Function word


Function word

Function words (or grammatical words) are words that have little lexical meaning or have ambiguous meaning, but instead serve to express grammatical relationships with other words within a sentence, or specify the attitude or mood of the speaker. Words which are not function words are called content words (or lexical words): these include nouns, verbs, adjectives, and most adverbs, although some adverbs are function words (e.g., "then" and "why"). Dictionaries define the specific meanings of content words, but can only describe the general usages of function words. By contrast, grammars describe the use of function words in detail, but treat lexical words in general terms only.

Function words might be prepositions, pronouns, auxiliary verbs, conjunctions, grammatical articles or particles, all of which belong to the group of closed-class words. Interjections are sometimes considered function words but they belong to the group of open-class words. Function words might or might not be inflected or might have affixes.

Function words belong to the closed class of words in grammar in that it is very uncommon to have new function words created in the course of speech, whereas in the open class of words (that is, nouns, verbs, adjectives, or adverbs) new words may be added readily (such as slang words, technical terms, and adoptions and adaptations of foreign words). See neologism.

Each function word either gives some grammatical information on other words in a sentence or clause, and cannot be isolated from other words, or it may indicate the speaker's mental model as to what is being said.

Grammatical words, as a class, can have distinct phonological properties from content words. Grammatical words sometimes do not make full use of all the sounds in a language. For example, in some of the Khoisan languages, most content words begin with clicks, but very few function words do.Citation | last =Westphal | first =E.O.J. | contribution =The click languages of Southern and Eastern Africa | year =1971 | title =Current trends in Linguistics, Vol. 7: Linguistics in Sub-Saharan Africa | editor-last =Sebeok | editor-first =T.A. | place=Berlin | publisher =Mouton] In English, only function words begin with voiced "th-" IPA| [ð] (see Pronunciation of English th).

The following is a list of the kind of words considered to be function words:
*articles – "the" and "a". In highly inflected languages, the articles may take on the case of the declension of the following noun.
*pronouns – inflected in English, as "he"–"him", "she"–"her", etc.
*adpositions – uninflected in English
*conjunctions – uninflected in English
*auxiliary verbs – forming part of the conjugation (pattern of the tenses of main verbs), always inflected
*interjections – sometimes called "filled pauses", uninflected
*particles – convey the attitude of the speaker and are uninflected, as "if", "then", "well", "however", "thus", etc.
*expletives – take the place of sentences, among other functions.
*pro-sentences – "yes", "okay", etc.

References


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • function word — n a word that does not mean anything on its own, but shows the relationship between other words in a sentence, for example words such as but or if …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • function word — function ,word noun count LINGUISTICS a word used mainly for expressing relationships between other words in a sentence, for example a conjunction like but or a preposition like with …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • function word — n. a word, as an article or conjunction, having little or no lexical meaning but used to show syntactic relation …   English World dictionary

  • function word — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms function word : singular function word plural function words linguistics a word used mainly for expressing relationships between other words in a sentence, for example a conjunction like but or a preposition… …   English dictionary

  • function word — noun (C) a word such as a pronoun or preposition that is used in place of another word or shows the relationship between two words. For example, in the sentences The cat is hungry. It hasn t been fed yet, it is a function word …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • function word — noun a word that is uninflected and serves a grammatical function but has little identifiable meaning • Syn: ↑closed class word • Hypernyms: ↑word • Hyponyms: ↑determiner, ↑determinative, ↑preposition, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • function word — a word, as a preposition, article, auxiliary, or pronoun, that chiefly expresses grammatical relationships, has little semantic content of its own, and belongs to a small, closed class of words whose membership is relatively fixed (distinguished… …   Universalium

  • function word — func′tion word n. ling. a word, as a preposition, conjunction, or article, that chiefly expresses grammatical relationships and has little semantic content of its own (disting. from content word). • Etymology: 1935–40 …   From formal English to slang

  • function word — noun A word that has little meaning when standing alone, but instead serves to express grammatical relationships with other words within a sentence, or specify the attitude or mood of the speaker, such as prepositions, pronouns, auxiliary verbs,… …   Wiktionary

  • function word — n. word that indicates mainly grammatical relationship (such as auxiliary verb, preposition or conjunction), form word …   English contemporary dictionary


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