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An exemplified grammar, lexis and phonology glossary for English Language Teachers


Define your terms

This is one of several glossaries on the site.
For the full list, use this link: Glossaries Index.

In 1586, William Bullokar published A Brief Grammar of English and since then innumerable other grammars have appeared and continue to appear.  The following does not add substantially (or at all) to an area of serious study that has been in train for 450-odd years.
It is also not intended as a replacement for a dictionary of lexical and phonological terms.
What it does claim to do is allow you to investigate further by following the links to the right of the definitions and examples.
The following is available for private use as a PDF document but it comes, of course, with none of the interactivity and links to guides.  It will also not be as frequently updated.  Click here to get the document.

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  Examples Guide links
a-adjective A special kind of adjective beginning with a-. These adjectives are nearly always used predicatively.
(These adjectives may be used attributively when modified.)
The dog is asleep
*The asleep dog
Others in this group include: ablaze, afraid, alive, alone, awake, aware
(The wide awake children)
ablative An inflexion which denotes that the case use is to express by, with or from
Few modern languages use an ablative case although it exists in, e.g., Turkish, Azerbaijani, Uzbek, Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Hungarian.
In Latin, fields translates as
agri but from the fields as ex agrīs
ablaut A vowel change denoting a grammatical function.
This was also called gradation and is known as vowel mutation.
The verb sing changes to sang in the past tense Ablaut reduplicationLexical verbs
absolute tense A tense which can be understood without reference to another time She left Time, tense and aspect
abstract noun A noun referring to an intangible concept.  These nouns are often mass nouns.
Compare concrete noun.
Many do not consider the distinction between concrete and abstract nouns is valid.
happiness, economics, love, embarrassment etc. Nouns
accent a) a mark above or below a letter to show its pronunciation.  Such marks are also called diacritics.  They are used in English on words imported from other languages. in naïve, façade or café Spelling
b) the place in a word where the heaviest stress falls.
This is better referred to as word stress.
export (verb) and export (noun) Word stress
c) a particular way of pronouncing a language in a geographical area or social class or the influence of a first language in the pronunciation of a second. A Texan accent
An upper-class accent
An Italian accent
accidence Changes to the form of a word which show grammatical function.
Also used to describe the part of grammar referring to morphological changes.
See also ablaut.
smoke → smokes
happy → happiness

accusative A case referring to the direct object of a verb. She told him Case
acronym A word made of the initial letters of a phrase which are pronounced as one word.
See initialism.
NATO Word formation
active voice A verbal structure in which the subject is the person or thing which performs the action or is in the state.
Compare passive voice.
John broke the window
The window was filthy
adjective phrase
A word or phrase which modifies a noun phrase.
They can be attributive or predicative.
The large dog
Mary was tired
The children were
well fed and happy
She had an interesting, old book with her
adjunct An omissible verb-phrase modifying element in an expression.  Adjuncts are integral to the clause in which they occur.
By some definitions, adjuncts may also modify noun phrases (as adnominals), adjective phrases (as adadjectivals) and adverb phrases (as adadverbials).
She ran to the door
They fell awkwardly
The house on the corner (adnominal)
The house was horribly untidy (adadjectival)
He spoke quite movingly (adadverbial)
adposition A general term for connective items: see preposition and postposition.
adverb A word which modifies a verb, an adjective, another adverb or a verb phrase. She walked quickly
The book was very expensive
He drove idiotically fast
He had usually driven to work
adverb of degree An adverb telling you to what extent.
These are sometimes called adverbs of extent.
I really enjoyed the book
adverb of frequency A subcategory of adverbs of time, expressing how often.
There are two sorts: indefinite frequency and definite frequency with different associated grammatical structures.
He usually goes home at 6 (indefinite frequency)
She delivers the papers daily (definite frequency)
adverb of manner An adverb expressing the way something happens. It quickly became dark
adverb of place An adverb expressing where or in what direction an action happens or state exists. I came inside
She was sitting there
adverb of time An adverb expressing when something happens or a state exists. She left then
They stayed late
adverb phrase A group of words doing the job of an adverb. They walked home slowly and sadly
adverbial Any word, phrase or clause which modifies a verb phrase. He went into town (prepositional-phrase adverbial (adjunct) of place)
I came to see if I can help (non-finite clause adverbial of purpose)
I left when the rain started (finite clause adverbial of time)
Honestly, I don’t know (adverb (disjunct))
Moreover, I don't think anyone knows (adverb (conjunct))
affect The emotional meaning of an utterance, often signalled by intonation. You cannot be serious! Intonation
affirmative A sentence or clause which is not negated. I am waiting for the rain Sentences
affix A morpheme attached to another word to make a more complex form. incompleteness Word formation
affricative (n. and adj.)
