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Classification of words into parts of speech

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All the words of a language fall into lexico-grammatical classes or parts of speech which must be identified proceeding from lexical meaning, morphological characteristics and syntactical functions. So parts of speech are discriminated on the basis of the three criteria:

- semantic criterion based on the evaluation of the generalized categorical meaning characterizing all sets of words constituting a given part of speech and having complete or incomplete nominative meaning;

- formalcriterion provides for the specific word-building features as well as formal propertiesof grammatical forms being possibly included into certain grammatical categories;

- functionalcriterion concerns the syntactic role of a given part of speech in the sentence production, serving either self-dependent functions (of subject, predicate, object, attribute, adverbial modifier) or non-self-dependent functions (i.e. mediatory).

The paradigm of parts of speech in English includes the following: noun, adjective, pronoun, numeral, verb, adverb, preposition, conjunction, article, particle, interjection; all parts of speech are equally subdivided into notionaland structuralwords.

Notional words (noun, adjective, numeral, pronoun, verb, adverb) have a full lexical nominative meaning of their own denoting things, qualities, actions, states, property of property and can function as independent parts of the sentence, i.e. as subject, predicate, object, attribute and adverbial modifier. For example, a part of speech is defined as an adjective due to(a) the categorical meaning of property with a complete nominative meaning, (b) specific suffixal forms of derivation, (c) the capacity of qualitative adjectives to build up the category of degree, synthetically or analytically, (d) finally, playing the roles of an attribute or adjectival predicative.

Structuralwords have no lexical nominative meaning of their own and cannot be used as independent parts of the sentence. They are either connectorsor determiners. Connectorsare used to connect words grammatically or shape the grammatical forms of a certain part of a sentence. Here belong prepositions(at, in, from, on), conjunctions(that, which, what, till), auxiliaries(will, do, be, more, less), and linking verbs(seem, be, become, get, look). Determinersare used to specify the meaning of the notional words they refer to. These are articles andpronouns (a/the, his, this, that). The use of the article is of obligatory nature for English nouns and testifies to the existence of a special category of determination expressed by the article paradigm of three grammatical forms: the definite, the indefinite, the zero.

It should be noted that the distinction between structural and notional words is not quite definite in some ways: one and the same can be used in both functions in different contexts: e.g. be/have/do as notional words in the meaning of ‘exist/possess/fulfill’ and as connectors, as link-verbs to form Passive Voice (is/are painted), Present Continuous (is/are working), Perfect tenses (have/has written) and others.

Moreover, the border-line is often hardly recognizable in distinguishing notional parts of speech. The fact of the matter is that English notionals can change their nature depending on the contextual environment: American/an American, human/a human, a book/to book, flat/a flat, fat (n)/fat (adj), clean/to clean. Due to the historical development, their true lexico-grammatical nature cannot be discriminated when taken out of a word phrase or sentence.

Hence, the striking feature of English parts of speech is variability of some notionals, which can often shift from one part of speech to another without any morphological changes in their form.

Key words:

lexical meaningлексическое значение

morphological characteristicsморфологические характеристики

syntactical functionsсинтаксические функции

semantic criterionсемантический критерий

complete nominative meaningполнозначное номинативное значение

incomplete nominative meaningнеполнозначное номинативное значение

formal criterionформальный критерий

word-building features словообразовательные свойства


functional criterionфункциональный критерий

self-dependent functionнезависимая функция





adverbial modifierобстоятельство

non-self-dependent function зависимая функция.












notional wordзнаменательное слово

structural wordструктурное\служебное слово

full lexical nominative meaningполное лексическое номинативное значение





property of propertyкачество качества

independent parts of the sentenceнезависимая часть предложения

categorical meaning of propertyкатегориальное значение качества


qualitative adjectivesкачественные прилагательные


adjectival predicativeприлагательное-предикатив



category of determinationкатегория определенности


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