Noun phrases play an important role in the grammar of modern English. They are the most common phrase to be used in constructing a sentence. They can function as subject, object, subject complement, and so on. Considering the meaning that writers want to convey to the readers, noun phrases can be composed in a very complicated way. In this paper, complex noun phrases will be analyzed and studied systematically.
Noun phrases can be divided into four main constituents, which are determinative component, pre-modifier, head and post-modifier. They have different functions in a noun phrase.
First of all, head is the most important component in a noun phrase. It is an obligatory part in a noun phrase. The head of a phrase is the “key word which determines the properties of the phrase”. Accordingly, the head of a noun phrase is a noun. There are different classes of noun can be used as a head of noun phrases. They include proper noun, common noun, pronoun and numeral. A proper noun refers to a noun indicating a unique and specific entity, such as the name of places (Hong Kong), name of a person (Anna) and time or dates in the calendar(October). Common noun refers to all other nouns that do not specifically refer to a certain thing or person. It usually refers to a class of entities, like bird, car, or telephone. Pronoun and numeral have two functions. They can be either the head of the noun phrase or determinative function as a determiner before the head of the noun phrase. When they are not quantifying other words, they can behave as noun to be the head in a noun phrase.
There is also a special type of the head of noun phrase. It is not a noun, but an adjective. Some adjectives have both the features of adjective class and noun class. This type of head usually refers to a kind of a group of people. For example, in the noun phrase “the poor who need our help”, poor is the head of this noun phrase. Although it is an adjective, but it is pre-modified by a...