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Semantic characteristics

§ 166. Semantically all nouns fall into proper nouns and common nouns.

§ 167. Proper nouns are geographical names (New York, the Thames, Asia, the Alps), names of individual (unique) persons (John, Byron, Brown), names of the months and the days of the week (January, Sunday), names of planets (the Moon, the Sun, the Earth), names of ships, hotels, clubs (Shepherd's Hotel), of buildings, streets, parks, bridges (Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Regent Street, Charing Cross Road, Piccadilly Circus, Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Waterloo Bridge), of institutions, organizations, magazines and newspapers (the United Nations, the New Times, the Guardian). They are written with capitals.

§ 168. Common nouns can be classified into nouns denoting objects that can be counted and those that cannot. So there are count and non-count and collective common nouns. The former are inflected for number, whereas the latter are not. Further distinction is into concrete nouns, abstract nouns and nouns of material.

Semantic classification of English nouns is shown in the following scheme:



Concrete nouns semantically fall into three subclasses.


1. Nounsdenoting living beings - persons and animals:

boy, girl, dog, cat.


2. Nounsdenoting inanimate objects:

table, chair.

3.Collective (собирательные)nouns denoting a group of persons:

family, crowd.


There are some nouns which may be classified both as count and non-count. They often have considerable difference in meaning in the two classes.

Count nouns Non-count nouns
He used to read an evening paper. She was a beauty. They hoped to have pleasant experiences. I saw him in a group of youths. They wrappped up the present in brown paper. Beauty is to be admired. He has a great deal of experience. Vie was speaking with the enthusiasm of youth.

A noun of material used as a count noun undergoes a semantic change so as to denote: kind of, type of: He found her drinkingChinese tea, which she didn't likebut what could one do,other teas were common. The same can be seen in the title A. Conan Doyle devised for astory "Upon the Distinction Between theAshes of the Various Tobaccos".

Morphological composition

§ 169. According to their morphological composition nouns can be divided intosimple, derived, andcompound.

Simple nouns consist of only one root-morpheme: dog, chair, room, roof, leaf.

Derived nouns (derivatives) are composed of one root-morpheme and one or more derivational morphemes (prefixes or suffixes).

The main noun-forming suffixes are those forming abstract nouns and those forming concrete, personal nouns.


Abstract nouns Concrete nouns
-age: leakage, vicarage -al: betrayal, portrayal, refusal -ancy/-ency: vacancy, tendency -dom:freedom kingdom -hood: brotherhood, childhood -ing: meaning, cleaning -ion/~sion/-tion/-ation: operation, tension, examination -ism: darvinism, patriotism -ment: agreement, unemployment -ness: darkness, weakness -ship: friendship, membership -ty: cruelty, sanity, banality -th: growth, strength -y: difficulty, honesty -(i)an: physician, Parisian, republican -ant/-ent: assistant, student, informant -arian: vegetarian -ее: refugee, employee, payee -er: teacher, worker, singer -ician: musician, politician -ist: socialist, artist -or: visitor, actor -let: booklet, leaflet -ess: actress, tigress, waitress -ine: heroine -ix: proprietrix -ette: usherette The four suffixes -ess, -ine, -ette are feminine.


Sometimes nouns formed by abstract noun suffixes may come to de­note concrete things or persons as in translation (a process and its result), beauty (may denote an abstract notion and a beautiful woman).

Compound nouns consist of at least two stems. The meaning of a compound is not a mere sum of its elements. The main types of compound nouns are:


noun stem + noun stem:   seaman (моряк), airmail (авиапочта)
adjective stem + noun stem:   bluebell (колокольчик), blackbird (черный дрозд)
verb stem + noun stem: pickpocket (карманный вор)
gerund + noun stem:   looking-glass (зеркало), dancing-hall (танцевальный зал)
noun stem + prepositions + noun stem:   father-in-law (свекр, тесть) mother-in-law (свекровь, теща) man-of-war (военный корабль)
substantivised phrases: forget-me-not (незабудка), pick-me-up (тонизирующий напиток)


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