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What Are the Different Parts of the English Lexicon?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2016
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In looking at the entire English lexicon, or the array of words and phrases used in the English language, studiers can identify many different parts of this lexicon that play various roles in verbal or communications. Different ways of classifying the lexicon are useful for academic, linguistic, or planning projects. These parts would include the basic parts of speech, as well as more abstract categories used by linguists. A basic knowledge of parts of the English lexicon is useful to educators and many others, who have to explain the ways that the English language works to their students.

One of the most basic ordering of parts of the English lexicon relates to technical parts of speech. Some general parts of speech in English represent fundamental parts of the general lexicon. These include nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs.

Along with the above basic English language items, there are several other types that may be more abstract than grammar designations like nouns and verbs. One of these is the preposition, which is often used with a verb in a "phrasal verb" that English speakers rely on extensively. There’s also the conjunction, and another item called the interjection that covers a wide spectrum of exclamatory phrases, many of which are superfluous to formal English grammar.

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One other way to designate portions of the English lexicon relates to the way that the English language evolved. Linguists can contrast elements of old English, for example, with elements of the French language that made their way into English. Looking at Roman versus Germanic parts of the English language, or other contrasts, is a very interesting part of defining how the lexicon is structured.

In addition to the above, there are many other ways to order the this language lexicon. Some linguists identify parts of the lexicon by the number of syllables or the number of phonemes in a word or phrase. Others may structure the English lexicon according to whether a phrase is literal or figurative, where technical, grammatically correct sentences contrast with elements of slang or idiomatic speech.

Modern technology has enabled a different way to look at a linguistic lexicon: linguists can now present and use what’s called a lexical database. The lexical database will identify parts of the English lexicon in much more abstract ways. Those who are using a lexical database can select technical properties for a part of the overall lexicon by using check boxes, buttons, or other tools. The results that come back from the lexical database will represent a very strictly defined set of words or phrases in the language lexicon.

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