First, prepositions will sometimes have other prepositional phrases as complements:
(10) The plane emerged from behind the cloud.
From and behind are both prepositions. But notice that from behind the cloud forms a single constituent. You can move it to the front of a cleft sentence:
(10a) From behind the cloud is where the plane emerged.
(2) Ken looked up her number.
(3) Ken looked up her dress.
A little scrutiny will show that up does not have the same function in both sentences. For example, while we can create a cleft sentence with up her dress, we can't do the same thing with up her number:
(2a) *Up her number is what Ken looked.
(3a) Up her dress is where Ken looked.
Also, we can move up to the end of the first sentence, but not the second:
(2b) Ken looked her number up.
(3b) *Ken looked her dress up.
1.One-noun NPs, e.g., John, students,
2.Determinative + N, e.g., that book, Alison’s divorce,
3.Determinative + modifier + N, e.g., the unpleasant boy,
4.Determinative + N + modifier, e.g., the dog on the sofa.
Is there any general pattern here? We can easily formulate a general principle for cases 3 and 4 if we say that dependents other than determinatives combine to form nominals, whether those dependents appear before or after the head noun, and determinatives combine with nominals to form NPs.
(13) these diligent workers
In (13) the adjective diligent is a modifier of the head noun workers. Modifier is a general term for optional elements in a phrase that add descriptive information about the head word. We have already seen some modifiers in the verb phrase: the adjuncts. The noun phrase also resembles the verb phrase in that it can contain contain complements. Distinguishing modifiers from complements in noun phrases, however, is much trickier than distinguishing them in verb phrases, and we will not do so in this course. Instead, we will content ourselves with simply lumping noun-phrase modifiers and complements into the broader category of dependent.
(7) Garth's reply
This NP looks almost the same as the NPs above, but Garth is a proper noun, not a determiner. And yet Garth seems to occupy the same "slot" in the noun phrase. Notice that we can use either a determiner or the proper noun, but not both:
(7a) the reply
(7b) *the Garth's reply
(7c) *Garth's the reply
At this point, you may be ready to assume that Garth’s actually is a determiner, but that conclusion leads to some unfortunate consequences. First, we would have to say that any noun could change its part of speech simply by adding the genitive inflection. In other words, the category of determiner, which we have already described as containing a small number of words that have a principally grammatical function becomes an open-ended set. Further, this slot isn't just occupied by genitive nouns. It can be occupied by entire phrases: