Parts of speech: Solid citizens or slippery customers?

by David Denison

14 Apr 2016
Digital Object Identifier

Full text of article by David Denison posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 1, pp. 151-185.

Abstract: The 'parts of speech' which have played a fundamental role in most descriptions of grammar, from primary school curriculum to advanced linguistic theory, are explored in this article, which considers some intriguing changes in recent everyday English that challenge traditional assumptions about the definition and usefulness of word classes such as 'pronoun', 'adjective' and 'noun'. The article raises important questions about what happens at the boundaries between these word classes and looks at how we can answer these questions - potentially changing the direction of both future linguistic research and pedagogical practice.

Keywords: parts of speech, category, underspecifications, gradience, vagueness, dual inheritance, grammar in schools

Text printed 2014 in British Academy Lectures 2012-13

Version of article available in British Academy Scholarship Online (HTML)

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