A consonant sound involving the closure of the vocal tract and its slow release.
/tʃ/ in church Consonants
agentive (adj.)
In passive clauses, the causer or doer of the action.
Agents are often linked with the preposition by.
See patient.
The window was broken by them
I had the work done by the garage
agent noun A noun derived from a verb which denotes the person or thing that does the action denoted by the verb.
The usual way they are formed is with the -(o)r or -(e)r suffixes although -(o)r is no longer productive of new agent nouns.
editor, doctor, vendor, purchaser, buyer, collector Word formation
agreement See concord.
alethic modality Modality concerned with expressing universal truths. A square must have four equal sides Modality map
allograph An alternative way of representing a letter. The letter 'g' can be written as that or as 'ɡ' Types of languages
allomorph An alternative form of a morpheme. The past-tense ending in English can be -d, -ed or -t Word formation
allophone A non-phonemic difference in the pronunciation of a sound. /kʰ/ vs. /k/ Pronunciation overview
alveolar A consonant formed when the tongue is pressed against the alveolar ridge (behind the top teeth). /t/, /d/ (tongue tip)
/s/, /z/ (tongue blade)
ambiguity Having the potential of more than one interpretation. Where's the bank?
(lexical ambiguity)
She hit the man with the stick
(structural ambiguity)
ambitransitive verb A verb which may or may not take an object (be either transitive or intransitive).
Such verbs may retain the same meaning, change meaning or be associated with different forms of subjects in the two roles.
I read his letter
I read for an hour
The glass broke
I broke the glass
He ran fast
He ran the business
Types of verb
anaphoric (adj.)
With reference back to an earlier item.
Compare cataphora.
When the rain finally came it was heavy Cohesion
antecedent An item to which a later item refers.
Strictly, the term antecedent refers only to the noun phrase to which a relative pronoun refers. In other cases, pronouns refer to referents.
See referent.
That's the man whom I asked Relative pronoun clauses
anticipatory The grammatical subject of a clause which anticipates the notional subject. In
    It is nice to be here
The pronoun it anticipates the real complement of the verb be.  It could be rephrased as
    To be here is nice.
It and there
antonym a) A gradable word of opposite meaning.
b) A converse word (also relational antonymy)
c) A complementary opposite (also binary antonymy)
a) good vs. bad
b) mother vs. daughter
c) open vs. shut
Lexical relationships
aphesis / apheresis The omission of an unstressed sound at the beginning of a word. until → till
around → round
Word formation
apocope The omission of a section from the end of a word. photograph → photo
apposition When two elements have the same meaning and grammatical status, they are in apposition. My brother, the manager, will help ConcordPhrases
approximant A sound produced when two organs of speech are close together but without audible friction.
See also fricative.
the /j/ in yet Consonants
argot A term less disparagingly used than jargon to refer to the use of terms specific to a particular group or class. Teenager English Variety
article A class of determiners which modify noun phrases for number or reference.  There are three in English: a(n) (the indefinite article), the (the definite article) and Ø, the zero article. She bought a house on the hill with Ø money from her father Articles
articulator An organ or mouth part involved in the production of sounds.  The diagram is:
vocal tract
Pronunciation overview
aspect How an event or action is perceived relative to time (as opposed to in time).
There is not always a one-to-one relationship between aspect and form.  See tense.
He lives in London (continuous aspect)
He was working (progressive aspect)
He has worked (perfect aspect)
He used to work (habitual (past) aspect)
aspiration The addition of an audible breath to a consonant sound. /kʰ/ not /k/ at the beginning of cash Consonants
assemblage noun A special type of collective noun for particular animals.
See collective noun.
a pod of whales Nouns
assertive forms Pronouns, adverbials and determiners which are conventionally used in positive sentences.
Compare non-assertive.
