Syntactic category

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The term syntactic category is often used in the sense of word class.

  • "It is taken to be a truism, an "absolute universal" in Greenberg's sense or a "design feature of language" in Hockett's sense, that all natural language utterances are made up of distinct units that are "meaningful" and that all natural language systems divide those units into a series of two or more classes or SYNTACTIC CATEGORIES. In fact, it would be safe to say that the nature of syntactic categories is at the very heart of grammar." (Croft 1991:36)


Strictly speaking, phrasal categories such as noun phrase and verb phrase are also syntactic categories.


The term apparently originates in generative grammar of the 1960s, although it is also used by non-generativists such as Croft (1991).


  • Croft, William. 1991. Syntactic categories and grammatical relations: The cognitive organization of information. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

other languages

German syntaktische Kategorie