Noun modification in English and Czech: a contrastive view

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In the present study a modified noun is understood as a noun phrase operating in any of its syntactic functions which contains a pre- and/or a postposed modifier (modifiers), i.e. a head noun and a modifier dependent on it. Structures of this kind are studied on the material of parallel texts (a Czech novel and its printed English translation) with a view to ascertaining in which respects English and Czech correspond and in which they differ. From this viewpoint the present study contributes to previous enquiries into syntactic constancy (Dušková 2002a, 2002b, 2004, 2005a, 2005b). However, owing to the nature of the subject matter, the underlying hypothesis necessarily differs. The studies of syntactic constancy carried out so far have been concerned with clause elements, which have not only a function in the syntactic structure of the sentence, but also a function in its information structure, the functional sentence perspective. A major point aimed at in these studies has been to find out to what extent the FSP function of a clause element contributes to its syntactic divergence. In the case of noun modification the situation is different in that the FSP function on sentence level is performed by the head noun, with the modifying element(s) operating only in the FSP subfield of the noun phrase. In other words the FSP subfield of the noun phrase is not an immediate constituent of the FSP structure of the sentence and does not determine the FSP function of the head noun. In the hierarchically superordinate communicative field of the sentence the FSP function of the modified NP, in any of its syntactic functions, depends on sentence position, semantic structure of the sentence, context dependence and intonation in spoken language. On this level the modification of the NP may play some role through its semantic structure and context dependence or independence, but ultimately the FSP function of the modified NP as a whole is the result of the interplay of the factors operating on the higher sentence level. Accordingly, although the FSP aspect is duly taken into account, it is not supposed to be one of the major factors of syntactic divergence. These are primarily sought in the typological distinctions between the two languages under study.


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