Grammatical category

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Grammatical categories divide the building blocks of a language , the words and parts of sentences , into different classes. A distinction is made according to the type of classification

  • morphological categories (division into word forms for given types of speech; description of grammatical aspects),
  • syntactic categories (division into parts of speech for given word forms; description of lexical differences) and
  • semantic or formal-logical categories (division into parts of a sentence and other groups of meaning of a sentence ).

Role of grammatical categories

A language consists on the one hand of its vocabulary - more precisely of the content words in it - and on the other hand of its grammar, i.e. the rules according to which the words are put together to form sentences . Both contribute to the meaning of a sentence. Example:

 „Der Hund bellte.“

In the example sentence as a whole, the information about what kind of animal it was and what it was doing is contained in the content words “dog” and “barking”, while the information about when it was (namely in the past ) and what it was about the dog already knows (namely that it is the same as already mentioned, or the only one that comes into question in the context) in grammatical properties of the sentence, namely the tense of the verb and the use of the definite article as a sign of definiteness . The information about how many dogs there were (namely one) results from the number , which is noticeable at the same time through the word form of the verb, the article and the noun.

Tense, definiteness, and number are examples of grammatical categories. These can be expressed in changes to the word forms or the sentence structure or through the addition of functional words , here for example the article. These possibilities of expression are limited to a finite number of - mostly relatively few - possibilities for each individual category. In this way one can express the point in time of an action very precisely, but only distinguish a rough grid of a few different periods of time using the grammatical tenses.

The grammatical categories are very different in the individual languages. The categories present in a given language must be used, although they often do not add much to the meaning of a sentence. For example, it is basically superfluous if every verb in a story set in the past bears the tense of the past again, and also definiteness and number very often result from the context or could be mentioned explicitly if necessary. When learning a foreign language, categories that exist in it, but not in one's own mother tongue, are often a particular difficulty.

Morphological categories

Morphological grammatical categories describe the properties of word forms within a word paradigm that defines the parts of speech . The names commonly used today for grammatical categories go back to the Latin grammar . Different word paradigms, i.e. different perspectives on what is to be understood as part of speech or word form, lead to different classifications in the type and number of grammatical categories.

An overview of the traditional school grammar classification in German can be found in the article Grammar Terms in German . Grammatical categories are listed below, but not all of them have to be found in every word paradigm.

Grammatical categories of the noun
  • Gender (the gender, plural: genera)
  • Number (the number, plural: numbers)
  • Case (the case, plural: case)
Grammatical categories of the verb

Since this division is not yet about categories in the narrow sense of the word, it has recently been referred to as “grammatical categorization”, that is, sets of categories. Depending on the part of speech, different and different numbers of categorizations are used for a word paradigm. A noun like “tree” inflects in case and number , but not in gender . It is different with the adjective, which inflects both in number and case , but also in gender . Categorizations are therefore a good means of delimiting parts of speech.

In classic form, a verb has the five grammatical categories (determinants) (in this order) person, number, mode, tense and gender verbi / diathesis (e.g. Latin amō 'I love' 1st person singular indicative present active , Latin amātōte 'you should love' 2nd person plural imperative future active ; in special cases the gender can also be expressed in a verbal form, e.g. Latin amātae essent 'they would have been loved' 3rd person plural feminine subjunctive Past perfect passive ).

The categories aspect and type of action are of particular importance in the basic Indo-European language . The Aorist action type has z. B. always the perfective (meaning: “punctual”, i.e. one-time action), the action type present tense, however, always the imperfective (meaning: “durative” or “iterative”, i.e. continuous action or repeated action ) aspect. The perfective aspect, as a view of the facts , further develops the way of looking at an action in the overall view, the imperfective aspect correspondingly the way of looking at an action in the progress view .

Syntactic categories

Syntactic categories are grammatical categories “of linguistic elements / constituents with the same morpho-syntactic properties”.

Put simply, a word paradigm, consisting of parts of speech, is defined via a given morphological classification ( morphological grammatical categories) of the language.

They are divided into lexical categories and phrasal categories (or also, then in the narrower sense, syntactic categories). Phrasal categories are not based on words, but on groups of words, with one word in the group of words usually governing or attracting the others.

Lexical categories

Synonym part of speech , examples noun (N), verb (V), adjective (A), preposition (P), determiner (D), conjunction (K) ...

Phrasal categories

Examples of phrasal categories : noun phrase (NP), verb phrase (VP).

Formally logical or semantic categories

Logical formalities or semantics, i.e. meaning within a sentence, can also be categorized. In school grammar , this division corresponds to the parts of the sentence within the sentence theory ( syntax ).

Example: sentence, term and predicate .

Web links

Wiktionary: grammatical category  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Hadumod Bußmann (Ed.): Lexicon of Linguistics. 3rd updated and expanded edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-520-45203-0 (grammatical category).