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Suppose I have a collection of numbered items, say toll booths that are numbered from 1 to 10.

Consider three sentences:

Toll booth 4 is closed today.
Toll booth 1, toll booth 2, and toll booth 5 are all closed today.
Toll booths 1,2 and 5 are all closed today.

This is not a question of correctness. I believe all three sentences to be acceptable Standard English. My question is: does the third usage (in which I pluralized name of the items in the collection, and listed the relevant items by numeral) have a technical name, something that I can look up in stuffy grammar text?

By the way, this occurs all the time when referring to page numbers. We don't typically say "See page 1, page 2, and page 10 for more details." Does this form of abbreviation have a name?

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Thanks. Yes, I do mean specifically [plural-noun](list of item). If this type of usage doesn't have a name, I'll settle for a reference to a stuffy grammar text which simply describes it (without assigning it any special name). – Kareem Oct 21 '13 at 18:38
up vote 4 down vote accepted

According to Longman's Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, as well as The Elliptical Noun Phrase In English: Structure and Use, these are both examples of a general process of noun phrase ellipsis.

Here's one example from the latter source

While Kim had lots of books, Pat had very few.

with the word 'books' being ellipted from the end of the sentence.

Here are some other examples:

There's a big black car on the road, and a red one, too.

We put the new stuff in front of the old.

If you wanted to be as specific as possible about the examples supplied in the question, you could describe them as ellipsis of the head noun in the coordination of noun phrases ('and' is the coordinator).

The interesting thing about your examples is that the head noun is postmodified by a cardinal.

It may seem like the numbers are the head nouns in your noun phrases; if so, 'page' and 'toll booth' would be noun adjuncts fulfilling an adjectival kind of function (like 'car' in 'car radio'). In this case, the phenomenon could be described as ellipsis of noun adjuncts in the coordination of noun phrases.

However, this is probably wrong because in both the page and toll booth cases, the noun is plural. Noun adjuncts, however, are not in the plural: it's always car radios, never 'cars radios.' As such, I think 'toll booths' and 'pages' are head nouns, and the cardinals are postmodifiers.

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Regarding the second half of your answer, you probly meant to say, cardinals. I don't think "1", "2" and "5" are the heads here; cardinals are often post-modifiers, so I'd say "booth" is the head. – Talia Ford Oct 22 '13 at 7:59

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