Nouns and Determiners

asked 2016-05-25 16:29:03 -0400

phospholipid gravatar image

I'm an English teacher, and for the first time I've taken the challenge of teaching English grammar in a more linguistic-y way. I'm teaching a summer intensive as an experiment to see how it goes. So far, so good. However...

... we started with evaluating parts of speech using form and distribution. We looked at this:

A) Steve is (x) B) Steve is a (x)

The idea was to look at how (x) in B is definitely a noun because of its location after a determiner. But, A is more difficult. Generally (x) would be an adjective.

Except, these (apparent) nouns work fine in A: "Steve is king" or "Steve is President" Why do those work without a determiner but "Steve is baker" "Steve is lumberjack" do not? I can also insert a determiner and say "Steve is the judge" or "Steve is our king" or "Steve is the President" and they work just fine. Also, some sound bad weird without a determiner if there is one predicate noun, but okay if there is two. For example:

"Steve is winner" sounds both okay and not, but "Steve is winner and loser" and "David Bowie is man and woman" sound okay?

My only answer for them was that it appeared that those titles had wider distribution from typical nouns. That feels weak.

Is there a better answer? Is there a better answer that will also make sense to high schoolers, or is "wider distribution than typical" sufficient.


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