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"It is exciting." Is context the only way to classify exciting in one of these grammatical terms (present participle, ing-adjectives, and gerund)?

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  • There are those who differentiate PoS on more formal (ie relating to form) grounds, but the Quirk gradience classifies ing-forms largely according to how a word is being used in a sentence (and even then may want more context). Here, there's insufficient context. 'Flying planes can be dangerous' is perhaps the most famous example. May 30 at 19:00
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    Like Schrödinger's cat, the -ing word in the example sentence is in an unknown state, since the sentence doesn't have sufficient context to distinguish between the possible categories it might occupy. The ambiguity might disappear in speech (it usually does), but the difficulty of analysis multiplies for those who feel lexical items must be labelled by category at each stage of a derivation; and most painfully for those who feel lexical items must keep the same label throughout a derivation. That just leads to a proliferation of labels, mostly epicyclic. May 30 at 19:26
  • So it might be ambiguous, so what? There's nothing wrong with stating that the category and function of a given word in a clause is ambiguous. In the OP's example, "exciting" passes all the tests for adjective status but none for verb status. No need for Quirk's fuzzy approach!
    – BillJ
    May 31 at 6:50

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In a comment, John Lawler wrote:

Like Schrödinger's cat, the -ing word in the example sentence is in an unknown state, since the sentence doesn't have sufficient context to distinguish between the possible categories it might occupy. The ambiguity might disappear in speech (it usually does), but the difficulty of analysis multiplies for those who feel lexical items must be labelled by category at each stage of a derivation; and most painfully for those who feel lexical items must keep the same label throughout a derivation. That just leads to a proliferation of labels, mostly epicyclic.

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