In the sentence "Jack saw John and helped him" we would say that "John" is the antecedent of the pronoun "him".

In "I saw a blue sky", what is "sky" with respect to "blue". Object? Modifiee?


A noun together with any complement to that noun is an N-bar, often written N', according to McCawley in "The Syntactic Phenomena of English". An example of a noun complement is "of the bride" in the N' "father of the bride". That's a preliminary to answering your question.

Now, here is how adjectives and other N'-modifiers fit in. An adjective combines with an N' to form another N' (consistent with McCawley's idea that modifiers do not change category). So "young father of the bride" has the structure [N' young [N' father PP] ], where "father" is a noun. With simply an adjective modifier but no noun complement, then, we have [N' young [N' [N father ] ] ].

Other N' modifiers, such as relative clauses are treated the same way as adjectives.

The antecedent in indefinite pronominalization for "one" is an N'. Thus a noun alone, a combination of noun and adjective, or a combination of noun and relative clause can be antecedent to "one". The determiner of a NP is outside the N' part, so the determiner is not part of the antecedent of an indefinite pronoun.

Your example with "him" requires a NP antecedent, not an N'.

  • 2
    Is there a term for the relationship between the adjective and the noun/N'? This answer seems to describe the structure, but the title of the question asks for a word that would refer to a noun in this construction.
    – herisson
    Sep 15 '19 at 5:25
  • @sumelic I didn't read the question that way, but anyhow, I don't know of a term referring just to a noun which is modified by an adjective.
    – Greg Lee
    Sep 15 '19 at 9:31

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