I want some time to myself
I have already finished
Let me have a few
Assertive and non-assertive
assimilation The effect of one sound on the production of another so that they become more alike. ten + pin pronounced as /tem.pɪn/ not /ten.pɪn/ Pronunciation overview
assonance The phenomenon of two words sharing a common vowel sound but with different consonants. hurly-burly Idiomaticity
assumptive modality A form of epistemic modality expressing the speaker's view of the truth based on previous experience. She'll be at work at this time of the morning
Don't call now.  They'
ll be having dinner
Types of modality
asterisked form The conventional way to denote a malformed expression.
Also called a starred form.
*He goed last week Used in most guides
asyndetic Omission of a conjunction.
The opposite is the inclusion of the conjunction and is called syndetic coordination.
Tired, frustrated, he walked out
They went home poorer but wiser
atelic See telicity.
attitudinal disjunct See disjunct.
attributive This describes an adjective which comes directly before or after the noun and is not linked to it by a copular verb.  See predicative. The green house
The people responsible
autoantonym A word which has two opposite meanings.
Also called contranym / contronym.
cleave can mean split or stick together with Lexical relationships
autonomous language An independent language or dialect defined by notions of non-mutual comprehensibility with other languages dialects or by political, ethnic or cultural divisions. British and American English
Japanese and Italian
autonym A word used by a group of people to describe themselves.
Compare exonym.
Brit is often used by British and other people to describe people from Britain. Lexical relationships
auxiliary verb a) Primary auxiliary verb:
A verb which has no meaning alone but works with main verbs to express aspect or voice.
I have finished
He was cycling
They were sold
I had it repaired
Primary auxiliary verbsAspect PassiveCausative
b) Modal auxiliary verb:
A verb which has no meaning alone but works with main verbs to express the speaker's perception of truth, necessity, obligation etc.
We should leave
I must go home now
She needn't have troubled
Modal auxiliary verbsModality map
back Describing sounds made at the back of the mouth.
Compare front and central.
/h/ and /ɒ/ Vowels
back formation The formation of a word by the removal of an assumed but non-existent affix from another. edit from editor Word formation
base form The form of a word from which other forms are derived.
Base forms of adjectives and adverbs may be referred to as positive forms.
See stem.
speak, write, open, decide etc.
(base form) and longer (derived form)
decide (base form) and decision (derived form)
Finite vs. non-finiteWord formation
bilabial A consonant made with both lips. /m/ and /p/ Consonants
bilingualism The ability to speak more two languages with native-like ability.  Multilingualism refers to the ability to speak two or more languages. Switching between English (at work) and Spanish (at home) in the USA. Variety
binding When clauses are unequal, they are connected by binding.
(Compare linking)
The room was a mess because I'd been too busy to clear up Complex sentences
blend / blending A word formed by combining two other words.
Sometimes called a portmanteau word.
smog (from smoke and fog) Word formation
boulemic modality A form of deontic modality referring to that which is necessary given a person's wants and desires. I must go now and get something to eat
You don't have to stay if you have work to do
Types of modality
bound base
bound root
A base form subject to affixation but which is no longer an independent element in the language. tangible
Word formation
bound form
bound morpheme
A morpheme which cannot stand alone but always appears in combination with a base form. denationalise
calque A word or expression borrowed from another language but translated into the receiving language. lightning war (from Blitzkrieg) Word formation
canonical word order The usual unmarked ordering of items in a language.
Languages vary.
See also word order.
English is Subject-Verb-Object, Adjective-Noun, Determiner-Noun etc. Word order
cardinal vowels
and English vowels
Cardinal vowels are a set of reference sounds to identify vowels in any language.
The following are not cardinal vowels, they are the vowels in English.
case The form of nouns, pronouns and adjectives which show their relationship to other items.
English has a very limited case structure grammar but other languages are more sophisticated and complex in this area.
She wants to go (subject or nominative case)
I want to talk to them (object or accusative case)
That is mine (possessive or genitive case)
cataphoric (adj.)
With reference to a following item.
Compare anaphora.
When it was finished, I admired the work he had done Cohesion
catenative (adj.)
The phenomenon of verbs occurring in a chain. She came to help to organise the room Catenative verbs
causative A form of passive sentence in which the producer of the language is not responsible for the action performed. I was made to wait
I had / got the car repaired
cavity A chamber in the oral tract employed to make sounds.
