part of speech

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PART OF SPEECH. A GRAMMATICAL CATEGORY or class of words. Traditional grammars of English generally list eight parts of speech: NOUN, PRONOUN, VERB, ADJECTIVE, ADVERB, PREPOSITION, CONJUNCTION, INTERJECTION. The parts of speech are traditionally defined by a mixture of formal and notional criteria. This mixture has posed problems for 20c grammarians, and since the development of structural LINGUISTICS, many have come to prefer the term WORD CLASS, for which the criteria are rigorously restricted to form alone. Some contemporary linguists and grammarians prefer to avoid the traditional term; others use it by and large in the same sense as word class, and treat the two as interchangeable. The contemporary categories, based on formal criteria and however named, are more numerous than the traditional parts of speech and can be subcategorized. In English, for example, grammarians recognize a class of DETERMINERS that introduce noun phrases, and subclasses of determiners include: the definite article the (the weather); the indefinite article a/an (a pipe); the DEMONSTRATIVES (that painting); the possessives (our family); and the indefinite pronouns (some money). Similarly, verbs may be distinguished as full verb and AUXILIARY VERB, and within the auxiliary class there is the class of modal auxiliary or MODAL VERB (can, may, will, etc). See ADVERBIAL, ARTICLE, PARTICIPLE, PARTICLE.

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part of speech, in traditional English grammar, any one of about eight major classes of words, based on the parts of speech of ancient Greek and Latin. The parts of speech are noun, verb, adjective, adverb, interjection, preposition, conjunction, and pronoun. Some grammarians add articles, quantifiers, and numerals. These word classes have traditional definitions in grammar books, i.e., "a noun is the name of a person, place, or thing" without reference to grammatical function. By this strict definition the word toy would be a noun in the sentence "The toy is under the tree" and in the sentence "It is a toy dog." However, an alternate method of defining parts of speech is in terms of the structural features and distribution patterns within a sentence. Thus toy would constitute a different part of speech in each of the above sentences since the word functions in different environments in each sentence, i.e., as a subject and as a modifier. Some English parts of speech (nouns, verbs, etc.) are productive classes allowing new members; others, with functional rather than lexical meaning (prepositions, articles, conjunctions) are nonproductive, having a limited number of members. See also inflection.

See L. Bloomfield, Language (1933); C. Fries, The Structure of English (1952); W. N. Francis, The Structure of American English (1958); O. Jespersen, The Philosophy of Grammar (1965); F. R. Palmer, Grammar (1971); C. L. Baker, English Syntax (1989).

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part of speech • n. a category to which a word is assigned in accordance with its syntactic functions. In English the main parts of speech are noun, pronoun, adjective, determiner, verb, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection.