The Chicago Manual of Style on Parts of Speech

The Chicago Manual of Style on Parts of Speech

In Section II of The Chicago Manual of Style, even the most ardent grammarian can find reasons for fear, if not despair. (Quotations that follow are from the 17th edition of the manual, as initially described here.)

“As traditionally understood, grammar is both a science and an art,” states the manual in the section on Parts of Speech. (Oh, go on, pick one and defend it!) 

“Often it has focused — as it does here — on parts of speech and their syntax. Each part of speech performs a particular function in a sentence or phrase.” (Oh, great, we’re not even looking at whole sentences all the time here!)

“Traditional grammar has held that there are eight parts of speech: nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections.” (You remember, fellow “Schoolhouse Rock” viewers: “Interjections show emotion or excitement, hallelujah, hallelujah!”)

“Somewhat surprisingly, modern grammarians cannot agree on precisely how many parts of speech there are in English. At least one grammarian says there are as few as three. Another insists there are ‘about fifteen,’ noting that ‘the precise number is still being debated.’ This section deals with the traditional eight.”

Traditional attribution would be useful here. “At least one grammarian” — then who? Precisely one, if looking at things scientifically, or how many? “Another” — again, who?

Come on, University of Chicago! You’re just leaving the door open for the answers to come in your next edition of the manual, aren’t you?


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  • You saying that the manual isn't Corpus Juris Secundum?* Also, try to figure out what parts of speech were used in the preceding section.

    *Everything in it is supposed to have attribution. Of course, supposedly also Wikipedia, but the attribution is questionable.

  • I'm not so sure about your use of "everything," Jack, but I prefer attributed quotations, not just by job title but by name, and I feel suspicious about the generalities I cited here.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    You missed the "in it," which refers to CJS.

    On the other hand, you were asking for an attribution to something that essentially was a strawman.It's sort of like saying "The Barbershop is a reliable source of information, except few but the author agree." And, to clarify again, my point was about the scarecrow Barbershop.

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