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Problem of classification

Parts of speech are the great taxonomic classes into which all the words of a language fall.

An adequate definition of parts of speech must naturally proceed from a set of criteria that can be consistently applied to all lexical units of a given language. We cannot, for instance, use only " lexical meaning" as the basis for the definition of some word-classes, " function in the sentence" for others, and " formal characteristics" for still others.

As the basis for the definition of word-classes we naturally must use not only their morphological and word-making characteristics but semantic and syntactical features as well. The latter are particularly important for such parts of speech as have no morphological distinctions ai all 1

It will be more in accord with the nature of language to say that parts of speech — must be identified proceeding from:

1) a common categorial meaning of a given class of words abstracted from the lexical meaning of all the words belonging to this class;

2) a common paradigm and

3) identity of syntactic functions.

To find out what particular class a given English word belongs to we cannot look at one isolated word. Nor is there any inflexional ending that is the exclusive property of any single part of speech. The ending -ed (-d), for instance, is generally found in verbs (opened, smoked, etc.), but it may be also added to nouns to form adjectives (kind-hearted, talented, blue-eyed, etc.); the inflexion -s changes the noun into a plural and -s is also used to indicate the third person singular in verbs, etc.

The attitude of grammarians with regard to parts of speech and the basis of their classification has varied a good deal at different times. Some modern grammarians maintain that the only criterion of their classification should be the form of words.

Taking " form" in rather a wide sense, they characterise nouns, for instance, as possessing certain formal characteristics which attach to no other class of words. These are the prefixing of an article or demonstrative, the use of an inflexional sign to denote possession and plurality,

L See: Л. В. Щepба. О частях речи в русском языке. В сб.: «Русская речь», 1928, р. 6; Грамматика русского языка, т. 1. Изд. АН СССР, 1953, р. 20; В. Н. Жигадло, И. П. Иванова, Л. Л. Иофик. Современный английский язык. М., 1956, pp 11—19.

and union with prepositions to mark relations originally indicated by inflexional endings. This does not seem justified however because the absence of all the features enumerated should not exclude a word from being a noun, and this should be described as a word which has, or in any given usage may have those formal signs.

Grammatical categories identifying the parts of speech are known to be expressed in paradigms. We generally distinguish inflectional and analytical types of the paradigm. In the former the invariable part is the stem, in the latter the lexical element of the paradigm. The so-called interparadigmatic homonymy resulting from the fact that the root, the stem and the grammatical form of the word may be identical in sound, is most frequent.

Some type of structural ambiguity always results in English whenever the form-classes of the words are not clearly marked.

Vivid examples of such kind of ambiguity are given by Ch. Fries 1 with reference to the use of the article in Modern English:

" The utterance ship sails today (which might appear in a telegram) is ambiguous as it stands because of the absence of clear part-of-speech markers. If a clear part-of-speech marker the is put before the first word as in 'The ship sails today', there is no ambiguity; we have a statement. If, however, the same marker is put before the second word as in 'Ship the sails today', there is also no ambiguity, but the utterance is different; we have a request. Other clear part-of-speech markers would also resolve the ambiguity, as with the addition of such a marker as the ending -ed: 'Shipped sail today'; 'Ship sailed today'."

Newspaper headlines very frequently are structurally ambiguous because of the lack of definite part-of-speech or form-class markers. Some typical examples out of many are the following:

(1) " Vandenberg Reports Open Forum". The ambiguity of this heading could be cleared by the use of such markers as the or an, as: 'Vandenberg Reports Open the Forum', 'Vandenberg Reports an Open Forum'.

(2) " Unfavourable Surveyor Reports delayed Michigan Settlement". The ambiguity of this heading would be cleared by the use of such markers as have or a 'Unfavourable Surveyor Reports Have delayed Michigan Settlement'; 'Unfavourable Surveyor Reports a Delayed Michigan Settlement'.

We cannot fail to see that in such cases the article as a clear part-of-speech marker serves to contrast the paradigmatic forms. This is closely related to the development of conversion which is one of the most peculiar features of English and presents a special point of interest in its structure. By conversion we mean a non-affix word-making device where the paradigm of the word and its syntactical function signal the lexico-grammatical nature of the word. The newly formed word differs both lexically and grammatically from the source word and the latter becomes its homonym 2.

1 See: Ch. Fries. The Structure of English. An Introduction to the Construction of English Sentences. London, 1963, pp. 62-63.

3 See: А. И. Смирницкий. Лексикология английского языка. М., 1956; В. Н. Ярцева. Проблема парадигмы в языке аналитического строя. В сб.: «Во-

It is to be noted that some modern linguists have abandoned many of the commonly held views of grammar. With regard to the methodology employed their linguistic approach differs from former treatments in language learning. Structural grammatical studies deal primarily with the " grammar of structure", and offer an approach to the problems of " sentence analysis" that differs in point of view and in emphasis from the usual treatment of syntax l.

Some linguists prefer to avoid the traditional terminology and establish a classification of words based only on the distributive analysis, i. e., their аbility to combine with other words of different types. Thus, for instance, the words and and but will fall under one group, while because and whether are referred to as belonging to another group.

