The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language has this (Page 1061):

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In [11], CGEL doesn't analyze the determiner no as part of the antecedent of the relative clause.

Let's compare [11] with [11a] and [11b]:

[11a] No one who scored 40% or more was ever failed.

[11b] Some who scored 40% or more were failed.

Simple Question

In [11a] and [11b], what's the antecedent of the relative clause who scored 40% or more?

Detailed Questions

In CGEL's grammar, just like nobody, no one is a compound determinative, which always occurs in a fused-head construction. In traditional grammar, no one is a pronoun. In either grammar, therefore, no one is a syntactically inseparable unit.

Does that mean in [11a] that the antecedent of the relative clause has to be no one, and therefore that the antecedent has a negative meaning to it?

If so, how could you explain the fact that the antecedent in [11a], but not in [11], has a negative meaning?

If the antecedent is one in [11a], what's the antecedent in [11b]? Is it the covert nominal people?

Background Info on CGEL's grammar

(1) The integrated relative clause in CGEL refers to what traditional grammar calls 'restrictive relative clause'.

(2) CGEL basically says that the antecedent of the integrated relative clause is not an NP but a nominal.

(3) CGEL's definition of the term 'nominal' is completely different from that of traditional grammar as follows (The red underlines indicate what CGEL defines as 'nominals'):

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2 Answers 2


Page 412 of CGEL has diagrams of "few of her friends" and "someone I know":

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I don't know exactly how to interpret the meaning of [7a] and [7b], but I assume the same kind of diagram would be given for [11a] and [11b].

CGEL is clear that their "fused head" analysis does not involve ellipsis (page 420), so [11b] does not contain any "implied nominal people".

I think your query about how negation works in [11a] isn't really connected to the more general point of your question. It has been argued that even non-fused "negative quantifiers" or determinatives such as no are actually syntactically complex.* But the question of how fused determiner-head words relate syntactically to other words in the noun phrase does not seem to me to be specific to the negative "compound determinatives" nobody, no one, nothing, nowhere; which are listed along with non-negative everybody, somebody, anything, etc. on CGEL page 423.

*"On the syntactically complex status of negative indefinites," Hedde Zeijlstra, 2011. Zeijlstra argues that English no and German kein are not negative quantifiers, but instead "the results of a spell-out rule that realizes a syntactic structure consisting of a negative and an indefinite sister" (page 119). I found it when I was trying to find the answer to the previous question On the Use of "nothing".

  • I have considered those CGEL diagrams before posting the question. And I'm fully aware that CGEL rejects any ellipsis analysis for their fused-head NPs, so when I asked if [11b]'s antecedent is "the implied nominal people", I wasn't really asking if people is ellipted there. I was asking if the antecedent is the covert nominal people that is implied there by being fused into some, which is a bit of a mouthful.
    – JK2
    Apr 17, 2020 at 5:51
  • @JK2: The CGEL discussion of the rich and the poor implies that whatever noun-like/nominal element is included in fused-head constructions like those has a different meaning from people.
    – herisson
    Apr 17, 2020 at 5:53
  • Well, CGEL discusses the rich and the poor under the heading of "Modifier-heads with special interpretations". And I think that they treat them as special cases precisely because their interpretations should be different from normal fused-head constructions such as few and someone in [7] and some in [11b]. Also, note that problems in identifying the antecedent might not be confined to the fused-head NPs, but might be extended to interrogative pronouns (and fused relative pronouns) as in Who do you know who would wear a hat like that? (CGEL p430)
    – JK2
    Apr 17, 2020 at 6:18
  • In [7a] and [7b], I notice that there's binary branching from under the node "NP". If the node "Head: Nom" included the entirety of the node "Dead-Head: D", singulary branching from under the node "NP" to the node "Head: Nom" would suffice. The binary branching under NP, therefore, seems to indicate that the node "Head: Nom" does not include the determiner component of the node "Det-Head: D". What do you think?
    – JK2
    Apr 21, 2020 at 7:29
  • @JK2: I don't think that's necessarily true. It depends on whether branching is seen as only showing inclusion vs. showing some other kinds of relationships also.
    – herisson
    Apr 22, 2020 at 1:01

As defined in Wikipédia "noun phrase", nominal phrase" and "nominal" are synonyms. Collins proposes both the possibilities "noun group" and "noun" or" noun like structure" for "nominal". The following dictionaries, however, specify that a nominal is strickly the noun like structure: Merrriam-Webster, thoughtco, dictionary.com, Wikipédia, …

It is apparent that the definition of "nominal" is the strict one (only "noun" or "group of words functioning as a noun").

The antecedent is "none"; it is also a nominal according to the definition "noun like structure, since the pronoun "none" functions as a noun. It is also a noun phrase since just a head is sufficient for constituting a noun phrase in some cases.

  • @JK2 I don't think it is different: it is not strictly intermediate, not strictly "between" but it includes a true noun also. For instance "vernacular" and "language spoken in the land" mean the same thing and thus the second of these functions as the first, that is to say, as a noun, and is therefore a nominal, but "vernacular" is a nominal; all the dictionaries that retain the unique definition (excluding the possibility of "nominal" meaning "NP") do extend the definition to "pure" nouns and groups of words that function as nouns; that is what the pronoun "none" does.(1/3)
    – LPH
    Apr 14, 2020 at 14:15
  • @JK2 Accordingly, "none" or for that matter "none of us/them/the men on board/etc. is a NP, without a determiner, and therefore a nominal if we do away with the CGEL "limits". (2/3)
    – LPH
    Apr 14, 2020 at 14:15
  • @JK2 However, if you insist that "pure" nouns and groups functioning as nouns should be excluded in yet another definition of "nominal" (that is that given by CGEL), then, relying on the stipulation "in the great majority ofcases the antecedent […] is a nominal", since "none" according to this CGEL definition is not a nominal and as it is a pronoun, you are left with the rather exceptional case of an antecedent not being a nominal but a pronoun, but "none" has to be the antecedent. (3/3)
    – LPH
    Apr 14, 2020 at 14:16
  • @JK2 That is obviously not true: the definition you added is clear enough and I didn't disregard it nor misinterpret it and, which is more, I did take into account main stream definitions.
    – LPH
    Apr 14, 2020 at 15:56
  • @JK2 I still make precise in my answer that there has to be an antecedent and that it can't be other than "none"; (you'd have to agree with that or not). That is where I take into account the CGEL definition and tell you that since it doesn't recognize as nominals the groups constituted by pronouns (shouldn't you agree with that?), then according to the pattern of rare exception of the antecedent not being a nominal that claims the CGEL theory, this is a case of exception and the antecedent is not a nominal but a pronoun.
    – LPH
    Apr 14, 2020 at 16:20

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