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Lecture 3. The Parts of Speech

The traditional grammatical classes of words are called parts of speech. This name was introduced in the grammatical teaching in Ancient Greece, where the concept of the sentence was not yet explicitly identified in distinction to the general idea of speech, where no strict differentiation was drawn between the word as a vocabulary unit and the word as a functional element of the sentence.

Apart of speech is a class of words which is characterized by certain typical features which are typical of all the elements which constitute this class (or words or lexical units).


The problem of parts of speech has been a problem for centuries. The number of parts of speech which specialists distinguish varies from 4 to 13-14 or even 15. And if we consider Fries’s classification, we find that he has 4 main classes +15 functional elements = 19 classes of words.

It’s not an easy thing to describe, to give a full adequate definition of a part of speech. A word as belonging to a part of speech should be characterized from at least two different points/aspects. First of all every word even a function word is a unit in itself as such F has a certain phonetic structure, a certain lexical meaning or a certain word building structure. At the same time we don’t speak in words we speak in utterances, in sentences, therefore a word should be regarded as a member of larger unit. If we consider a word as a unit in itself we consider some properties which characterize the word as such: its lexical and morphological properties; and if we consider the word as a member of a larger unit we should consider its syntactic characteristics-

There are different approaches in describing and classifying the parts of speech.

In English grammar the theory of parts of speech begins in the period of prenormative and normative grammars.

Lowth: in his classification we have 8 parts of speech. The names were all the same but the grouping was already different from what we understand, thus the noun and the adjective were grouped together as two kinds of nouns (they both were names).

Bullocar divided parts of speech into declinable and indeclinable (he already began to investigate the peculiarities of classes of words).

Ben Johnson distinguished changeable and unchangeable parts of speech but he called them “Words with number’5 and “words without number”.

Charles Butler distinguished between declinable and indeclinable parts of speech but he calls them “words with case and number” and “words without case and number”.

Brightland featured a new approach. He completely abandoned the old classes and names and distinguished between four parts of speech: names (noun), qualities (adjective), affirmations (verb), particles (all the predicative parts of speech).

Sweed and Jesperson studied the parts of speech very deeply considering all the various approaches. It was Jesperson who showed that it is impossible to approach a class of words from only one angle. He refers words to a certain class (hence to a certain meaning) through their distribution.

So the traditional approach to the problem of parts of speech takes into account three main criteria which describe a certain word both as a lexical unit and as a unit of a higher leveI that is meaning, form, function (in the sentence).

The semantic criterion presupposes the evaluation of the generalized meaning, which is characteristic of all the subsets of words constituting a given part of speech. This meaning is understood as the categorical meaning of the part of speech.

The formal considers the specific inflexional and derivational features of all the lexemic subsets of a part of speech.

The functional criterion concerns the syntactic role of words in the sentence typical of a part of speech.

In accord with the three criteria words on the upper level of classification are divided into notional and functional, or changeable and unchangeable.

The features of the noun: the categorical meaning of substance, the changeable forms of number and case, the specific suffixal forms of derivation, the substantive functions in the sentence, prepositional connections, modification by an adjective.

The features of the adjective: the categorical meaning of property, the forms of degrees of comparison, the specific suffixal forms of derivation, adjectival functions in the sentence.

The features of the numeral: the categorical meaning of number (cardinal and ordinal), the narrow set of simple numerals, the specific forms of composition for compound numerals, the specific suffixal forms of derivation for ordinal numerals, the functions of numerical substantive.

The features of the pronoun: the categorial meaning of indication, the narrow sets of various status with the corresponding formal properties of categorial changeability and word-building, the substantival and adjectival functions for different sets.

The features of the verb: the categorial meaning of process - finite and non-finite, the forms of verbal categories of person, number, tense, aspect, voice, mood, the opposition of the finite and non-finite forms, the function of the finite predicate for the finite verb, the mixed verbal - other than verbal functions for the non-finite verb.

