Glossary of linguistic and related terms meaning




Glossary of linguistic and related terms meaning


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Glossary of linguistic and related terms meaning


abstract A term used in grammar to denote nouns that have no physical qualities (courage, idea).
accent A set of distinctive pronunciations that mark regional or social identity.
adjective A word that defines attributes of a noun (The blue flower) and that can also express contrasts of degree (The smallest boy was the fastest).
adverb A word that describes the action of the verb (The girl laughed loudly); that can act as an intensifier (very fierce); and that can function as a sentence connector (Somehow, I did not believe him).
affix A morpheme which is attached to other words to create new words (un- + child + -like), or to mark a grammatical relationship (go + -ing).
alliteration The repetition of the same sound in the initial position in a sequence of words.
ambiguous The term used to describe a word, phrase, clause or sentence with multiple meanings.
anaphoric A form of referencing in which a pronoun or noun phrase points backwards to something mentioned earlier in a discourse (The film was breathtaking and the audience watched it in silence).
antonyms Words that are opposite in meaning (hot/cold; fast/slow).
archaism A word or phrase no longer in current use.
assimilation The way in which the sounds of one word can change the sounds in neighbouring words.
assonance A repetition of the same or similar vowel sounds.
auxiliary verb A verb that precedes the lexical verb in a verb phrase (I can go; I have gone).

base The minimal form of a word to which affixes can be added (e.g. go, sing, leave).
blend A word composed of the parts of more than one word (guess + estimate guess­timate).
borrow To introduce a loan word from one language into another.
cataphoric A form of referencing in which a pronoun or noun phrase points forwards to something mentioned later in a discourse (It was lovely, a day to remember).
clause A group of words, usually with a finite verb which is structurally larger than a phrase. Clauses may be described as independent (main) or dependent (subordinate).
cohesion Links and connections which unite the elements of a discourse or text.
coinage The construction and addition of new words to the word stock.
collocation Two or more words that frequently occur together as part of a set phrase.
complement A clause element that adds extra information about the subject or object of the clause after a copula verb (The girl was beautiful).
complex sentence A sentence made up of one main and one or more subordinate or depen­dent clauses.
compound A word made up of at least two free morphemes (database, skateboard).
compound sentence A sentence made up of at least two main clauses joined together by a co-ordinating conjunction.
concrete noun A noun that refers to physical things like people, objects, places, or substances.
connotations The associations attached to a word in addition to its dictionary definition.
consonant cluster A series of consonants occurring at the beginning or end of a syllable.
contraction A shortened word (can’t, you’re).
convergence A process in which accents and dialects move closer to each other, reducing the difference between them.
co-ordination The linking of lexical items which have the same grammatical status (The girls and the boys; ran and jumped; s/ow/v and proud/v)
count noun A noun that refers to things that can be counted and that has a plural form (cats, lorries).

declarative A grammatical mood used to express a statement (I live in a flat).
deictic, deixis Terms used to denote words or expressions that rely on the context to convey meaning (now, over there, you).
denotation The basic dictionary definition of a word (compare connotation)
determiner A lexical item which specifies the number and definiteness of a noun (the, a, some).
diachronic A term used to describe the study of language change over time.
dialect A language variety marked by distinctive grammar and vocabulary, which is used by a group of speakers with common regional or social backgrounds.
dialogue Language interaction with two or more participants.
diphthong A vowel sound in which there is a change of quality during its articulation (they, boy).
disyllabic Having two syllables.
divergence A process in which accents and dialects move further apart, thus increasing the difference between them.
double negative A structure in which more than one negative is used in one verb phrase (I haven't done nothing).
dynamic A verb that expresses an action rather than a state and that can be used in the pro­gressive (run/running; fly/flying).

elision The ‘lazy’ omission of sounds in connected speech.
ellipsis The omission of a part of a sentence which can be understood from the context.
etymology A study of the origins and history of words.
euphemism A word that replaces a term seen by society as taboo, socially unacceptable or unpleasant.

filled pause A voiced hesitation.
formulaic A term used to denote language that is patterned and that always occurs in the same form (Yours sincerely, Wish you were here!).
free morpheme The smallest meaningful unit of written language that can occur on its own.

