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Collective noun example almost useful[edit]

I read the example "talked to each other"

Good: The boys talked to each other.
Bad: *The boy talked to each other.
Good: The committee talked to each other.

English is not my mother tongue, and I think the example would be even more useful if it used simple present: Is it "The committee talks to each other." or "The committee talk to each other."? —Preceding unsigned comment added by FrankyS (talkcontribs) 18:22, 2 February 2009 (UTC)

Funnily enough I just tagged this as dubious (I hadn't read your comment). I'm a native BrE speaker and "the committee talked to each other" does not seem good English to me. (talk) 22:05, 10 March 2009 (UTC).
I concur, 'The committee members talked to each other' would work; committee is a singular term, not a plural term 9Even though is is a term for a group of people). Saying 'The French talked to each other' or 'The athletes talked to each other' would work, as those are plurals. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:46, 26 May 2009 (UTC)

"The committee talked amongst themselves." would work, as would "The boys talked amongst themselves." Of course, "The boy talked amongst themselves." breaks the rule, which was the initial intention.

  • I see this was changed to "The committee talked amongst themselves". I'm afraid that, to me, this is still not good English. OK, it would pass in many situations, but it feels awkward. To be correct, I would say "The members of the committee talked amongst themselves". I'm not sure if there are any AmE/BrE issues here. I'm a BrE speaker. (talk) 03:23, 21 December 2009 (UTC)
  • "The committee talked amongst themselves" is incorrect, as collective nouns become singular; therefore, "the members of the committee" is better suited for the situation, since the members would be the subject, and its plurality suits the entire sentence.

Correct: "The committee talked amongst itself."

Incorrect: "The committee talked amongst themselves."

Correct: "The members of the committee talked amongst themselves."

Incorrect: "The members of the committee talked amongst itself."

This sounds incorrect all together, however, as one thing does not talk amongst itself. "The committee discussed the situation," or something similar, is better in general. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Ecvesta (talkcontribs) 22:12, 20 February 2010 (UTC)

Other examples:

Correct: The class is noisy.

Incorrect: The class are noisy.

Correct: The group was quiet.

Incorrect: The group were quiet.

Correct: The staff is unsure.

Incorrect: The staff are unsure. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Ecvesta (talkcontribs) 22:04, 20 February 2010 (UTC)

In the English classes I took I seem to remember it being pointed-out that the name of a group can be used as a metonymic for the members of the group. So while it may seem strange, the original example was actually correct. "The committee talked among themselves" literally means that "The individual members of the committee talked among themselves." The former is a more succinct way of saying the later.

For another example of the metonymic substitution take the sentence "Congress went home at the end of term." Would you suggest that this means the entire body of congressmen (and congresswomen) got up as a single entity and then conveyed themselves as a unit to a single dwelling? Or would you, as intended, understand that the individual members of the congress left the building and that each then made her or her own way individually to their individual homes?

If you say that "The committee talked among themselves" is wrong because the committee is a single entity, then "congress went home" must have the first of the two meanings in my example. Don Denver (talk) 23:14, 7 July 2010 (UTC)

  • I don't believe the problem here is contemplating whether a collective noun is interpreted as a single entity nor it's individual constituents. The problem appears to be the conflict between a singular noun and a plural object. Although "Congress went home" is perfectly fine it does not reflect the nature of the problem as well as something along the lines of "Congress returned to their homes." —Preceding unsigned comment added by Dalaru (talkcontribs) 02:15, 3 September 2010 (UTC)

The thinker - huh?![edit]

" Rodin's The Thinker. Should we refer to this with a verb ("think", "ponder") or a noun ("thought", "thinker"), or an adjective ("pensive", "thoughtful")? In different contexts, any of these would do. This illustrates the problem with defining lexical categories in terms of what they refer to. "

What is this supposed to mean? Thinker is clearly not a verb, not an adjective. I propose we get rid of the picture and especially the caption. Thanks. (talk) 09:04, 10 September 2009 (UTC)

Same goes for the other idiotic "identity criteria" picture. Just because we can add images to articles doesn't mean that we have to. Let's just get rid of this, yes? (talk) 09:07, 10 September 2009 (UTC)
I've been bold, both are gone. (talk) 21:35, 10 September 2009 (UTC)

"Prototypically referential"[edit]

The term "prototypically referential" ideally needs explaining in the article. It's also not very clear whether the section entitled "Prototypically referential expressions" is talking about the same theory as is explained in the last paragraph of "Predicates with identity criteria". Should these two sections be merged? (talk) 03:18, 21 December 2009 (UTC).

