For each bold word, indicate its part of speech (word class), and for Ns, Vs, Adjs, Advs, explain the distributional criteria by which you came up with that classification. If the item is a closed...

For each bold word, indicate its part of speech (word class), and for Ns, Vs, Adjs, Advs, explain the distributional criteria by which you came up with that classification. If the item is a closed class part of speech, indicate that.

I am struggling to solve this homework duo to the nature of the words

Do not try to use a dictionary. Most of these words are nonsense words. You will need to figure out what part of speech they are based upon what suffixes and prefixes they take, along with where they appear relative to other words. Capitalization and punctuation should not be used as a guide to part of speech.

Here is the poem I am being asked about:

Twas brillig and the slithy toves
 Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
 All mimsy were the borogoves,
 And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that
 catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought
 – So rested he by the tumtum tree
And stood a while in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood
 The Jabberwock with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey
 wood, and burbled as it came.

Some references I found about parts of speech and distributional properties:


Thank you in advance!

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" has delighted and puzzled many for generations. It is meant to be an exercise in creativity.

Here are the grammatical explanations:

  • wabe =  N This word is clearly a noun because it is preceded by the article [a special type of adjective] the, which is known as a "noun marker" because only nouns follow this word. Wabe is used as the object of the preposition in; objects of prepositions are either nouns or pronouns.
  •  were = V   "All mimsy were the borogoves," appears to use were as it is in Standard English, the past tense of the verb to be. The sentence appears to describe the "borogoves" as being "all mimsy," with mimsy acting as an descriptive adjective/modifier as, for instance, "All (in bloom) were the borogoves."
  • mome = ADJ According to Lewis Carroll a rath is a sort of pig. So since mome precedes raths, it must be an adjective as it modifies a noun. Probably it is a determiner, indicating something like "many." Also, because the precedes mome and two words are together, the first one must be an adjective and the second one, rath a noun (which Carroll confirms, also).
  • outgrabe = V This is the action word--it even appears to be a past tense--so it is a verb. The normal sentence order is Subject + Verb, so the word is also a verb by its position as a predicate after the subject.
  • frumious = ADJ/descriptor  Because it is placed before a noun (indicated by thefrumious is a descriptive adjective that comes between the noun marker/article and the name of something, a bandersnatch.
  • bandersnatch  = N  Preceded by the article the, a noun marker, bandersnatch is the Direct Object of the verb watch.
  • vorpal = ADJ "his vorpal sword" uses a descriptive adjective that indicates the type and appearance of the sword.
  • manxome = ADJ/descriptor This is also a descriptive adjective that comes before the noun foe.
  • tumtum = ADJ/descriptor  This, too, is a descriptive adjective that precedes the noun tree.
  • And = CONJUNCTION This is a closed part of speech. The word and joins words, phrases, or clauses.
  • in = PREPOSITION This is a closed part of speech.
  • thought = N thought acts as the object of the preposition in
  • uffish = ADJ/ descriptor This adjective describes what kind of thought.
  • he = PRONOUN  This is a closed part of speech. "he" refers to "my son."
  • Jabberwock = N This is a subject and proper noun that is preceded by the article the, which marks nouns.
  • whiffling = PARTICIPLE that begins a participial phrase that acts as a verbal.
  • the = DETERMINER The is an article, a noun marker before tulgey.
  • tulgey = N Tulgey is the object of the preposition through.
  • burbled - V This appears to be a past tense with the -ed suffix and is used as the Predicate of the sentence. "The Jabberwock....burbled..." 

This is a worthy exercise for students because the recognition of parts of speech aids comprehension of any text. In point of fact, recognizing parts of speech can sometimes give students "an educated guess" on standardized tests with sentences that are not finished or call for some kind of relation of thought. Sometimes, then, the choice can be made upon the grammatical structure of these answers. Certainly, if one has an exam to fill in blanks with correct terms from a box above, knowledge of parts of speech is helpful.