Interjections and Other Parts of Speech

by Alan Reed Libert (Author)
©2020 Monographs 142 Pages


The boundaries between word classes are often fuzzy. This book looks at the classification of interjections and similar words of other classes. It reviews work done over the past 250 years on several languages, including English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Latin, Ancient Greek, Albanian, and Welsh. Most chapters discuss interjections in relation to one of the other traditionally recognized parts of speech: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, adpositions, and conjunctions. A major focus is on the use of relevant terminology e.g. primary and secondary interjections, proper and improper interjections, and interjectives.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Chapter 1: Introduction and General Discussion
  • 1.1 Words “Used as” Interjections and Similar Wording
  • 1.1.1 Works on English
  • 1.1.2 Works on Other Languages
  • 1.1.3 Related Matters
  • 1.2 Words “Used Interjectionally”
  • 1.3 Interjections are Words of Some Other Part of Speech
  • 1.4 Words of Other Parts of Speech are Interjections
  • 1.5 Words of Other Parts of Speech Become Interjections
  • 1.6 Primary and Secondary Interjections
  • 1.7 Lexical and Non-Lexical Interjections
  • 1.8 Derived and Derivative Interjections
  • 1.9 Proper and Improper Interjections
  • 1.10 Echte/Eigentliche and Unechte/Uneigentliche Interjections
  • 1.11 Interjections Accidentelles
  • 1.12 True Interjections
  • 1.13 Genuine Interjections and Real Interjections
  • 1.14 Pure Interjections
  • 1.15 Original Interjections
  • 1.16 Quasi-Interjections
  • 1.17 Pseudo-Interjections
  • 1.18 Interjectional Force and the Force of an Interjection
  • 1.19 Interjectional Character
  • 1.20 Interjectives
  • 1.21 Interjectionalization
  • 1.22 Other Terminology
  • 1.23 (Supposed) Properties of Interjections
  • 1.23.1 Invariability
  • 1.23.2 Lack of Connection with Other Items
  • Chapter 2: Interjections and Nouns
  • 2.1 Interjections and Vocative Nouns
  • Chapter 3: Interjections and Pronouns
  • 3.1 Interjectional Pronouns
  • 3.2 What
  • Chapter 4: Interjections and Verbs
  • 4.1 Verbal Interjections and Interjectional Verbs
  • 4.2 Interjections and Imperatives
  • 4.2.1 Imperative Interjections
  • 4.3 Interjections and Infinitives
  • Chapter 5: Interjections and Adjectives
  • Chapter 6: Interjections and Adverbs
  • 6.1 Yes and No
  • 6.2 Adverbial Interjections
  • 6.3 Interjectional Adverbs
  • Chapter 7: Interjections and Adpositions
  • Chapter 8: Interjections and Conjunctions
  • Chapter 9: Complex Situations
  • 9.1 There
  • 9.2 Well
  • 9.3 Fuck
  • References


The present work is the third in a series of books that I have been writing about distinguishing certain parts of speech from other parts of speech (largely reporting on what various scholars have written about these questions): Libert (2013) and Libert (2017) were on adpositions and conjunctions respectively. This time I have turned my attention to interjections.

Several authors have stated that interjections have not received much attention from linguists, and indeed the title of Ameka (1992) is “Interjections: The Universal yet Neglected Part of Speech”. However, I have been able to find a very large amount of material on interjections, going back more than 200 years: although there are not many works dedicated exclusively to interjections, hundreds, if not thousands, of books and papers have something (often interesting) to say about interjections. (On the other hand, it should also be noted that some grammars say little or nothing about this word class.)

My use of ellipsis points is as follows: if they are included in square brackets, I have omitted one or more complete sentences from a quotation, otherwise only a part of a sentence has been removed.

As so many times before, the Interlibrary Services section of the University of Newcastle library have been invaluable in obtaining materials for me. I would like to thank Dorcas Zuvalinyenga for assistance with Shona. Thanks also to Hongge Libert for assistance with the manuscript.

Chapter 1: Introduction and General Discussion

The classification of words in terms of parts of speech (or word classes) is not always clear-cut. This is sometimes true with respect to interjections, as Roberts (1954:243) recognizes:

It is sometimes difficult to distinguish interjections in general from other parts of speech. The exclamation “Great!” may be viewed as an adjective instead of an interjection: “[That is] great!” Baloney may be viewed as a noun: “[That is] baloney!” The exclamation scat, when addressed to a cat, may be viewed as a verb in the imperative mood.

The part of speech polyfunctionality found in English, which sometimes involves interjections, is noted by Wedgwood (1872:xxxiv):

In ordinary English the same word may often be used in such a construction as to make it either verb or noun, substantive or adjective, or sometimes interjection or adverb also. […] The syllable bang represents a loud dull sound, and when it is uttered simply for the purpose of giving rise to the thought of such a sound, as when I say, Bang! went the gun, it is called an interjection. But when it is meant to indicate the action of a certain person, as when I say, Do not bang the door, it is a verb. When it expresses the subject or the object of action, as in the sentence, He gave the door a bang, it is a noun. When I say, He ran bang up against the wall, bang qualifies the meaning of the verb ran, and so is an adverb.

In this book I am concerned with the (sometimes fuzzy) boundaries between interjections and other parts of speech, and with words which are on or near these borders, or which cross them. I chose to use “parts of speech” in the title of this book because I am limiting myself to the traditionally recognized word classes, and not looking at, e.g., the issue of interjections vs. onomatopoeias or vs. discourse markers.1 It is also not my primary ←13 | 14→goal to define interjection, but how one defines it may well play a role in whether one considers some words to be interjections or members of some other part of speech.

Authors differ on how broadly or narrowly they interpret the word interjection. In his book on the Australian language Mara, Heath (1981:55) uses it in a broad sense:

By ‘interjection’ here I mean any word used as a call or shout and pronounced loudly. This may be a noun (including a vocative), verb, etc., and is not restricted to a small set of forms which are always used in this fashion.

One can compare his notion of interjections with that of some sources on African languages which exclude vocatives and imperatives from the class of interjections and use the term interjectives as a term covering both interjections in a narrower sense and vocatives and imperatives (see section 1.20). To my knowledge Heath is the only author who includes loudness in a definition of interjection.

In his English grammar, Kerl (1867:241) states, “Words from almost every other part of speech, and sometimes entire phrases, when uttered to express emotion, may become interjections”. His (ibid.) examples include strange!, behold!, what!, why!, indeed!, and away! If this is the case (and some other authors, as we will see, say more or less the same thing), one might think that the study of the relationship between interjections and other parts of speech is not very interesting; if the border between them is completely open (at least in one direction, towards interjections), there is not much to be said. However, even if (almost) any word can be used as an interjection, not all of them are used as such, or at least some are used in this way far more frequently than others, and one might wonder about why this is. That is, are there some words or types of words that are particularly prone to becoming interjections? I do not have an answer for this, but in reading through this book one might at least get an idea of which words function as interjections.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (January)
Classification of interjections Syntax Interjectives Word classes Particles Morphology
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 142 pp., 1 tables.

Biographical notes

Alan Reed Libert (Author)

Alan Reed Libert completed his BA in Greek and Latin at New York University and his PhD in linguistics at McGill University (Canada). He works at the University of Newcastle (Australia), where he is a senior lecturer in linguistics. His research interests include Turkic languages, artificial languages, and onomastics.


Title: Interjections and Other Parts of Speech
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144 pages