Classification of parts of speech

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Table of contents

  1. Concept of the part of speech.
  2. School classification of parts of speech.
  3. Criteria of awarding parts of speech.
  4. Detailed characteristics of parts of speech.

The concept of the part of speech

The term parts of speech – Lat. partes orationis – functions in linguistics since ancient times. It denotes grammatical classes of words. Even if the list of part of speech seems to be determined and indisputable in the school practice, however it is not so at all. Moreover precise equivalents of some Polish words in other languages (e.g. in English) need not be counted among the same grammatical class as respective Polish words. It refers to some pronouns for example. Hence it should be emphasized here that everything what was written below refers completely to the Polish language only, it results from the Polish tradition (leaned on the Latin tradition) and it may be applied to other languages only to a certain degree.

The school classification of parts of speech

They speak traditionally about 10 parts of speech. They are (now I give you simplified criteria of awarding them):

  1. substantives – they dub persons and objects (who? what?),
  2. adjectives – they name qualitative features of persons and objects (which?),
  3. numerals – they determine the number or the order of objects (how many? who/which in turn?),
  4. pronouns – they have no meaning content, they fulfil the function of other parts of speech,
  5. verbs – they inform of activities, states and phenomena (what is he doing? what is happening with him?),
  6. adverbs – they call qualitative features of activities (how? where? when?),
  7. prepositions – they inform of relations between objects, linking parts of sentence with uneven syntactic functions,
  8. conjunctions – they inform of relations between objects and activities, linking parts of sentence with the same function,
  9. interjections – they express feelings or appeals,
  10. particles – they strengthen or modify the meanings of other words.

The first five parts of speech, i.e. substantives, adjectives, numerals, pronouns, verbs, are termed inflectionable parts of speech. Further they are divided into declinable (inflectionable by cases: substantives, adjectives, numerals, pronouns – sometime all in all termed nouns) and conjugatable (inflectionable by persons: verb – sometimes termed words). The remaining ones, e.g. adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections and particles, are noninflectionable parts of speech. The terms “inflectionable” and “noninflectionable” are traditional and sometimes they do not agree with linguistic reality – because certain adverbs inflect by degrees of comparison (e.g. daleko – dalej – najdalej ‘far – farther – farthest’), there also exist quite a lot of indeclinable pronouns (e.g. tam ‘there’) and numerals (e.g. pojedynczo ‘one by one’). Some borrowed substantives are indeclinable, either (e.g. menu).

Substantives are naming words. Adjectives, numerals and adverbs are determining words. Prepositions and conjunctions are termed relational words, verbs are termed informing words. Interjections can also be termed informing or assigned to a separate group called symptomative-appellative. Particles can be termed modifying. In fact, pronouns do not belong to none of these groups, but substantive pronouns can be included into the class of naming words, whereas adjective, numeral and adverbial pronouns – into determining words.

Independent words can create finished statements in certain situations – it means they can fulfil functions of sentences or equivalents of sentences. These are examples of such statements of one word:

These 7 finished statements, expressed in their turn with a substantive, an adjective, a numeral, a verb, an adverb, a pronoun, and an interjection, could be given as answers for the following questions given in turn:

Prepositions, conjunctions and particles belong to dependent words because they cannot play the function of equivalents of sentences. E.g. przed, lub, czy ‘in front of, or, whether’ cannot be ended statements. Dependent words cannot fulfil the function of parts of sentence. E.g. in the statement Pies biega przed domem, the preposition przed ‘in front of’ is not a part of sentence – the adverbial of place is built of the two words przed domem.

School classification of parts of speech
  inflectionable noninflectionable
by cases by persons
  independent dependent
naming substantive      
substantive pronoun
determining adjective   adverb  
adjective pronoun adverbial pronoun
numeral  
numeral pronoun  
informing   verb interjection  
modifying       particle
relational       preposition
conjunction

Interjections serve for expressing feelings, however remaining parts of speech are signs of subjects of thoughts. So all words apart interjections are termed meaningful.


Onward to inflectional tables by Tokarski

Building noun forms

Main pagePolish grammar

2008-02-21