Scientific English as a Foreign Language
Answers to Lesson of September 4, 1998
Premodification of Nouns by Nouns

Nouns can be modified by subordinate clauses, as in "We visited their house, which is charming." Alternatively, one can write "We visited their charming house.", in which case the modifier is before the noun, i.e. "charming" is a premodifier.

Premodification can be accomplished by many means:

There are some tricks to the noun and participle modifiers. This week we shall discuss premodification of nouns by nouns; next week we shall do premodification of nouns by participles.

Try your new knowledge! Rewrite the following sentences...if you think you should.

1. The sample that was annealed had a nonlinear response.
No change. The sentence distinguishes one sample from others that may exist. (But from this sentence, we don't learn anything about other possible samples.)

2. The sample, which was annealed, had a nonlinear response.
No change. Annealing isn't important here, and it would be confusing to write "The annealed sample had a nonlinear response." because it would imply that there is something special about the annealing process.

3. Of the many samples on the desk, the one that was annealed had a nonlinear response.
Of the many samples on the desk, the annealed one had a nonlinear response. In this sentence, it is clear that there are many possible samples and that they are all on the desk. Therefore in the subordinate clause, we expect to learn what distinguishes a special case, and premodification is unambiguous.

4. The instrument in the lab doesn't work.
The lab instrument doesn't work.

5. The technician in the lab doesn't work.
The lab technician doesn't work. (A technician is supposed to be in the lab and thus has some permanence.)

6. The professor in the lab doesn't work.
No change. Professors don't usually spend much time in the lab, so they lack permanence. In this case, "in the lab" indicates where the professor happens to be right now. 

7. The window in the corner is cracked.
The corner window is cracked.

8. The windows in the corner are cracked.
The corner windows are cracked.

9. The windows in the corners are cracked.
The corner windows are cracked. But if for some reason, it is vital to know that the windows in the different corners throughout the building are cracked, then leave this sentence unchanged.

10. Interactions between dislocations and defects are very interesting.
Dislocation-defect interactions are very interesting.

I've studied all the sciences in order alphabetical,
My judgment is, which some of you may find to be heretical,
The field that's really quite abstruse,
The field where all the screws come loose,
The field that's famous for its spoofs, is physics theoretical.

I've taken undergraduate work whose content is forgettable;
And graduate work is gen'rally regarded as regrettable.
The lecturers are all absurd. A cogent word is never heard.
Insanity afflicts a third in physics theoretical.

We never do experiments; we shun the purely practical.
Our best work's done in getting grants--our budgets are fantastical.
In one respect our motive's pure: Though funding fails, we still endure--
We make damn sure our job's secure in physics theoretical.

Our scientific breakthroughs are, to say the least, debatable.
We laugh at critics haughtily; our egos are inflatable.
The rest of science goes along, Because our last defense is strong:
It's hard to prove we're ever wrong in physics theoretical.

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Created September 4, 1998, by Nancy Burnham and Fred Hutson.