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Given:

John was causing obstruction: the act of preventing passage or progress.

or

The doctor said: "you need medical attention".

What do the constituents of these phrases look like?

Given that the clause after the colon is elaborating on the head noun 'obstruction', does this mean that the entire sentence is a noun phrase? or is it the case that there are two separate noun phrases, one before ':' and one after?

If not, are there any circumstances where ':' forms a noun phrase?

Does the same reasoning apply to semicolons (';')?

  • There is no clause after the colon in your first example, rather a semantically-defining appositive noun phrase. The colon usage in the second example is more 'artificial', 'contrived', technical. A comma has conventionally also long been acceptable here, and nowadays zero pre-inverted commas punctuation. The availability of different styles is often useful. An analysis I prefer is that the quote is the matrix sentence (thankfully you've chosen a quote that is a sentence), and the tag part of the quote structure just part of a S + Vq + Q (subject + quotatative verb + quote) construction. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 2 '19 at 18:36
  • @Edwin Ashworyh, but could you have single noun phrase that includes a semicolon or colon? So in my example you have the noun phrase [obstruction]: and the noun phrase [the act of preventing pass or progress], is the union of these two also a noun phrase? – John Oct 2 '19 at 22:34
  • To me it isn't natural to make a statement and then add a definition like that; it would be more usual to put the definition in brackets, if you feel one is needed. – Kate Bunting Oct 3 '19 at 12:48
  • @Kate It's probably dated, more 'BrE' than 'AmE', and certainly formal. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 3 '19 at 19:04
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First, periods always go within a quotation mark. Semicolons can join two sentences together, so yes, joining two sentences with a semicolon can create a grammar where there are two noun phrases on both sides:

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  • but could you have single noun phrase that includes a semicolon or colon? – John Oct 2 '19 at 22:32

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