In the article, "How Many Words Do You Need to Know in Spanish (or any other foreign language)? And WHICH Words Should You Be Learning?" I came upon the following:
“Assume that a language learner is aiming for 90% coverage in each of the four parts of speech that represent open classes — nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. This 90% figure will be obtained by knowing about 2600 nouns, 230 verbs, 980 adjectives, and 50 adverbs, or a total of about 3800 total forms.” [refer to page 110 of the study for a detailed table that breaks down these four word types in much greater detail]
The passage above is referring to a study conducted by Mark Davies, a professor of linguistics and author of numerous publications including, “Making Google Books n-grams useful for a wide range of research on language change" and "A Frequency Dictionary of Spanish: Core Vocabulary for Learners, among several others.
Sometime after reading this article, I decided to conduct my own study with various subsets of corpora and one of the things I'd like to add to this study is a comparison of parts of speech. It may sound simple enough, but, there's actually a number of factors to consider that aren't so easy to iron out. I'm willing to live with the fact that the survey I am in the process of conducting may not be a perfect scientific study using rigid and rigorous methods of determining how and which parts of speech should be assigned to each word across my categories of corpora. However, one aspect of my study that I am grappling with how to account for relates to gerunds. Though my earliest understanding of a gerund was its use as a noun, often times they are used in a verbal phrase. In a sentence such as
"The teaching of a language doesn't have to be boring,"
it is easy to label the word "teaching" as a noun; "boring," on the other hand, is being used as an adjective.
Or what about a sentence like this:
"The police are asking for help in identifying the perpetrators."
The word "identifying" clearly seems to be something that could be considered a noun, but the word "asking" is clearly part of a verbal phrase.
My dilemma is this:
When looking at a single word such as "teaching," "boring," "asking," et cetera, you have no way of knowing which role such a word is fulfilling. This is true for many words, so my solution around this is to simply assign the part of speech associated with the most common meaning for any particular word. The size of my study is large enough that this should work. And if I had no interest in comparing it to other studies, no problem would exist, but I do want to compare it to other studies and not necessarily the one I quote above. So, my question is:
In studies that analyze the parts of speech in a set of corpora, are there standard linguistic practices that are adhered to in the assignation process, or does it really just depend on who is conducting the study, and therefore a careful reading of the researcher's methodology is required in order to know how such categories were assigned?
To put this more precisely, I'll use an excerpt from the quote I included at the beginning:
This 90% figure will be obtained by knowing about 2600 nouns, 230 verbs, 980 adjectives, and 50 adverbs, or a total of about 3800 total forms.”
Do these 2600 nouns include gerunds? I've actually searched the study for any mention of how they are treated, but it does not appear to address it.
My initial thought was to eliminate them, but not even halfway through the collection phase I see that they are quite prevalent. I've already made some judgment calls on certain words to exclude, but to omit gerunds simply because I'm not sure how to classify them seems like a step too far.
Some of you might suggest I contact Professor Davies directly, and I may just do that, but in the meantime, I wanted to know if anybody in this community is aware of standard practices with regard to this topic.
Thanks in advance for any insight or references you can provide.