Traditional notional definitions ofparts of speechDefinitions based on the meaning of the expressions being classified, not on their grammatical properties.E.g., the notional definition of the noun and verb = nouns name persons, places and things; verbs are concerned with describing the action or state, i.e. with ‘doing things’.E.g., to determine whether a word is a noun, one asks what it means or denotes; to determine the tense of a verb, one asks in what time period it locates the action or state expressed by the verb, etc.
Traditional notional definitions ofparts of speechTraditional definitions – criticised by linguistsEx., traditionally, preterite is defined as a tense expressing past action or state:1. (a) The finals started yesterday.(b) You said the finals started tomorrow.2. (a) I gave them his address.(b) I regret giving them his address.The notional definition gives the wrong results in both the (b) examples.
Traditional notional definitions ofparts of speechDefinitions are supposed to give necessary and sufficient conditions for belonging to some category, and the notional definitions for the preterite given above fails completely.(1b) shows that past time reference is not necessary for a word to be a preterite verb form, and (2b) shows that it is not sufficient either.The problem is that the relation between the grammatical category of tense (form) and the semantic category of time (meaning) is highly complex, and the notional definition assumes that the form can be defined directly in terms of meaning.
Traditional notional definitions ofparts of speechThe traditional definition of noun – also unsatisfactory.The problem – the concept of ‘thing’, or ‘name’, is too vague to provide a workable criterion.E.g. there are many abstract nouns such as absence, fact, flaw, idea, indeterminacy, lack, necessity, etc., so ‘thing’ cannot be intended as equivalent to ‘physical object’.
Traditional notional definitions ofparts of speech3. (a) I was annoyed at their rejection of my proposals.(b) I was annoyed that they rejected my proposals.These sentences have essentially the same meaning, but rejection is a noun, and rejected a verb.These two words figure in quite different grammatical constructions.E.g. rejection vs. rejectionsE.g. rejected vs. rejectE.g., transitive verbs like reject take a direct object, while nouns do not.E.g., rejected takes a nominative subject (they), rejection takes a determiner like possessive their.
Grammatical criteria for definingparts of speech (word classes)A satisfactory definition or explanation of concepts like noun or preterite must identify grammatical properties that distinguish them from the concepts with which they contrast.The discussion of rejection and rejected illustrated some of the major ways in which nouns differ from verbs.We assign words to their various classes on grammatical grounds, i.e. according to their properties in entering phrasal and clausal structure.
Grammatical criteria for definingparts of speech (word classes)E.g., determiners (the, a , that, etc.) link up with nouns to form noun phrases as in a girl;Pronouns can replace noun phrases as in “I saw a girl and I asked her the time.”
Closed and open word classesWords fall into two broad categories: closed and open.The category of closed word classes comprises classes that are finite (and often small) with a relatively stable and unchanging membership.Words that belong to closed classes play a major part in English grammar, and often correspond to inflections in some other languages. They are sometimes referred to as ‘grammatical words’, ‘structure words’, or ‘function words’.
Closed and open word classesThe open classes of words are constantly changing their membership as old words drop out of the language and new ones are coined or adopted to reflect cultural changes in society. They are often called ‘lexical words’.
Closed classesPronoun: she, they, anybody, etc.Determiner: the, a , some, those, etc.Primary verb: be, have, doModal auxiliary verb: can, may, shall, will, must, etc.Preposition: in, during, round, etc.Conjunction: and, or, while, yet, etc.
Other categories of wordsNumerals: three, sixty-five, etc.Interjections: oh, wow, etc.A word may belong to more than class, like for example roundE.g. Drive round the corner. round = preposition