Moved the heading & 1-line down ! Still don't know what "Prototypically referential" means, though. I suspect it's just his name for the 'same' thing as "identity criteria"! -- (talk) 06:25, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

Given the three definitions should be precisely functionally equivalent in practical applictions, you could even say that all three are merely different ways of expressing one and the same definition ?

In other words, that's precisely what a 'thing' is ! Occam's Razor applied to Linguistic relativity ? Ah, The Treachery of Images !

Thing links to Object_(philosophy) - seems to mean 'fact' or Postulate!

-- (talk) 06:34, 6 April 2010 (UTC) Still a problem here: "Another semantic definition of nouns is that they are prototypically referential.[9]

Recently, Mark Baker[10] has proposed that Geach's definition of nouns in terms of identity criteria allows us to explain the characteristic properties of nouns. He argues that nouns can co-occur with (in-)definite articles and numerals, and are prototypically referential because they are all and only those parts of speech that provide identity criteria. Baker's proposals are quite new, and linguists are still evaluating them."

"He argues that nouns can co-occur with (in-)definite articles and numerals, and prototypically are referential because they only relate to those parts of speech that provide identity criteria."? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:09, 12 August 2012 (UTC)

Formal definition in header - circular argument ?[edit]

Paraphrasing (in words of one syllable !): "A noun is a word that you put where nouns go". Yes, but what is a noun? Begging the question ? -- (talk) 07:01, 6 April 2010 (UTC) example:cat is noun —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:07, 14 April 2010 (UTC)

The formal definition is not really circular. Any grammar of English has to acknowledge that there's such a thing as a sentence, and that the most basic ones (simple declarative sentences) have a subject and a verb. The nouns are simply the category of words that are most common as subjects. They share other qualities too: they take the articles a/an and the; adjectives can modify them; they form possessives with ’s; many have plurals ending in -s or -es.
The traditional definition of a noun as "a word that names a person, place, thing, event or idea" has its problems, too. To get the right answers under that definition, you have to know that to stab does not denote an event; that day and night name events but today in I had a great time today does not; that the green in the green of the rushes names an idea (!) but the green in the green rushes does not; that propriety names an idea but proper does not; and that woman names a person but she does not. Honestly none of that makes much sense to me; I think something must be wrong with the traditional definition.
The heading of this article leaves much to be desired, though. It's really awful in fact. —Jorend (talk) 05:20, 1 June 2011 (UTC)
You know, it is strange, but when hearing of nouns and verbs in grade school I thought about the idea for a while and came up with a simplified definition - nouns described states of matter (or reading the example above maybe time) and verbs described states of energy - and left it at that. It helped me to memorize the list of seemly disconnected categories associated with each part of speech definition and I left it at that. Later on I looked it up in a web search to see if anyone else defined it that way and found that the simplified definition was part of a elementary lesson plan for Montessori schools. Seeing a lack of that simplified definition on wikipedia as well as using a few dictionary searches, however, I think that definition is not a very widespread standard. Language does not necessarily need to have any meaning, and the word 'noun' or 'verb' does not necessarily seem to me to be required to have any meaning beyond a circular definition either. (talk) 07:03, 17 March 2014 (UTC)
Interesting. I'm not totally sure I understand the simplified definition; a lot hinges on what "states of energy" are exactly. I sincerely have a hard time deciding if tornado, for example, is more about "matter" or "energy". Lots of words involving energy are nouns: energy itself, electricity, heat, tension, fire... Others are adjectives: hot, volatile, chemical, radioactive, lambent...
Also, I don't see how the simplified definition could handle cases where a word can be used as either a noun or a verb. Consider the sentence That was an incredible kick. Here kick is a noun. But is kick describing a state of matter in that sentence, and a state of energy in the sentence Watch me kick this can.? To me, it seems like they're describing the same kind of action in both cases. A great many verbs can also be nouns like this: fight, push, tour, throw, wink...
The simplified definition also sometimes gives answers that just seem wrong. For example: She did a cartwheel. His face reddened. Here cartwheel is a noun, and reddened is a verb. But cartwheel is about movement (energy) and reddened is about color (matter). Or: The stone weighed thirty pounds. Here weighed is clearly describing matter, but it's a verb. —Jorend (talk) 17:05, 24 September 2014 (UTC)

Proper noun capitalization[edit]

