Nouns denote things and other entities presented as substance. The only category of nouns which is generally accepted is the category of number. Many scholars think that the notion of gender is applied to English pronouns but not nouns. Gender distinctions are not marked morphologically. Nouns are related by conversion with verbs (to walk - a walk).
Nouns can be premodified by nouns in the possessive case and common case. If we say "the car's roof" we mean individual characteristics, "the car roof" - general characteristics.
Noun-groups of the type "noun + noun" (car roof, speech sound, etc.) are called stone-wall-constructions. They take an intermediary position between compound nouns and noun phrases. Multicomponental structures are typical of newspaper and scientific style (e.g. ambulance- staff-pay-dispute).
Nouns fall into several subclasses which differ as to their semantic and grammatical properties. Division common proper; common concrete and abstract; countable uncountable; uncountable mass .animate, inanimate; personal non-personal; human non-human. Lexico-semantic variants of nouns may belong to different subclasses (e.g. paper - a paper).
The class of nouns can be described as a lexico-grammatical field. Nouns denoting things constitute the center or nucleus of the field and nouns denoting processes, qualities, abstract notions are marginal or peripheral elements of the field.
Number is proper to countable nouns only. Usually words that lack a certain category have only one form that of the weak member of the opposition. Non-counts may be singular or plural. So, subclasses of noncount nouns constitute a lexico-grammatical opposition: singular only (joy, snow) vs plural only (cattle).
The general meaning revealed through the opposition is number or quantity or "oneness/more than oneness". The general meaning revealed through the lexico-grammatical opposition is "discreteness/non-discreteness".
The opposition "discreteness/non-discreteness" is semantically broader then the opposition "oneness/more than oneness". It embraces both countable and uncountable nouns. Singular presents the nounreferent as a single indiscrete entity. Plural presents the referent as a multiplicity of discrete entities (houses, cars; scissors; wines).
Case is a morphological category which has a distinct syntactic significance as it denotes relations of nouns towards other words in the sentence. Languages of synthetic structure have a developed case system. Languages of analytical structure lack these morphological variants. In English the only case which is marked morphologically is the Genitive.
The other "case meanings" are expressed by word order and prepositions. Positional and prepositional cases are very often analyzed alongside of the inflectional case. And the case system may look as follows:
John came in.(nominative)
John's friend or a friend of John (genitive)
I gave John a letter, or I gave it to John, (dative)
I saw John there, (accusative)
It is obvious from these examples that position is a syntactic property. Prepositional phrases cannot be treated as analytical case forms as prepositions preserve the lexical meaning.
Prepositions may precede the genitive case (at the butcher's), besides analytical forms are opposed to synthetical forms. Prepositional phrases and synthetic forms are not opposed, they are often synonymous (government's decision = the decision of the government).
So, there are only two cases but this two-case theory is open to criticism, 's is not a typical case inflexion, it is used' both in the singular and in the plural (man's -men's), it can be added to adverbs (yesterday's meeting), it can be added to phrase (Mary and John's father).
Professor Vorontsova does not recognize case as a morphological category. She treats 's as a postposition, a sign of syntactic dependence, as a syntactic form, word resembling a preposition.
Academician Smimitskiy also expresses doubts for the recognition of the genitive case but most scholars find that peculiarities of 's cannot be denied. Attempts have also been made to combine the case system of nouns and pronouns, thus recognizing three cases:
nominative, genitive and accusative (John, him).
As stated Bloch the categories of the noun-substitute should reflect the categories of the noun and not vice versa. Finally there is also a semantico-syntactic approach to case where a case is treated as semantic relationship. Different semantic relations of the noun and the verb are treated as "deep semantic cases" which have different forms of expression in the surface (or syntactic) structure. Thus, sentences:
John opened the door with the key
The door was opened with the key by John.
The key opened the door, express the same semantic relations between doer, instrument,
object and action.
She is eager to please.
She is easy to please.
Syntactic structure is the same but meaning is different.
Possessive case is narrower in meaning than genitive case. In Qld English genitive case could be used with living beings but not with inanimate nouns. Today possessive case may express not only the idea of possession but the idea of subject, object, material, measure, part of the whole. There is a very old theory that 's is a kind of abbreviation of pronoun "his”. First it was used with masculine gender, then it spread to feminine as well:
1. it doesn't blend with the stem of the word
2. it expresses only case but not gender
In Modern English possessive case has several specific meanings: portraitive meaning (A portrait of the king = king's portrait; He is father of the first husband of my wife = ?).
Today we use possessive case not only with the names of living beings but with abstract notions expressing distance, months, seasons and such
My Lord his daughter -» My Lord's da'ughter s' is very specific because: words as town, city, ocean, sea, world. Sometimes possessive case is even personified.
Many scholars believe that gender forms are originally sex forms. But today sex as a lexical notion has no proper connection with grammatical notion of gender.
Today we have many cases when inanimate things are personified 8c are treated as belonging to masculine or feminine gender. Masculine sex is connected with strength, violence, brutality; feminine - with love, beauty, tranquility but Englishmen violate the tradition willingly. In Oscar Wilde’s “Happy Prince” the swallow is masculine and the reed is feminine.
In English we have suffix "ess" and words like waitress, princess, duchess etc., but we can't consider this suffix to be a morphological form of gender because it can't be added to all the nouns in the language. We have no grammatical category of gender in Modem English - we have only lexical means of expressing it.