Words have two classes: content words and structure words.
Content words are the core words which give meaning to the sentence. They are the ones that we stress the most when we speak our sentences out loud. They can be nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, according to the Oxford A-Z of Grammar and Punctuation by John Seely. ‘House’, ‘dance’, ‘bag’ and ‘suit’ are examples of content words.
The free dictionary online http://www.thefreedictionary.com/content+word defines ‘content word’ as “a word to which an independent meaning can be assigned”.
Structure words (or sometimes called function words)
Words like ‘so’, ‘but’ and ‘however’ are all examples of ‘structure words’ (or function words). These are less likely to be emphasised or stressed when you speak a sentence out loud. If speaking to a baby or trying to communicate to someone who doesn’t understand English very well, we could get our message across by missing out the structure words.
The free dictionary online http://www.thefreedictionary.com/function+word defines ‘function word’ (or structure word) as “a word that is uninflected and serves a grammatical function but has little identifiable meaning”.
Now for a sentence…
“Yoga is extremely good for your posture”
If you were to say the sentence out loud, you would tend to stress the words in bold (the content words) and put less stress on the others (the structure words).
As with most things there are always exceptions. There may be times when you want to stress a structure word. In the sentence above you may be debating with someone who thinks that running is good for your posture but yoga isn’t. In that case you may need to emphasise the word ‘is’.
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John Seely The Oxford A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation, USA
The free dictionary online: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/content+word
Hi Sandra. I am currently busy with an assignment that requires me to study the linguistic features of a text (not my strong trait). Thanks for your post. It was simple and to the point. Made it so much easier to understand the difference. Have a great day.