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THE SYSTEM OF PARTS OF SPEECH

 

1. The noun.

Proceeding in the usual order, we start with the noun, or sub-stantive.[3]

Its characteristic features are the following.

(1) Meaning: thingness. Thus, nouns include not only chair, and iron, etc., but also beauty, peace, necessity, journey, and every­thing else presented as a thing, or object.

(2) Form. Nouns have the category of number (singular and plural), though some individual nouns may lack either a singular or a plural form. They also, in the accepted view, have the category of case (common and genitive); see, however, p. 42 ff.

(3} Function, (a) Combining with words to form phrases. A, noun combines with a preceding adjective (large room), or occa­sionally with a following adjective (times immemorial), with a pre­ceding noun in either the common case (iron bar) or the genitive case (fathers room), with a verb following it (children play) or preceding it (play games). Occasionally a noun may combine with a following or a preceding adverb (the man there; the then president). It also combines with prepositions (in a house; house of rest). It is typical of a noun to be preceded by the definite or indefinite article (the room, a room), (b) Function in the sentence. A noun may be the subject or the predicative of a sentence, or an object, an attri­bute, and an adverbial modifier. It can also make part of each of these when preceded by a preposition.

 

2. The adjective.

Next, we come to the adjective.

(1) Meaning. The adjective expresses property.[4]

(2) Form. Adjectives in Modern English are invariable. Some adjectives form, degrees of comparison (long, longer, longest).

(3) Function, (a) Adjectives combine with nouns both preceding and (occasionally) following them (large room, times immemorial). They also combine with a preceding adverb (very large). Adjectives can be followed by the phrase "preposition + noun" (free from dan­ger). Occasionally they combine with a proceeding verb (married young), (b) in the sentence, an adjective can be either an attribute (large room) or a predicative (is large). It can also be an objec­tive predicative (painted the door green).

 

3. The pronoun.

(1) The meaning of the pronoun as a separate part of speech is somewhat difficult to define. In fact, some pronouns share essential peculiarities of nouns (e.g. he), while others have much in common with adjectives (e.g. which). This made some scholars think that pronouns were not a separate part of speech at all and should be distributed between nouns and adjectives. However, this view proved untenable and entailed insurmountable difficulties. Hence it has proved necessary to find a definition of the specific meaning of pronouns, distinguishing them from both nouns and adjectives. From this angle the meaning of pronouns as a part of speech can be stated as follows: pronouns point to the things and properties without naming them. Thus, for example, the pronoun it points to a thing without being the name of any particular class of things. The pronoun its points to the property of a thing by referring it to another thing. The pronoun what can point both to a thing and a property.



(2) Form. As far as form goes pronouns fall into different types. Some of them have the category of number (singular and plural), e. g. this, while others have no such category, e. g. somebody. Again, some pronouns have the category of case (he — him, somebody — somebody's], while others have none (something).

(3) Function, (a) Some pronouns combine with verbs (he speaks, find him), while others can also combine with a following noun (this room), (b) In the sentence, some pronouns may be the subject (he, what) or the object, while others are the attribute (my). Pronoun can be predicative.

 

4. The Numeral.

The treatment of numerals presents some dif­ficulties, too. The so-called cardinal numerals (one, two) are some­what different from the so-called ordinal numerals (first, second).

(1) Meaning. Numerals denote either number or place in a se­ries.

(2) Form. Numerals are invariable.

(3) Function, (a) As far as phrases go, both cardinal and ordi­nal numerals combine with a following noun (three rooms, third room); occasionally a numeral follows a noun (soldiers three, George the Third), (b) In a sentence, a numeral most usually is an attribute (three rooms, the third room)^ but it can also be subject, predicative, and object: Three of them came in time; "We Are Seven" (the title of a poem by Wordsworth); / found only four,

 

5. The stative.

The next item in our list of parts of speech is a controversial one. Such words as asleep, ablaze, afraid, etc. have been often named adjectives, though they cannot (apart from a few special cases) be attributes in a sentence, and though their meaning does not seem to be that of property. In spite of protracted discussion that has been going on for some time now, views on this point are as far apart as ever. We will expound here the view that words of the asleep type constitute a separate part of speech, and we will consider the various arguments for and against this view in Chap­ter IX. As for the term "stative", it may be used to denote these words, on the analogy of such terms as "substantive" and "adjec­tive".[5]

(1) Meaning. The meaning of the words of this type is that of a passing state a person or thing happens to be in.

