Parts of speech. Different classifications

Lecture 4

Parts of speech

The words of language, depending on various formal and semantic features, are divided into grammatically relevant classes of words. The traditional grammatical classes of words are called “parts of speech”. According to Smirnitsky parts of speech are “lexico-grammatical categories’.

The term “part of speech” is purely traditional and conventional and was introduced in Ancient Greek.

In modern linguistics, parts of speech are classified on the basis of three criteria: meaning, form and function.

In accordance with the described criteria, words are divided into notional and functional, which reflects their division in the earlier grammatical tradition into changeable and unchangeable.

According to V. Vinogradov the notional parts of speech of the English language are the noun, the adjective, the numeral, the pronoun, the verb, the adverb.

The features of the noun are the following:

  1.  the categorial meaning of substance (“thingness”);
  2.  the changeable forms of number and case; the specific suffixal forms of derivation;
  3.  the substantive functions in the sentence (subject, object, substantival predicative).

The features of the adjectives:

  1.  the categorial meaning of property (qualitative and relative);
  2.  the forms of the degrees of comparison (for qualitative adjectives); the specific suffixal forms of derivation;
  3.  adjectival functions in the sentence (attribute to a noun, adjectival predicative).

The features of the numeral:

  1.  the categorial meaning of number (cardinal and ordinal);

2) the narrow set of simple numerals; the specific forms of composition for compound numerals; the specific suffixal forms of derivation for ordinal numerals;

3)    the functions of numerical attribute and numerical substantive.

The features of the pronoun: 

  1.  the categorial meaning of indication (deixis);
  2.  the narrow sets of various status with the corresponding formal properties of categorial changeability and word-building;
  3.  the substantival and adjectival functions for different sets.

The features of the verb:

  1.  the categorial meaning of process;
  2.  the forms of the verbal categories of person, number, tense, aspect, voice, mood; the opposition of the finite and non-finite forms;
  3.  the function of the finite predicate for the finite verb; the mixed verbal-other than verbal functions for the non-finite verb.

The features of the adverb:

  1.  the categorial meaning of the secondary property, i.e. the property of process or another property;
  2.  the forms of the degrees of comparison for qualitative adverbs; the specific suffixal forms of derivation;
  3.  the functions of various adverbial modifiers.

To the functional parts of speech (unchangeable words) belong the article, the preposition, the conjunction, the particle, the modal word, the interjection.

The article expresses the specific limitation of the substantive functions.

The preposition expresses the dependencies and interdependencies of substantive referents.

The conjunction expresses connections of phenomena.

The particle unites the functional words of specifying and limiting meaning. To this series, alongside other specifying words, should be referred verbal postpositions as functional modifiers of verbs, etc.

The modal word, occupying in the sentence a more or less pronounced detached position, expresses the attitude of the speaker to the reflected situation and its parts. Here belong the functional words of probability (probably, perhaps, etc.), of qualitative evaluation (fortunately, unfortunately, luckily, etc.), and also of affirmation and negation.

The interjection, occupying a detached position in the sentence, is a signal of emotions.

According to H. Sweet (A New English Grammar) the parts of speech in inflectional languages are divided into two main groups, declinable, that is, capable of inflection, and indeclinable, that is, incapable of inflection.

The declinable parts of speech fall under the three main divisions: nouns, adjectives, and verbs. Pronouns are a special class of nouns and adjectives, and are accordingly distinguished as noun-pronouns, such as I, they, and adjective-pronouns, such as my and that in my book, that man. Numerals are another special class of nouns and adjectives: three in three of us is a noun-numeral, in three men is an adjective-numeral. Verbals are a class of words intermediate between verbs on the one hand and nouns and adjectives on the other. Noun-verbals comprise infinitives, such as go in I will go, I wish to go and gerunds, such as going in I think of going. Adjective verbals comprise various participles, such as melting and melted in melting snow, the snow is melted.

H.Sweet includes nouns, noun-pronouns, noun-numerals, infinitives and gerunds under the common desicnation noun-word.

Adjectives, adjective-pronouns, adjective-numerals and participles are included under the common designation adjective-word.

The term verb is sometimes used to include the verbals, sometimes to exclude them.

So the classification of the parts of speech is the following:

Declinable parts of speech – noun-words: noun, noun-pronoun, noun-numeral,                                                                                     infinitive and gerund

adjective-words: adjective, adjective-pronoun, adjective-numeral,   participles

verb: finite verb, verbals (infinitive, gerund, participles).

Indeclinable words or particles comprise adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections. The main function of adverbs such as quickly and very, is to serve as adjunct-words to verbs and to other particles, as in the snow melted quickly, very quickly.

Prepositions, such as of, are joined to nouns to make them into adjunct-words, as in man of honour, where of honour is equivalent to the adjective honourable.

Conjunctions, such as if, are used mainly to show the connection between sentences, as in if you do so, you will repent it. Interjections, such as ah! alas!, are sentence-words expressing various emotions.

According to O. Jespersen parts of speech are classified into: (The Philosophy of Grammar): 1) Substantives (including proper names)

            2) Adjectives

            3) Pronouns (including numerals and pronominal adverbs)

           4) Verbs

           5) Particles comprise what are usually called adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections).

Ch. Fries presents his scheme of English word-classes. In his book “The Structure of English” Fries gave a classification of Parts of Speech which entirely depends on the distribution of the word. To study the word he introduced the term “frames”. A frame – is a formula of a typical construction which is typical of this particular word as belonging to a certain class. He proved the liability of his theory by the operation of substitution. Through this operation he gets four classes, he calls them by numbers:

Class one (nouns)

Class two (verbs)

Class three (adjectives)

Class four (adverbs)

He also distinguished 15 functional classes or functional words. Functional words are exposed in the process of testing as being unable to fill in the positions of the frames without destroying their structures. The identified groups of functional words can be distributed among the three main sets. The words of the first set are used as specifiers of notional words. Here belong determiners of nouns, modal verbs serving as specifiers of notional verbs, functional modifiers and intensifiers of adjectives and adverbs. The words of the second set play the role of interpositional elements, determining the relations of notional words to one another. Here belong prepositions and conjunctions. The words of the third set refer to the sentence as a whole. Such are question-words (what, how, etc.), inducement-words (let’s, please, etc.), attention-getting words, words of affirmation and negation, sentence introducers (it, there) and some others.

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Exam Questions. The Subject of Theoretical Grammar. Syntagmatic relations. Segmental units. History of English Grammars. Parts of speech. The noun as a part of speech.

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Exam Questions. The Subject of Theoretical Grammar. Syntagmatic relations. Segmental units. History of English Grammars. Parts of speech. The noun as a part of speech.

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