Classification of the Parts of Speech According to the Criterion of Derivation

The syntactic functions of words are often determined by their place in the sentence. In the sentence We drink water, the word water is substantive and directly complementary since it is placed after the transitive verb to drink, but in the sentence We water the flowers in the evening, the word water is a verb and is predicated since it is placed after the subject we. Due to the fact that there are no specific endings to certain parts of speech as a result of poor flexion, it is often difficult to recognize the parts of speech by their form. Thus, for example, speak is verb, bleak is adjective, and leak is substantive.

While in Romanian we have four conjugations, according to the ending of the infinitive, verbs in modern English are divided into two broad categories, regular and irregular, according to the way the past tense (Past Tense) and the past participle are formed, but the endings of the infinitive are extremely of various and quite insignificant in terms of their classification, for example: to ask, to do, to mend, to like, to go, to put, to glide, to read, to sleep, etc. The lack of bending is the main cause of a very common phenomenon in contemporary English, namely the passing of a word from one part of speech to another (conversion). Thus, for example, from the verb to run derived the noun run, from the noun paper derived the verb to paper, from the chance noun derived the chance adjective, from the native adjective derived the native noun etc. This phenomenon made the order of words increasingly rigid.

Modality in English has traditionally been interpreted in terms of the use of modals, and although this is not the only resource available for the expression of this notion,

There is no doubt that it is the most important one. Still, modality as a whole is not a clear area of study, for several reasons, the most important being the fact that we can identify two different kinds of modality: „root” (deontic) modality (dealing with obligation, permission, ability, etc.) and epistemic modality (dealing with probability, possibility, certainty, etc.). This distinction has been studied in the past, and an interesting suggestion is that epistemic uses are dependent on, and derive from, deontic ones (cf. Sweetser 1982, 1990, who gives a unified treatment in terms of force dynamics and causality).

From a diachronic point of view, it is clear that epistemic modality derives from „root” modality, and we shall elaborate on this below. Diachronic study can also be understood from a language learning perspective: children acquire the deontic senses of modal verbs earlier than the epistemic ones (as mentioned by Sweetser 1982: 485, who refers to Kuczaj and Daly 1979 and Shepherd 1981).

Synchronically, „root” and epistemic modalities are related by means of a subsumption relation which will also be discussed here. However, modality as a notion also needs to be examined in connection with tense and aspect.

Epistemic modality can be represented in a compact way together with tense in a graph which has time as one axis and possible worlds as the other. There is strong evidence that tense and modality are related: both are categories that are encoded in predications at the same level of depth, and both clearly interact with each other. This will also be looked into.

If we consider tense, we shall also need to consider aspect, which deals with the internal configuration of time as it is expressed in verbs. The three categories tense, aspect, and modality are expressed mainly by auxiliaries; there is a great deal of cross-linguistic evidence that the three of them are closely interrelated (cf. Givón 1984: 269-318). In order to analyse the way in which this interrelation takes place, we are going to use two axes: the diachronic one (relations through historical time) and the synchronic one (relations in the system at a given moment).

Some students still learn vocabulary lists in which each L1 word has a one-word L2 translation; English book is ‘carte’ in Romanian and so on. Some teachers try to get the students to associate each word with an image or an object; they hold up a picture of a book or even show one and say “This is a book”.

Both these teaching techniques imply that learning vocabulary means learning individual words one at a time.  But the relationships between words are as important as the meaning of the word in isolation – how words contrast with other words is as important as the meaning of the word itself. Due to the lack of specific expressions and endings of the parts of speech, the morphology, understood as part of the grammar that studies the change of the word form, is a very limited chapter in contemporary English and, in general, in modern English. Nor does taking over the morphology of the chapter on the formation of speech parts from lexicology (composition, derivation, etc.) increase its volume too much.

In practice, however, things are quite different: an impressive number of English grammarians reserve a great deal of space for morphology, most often at the expense of syntax (for example, a Eastern European grammarian, for a total of 461 morphology pages, gives 106 syntax pages, in 1958). The explanation must be sought in a permanent (albeit unmitigated) syntax in morphology, which, in our opinion, is not only justified, but absolutely necessary when it comes to a language by analytical excellence.

The „syntax of speech parts” is undoubtedly an extremely important chapter for such a language, but the specific issues of „syntax of speech parts” (syntactic functions of speech parts, syntactic relations between them, etc.) affect a similar measure and languages of another invoice, for example synthetic languages.  The fact that in grammars of languages other than English, the „syntax of speech parts” is treated when within the morphology, when within the syntax, when as a standalone chapter, constituting a kind of transition from the morphology itself to the actual syntax. said (the syntax of the parts of the sentence, the syntax of the sentence and the sentence, the topic, etc.) is not too important. In English, on the contrary, the discussion of speech parts syntactically finds its place in morphology, because the „syntax of speech parts” integrates organically into a series of other „infiltrations” of syntax into English morphology, transforming -o, in fact, in what might be called syntactic morphology.

Another grammarian from Eastern Europe emphasized, quite rightly: «The more morphologically a language is, the greater the independence – it is true, relative – of the words in it. Thus, it is easier to establish out of context the meaning of a Greenlandic word, rich in morphology, than of a word in any of our languages; Slavic and Italian words can usually be understood more easily out of context than many German words; the German ones, easier than the English and French ones; the English ones, than the Chinese ones ». The quotation draws our attention to the identification of the meaning of words from different languages in context and outside of it, with the emphasis that in English, because of the poverty of the morphological forms of words, context has a decisive role in this respect; but it also draws our attention to the importance of context for identifying words as parts of speech (in other words, for differentiating words from their „external” grammatical names),  and for identifying, within the respective part of speech, their morphological functions.

To these it must be added that, with the semantic-morphological identification, the whole context is the one that – in English – indicates, most of the times, the syntactic function of the words in the sentence. Context thus becomes the decisive element of semanticomorphological-syntactic identification of the words in the sentence. Translated in strictly grammatical terms, the context means first of all syntactic framing. The way in which this syntactic classification, on the one hand, by the intention of the speaker (the author), and on the other hand, by the specific semanticogrammatic possibilities of the words, defines the words as parts of speech and fixes their morphological meaning and function in the a given sentence can be traced based on the illustrations below: The syntactic framing of words – a means of defining them as parts of speech and differentiating them from their „external” grammatical homonyms.

Since in contemporary English many words have given birth, by conversion (Conversion), that is, by changing the grammatical category, to other speaking languages – identical in form to them -, the syntactic framing is the one that defines the part of speech that these polyvalent words a represents in a given sentence and differentiates it from its possible „external” grammatical homonyms, when this definition and differentiation do not result from a specific paradigmatic form or when the paradigmatic forms of grammatical homonyms are also homonymous (eg lands – the plural of nouns land and pers. III singular the present indicative of the verb to land). Wishes father thoughts. («Wishes think thoughts») Each of the three words of the sentence can be used as a noun: wishes – «wishes»


prof. Mariana-Camelia Huciog

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