Parts Of Speech

Parts of Speech are the linguistic categories that we use to define words. Common ones are Nouns, Verbs and Adjectives. We refer to them as syntactic categories.

Semantic Definitions

Previously we've known semantic definitions for these (e.g. a Noun is a person, place or thing). There are a number of problems with defining these semantically, and hence we have more refined systems of doing so. Some of the problems are:

Cross-Linguistic Problems

When translating between languages not all follow the same kind of syntax as us. For instance Walpiri use "Wita" (their equivalent of "small") as the subject of a sentence. E.g. Small runs. We would have to say "The small one runs".

Garbage Sentences

We can figure out the syntactic category of nonsense words without any semantic knowledge. This means we can't be using a meaning-based system to determine them.

Function Words

Function words like 'that' and 'of' don't mean anything, but have a valid place in a sentence. How would we semantically categorise these?

Distributional Definitions

An alternate way of defining the syntactic category of a word is by looking at their affixes and their syntactic context (what part of the sentence they appear in, what comes before/after it).

Distributional definitions are also language specific, as every language has different syntactic contexts, word orders, affixes, etc.

Distributional Types

Like mentioned above we use two things for this type of definition:

  • Morphological tells (affixes etc)
  • Syntactic placement (position relative to other words).

English Distributionally

Each syntactic category has its own morphological and syntactic tests to determine whether a word belongs in it.

Nouns

Morphologic Tests

  • Derivational Suffixes are:
    • -ment
    • -ness
    • ‐ity
    • ‐ty
    • ‐(t)ion
    • ation
    • ‐ist
    • 
‐ant
    • ‐ery
    • ‐ee
    • ‐ship
    • ‐aire
    • ‐acy
    • ‐let
    • ‐ling
    • ‐hood
    • ‐ism
    • 
‐ing
  • Inflectional Suffixes are:
    • the plurals:
    • ‐s
    • 
‐es
    • 
‐en
    • 
‐ren
    • 
‐i
    • 
‐a

Syntactic Tests

Nouns are found in these situations:

  • After determiners
  • After adjectives
  • After prepositions
  • Subject or Direct object
  • Negated with "no" (e.g. "no laptops allowed")

Verbs

Morphologic Tests

  • Derivational Suffixes are:
    • -ate
    • -ise
    • -ize
  • Inflectional Suffixes are:
    • past tense: -ed, -t
    • present tense: -s
    • third person singular: -s
    • progressive: -ing
    • perfective: -en
    • passive: -ed, -en

Syntactic Tests

Verbs are found in these situations:

  • Following auxiliaries and modals and "to"
  • Negated with "Not" (e.g. "you are not allowed laptops")
  • Can follow subjects (but doesn't have to)

Adjectives

Morphologic Tests

  • Derivational Suffixes are:
    • ‐ing
    • 

‐ive
    • 
‐able
    • 
‐al
    • 
‐ate
    • 
‐ish
    • 
‐some
    • 
‐(i)an
    • 
‐ful
    • 
‐less
    • 
‐ly
  • Inflectional Suffixes are:
    • Comparative -er (e.g. bigger)
    • Superlative form -est (e.g. greatest, follows "more")
    • Negated using "un" (e.g. unhappy)

Syntactic Tests

Adjectives are found in these situations:

  • Between determiners and Nouns
  • Following auxiliaries (as do verbs)
  • they can be modified by "very" (as can adverbs)

Adverbs

Morphologic Tests

  • Derivational Suffixes are:
    • Many end in -ly, but so do adjectives
  • Inflectional Suffixes are:
    • Kind of lacking. Mostly they don't take any, but sometimes they can follow "more".

Syntactic Tests

Adverbs are found in the following situations:

  • Never between determiners and nouns
  • Never after "is"
  • Typically at the start/end of sentences/clauses.

Classes of Dividing Syntax

Syntax can be dividing into different classes, allowing us to define words in different ways.

Open vs Closed Parts of Speech

The Open Class allows neologism (new words), expresses semantic meaning (is the content in a sentence) and contains the Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives and Adverbs.

The closed class is the opposite. It doesn't allow new words, expresses no meaning and contains Prepositions, Conjunctions, Modals, Auxiliaries, Determiners, Pronouns, Complementizers, Non-finite Tense Marker ('to'), Negation etc.

Closed Group Words

  • Prepositions
    • to, from, over, under, above, beside, with, by, at, through, near, off, on, for, into, during, near, since, across, until, without, before, after
  • Determiners
    • Articles: a, an
    • Definite/Deictic Articles: the, this, these, those, yon
    • 
Quantifiers: 
Every, 
some, 
many, 
most, 
few, 
all,
 each, 
any, 
less, 
fewer, 
no
    • Numerals:
 one,
 two,
 three,
 four,
 etc.

    • 
Possessive
pronouns: 
my,
 your,
 his,
 her,
 its,
 our,
 their.

    • Some 
wh‐question
words: 
which, 
whose
  • Conjunctions
    • and, or, neither nor, either or
  • Complementizers
    • that, for, if, whether
  • Tense
    • Auxiliaries: 
have/has/had,
am/is/are/was/were,do

    • Modals:
 will,
would,
shall,
should,
can,
could
    • Non‐finite 
Tense 
marker: 
to
  • Negation
    • Not

Lexical vs Functional Parts of Speech

Lexical words are usually open class (aside from pronouns). They express the content-part of a sentence.

Function words are closed class, they hold the sentence together (contains the words that help sentences flow ('that', 'of')).

Subcategories (Categoryception).

Each syntactic category has categories within it.

Nouns

Nouns have two subcategories; count words vs mass words.

Count words are words like 'apple' - you can have a plural of apple (apples), and the world apple requires a determiner.

Mass words are words like 'sugar'. You can say "Sugar is sweet", and no determiner is necessary.

A good test is much vs many - we say "Many apples were eaten" and "Much sugar was consumed" but not the other way around.

We can also add in things such as:

  • +/- plural
  • +/- pronoun
  • +/- anaphor

To further differentiate.

Tense

Tense has three subcategories; non-finite, modal and past.

There are three types of tense words, and they can all be defined by being +/- these categories:

  • Auxiliaries are words like "do", "be". There can be multiple in one sentence.
    • They are -modal, -non-finite.
  • Modals are worlds like "can", "must". There can only be 1 in a sentence and it must come first, before any other tense words.
    • They are +modal, -non-finite
  • Non-finite Marker. This is "to", as in "to work", "to play".
    • -modal +non-finite

There are also past tense forms of verbs and each of the above tense words. They can be marked as +/- past.

Verbs

To understand verb subcategories we need to understand the argument structure of verbs. Verbs take arguments, internal and external. We classify these as:

  • Subject: External Argument
  • Verb: Predicate
  • Object: Internal Argument.

We classify verbs according to both how many arguments they take and what type of argument (both external/internal and NP/CP/PP). This leaves us with the following:

[NP__] intrans 1 arrive
[NP __ NP] trans 1 hit
[NP __ {NP/CP}] trans 2 ask
[NP __ NP NP] ditrans 1 spare
[NP __ NP PP] ditrans 2 put
[NP __ NP {NP/PP}] ditrans 3 give
[NP __ NP {NP/PP/CP} ditrans 4 tell