The four major parts of speech (noun, verb, adjective, adverb) set up by the process of substitution in С h. Fries' recorded material are given no names except numbers: class 1, class 2, class 3, class 4. Assumptions have been made by Ch. Fries that all words which can occupy the same " set of positions" in the patterns of English single free utterances must belong to the same part of speech 2. These four classes make up the " bulk" of functioning units in structural patterns of English. Then come fifteen groups of so-called function words, which have certain characteristic in common. In the mere matter of number of items the fifteen groups differ sharply from the four classes. In the four large classes, Ch. Fries points out, the lexical meanings of the words depend on the arrangement in which these words appear. In function-words it is usually difficult if not impossible to indicate a lexical meaning apart from the structural meaning which these words signal.

Ch. Fries made an attempt to establish the form-classes of English purely syntactically. His work presents a methodical analysis of a corpus of recorded fifty hours of diverse conversation by some three hundred different speakers. This material, in his words, covers the basic matters of English structure. The book presents a major linguistic interest as an experiment rather than for its achievements.

The new approach — the application of two of the methods of structural linguistics, distributional analysis and substitution — makes it possible for Ch. Fries to dispense with the usual eight parts of speech. He classifies words, as may be seen from the extracts into four " form-classes", designated by numbers, and fifteen groups of " function words", designated by letters. The form-classes correspond roughly to what most grammarians call nouns and pronouns, verbs, adjective and adverbs, though Ch. Fries especially warns the reader against the attempt to translate the statements which the latter finds in the book into the old grammatical terms. The group of function words contains not only prepositions and conjunctions, but also certain specific words that most

просы германского языкознания». M.— Л., 1961, p. 229; Ю. А. Жлуктенко. Конверсия в современном английском языке как морфолого-синтаксический способ словообразования.— «Вопросы языкознания», 1958, № 5.

1 See: Ch. Fries. The Structure of English. London, 1963.

- Ibid., pp. 94—100, group E and J.

traditional grammarians would class as a particular kind of pronouns, adverbs and verbs.

Other modern grammarians retain the traditional names of parts of speech, though the methods they use to identify the various parts of speech, the number of them and the distribution of words among them are all different from what is found in traditional grammar. They also exclude function words from the classification of parts of speech and give them entirely separate treatment 1.

Setting aside function words and observing the remaining words as they are combined into utterances with clear and unambiguous structural meaning, W. Francis finds it necessary to identify four different parts of speech: noun, verb, adjective and adverb. In his analysis nouns are identified, for instance, by five formal criteria, some more important than others. The most common noun-marking signal is a group of function words called noun-determiners. These precede the nouns they mark, either immediately or with certain types of words between; nouns have inflections; many nouns may be identified as such by various noun-marking derivational suffixes; nouns fill certain characteristic positions in relation to other identified parts of speech in phrases and utterances, etc. Verb-marking criteria as given by W.Francis are the following: inflections, function words, derivational affixes, positions and " superfixes", і. e. " morphological" stress in cases like importto import; contractto contract; perfectto perfect, etc.

It must be recognised that recent studies and practical suggestions made by structural linguists in this field, though not yet quite successful at all points, still new and experimental, are becoming increasingly interesting and important for language learning and practical training in linguistic skills. The subject matter of structural grammar has already supplied much material in the field of descriptive techniques. Some new methods of linguistic analysis promise to be rather efficient and are now being tried out.

English school grammars deal extensively with the parts of speech, usually given as eight in number and explained in definitions that have become traditional. It had long been considered that these eight parts of speech — noun, pronoun, adjective, verb, adverb, preposition, conjunction, interjection — are basic classifications that can be applied to the words of any language and that the traditional definition furnishes an adequate set of criteria by which the classification can be made.

We cannot however admit without question that the eight parts of speech inherited from the past will be the most satisfactory for present-day English.

The linguistic evidence drawn from our grammatical study gives every reason to subdivide the whole of the English vocabulary into eleven parts of speech; in point of fact, eight of them are notional words which make up the largest part of the vocabulary and five are " function words", comparatively few in actual number of items, but used very frequently.

1 See: W. N. Francis. The Structure of American English. New York, 1958, p. 234; see also: R. Quіrk. The Use of English. London, 1964, p. 74.

Notional or fully-lexical parts of speech are: nouns, adjectives, verbs., adverbs, pronouns, numerals, modal words and interjections. Prepositions, conjunctions and particles are parts of speech largely devoid of lexical meaning and used to indicate various functional relationship among the notional words of an utterance.

Generally speaking we can say that all nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs are capable of making direct reference and are the main units which carry the burden of referential information, and that all other words provide functional information.

Oppositional relations between different parts of speech may be thus shown as follows:

Autosemantic   Synsemantic
noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, numeral   preposition, conjunction, particle, auxiliary verb, copula
Function Words
Syntactic Functions   Morphological Functions
preposition, conjunction, particle, copula   article, auxiliary verb

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