View table of contents for this book View table of contents for LinguaLinksLibrary Go to LinguaLinks home page

What is a lexical category?



A lexical category is a syntactic category for elements that are part of the lexicon of a language. These elements are at the word level.

Also known as:

part of speech

word class

grammatical category

grammatical class


Lexical categories may be defined in terms of core notions or 'prototypes'. Given forms may or may not fit neatly in one of the categories (see Analyzing lexical categories). The category membership of a form can vary according to how that form is used in discourse.


Payne, T. 1997a 32


There are major and minor lexical categories.


Major categories:


Every language has at least two major lexical categories:


Many languages also have two other major categories:


Minor categories:


Many languages have minor lexical categories such as:


Grammatical categories are distinct from formal relational categories such as subject, object and predicate, or functional categories such as agent, topic or definite.

Context for this page:

Go to SIL home page This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 5.0 published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 2003. [Ordering information.]

Page content last modified: 5 January 2004

© 2004 SIL International