Unit 5: Function Labels: 5.2 Position

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If you are unsure of the part of speech of a word, it can be helpful to look at its position in the phrase or sentence. In Unit 2 we came across the nonsense sentence "The yugs are in the winful sog". Most people think that YUGS and SOG are nouns while WINFUL is an adjective. Why?

The decision is based partly on the appearance of the word and partly on a conscious or unconscious assessment of its position. The most likely word to occur in the frame below, after a determiner and before a verb, is a noun. If you don't believe this, you can check it in any piece of text.

FRAME
The
d
........
are
V

........N

The verb tells us that the noun must be plural (i.e. there is CONCORD between noun and verb). We therefore deduce that YUG-S is a two-morpheme word, the plural of YUG. Similarly, when we have a preposition and a determiner followed by two gaps, the most likely fillers of the gaps are an adjective and a noun.

FRAME
in
pr
the
d
........
........

........Aj

........N

The observations above could be said to constitute RULES of English grammar, i.e. practices that are normally followed by speakers and writers of English.