glottal stop A sound produced when air stopped completely at the glottis by tightly closed vocal cords is released (e.g. the Cockney ‘tt’ in ‘butter’).
gradable An adjective or adverb that can be compared (happier, happiest) or intensified (so happy).
graphology A study of the writing system and the forms of print available.
head word The main element in a phrase.
homonyms Words with the same form but different meanings.
homophones Words that are pronounced the same but that have different meanings.
hyperbole Exaggeration used to heighten feeling and intensity.
hypercorrection A process of overcompensation whereby speakers who are trying to mod­ify their accent or dialect produce a linguistic form that does not occur in the standard variety.
hyponymy The relationship between words where the meaning of one form is included in the meaning of another (tree oak, ash, beech; drink wine, coffee, water). The inclusive term (tree, drink) is called the superordinate.

idiolect An individual’s own distinctive way of speaking.
idiom An expression in which the meaning of the whole conveys more than the meaning of the parts (put your foot in it).
imperative A grammatical mood expressing a directive (commanding, warning, requesting, inviting, leading, etc.): usually there is no subject and the verb is in the base form.
inflection The marking of a grammatical relationship with an affix (-ing, -ed, ‘s).
intensifier A word of phrase adding emphasis (so, very, incredibly).
interrogative A grammatical mood expressing a question in which the subject and verb are inverted.
intonation The quality or tone of the voice in speech.
lexis The term used to describe the vocabulary of a language. Also called lexicon.
loan word A word borrowed from another language.

main clause A clause that is not dependent and makes sense on its own.
metaphor A descriptive use of language in which one thing is directly seen in terms of another (a sea of troubles).
metonymy The use of an attribute for the thing meant (the Crown for royalty).
minor sentence A sentence or utterance that lacks one or more of the clause elements and that often occurs as an unchanging formulaic structure (Thanks. Great party!).
modal Auxiliary verbs that mark contrasts in attitude such as obligation, possibility and prediction (must, can, will).
modification The use of one linguistic item to specify the nature of another (the blue sea; the lion roared loudly).
morpheme The smallest unit of meaning.
morphology. The study of the structure of words in terms of free and bound morphemes.
negation The use of negative forms to convey disagreement or to contradict (not, never, nothing).
neologism The creation of a word from existing lexical items (zeroised). Also called coinage.
non-count noun A noun that refers to things which cannot he counted and usually have no plural form (heaven, happiness, spring).
non-standard Any variety that does not conform to the standard prestige form used as a norm by society.
noun A word class with a naming function which can be used as a subject or object in a clause.
noun phrase A phrase which usually has a noun as the head word and that can function as subject or object in a clause.

onomatopoeia The term used to denote words that imitate sounds.
orthography A study of spelling and the ways in which letters are used in a language.

paralinguistics Non-verbal communication using gestures, posture and facial expressions.
parenthesis In written language, the use of brackets, dashes or commas to mark out an optional element of a sentence.
passive voice A grammatical structure in which the subject and object can change places in order to alter the focus of a sentence. In the passive voice, the object of an active sentence occurs in the subject site followed by to be + past participle (the bone was eaten). The sub­ject of the active sentence can be included following by (the bone was eaten by the dog).
personal pronouns Subject pronouns (I, you, he, she, it, we, they) replace a noun phrase in the subject site, and object pronouns (me, you, him, her, it, us, them) replace a noun phrase in the object site of a sentence.
personification A device in which the non-human is given personality and human qualities.
phatic A term used to denote speech or sounds used purely to create a feeling of social contact.
phonemes The smallest distinctive sound segments in a language.
phonetic alphabet Symbols and diacritics designed to represent exactly the sounds of spoken  language. Also known as the International Phonetic Alphabet or IPA.
phonetics The study of spoken sounds and the way in which they are produced, transmitted and received.
phonology The study of sounds in a particular language and the way in which they are combined to create meaning.
phrase A group of words that has no finite verb (except for a verb phrase): noun phrase (the green tree); adjective phrase (very blue); verb phrase (has gone); adverb phrase (quite slowly).
place of articulation The point at which the air stream is stopped in the mouth to produce consonantal sounds (bilabial, labiodental, dental alveolar, palato-alveolar, palatal, velar, glottal).
polysyllabic Having more than one syllable.
post-modification Lexical items that follow the head in a phrase (the path down the moun­tain).
pragmatics The study of how context influences a speaker’s or writer’s lexical choices.
prefix A bound morpheme that occurs before a free morpheme (un-, re-, dis-).
pre-modification Lexical items that precede the head in a phrase (the serious incident, very fast).
preposition A closed class word like in, on or by which precedes a noun phrase, pronoun or other lexical item to express a relationship between it and the rest of a clause.
prepositional phrase A grammatical structure made up of a preposition and a noun phrase (in the car).
prescriptive A term used to denote an approach to language that dictates rules of usage, focusing on concepts of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ rather than ‘appropriateness’ and ‘acceptability’,
primary verb A verb that can function as a lexical or an auxiliary verb (be, have, do).
progressive An aspect used to describe an event which is in progress. It is made up of to be + present participle (the girl is eating, the girl was eating).
pronoun A closed class word that can replace a noun phrase.
proper noun A name of a distinctive person, place or other unique reference. It is marked by a capital letter in written language.
prosodic features The use of pitch, volume, pace and rhythm to draw attention to key ele­ments of spoken language.
pun Word play which uses the different meanings of a word or two words with similar forms and different meanings for comic effect.

