The Effect of Noun Phrase Grammar on the Affective Meaning of Social Identity Concepts


  • Daniel B. Shank Missouri University of Science & Technology
  • Sarah E. Hercula Missouri University of Science & Technology
  • Brent Curdy Duke University



affective control theory, affective sentiments, determiners, noun phrase grammar, social identities


We examine the influences of determiners (a/an, the, and all) and grammatical number (singular or plural) on the affective meaning of social identity concepts. Some linguistic evidence suggests that changes in the grammatical form of a noun phrase may shift its affective meaning, while other research highlights the importance of context for such shifts. We conceptualize and measure affective meaning in terms of evaluation (goodness), potency, and activity drawn from research in affect control theory (ACT), a social psychological theory of culture and language. In two experiments, participants rate 28 social identity concepts, which are either count or collective nouns, presented in one of five grammatical forms. In congruence with ACT, the data support that the bulk of a concept’s affective meaning is carried by the noun itself, rather than by the grammatical features of the noun phrase in which the concept is expressed.

Author Biographies

Daniel B. Shank, Missouri University of Science & Technology

Dr. Daniel B. Shank is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychological Science specializing in the area of social psychology. He obtained a BA in Computer Science from Harding University, and from the University of Georgia he received an MS in Artificial Intelligence and an MA and PhD in Sociology.  Dr. Shank served in two postdoctoral research fellowships before coming to Missouri S&T, the first in sociology at the University of Alabama Birmingham and the second in psychology at the University of Melbourne (Australia). His research interests include psychological perception and social interaction with nonhumans including artificial intelligence, other technologies, consumer products, and groups of people. He studies perceptions of morality, attributions of mind, affective impressions, and emotional and behavioral reactions and how these processes differ between human-human interaction and human-nonhuman or human-technology interaction.

Sarah E. Hercula, Missouri University of Science & Technology

Dr. Sarah E. Hercula is assistant professor of applied linguistics in the Department of English and Technical Communication at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, MO. She holds a B.A. and M.A. in English education from Western Michigan University and a Ph.D. in English studies with a specialization in linguistics as well as a graduate certificate in TESOL from Illinois State University. Hercula’s research interests include English language variation, language ideologies, English grammar, African American English, linguistics pedagogy, and second language writing, among others.

Brent Curdy, Duke University

Brent Curdy completed his PhD in Sociology at Duke University and is currently a post-doctoral research scientist for the Nicholas School of the Environment working in cooperation with the NC State University School of Public and International Affairs. He received his BA at UC Berkeley. His interested include social psychology with an emphasis on identity theory, and survey research design and methods including translation English survey instruments into foreign languages. His current projects range from network analysis of wildland fire fighting organizations to exploring alternate statistical methods for analyzing cultural data.


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How to Cite

Shank, D. B., Hercula, S. E., & Curdy, B. (2019). The Effect of Noun Phrase Grammar on the Affective Meaning of Social Identity Concepts. Journal of Research Design and Statistics in Linguistics and Communication Science, 5(1-2), 48–77.