(2) Form. Statives are invariable.

(3) Function, (a) Statives most usually follow a link verb (was asleep, fell asleep). Occasionally they can follow a noun (man alive). They can also sometimes be preceded by an adverb (fast asleep), (b) In the sentence, a stative is most usually a predicative (he fell asleep). They can also be objective predicatives (I found him asleep) and attributes, almost always following the noun they modify (a man asleep in his chair).

 

6. The verb.

(1) Meaning. The verb as a part of speech expresses a process.

(2) Form. The verb is characterized by an elaborate system of morphological categories, some of which are, however, controver­sial.[6] These are: tense, aspect, mood, voice, person, and number.

(3) Function, (a) Verbs are connected with a preceding noun (children play) and with a following noun (play games). They are also connected with adverbs (write quickly). Occasionally a verb may combine with an adjective (married young), (b) In a sentence a verb (in its finite forms) is always the predicate or part of it (link verb). The functions of the verbals (infinitive, participle, and gerund) must be dealt with separately.

 

7. The adverb.

(1) The meaning of the adverb as a part of speech is hard to define. Indeed, some adverbs indicate time or place of an action (yesterday, here), while others indicate its property (quickly) and others again the degree of a property (very). As, however, we should look for one central meaning characterizing the part of speech as a whole, it seems best to formulate the meaning of the adverb as "property of an action or of a property".

(2) Form. Adverbs are invariable. Some of them, however, have degrees of comparison (fast, faster, and fastest).

(3) Function, (a) An adverb combines with a verb (run quickly), with an adjective (very long), occasionally with a noun (the then president) and with a phrase (so out of things), (b) An adverb can sometimes follow a preposition (from there), (c) In a sentence an adverb is almost always an adverbial modifier, or part of it (from there), but it may occasionally be an attribute.

 

8. The preposition.

The problem of prepositions has caused very heated discussions, especially in the last few years: Both the mean­ing and the syntactical functions of prepositions have been the subject of controversy. We will treat of this matter at some length in Chapter XVIII, and here we will limit ourselves to a brief statement of our general view on the subject.

(1) Meaning. The meaning of prepositions is obviously that of relations between things and phenomena.

(2) Form. Prepositions are invariable.

(3) Function, (a) Prepositions enter into phrases in which they are preceded by a noun, adjective, numeral, stative, verb or adverb, and followed by a noun, adjective, numeral or pronoun, (b) In a sentence a preposition never is a separate part of it. It goes together with the following word to form an object, adverbial modifier, predicative or attribute, and in extremely rare cases a subject (There were about a hundred people in the hall).

 

9. The Conjunction. The problem of conjunctions is of the same order as that of prepositions, but it has attracted less attention. We will reserve full discussion of the matter to Chapter XIX and we will only state here the main points.

(1) Meaning. Conjunctions express connections between things and phenomena.

(2) Form. Conjunctions are invariable.

(3) Function, (a) They connect any two words, phrases or clauses, (b) In a sentence, conjunctions are never a special part of it. They either connect homogeneous parts of a sentence or homoge­neous clauses (the so-called coordinating conjunctions), or they "join a subordinate clause to its head clause (the so-called subordi­nating conjunctions).

