics; police, cattle, poultry, etc.), the nouns denoting some diseases as well as some abnormal states of the body and mind (measles, mumps, creeps, hysterics, etc.).

2) Case is the morphological category of the noun manifested in the forms of noun declension and showing the rela­tions of the nounal referent to other objects and phenomena. This category is expressed in English by the opposition of the form in -'s, usually called the "possessive" case, or more traditionally, the "genitive" case (the man's duty, the President's deci­sion) to the unfeatured form of the noun, usually called the "common" case.

3) The category of gender is strictly oppositional. It is formed by two oppositions related to each other on a hierarchical basis.

One opposition functions in the whole set of nouns, dividing them into person (human) nouns and non-person (non-human) nouns. The other opposition functions in the subset of person nouns only, dividing them into masculine nouns and feminine nouns. Thus, the first, general opposition can be referred to as the upper opposi­tion in the category of gender, while the second, partial opposition can be referred to as the lower opposition in this category.

The strong member of the upper opposition is the human sub­class of nouns. The weak member of the opposition comprises both inanimate and animate non-person nouns. Here belong such nouns as tree, moun­tain, love, etc.; cat, swallow, ant, etc.; society, crowd, association, etc.; bull and cow, cock and hen, horse and mare, etc.

A great many person nouns in English are capable of expressing both feminine and masculine person genders. These are referred to as nouns of the "common gender". Here belong such words as person, parent, friend, cousin, president, etc.

As for the Rus. Lang., Gender is a morphological category. In the Eng. Lang. the only way Gender is expressed is through the correlation of personal pronouns she, he, it. English nouns can show the sex of their referents lexically, either by means of being combined with certain notional words or by suffixal derivation: boy-friend, girl-friend; man-producer, woman-producer; landlord, landlady, master, mistress; actor, actress; lion, lioness; etc.

As we see, the category of gender in English is inher­ently semantic, i.e. meaningful because it reflects the actual fea­tures of the named objects. But the semantic nature of the category does not make it "non-grammatical". In Russian the gender has purely formal features that may even "run contrary" to semantics, Ex. стакан - он, чашка - она, блюдце – оно. Besides,the Russian gender differs from the English gender in so far as it divides the nouns by the higher oppo­sition not into "person-non-person" ("human-non-human"), but into "animate - inanimate", discriminating within the former (the animate nounal set) between masculine, feminine, and a limited number of neuter nouns. Thus, the Russian category of gender divides the nouns into the inanimate set having no mean­ingful gender, and the animate set having a meaningful gender. In distinction to this, the English category of gender is only meaningful, and it is represented in the nounal system as a whole.

4) Article is a determining unit of specific nature used with the noun in communicative collocation. The semantic purpose of the article is to specify the nounal referent, to define it in the most general way, without any explicitly expressed contrasts. Ex. -Will you give me the pen, please? (I.e. simply the pen from the desk, you understand which.) A woman called while you were out. (I.e. simply a woman, without a fur­ther connotation).

There is a theory that Article in English is a morpheme, not a word. But it is still a point to decide whether the article is a purely auxiliary element of the noun which functions as a component of a definite morphological category, or it is a separate word, i.e. a lexical unit.

One peculiarity of the article, as different from the determin­ers in question, is that, in the absence of a determiner, the use of the article with the noun is quite obligatory.

There are 2 articles in English (the, a\an), and there is also zero article. The definite article expresses the identification or individualization of the referent of the noun: the use of this article shows that the object denoted is taken in its concrete, individual quality. This meaning can be brought to explicit exposition by a substitution test. The test consists in replacing the article used in a construction by a demonstrative word, e.g. a demonstrative determiner: But look at the apple-tree! But look at this apple-tree!

The indefinite arti­cle expresses a classifying generalization of the nounal referent: We passed a water-mill. We passed a certain water-mill. What an arrangement! What sort of arrangement!

As for the various uses of nouns without an article, from the semantic point of view they all should be divided into two types. In the first place, there are uses where the articles are deliberately omitted out of stylistical considerations. We see such uses, for in­stance, in telegraphic speech, in titles and headlines, in various no­tices: Conference adjourned until further notice. (The text of an announcement).

There are cases of non-use of the article in various combinations of fixed type, such as prepositional phrases (on fire, at hand, in debt, etc.), fixed verbal collocations (take place, make use, cast an­chor, etc.), descriptive coordinative groups and repetition groups (man and wife, dog and gun, day by day, etc.), and the like. These cases of traditionally fixed absence of the article are quite similar to the cases of traditionally fixed uses of both indefinite and definite articles (in a hurry, at a loss, have a look, give a start, etc.; in the main, out of the question, on the look-out, etc.).

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