Friday, May 2, 2008

An Acronym for Teaching the Parts of Speech

Dr S P Dhanavel
Professor of English
Anna University, Chennai-600 025, INDIA

Surprising and even shocking may it appear that a large number of students are unable to distinguish between the various parts of speech in English, when they reach the college and university level. A majority of the students do not have any idea of the parts of speech. Some of them who are familiar with the concept are not able to recall all the eight parts of speech. Even those who can remember all of them have difficulties in identifying whether a word is a noun or an adjective.
Is there any remedy for this learning problem? Yes, there is an acronymic remedy. If the acronym VIBGYOR stands for violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, and helps students remember all the seven colours of the rainbow, and if the acronym SASCOMP represents size, age, shape, colour, origin, material, purpose and enables students to use adjectives in proper order, the acronym VANPAPCI can be very helpful to the students for remembering all the eight parts of speech in English.

VANPAPCI stands for verb, adverb, noun, pronoun, adjective, preposition, conjunction, and interjection. It may be pronounced as /vænpæpsi/. It can, of course, be treated as a noun but there is no need to derive other parts of speech. It can surely be a handy acronym for both teachers and learners.
In the usual list of parts of speech, noun occupies the first place and is followed by pronoun, adjective, verb, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection. In the coined acronym VANPAPCI, however, the order changes as verb tops the list and is followed by adverb, noun, pronoun, adjective, preposition, conjunction, and interjection. It is interesting to note that the order and position of the last three parts of speech remain the same in both lists.
Robert A Day believes that there are nine parts of speech and claims that all words in English could be put into one of the nine pigeonholes. The ninth part of speech, according to Day, is article. If it is included in the acronym VANPAPCI, the latter becomes VANPAPCIA.

Two Groups
Of the nine parts of speech, the words for pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections, and articles are very limited and so they can be mastered very easily. On the other hand, the words for verb, adverb, noun, and adjective are unlimited and ever expanding. However, this group will not be problematic for the learners, if they understand that any word can be under one of the parts of speech.
Word Formation
An interesting fact about words in English is that one part of speech can be derived from another without much difficulty. For instance, organization (noun), organizer (noun), organizational (adjective), organizationally (adverb), and organize (verb) are all derived from the same Latin root organum. Further, the root can lead to other words like organ, organic, organism, and so on.
There are distinct markers for different parts of speech: for example, -ion for noun, -al for adjective, -ly for adverb, and –ize for verb. However, there are exceptions and variations. The only way to overcome the difficulties in learning them is to become familiar with them and identify them as and when they are in use.
Knowing and remembering the parts of speech does not amount to attaining communicative competence in English. Nevertheless, this knowledge gives confidence for communication. Acronyms like SASCOMP and VANPAPCI will definitely be useful to both teachers and learners of English across the globe.
Dhanavel, P. 1999. “An Acronym for Sequencing Adjectives”. Journal of English Language Teaching (India), Vol. 34, No.6 (November – December), pp.255-256.
Day, Robert A. 2000. Scientific English: A Guide for Scientists and Other Professionals. 2nd ed. Hyderabad: University Press.