We need to add more information about the capitalization of proper nouns. The proper nouns section should be moved to its own page if necessary. -- (talk) 16:00, 8 May 2010 (UTC)

[It did get split off after this comment.] Quercus solaris (talk) 22:17, 30 October 2010 (UTC)


I think that the articles linked to under the Classification section should be merged into this one. It would make this article much more comprehensive, which is important, given that the idea of a noun is universal to all human languages (communication and cognition, in general). The exception, I think, would be the mass/count noun articles; they should be merged into the quantization article, along with telicity. Then the quantization article can be linked to in the mass/count section of this article. (talk) 22:06, 27 October 2010 (UTC)

I agree that mass and count should be merged into one article about (un)countability and countification. As for the proper noun section, it was already split off from this article because of its size (which is needed to cover the topic adequately). So I don't think there is any action to be taken in this article, but for the mass and count articles, yes. Quercus solaris (talk) 22:17, 30 October 2010 (UTC)
Organization of Noun and Proper noun appears to be happy. I have taken down merge banners. --Kvng (talk) 15:01, 28 December 2010 (UTC)
no you havent its still tereEthanate1 (talk) 06:19, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
Merg seems moot at this point. Banner has been removed.Planetary ChaosTalk 21:48, 19 October 2011 (UTC)

Confusing sections[edit]

The sections titled "Predicates with identity criteria" and "Prototypically referential expressions" are quite meaningless. Is anyone who understands these theories able to write a more comprehensible explanation? If not, I think these sections should be removed or reduced to a "further reading" link - as they are they only serve to confuse and possibly scare off the reader (and there are far more essential and down-to-earth things we ought to be saying about nouns that the article as yet barely touches on - genders, cases, plurals and so on). Victor Yus (talk) 21:10, 12 August 2012 (UTC)

Definition of "noun"[edit]

I suggest that it be more prominently displayed that the traditional definition of a noun as a "name of a person, place, or thing" is inadequate. (One fault is that it is a disjunctive definition, which is not the best, but I won't dwell on that.) The Jackendorff book cited in the article gives these examples of nouns which don't fit: ""earthquakes and concerts and wars, values and weights and costs, famines and droughts, redness and fairness, days and millennia, functions and purposes, craftsmanship, perfection, enjoyment, and finesse". Examples given by The syntax of natural language: An online introduction using the Trees program by Beatrice Santorini and Anthony Kroch "(unless the concept of thing is reduced to near-vacuity)": "explosion, glint, mind, moment, thunder, value". ISTM that there are better candidates, but I don't have reference, so I thought of these: "fit" (a perfect fit), miss (a near miss), separation, difference, excess, stealth, opportunity, smell, future, possibilities, folly, truth, and vacuity". I'm sure that some linguist must have done a better job.
 TomS TDotO (talk) 08:54, 14 July 2014 (UTC)

The definition of noun as defined in the concise OED is: a word (other than a pronoun) or group of words used to name or identify any of a class of persons, places, or things (common noun) or a particular one of these (proper noun). Is this of any help? Denisarona (talk) 11:22, 14 July 2014 (UTC)
What I am really interested in a linguist's examples of (in English - or other languages) nouns which do not (in their opinion) meet the criterion of naming/identifying/referencing. I'm sure that they have come up some really bullet-proof examples. And I think that it merits at least a brief mention of how the traditional definition fails in such cases. TomS TDotO (talk) 12:44, 14 July 2014 (UTC)
After surfing, I came up with Reference 3.4 Non-Referring Expressions Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Reference", by Marga Reimer mentions "sake" (as in "for the sake of"), "behalf", "dint". wikt:dint seems a particularly good example. TomS TDotO (talk) 12:53, 15 July 2014 (UTC)

Recent tag[edit]

This tag was recently added:

  • {{improve|reason=Introduction contradicts examples. "noun (Latin: nomen [..])" and then just words like [a/the] cat, week etc., which in Latin is known as "[nomen] substantivum" and in English also known as "noun substantive" and "substantive" (maybe both English terms are dated).}}

Could the editor who added the tag explain here what the problem is? --Boson (talk) 22:57, 9 December 2014 (UTC)

I removed the tag. It is something better discussed here first and the edit was by a single-edit IP editor. Bhny (talk) 00:36, 10 December 2014 (UTC)


   It's hard to say whether "in the Art of Grammar" could have been an attempt at irony, but it's a barbarism at best, since both Art of Grammar and The Art of Grammar are widely used.
--Jerzyt 00:13, 19 March 2015 (UTC)