Morphological classifications from the Ancient times to the 20th century

March 1st, 20129:32 am


Morphological classifications from the Ancient times to the 20th century

The issue of parts of speech is a problem of grammatical division of the wordstock in a language. But at the same time the issue of dividing words into certain classes is one of the principal questions of morphology because this division is connected with word structure and paradigms, peculiar to words.

The parts-of-speech problem embraces such issues as classification of vocabulary, criteria of this classification, possibilities of a word to pass from one class into another, development of homonymy, correlation between grammatical and lexical meanings. A classification is important, since it serves the purpose of scientific cognition by providing generalization and systematization of collected material. It helps to penetrate into the essence of objective material, to determine essential and distinguishing features of research subjects and to identify typological characteristics of these features.

To divide items into classes, one needs to decide on a certain feature as basis of classification. Classical logic requires that this feature should be the only characteristic that accounts for difference between the logically consistent classes. Thus, the object acquires certain unity. Also, this bipartite principle of dichotomy provides the opposition based on the presence or absence of the chosen feature in the items classified. In other words, one group of the research subjects possesses the positive feature of the corresponding characteristics and its counterpart has none of it.

However, this method leads to abstraction from all other features of the research subject. One may also bear in mind that language units are multifaceted and can hardly be distributed into classes according to one criterion only. The absence of distinct borderline between certain parts of speech, syncretism of syntactic and make it impossible to draw a demarcation line on the grounds of only one criterion as there are always cases which do not fit in any of the groups or equally well fit in several groups simultaneously.

These problems are particularly typical in English grammar because English is characterized by conversion as a productive word-forming pattern, as well as a limited number of inflections and abundant homonyms. As a result, the issue of differentiation between polysemy and conversion becomes of an extreme importance. For instance, how should one treat the italicized words in the following sentences: as one and the same word or different words, i.e. as homonyms:

(1) I am just kidding. – He’s just left the office. – He is known as a just person.
(2) The night was still and quiet. – The house was still quieter. – Still, 1 don’t understand how you got this information. – The weather is still nice.
(3) This is my book. – Oh my! The party was really great!

As a result, researchers usually have to make use of several features and form tripartite or multipartite classifications.

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