Clausal modifiers in noun phrases: A comparison of English and Norwegian based on the Oslo Multilingual Corpus


  • Johan Elsness



The structure of the noun phrase has many common features in English and Norwegian. One feature shared by the two languages is that noun phrases often contain clausal postmodifiers. However, there are marked differences in the types of clauses occurring: Postmodifying clauses in Norwegian tend to be finite relative clauses, while in English there is much more variation, connected with the general fact that -ing clauses and past-participle clauses are common non-finite alternatives in that language, in addition to infinitive clauses. These all tend to be less explicit modifiers than relative clauses, in terms of both their semantic content and their syntactic structure. The study reported in this article confirms that Norwegian noun phrases are often characterised by a higher degree of explicitness than corresponding English ones. A major finding is a tendency for information which is expressed by clausal noun-phrase modifiers in English to be expressed by other means in Norwegian, sometimes outside the same noun phrase, which can often be seen as the extreme case of explicitness. The study is based on an investigation of corresponding noun phrases in the English-Norwegian Parallel Corpus (ENPC), part of the Oslo Multilingual Corpus. In an attempt to offset the impact of individual translators’ preferences, the Multiple-translation Corpus, consisting of ten different Norwegian translations of each of two English Original texts, is also examined.