This article provides an overview of recent literature and research on word classes, focusing in particular on typological approaches to word classification. The cross-linguistic classification of word class systems (or parts-of-speech systems) presented in this article is based on statements found in grammatical descriptions of some 50 languages, which together constitute a representative sample of the world’s languages (Hengeveld et al. 2004: 529). It appears that there are both quantitative and qualitative differences between word class systems of individual languages. Whereas some languages employ a parts-of-speech system that includes the categories Verb, Noun, Adjective and Adverb, other languages may use only a subset of these four lexical categories. Furthermore, quite a few languages have a major word class whose members cannot be classified in terms of the categories Verb – Noun – Adjective – Adverb, because they have properties that are strongly associated with at least two of these four traditional word classes (e.g. Adjective and Adverb). Finally, this article discusses some of the ways in which word class distinctions interact with other grammatical domains, such as syntax and morphology.
Language and Linguistics Compass, 2007, Vol 1, Issue 6, p. 709-726
verb, noun, adjective, rigid word class, flexible word class