In grammar, a particle is a function word that does not belong to any of the inflected grammatical word classes (such as nouns, pronouns, verbs, or articles). It is a catch-all term for a heterogeneous set of words and terms that lack a precise lexical definition. It is mostly used for words that help to encode grammatical categories (such as negation, mood or case), clitics or fillers or discourse markers that facilitate discourse such as well, ah, anyway, etc. Particles are uninflected.1 As examples, the English infinitive marker to and negator not are usually considered particles.
Depending on its context, the meaning of the term may overlap with such notions as "morpheme", "marker", or even "adverb" as in phrasal verbs such as out as in get out. Under the strictest definition, which demands that a particle be an uninflected word, English deictics like this and that would not be classed as such (since they have plurals) and are therefore inflected, and neither would Romance articles (since they are inflected for number and gender).
- the definite particle the (the indefinite article a or an cannot really be classed as uninflected due to its inherently singular meaning, debarring it from plural usage)
- the infinitive to, as in to walk
- prepositions, such as over in I went over the hill
- adverbs and adverbial portions of phrasal verbs, such as off in we put it off too long
Sentence connectors, tags or tag questions, and conjunctions connect to what has been said in a previous clause or sentence. These three types of grammatical particles (similarly to modal particles in some other languages) also reflect the speaker's mood and attitude toward what has come before in the conversation, or is likely to follow later. A particle may be defined simply as an invariable word, in that interjections are to be classed as particles.23 Because of their similar functions, interjections, sentence connectors, and conjunctions should be grouped together:
The list of interjections is probably never-ending as it belongs to the open class word category and is subject to new creations at all times.
- so (as in So what)
- well (as in Well, we can't help that)
- still (as in Still, it could have been a lot worse)
- yet (as in I am older now, yet I still enjoy some of the things I used to do)
- in addition
- last but not least
- on the other hand
- too (as in that, too, has been said in the past)
- and (together with)
- while (as in The repair takes only a short time while you wait.)
- for (as in she could not see the film, for she was too young)
- since (as in since you asked, I will tell you)
A German modal particle serves no necessary syntactical function, but expresses the speaker's attitude towards the utterance. Modal particles include ja, halt, doch, aber, denn, schon and others. Some of these also appear in non-particle forms. Aber, for example, is also the conjunction but. In Er ist Amerikaner, aber er spricht gut Deutsch, "He is American, but he speaks good German", aber is a conjunction connecting two sentences. But in Er spricht aber gut Deutsch!, the aber is a particle, with the sentence perhaps best translated as "What good German he speaks!"4 The particles appear more often in relaxed spoken and casually written registers of German.citation needed
The term particle is often used in descriptions of Japanese5 and Korean,6 where they are used to mark nouns according to their case or their role (subject, object, complement, or topic) in a sentence or clause. These particles may function as endings and therefore as bound morphemes rather than independent words, in particular in Old Japanese.7 Some of these particles are best analysed as case markers and some as postpositions. There are sentence-tagging particles such as Japanese and Chinese question markers. Thai also has particles.8
- Chinese particles
- Function word
- Ilokano particles
- Japanese particles
- Korean particles
- Okinawan particles
- Proto-Indo-European particle
- Uninflected word
- McArthur, Tom: "The Oxford Companion to the English Language", pp. 72-76, Oxford University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-19-214183-X For various keywords
- http://www.canoo.net/services/OnlineGrammar/Wort/Ueberblick/Flexionslos.html?lang=en&darj=1 Interjections
- http://www.cs.cf.ac.uk/fun/welsh/Glossary_main.html Interjections
- Martin Durrell, Using German, Cambridge University Press, 2nd edition (2003), p. 156-164.
- http://japanese.about.com/blparticles.htm List of Japanese particles
- http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/portnerp/nsfsite/KoreanParticlesMiokPak.pdf List of Korean particles
- http://siamsmile.webs.com/thaiparticles/thaiparticles.html Large list of Thai particles and exclamations with explanations and example sentences.