An Introduction to English Morphology

8/17/2015 11:38:04 AM
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Words and Word Classes

We think of words as the basic units of language. When a baby begins to speak, the way the excited mother reports what has happened is: ‘Sally (or Tommy) has said her (or his) first word!’ We would be surprised at a mother who described little Tommy’s or Sally’s first utterance as a sentence. Sentences come later, we are inclined to feel, when words are strung together meaningfully. That is not to say that a sentence must always consist of more than one word. One-word commands such as ‘Go!’ or ‘Sit!’, although they crop up relatively seldom in everyday conversation or reading, are not in any way odd or un-English. Nevertheless, learning to talk in early childhood seems to be a matter of putting words together, not of taking sentences apart. Let us consider the words in the following sentence:  

- My brother drives a big car

We can tell almost instinctively that brother and car are the same type of word, and also that brother and drives are different types of words. By this we mean that brother and car belong to the same word class. Similarly, when we recognise that brother and drives are different types, we mean that they belong to different word classes. We recognise nine word classes: 
Word Classes Example 
Noun brother, car, David, house, London
Verb be, drive, grow, sing, think
Adjective big, foolish, happy, talented, tidy
Adverb happily, recently, soon, then, there
Pronoun he, she, him, her, that
Preposition at, in, of, over, with
Conjunction and, because, but, if, or
Article a, an, the, some
Interjection hey, ahem, alright, absolutely, amen

We will discuss each of the major word classes in turn. Then there are also exercises to make sure that we will step by step master every class of word in English.



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