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This question already has an answer here:

I can't figure it out why we put 'high' after noun 'layer'. What does it mean? When can we use adjectives after nouns? Is there any difference in the meaning if we swap the position of the adjective and noun in the example above?

ozone
a form of oxygen that is found in a layer high in the earth's atmosphere.
Merriam-Webster

marked as duplicate by Edwin Ashworth, Glorfindel, kiamlaluno, Laure, Gary May 6 '17 at 20:51

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    "a layer which is high in the earth's atmosphere" – Mari-Lou A May 2 '17 at 7:56
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    @JonMark perry well done for spotting the erroneous addition "called ozone". The sentence now makes greater sense. – Mari-Lou A May 2 '17 at 8:18
  • English Learner you must properly cite quotations, and include the source. Next time, I will downvote! :) I see you have asked the same question, including the same erroneous addition, elsewhere on the Internet. – Mari-Lou A May 2 '17 at 8:25
  • Taking the words out of context and saying 'layer high' introduces the problem, as the words mean little just hanging high...and dry. – Yosef Baskin May 5 '17 at 18:25
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We can use preposition phrases to postmodify noun phrases.

In the Original Poster's example, the verb find takes a Locative Complement the essential core of which is in a layer. This Locative Complement explains the location of the oxygen.

Now within this preposition phrase there is the noun phrase a layer. The Head noun in this noun phrase is being postmodified by another preposition phrase in the earth's atmosphere.

This preposition phrase is in the earth's atmosphere is being modified by the 'flat' adverb high. So the full preposition phrase here is high in the earth's atmosphere. The word high belongs with in the atmosphere, not with the noun layer

The structure of the Locative Complement therefore is:

  • in [a layer [high in the earth's atmosphere]]

We can paraphrase the sentence like this:

  • a form of oxygen that is found in a layer which is high in the earth's atmosphere.

Here is a sentence with a Locative Complement with the same structure:

  • We went to a location high in the mountains.
  • Interesting. This sounds right now that I have read it, but my first thought was that "high" was an adjective modified by a pp. Is there a way to show that it isn't? – sumelic May 2 '17 at 15:58
  • @sumelic Let me see. Well, if in the earths atmosphere was a modifier of high, then by definition it would be omissible - but if we leave high without the PP, the larger locative complement will be ungrammatical --> we found it in a layer high. On the other hand, if we omit high the larger phrase is just fine we found it in a layer in the earth's atmosphere - seeming to show that high is a modifier of the smaller PP. – Araucaria May 2 '17 at 16:16
  • I think the reason "high" can't go after the noun is because it is a single-word adjective phrase. It can come before: "a high layer" – sumelic May 2 '17 at 16:28
  • @sumelic Ah, I see. Plausible. Hmmm. Let me think. Perhaps you're right. In fact, probably you're right. I was thinking of it more as a modifier like far in the phrase far below the horizon. – Araucaria May 2 '17 at 17:36
  • @sumelic Pete I'll do some research tomorrow and let you know what I find out ... I'm waivering (but moving strongly back towards my original analysis). – Araucaria May 2 '17 at 19:12
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Adjectives before the noun are called attributive.

Adjectives after the noun are called predicative.

Sometimes this doesn't matter:

The red house

The house is red

both describe a house that is coloured red.

Sometimes it does.

In your case:

a layer high

could be the only layer, whereas:

a high layer

implies there are other layers in the atmosphere.

  • " ... a form of oxygen that is found in a layer high." is ungrammatical. " ... a form of oxygen that is found in a layer high in the earth's atmosphere." involves a standard Whiz-deletion. // Adjectives modifying and positioned immediately after a noun (eg 'chicken supreme') without say a link verb are known as 'postnominal' or 'postpositive' adjectives. – Edwin Ashworth May 2 '17 at 9:27
  • this is the source:learnersdictionary.com/definition/ozone ; Unfortunately I didn't understand what you said. – English Learner May 2 '17 at 10:10
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    Just because a noun has an adjective doesn't mean that there's more than one of the noun. Consider "the bright moon shone down on the wide sea." That doesn't mean the scene is set on Mars. There has to be more than one layer pretty much by the definition of layer, and not because layer is modified by the adjective high. – Peter Shor May 2 '17 at 18:45

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