Received Pronunciation An English accent which has a high social status uncon­nected to a specific region (RP).
register A variety of language defined according to use. It can be described in terms of mode (speech or writing; format); manner (participants; levels of formality); and field (content).
relative pronoun A grammatical function word which marks the beginning of a relative clause post-modifying a noun phrase (the weather which was unpredictable; the man who was red with anger).
rhetoric The use of dramatic or persuasive words and structures in spoken and written lan­guage to manipulate the intended audience.
rhetorical question A question that does not require an answer intended to create emphasis or interest.
rhyme The arrangement of word endings which agree in vowel and consonant sounds.
rhythm The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in language.

semantics The study of the meaning of language.
sibilant Consonantal sounds like affricates and alveolar and palatal fricatives which are articulated with a hissing sound.
simile A device which makes a direct comparison between two things using like or as (the boy as fierce as a lion).
slang Distinctive words and phrases associated with informal speech. It tends to be used within clearly defined social or age groups and is often short-lived.
subordinate clause A clause that cannot stand as a sentence on its own, but needs another clause to complete its meaning. Also known as a dependent clause.
subordinating conjunction A conjunction used to introduce a subordinate clause (because, while, until).
substitution The replacement of one lexical item, such as a noun phrase, with another, such as a pronoun (the unhappy girl she).
suffix A bound morpheme that occurs after a free morpheme (-like, -wise).
syllable A word or part of a word that can be uttered by a single effort of the voice. Patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables constitute the rhythm of a language.
synonyms Different words with the same or nearly the same meaning (valiant and brave).
syntax The study of the grammatical relationships between words in sentences.

tag question An interrogative structure attached to the end of a sentence which expects a reply (It’s nice today, isn’t it?).
transcription A written record of spoken language, which can use symbols and markings to illustrate the distinctive nature of speech.
turn-taking The organisation of speakers’ contributions in a conversation. Turns may be equal, or one of the participants may dominate.

utterance A stretch of spoken language which is often preceded by silence and followed by silence or a change of speaker. It is often used as an alternative to ‘sentence’ in conversa­tion analysis since it is difficult to apply the traditional characteristics of a written sen­tence to spoken language.

variety Language use which has distinctive features because of its context, intended audi­ence and purpose (religious language, legal language).
verbs Open class of words that express states, actions or processes, marked for tense, aspect, voice and mood.
vowel A sound produced by the free flow of air through the mouth. In written language, a letter that can be used alone or in combination to represent a vowel sound (a, e, i. o, u).

wh- questions Questions introduced by wh- words, which can be used alone or in a sen­tence. They expect new information in the reply (Where did you go?).
word class Groups of words with characteristic features (nouns, adjectives, verbs, determiners).
word formation The process of creating words from bound and free morphemes (dis- + order + -ly).


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Glossary of linguistic and related terms meaning