flesl.net grammar glossary::primary verbs

words

• Words are the second-lowest of the five items in the grammatical hierarchy. They are beneath sentences, clauses, and phrases and above morphemes.

• Sentences, clauses, and phrases are purely linguistic entities—i.e. these concepts are relevant only to the understanding of the structure of Words are different, however: they have a “referential” as well as a linguistic aspect. They act as names (or “labels”) for all the objects, actions and qualities that interest English speakers, and in that way, they go beyond language and out into the world.

• The fact that words have a linguistic and a non-linguistic aspect is reflected by the fact that they can be studied in two ways: grammatically and “lexically.”

The grammatical study of words has two parts: Syntax is the study of how words are combined with each other to make phrases, clauses, and sentences; morphology is the study of the internal structure of words. An important part of syntax is the categorization of words into one or another of seven word classes: nouns, determiners, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, conjunctions, and prepositions. Morphology, on the other hand includes the study of inflections (the various forms of nouns, verbs, adjectives and pronouns) and of derivations (the creation of new words by means of the addition of suffixes and prefixes.)

Lexicology (“lexis” means “word” in Greek) is the study of the “dictionary meaning” of words. (Although lexicology is not part of grammar the two subjects are closely related because there is often a connection between the dictionary meaning of a word and the grammatical category into which it is placed.) When they are being considered from a lexical point of view, words are most accurately described as “lexical items” (or “lexemes”). This is because from the point of view of dictionary meaning there is no distinction to be made between, for example, “walk,” “walks,” and “walking”; they are all versions of the same lexical item. (The base form of a word (in this case “walk”) is used to refer to the lexical item.)

• Generally speaking the boundaries of a word are determined orthographically—i.e. in writing, a word is preceded and followed by a blank space. This approach is somewhat problematic however, because there are plenty of cases (multi-word verbs, for example and compound prepositions) in which a word, grammatically or lexically defined, contains two or more orthographic words.