A further remark is necessary here. We have said that prepo­sitions express relations between phenomena, and conjunctions express connections between them. It must be acknowledged that the two notions, relations and connections, are somewhat hard to distinguish. This is confirmed by the well-known fact that phrases of one and the other kind may be more or less synonymous: cf, e. g., an old man and his son and an old man with his son. It is also confirmed by the fact that in some cases a preposition and a con­junction may be identical in sound and have the same meaning (e. g. before introducing a noun and before introducing a subordi­nate clause; the same about after]. Since it is hard to distinguish between prepositions and conjunctions as far as meaning goes, and morphologically they are both invariable, the only palpable differ­ence between them appears to be their syntactical function. It may be reasonably doubted whether this is a sufficient basis for consid­ering them to be separate parts of speech. It might be argued that prepositions and conjunctions make up a single part of speech, with subdivisions based on the difference of syntactical functions. Such a view would go some way toward solving the awkward problem of homonymy with reference to such words as before, after, since, and the like. However, since this is an issue for further considera­tion, we will, for the time being, stick to the traditional view of prepositions and conjunctions as separate parts of speech.

 

10. The Particle.

By particles we mean such word as only, solely, exclusively, even (even old people came), just (just turn the handle), etc. These were traditionally classed with adverbs, from which they, however, differ in more than one respect.

(1) Meaning. The meaning of particles is very hard to define. We might say, approximately, that they denote subjective shades of meaning introduced by the speaker or writer and serving to emphasize or limit some point in what he says.

(2) Form. Particles are invariable.

(3) Function, (a) Particles may combine with practically every part of speech, more usually preceding it (only three), but occa­sionally following it (for advanced students only), (b) Particles nev­er are a separate part of a sentence. They enter the part of the sentence formed by the word (or phrase) to which they refer. (It might also be argued that particles do not belong to any part of a sentence.)

 

11. The Modal word.

Modal words have only recently been sepa­rated from adverbs, with which they were traditionally taken to­gether. By modal words we mean such words as perhaps, possibly, certainly.

(1) Meaning. Modal words express the speaker's evaluation of the relation between an action and reality.

(2) Form. Modal words are invariable.

(3) Function, (a) Modal words usually do not enter any phrases but stand outside them. In a few cases, however, they may enter into a phrase-with a noun, adjective, etc, (he will arrive soon,, possibly tonight), (b) The function of modal words in a sentence is a matter of controversy. We will discuss this question at some length in Chapter XXI and meanwhile we will assume that modal words perform the function of a parenthesis. Modal words may also be a sentence in themselves.

 

12. The interjection.

(1) Meaning. Interjections express feelings (ah, alas). They are not names of feelings but the immediate expression of them, Some interjections represent noises, etc., with a strong emotional colouring (bang!).

(2) Form. Interjections are invariable.

(3) Function, (a) Interjections usually do not enter into phrases. Only in a few cases do they combine with a preposition and noun or pronoun, e.g. alas for him! (b) In a sentence an inter­jection forms a kind of parenthesis. An interjection may also be a sentence in itself, e. g. Alas! as an answer to a question.

So far we have been considering parts of speech as they are usually termed and treated in grammatical tradition: we have been considering nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc. Some modem linguists prefer to avoid this traditional grouping and terminology and to-establish a classification of types of words based entirely on their morphological characteristics and on their ability (or inability) to enter into phrases with other words of different types. Thus, for instance the words and and or will fall under one class while the words because and whether will fail under another class.

These classes are not denoted by special terms, such as "noun" or "adjective"; instead they are given numbers; thus, the words concert and necessity would belong to class 1, the words seem and feel to class 2, etc. Without even going into details, it is easy to see that the number of such classes is bound to be greater than that of the usual parts of speech. For instance, in the classification pro­posed by Ñ. Ñ. Fries there are no less than 19 classes of words.[7]

It must be recognized that classifications based on these prin­ciples yield more exact results than the traditional ones, but the system thus obtained proves to be unwieldy and certainly unfit for practical language teaching. Whether it can be so modified as to be exact and easily grasped at the same time remains to be seen.


Date: 2015-04-20; view: 2198


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