The features of the adverb: the categorical meaning of the secondary property, the forms of the degree of comparison for qualitative adverbs, the specific suffixal forms of derivation, the functions of various adverbial modifiers.

-ette a) Action or instance of V-ing
-ism b) State or skill
-ance, -ence c) Action or state of V-ing; state of
-ant, -ent d) A small tiring, object, etc.
-cy e) State or quality of being
-ship f) A person who V-s, something used
  for V-ing
-tion g) Ideology, movement, tendency

To the functional parts of speech in English belong the article, the preposition, the conjunction, the particle, the modal word, the interjection. The article expresses the specific limitation of the substantive functions. The preposition expresses the dependences and interdependences of substantive referent. The conjunction expresses connections of phenomena. The particle unites the functional words of specifying and limiting meaning. The modal word expresses the attitude of the speaker to the reflected situation and its parts. The interjection occupying a detached position in the sentence is a signal of emotions.


The syntactico-distributional classification of words is based on the study of their combinability by means of substitution testing. The testing results in developing the standard model of four main positions of notional words in the English sentence: those of the noun, verb, adjective, and adverb. According to Fries the groups of functional words can be distributed among the 3 main sets. The words of the first set are used as specifiers of notional words. Here belong determiners of nouns, modal verbs as serving as specifiers of notional verbs, functional modifiers and intensifiers of adjectives and adverbs. The words of the second set play the role of interpositional elements, determining the relations of notional words to one another. Here belong prepositions and conjunctions. The words of the third set refer to the sentence as a whole. Such are question-words, inducement words, attention-getting words, words of affirmation and negation, sentence introducers.



1.Identify the part of speech the following words belong to. Explain your point of view.

acceptable, forgetful, on, hundred, myself, but, book, influential, soften, you, girl, who, itemize, it, color-blind, gold, whether, hyphenate, rely on, third, or, if, information, as far as, four, write, ice-cold, that, eagerly, mine, may, in.

2.Divide the derivational suffixes in to those specific for the nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs. Give your examples of the words formed with the help of the given affixes.

er, ly, ness, ful, ship, ate, ial, ize, en, able

3.Match the suffixes with their meanings.


Illustrate the classification of functional words given by Fries.

Lecture4.The Category of Definetness / Indefinetness

The Category of Definetness/Indefmetness is expressed by means of the Article and is found in any language where the article is used.

There have always been many discussions about the place of the Article. Its status in the language is a controversial problem and has been such for centuries.

One of the earliest classifications was Ben Johnson’s classification. He singled out the article in the special class and added it to the general list of parts of speech. Later grammarians (18, 19th cc) classed the grounds that it was usually used with a noun and preceded the noun as the adjective. Their approach was purely structural.

Barkhudarov considers article to be a formal word which constitutes the class of its own. He distinguishes between indefinite, definite and zero articles.

If we think that the article is a word then it should have a meaning of its own, but the article has no meaning (consider the zero). Some modem structural linguists don’t take the trouble of explaining the essence of the article, they just refer it to the class of form words.

Freeze considers the article together with form words where we find “that, those, all, two... ”. The approach is one and the same - the position in relation to the noun. All those words have one thing in common which is preposition in relation to the noun.

Francis calls the article one of the noun determiners.


All in all according to some grammarians the Article is a word which constitutes the class of its own. other grammarians claim that Article is included in other classes since it is a structural marker of the word / noun and marks its definiteness / indefiniteness as a grammatical meaning. So it seems advisable to consider the Article the morpheme of the category of definiteness / indefmiteness.

It is a very important text building element. When we introduce a new notion we use the indefinite or the zero Article - introductory function. The definite Article presents a notion as known or it refer to the previous text - the anaphoric function.

We should distinguish between the traditional article and the semantic. Tire traditional article does together with some names or with the phraseological units.

