The word category noun has a corresponding phrase category noun phrase, adverb has adverb phrase, noun has noun phrase

Other word categories like, for instance, determiners and quantifiers seem to m being more puzzling whether the have or have not.

Maybe one word category has no corresponding phrase category in a given language , but then it has in another.

3 Answers 3


Assuming that syntactic analysis is more interested in functional rather than lexical aspects, it would be not implausible that in general, certain POS categories can be subsumed under one syntactic category label in order to caputure syntactic commonalities between different word classes, while at the same time it seems possible to create syntactic lables that do not have a direct equivalent in POS classes at all if such a new category label is syntactically well-motivated.

Still, this question is of course highly dependent on your presumed POS and syntactic inventory; the below list of word categories is to be seen as an approximation rather than universally representative:

  • The word categories noun (N), verb (V), adjective (Adj), adposition (P) and adverb (Adv) rather undoubtedly have a corresponding syntactic category in mainstream phrase structure grammars.
  • Conjunctions are surprisingly rarely treated in syntactic analysis, probably because it imposes non-trivial problems to binary branching, but are, if represented, usually given the category label Conj. However, as BillJ pointed out, this is not a phrasal category: There is no such thing as ConjP. So this would be an example of a word class that does not have a phrasal counterpart.
  • Subjunctions usually occur in complementizer (C) position. This is a point where one might argue about whether this class has an own syntactic label; every subjunction I can think of will receive the C label, but there are items labelled as C which are not lexical subjunctions. So this is probably a problematic case.
  • Pronouns certainly don't have their own syntactic category. Depending on the type of pronoun (personal, reflexive, possessive, demonstrative, relative, indefinite, interrogative, ...), they might be classified as N or D (there is disagreement between different theories here), but they certainly don't make up their own category.
  • Articles are assigned the category D, but this category also comprises certain pronouns and, for the sake of unifying all types of quantifiers under one syntactic category, sometimes also numerals, so there is no 1:1 mapping here either.
  • Particles can either be put together with adverb(ial)s or given a special treatment (such as a category Neg for not, but then again one might locate the negation in I and so on); this is a very problematic category - most of the time, "particles" would probably be treated the same way as "adverbials" - , but in any case, there sure isn't a standarly assumed syntactic category PRT.
  • As for interjections, I have to admit I'm not even sure what the usual syntactic analysis is, but I've never seen a syntactic label such as Itj, so they are probably subsumed under "something adverbial".
  • At the same time, functional categories don't (always) have a counterpart in lexical categories; this holds especially true for the categories I and T, but also the types of constituents which occur under C do not belong to a fixed lexical category (which may contain not only different lexical types, but also purely featural or empty elements).

With this stipulated set of lexical classes and my implicitely assumed inventory of syntactic labels, one would come to the conclusion that no, not every lexical category corresponds to a syntactic category, as is especially visible in prononuns and articles sharing the catgories D and N, as well the non-1:1 mapping between subjunctions and the C category, and also the problematic treatment of conjunctions and interjections.
But again - this answer is highly dependent on your presumed lexical and syntactic category inventory, on the properties of the individual language under investigation and - as always - of the presumed syntactic theory.

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    I am always happy about downvoters giving the reason for their downvoting. Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 17:27
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    @Araucaria I was somehow thinking that adverbs might not always be assumed to have a corresponding "AdvP" counterpart because these would be subsumed under an "adverbial" category together with other categories, but I have to amit I can't reconstruct know what I thought where and how this would be done because with what you said, such a treatment seems not very plausible (and I personally would prefer having adverb-headed phrases labelled as adveb phrases, too). I removed that part. Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 7:15
  • (And appreciate how you are concerned about the fairness of your vote - don't mind it; if you find the answer to be (partially) wrong, it's your right to downvote it.) Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 7:20

I question whether the premise of your question is true about language structure, though it is surely true about the way some people talk about language. Why think there is any difference between single word and "corresponding" multiple word constituents?

It's easy to think of counterexamples. "Small" is a single word prenominal modifier -- an adjective. Then how about "very small"? Does having two words make it an adjective phrase? I see no evidence for a difference in category. In fact, if there were a difference in category, it should not be possible to coordinate an adjective and an adjective modified by an adverb. Yet it is: "wobbly and very small".


Leaving aside "interjections", we recognise eight (8) word categories (parts of speech). Six (6) of them can function as the head of corresponding phrases: the other two can’t. The very small coordinator and subordinator classes do not function as head but serve as markers of coordination and subordination: there is no such thing as 'coordinator phrases' or 'subordinator phrases'.

[1] Noun (NP) “this clear case of dedication to duty”

[2] Verb (VP) “saw something in there”

[3] Adjective (AdjP) “very eager for further news”

[4] Determinative (DP) “almost every”

[5] Adverb (AdvP) “quite separately from this issue”

[6] Preposition (PP) “right out of the area”

[7] Coordinator (no phrasal category)

[8] Subordinator (no phrasal category)

Note: pronouns are not treated as a distinct part of speech, but as a subclass of noun.

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    "We recognize n parts of speech", "Pronouns are not recognized as distinct parts of speech" - this is pure stipulation; some theories might treat it this way, but it is certainly not a universal. If you made this clear, I would +1. Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 11:41
  • "Subordinator (no phrasal category)" - what about C? Or, how would you treat subjunctions? Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 11:44
  • Declarative "that" and closed interrogative "whether” and "if" are treated as subordinators The rest that trad grammar treats as subordinating conjunctions, like “before, after, since, while, etc"., are analysed as prepositions.
    – BillJ
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 15:19
  • @lemontree Reminds me that a couple of weeks ago I asked my syntax professor if there was any evidence of the constituency of an IP inside a CP... she said she didn't know of any, and that functional projections are often proposed for theoretical rather than empirical reasons. :P IIRC, H&P argued against C as a head for several reasons. One of them was that the verb subcategorising for the complement clause governs the inflectional morphology of the tensed verb of the clause, and so it would be atypical if the head of the complement clause weren't the tensed verb. Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 17:10

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