Part of speech
In traditional grammar, a part of speech or part-of-speech (abbreviated as POS or PoS) is a category of words (or, more generally, of lexical items) that have similar grammatical properties. Words that are assigned to the same part of speech generally display similar syntactic behavior—they play similar roles within the grammatical structure of sentences—and sometimes similar morphology in that they undergo inflection for similar properties.
Commonly listed English parts of speech are noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, preposition, conjunction, interjection, numeral, article, or determiner. Other Indo-European languages also have essentially all these word classes; one exception to this generalization is that Latin, Sanskrit and most Slavic languages do not have articles. Beyond the Indo-European family, such other European languages as Hungarian and Finnish, both of which belong to the Uralic family, completely lack prepositions or have only very few of them; rather, they have postpositions.
Other terms than part of speech—particularly in modern linguistic classifications, which often make more precise distinctions than the traditional scheme does—include word class, lexical class, and lexical category. Some authors restrict the term lexical category to refer only to a particular type of syntactic category; for them the term excludes those parts of speech that are considered to be functional, such as pronouns. The term form class is also used, although this has various conflicting definitions. Word classes may be classified as open or closed: open classes (typically including nouns, verbs and adjectives) acquire new members constantly, while closed classes (such as pronouns and conjunctions) acquire new members infrequently, if at all.
- Japanese has as many as three classes of adjectives, where English has one.
- Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese have a class of nominal classifiers.
- Many languages do not distinguish between adjectives and adverbs, or between adjectives and verbs (see stative verb).
Because of such variation in the number of categories and their identifying properties, analysis of parts of speech must be done for each individual language. Nevertheless, the labels for each category are assigned on the basis of universal criteria.