Here we don’t have to think of the article, it’s a historically and traditionally set phrase, By the semantic article we mean the article which carries a certain meaning: grammatical, communicative and stylistic.

The definite article is a determining unit of specific nature accompanying the noun in communicative collocation. The semantic purpose of the article is to specify the noun referent to define it in the most general way. The definite article expresses the identification of the referent of the noun: the use of this article shows that the object denoted is taken in its concrete, individual quality.

The indefinite article as different from the definite article expresses a classifying generalization of the nounal referent, or takes it in a relatively general sense.

The zero article is a variant of the indefinite article in the nominating function with nouns in the plural and uncountables. However there are numerous instances of the nouns without any article which cannot be explained by the nominating function of the indefinite article. Here we should distinguish two cases: traditional non-use and omission due to some semantic (the meaning of the noun, the meaning of the noun and the use in some syntactic structures) or stylistic reasons (telegrams, headlines, notices; for expressive charge).

There are also cases of the semantically unspecified non-use of the article in various fixed types combinations: at hand, make news, day by day. Three other types of really semantic absence of the article with the noun are:

1) The meaningful absence of the article before a countable noun in the singular signifies that the noun is taken in an abstract sense and can also be called absolute generalization: Charity begins at home.

2) The absence of the article for uncountable noun corresponds to two kinds of generalization; both relative and absolute: John laughed with great bitterness — relative.

3) The absence of the article before the countable noun in the plural corresponds to both kinds of generalization: Stars, planets and cornets are different celestial bodies.

To distinguish the demonstrated semantic functions of the non-uses of the article we may say that the absence of the article with uncountable nouns as well as countable nouns in the plural renders the meaning of uncharacterized generalization as different from the meaning of absolute generalization achieved by the absence of the article with countable nouns in the singular. The definite article from the point of view of the situational assessment of the article uses serves as an indicator of the type of nounal information which is presented as the fact already known. The indefinite article or the meaningful absence of the article introduces the central communicative nounal part of the sentence - rheme, theme. The typical syntactic position of the noun modified by the definite article is the thematic subject, while the typical syntactic position of the noun modified by the indefinite article or by the meaningful absence of the article is the rhematic predicative: The day was drawing to a close, the busy noises of the city were dying down. ” - subject. “How to handle the situation was a big question. ” - predicative.



1. Identify the meaning of the article in utilized phrases:

A)A 12-year-old boy got mad at his parents Friday night because they refused to let him go fishing on the Colorado River with relatives. So, while his parents were distracted during a barbecue with eight adult friends, he slipped away from his sister and three brothers, snatched the keys to a Volkswagen Beetle and drove off in one of his parent’s four cars, prompting fears that he had been kidnapped. [... ] El Cajon police sent teletyped descriptions of the curly haired, 90-pound sixth-grader to law enforcement agencies throughout Southern California and the Arizona border area. The boy was found unharmed - but scared and sleepy - at about noon yesterday by San Diego County sheriff’s deputies.

b) I’m looking for a millionaire, she says, but I don’t see any round.

c) I feel terrible. I need a friend.

d) We have wine on the table, girls, drink it.

e) We have telephones and we talk to people.

f) The Mercedes took a hard bounce from a pothole. “Christ,” said Sherman, “I didn’t even see that.” He leaned forward over the steering wheel. The headlights shot across the concrete columns in delirium.

2. Illustrate the cases of omission of the article due to the semantic, syntactic and stylistic reasons.

3. Explain the usage or absence of the article:

a) Fish live in water;

b) There’s sand in my shoes;

c) It wasn’t your fault, it was an accident.

d) Listen! Can you here music?

e) Did you hear a noise just now? - I can’t work here. There’s too much noise.

f) Enjoy your holiday, have a good time! - I can’t wait I haven’t got time.

g) I’m looking for a job. - I’m looking for work.

h) A man and a woman were sitting opposite me. The man was American but I think the woman was British.


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