See under articulators or vocal tract for the diagram.
Pronunciation overview
central a) Describing sounds made in the centre of the mouth.
Compare Back and Front.
/ɜː/ and /tʃ/
b) Referring to items which exhibit all the defining characteristics of their class. beautiful is a central adjective
may is a central modal auxiliary verb
AdjectivesModal auxiliary verbs
circumstance In functional grammar any expression which signals extent, location (in time and place), contingency, cause, accompaniment, matter, role, manner or angle.
Compare adverbial.
for a week
in the park
for a change
by car

classifier Also known as a noun adjunct, a classifier determines the nature of a noun rather than describing it although it is often seen as adjectival.  Classifiers may not usually be modified with adverbs.
(Compare epithet)
It's a brick wall
She's an English language teacher
Classifiers and partitives
clause A group of words containing a verb form.  The verb may be finite or non-finite. She came because she wanted to help (finite clause)
I came hoping to help (non-finite clause)
Clause structures
clear /l/ Describing the front consonant sound at the beginning of the word leak.
Compare dark /l/ ([ɫ]).
The first sound in lull (/lʌl/) Consonants
cleft A type of sentence into which, for emphasis, a second verb phrase is inserted. It was to the restaurant she took her mother Clefts
clipping A process of word formation involving the abbreviation of a longer word. perambulator → pram Word formation
clitic (n.)
cliticised (adj.)
A form which cannot stand alone.
In some analyses many function words such as the, an, by etc. are referred to as clitics (but not on this site).
’m, n't and ’s are clitic forms in the cliticised words I'm, don't and she's
close vowel A vowel produced with the tongue in the highest position. /i/ and /u/ Vowels
closed-system items
closed-class items
These are word classes to which it is very rare to make additions and which can, therefore, in theory, be exhaustively listed. prepositions, determiners, pronouns, conjunctions Word class map
cluster A series of consonants. /kr/ and /sps/ in crisps Consonants
coalescence The fusing of sounds. would you pronounced as /wʊdʒu/ Connected speech
coda a) Consonants following the nucleus of a syllable (which is preceded by the onset). /p/ in top Syllables
b) The final piece of a text which sums up or presents the writer / speaker's view etc. So, in the end, it came out alright Genre
code switching Changing language, dialect, style, register or accent to suit the social or linguistic setting Changing to a formal style and older dialect when in church and using completely different style or dialect among family members.  
coherence Logical or functional connectedness.  Compare cohesion. Where's she gone?
She needed to get to the shop
cohesion The use of grammatical or lexical connectors to maintain connectedness in language.  Compare coherence.
Items which contribute to or structure cohesion are called cohesive devices often mistakenly referred to as discourse markers.
Where's Mary?
She went to the shops
coinage See neologism.
collective noun A noun which refers to a group of things or people.  This expression is sometimes used also for assemblage nouns. Collective nouns are often confused with partitives which have an opposite function. The army is helping
The jury are considering the verdict
A flock
of sheep
colligation The tendency of some words to enter into characteristic grammatical relationships. I hid behind the door
*I concealed behind the door
collocation The tendency of words to co-occur. He ran a risk
She took a risk
*She made a risk
combining form A form resembling an affix but which adds to rather than altering the meaning or changing word class. geopolitical Word formation
commissive modality A form of deontic modality referring to an obligation placed by the speaker on the speaker. I will pay you back, I promise
I have to thank you
Modality map
comment clause A type of disjunct. The answer, I must say, is not clear Disjuncts
common noun A type of noun contrasted with a proper noun to refer to objects or concepts. chair, happiness, people etc. Nouns
comparative The form which is used to show a greater or lesser degree of a quality.  There are two sorts: inflected and periphrastic.
Comparatives may be made with adjectives or adverbs but most adverbs take the periphrastic forms.
A bigger house (inflected comparative)
A more beautiful cat (periphrastic comparative)
complement A word or phrase which tells us something about the subject or object of a clause.
Complements are often linked with a copular verb.
Complements also refer to any item which completes the meaning of another.
They elected him chairman (referring to the object, him)
She is happy (referring to  the subject, she)
John is the manager (referring to the subject, John)
He called me stupid (referring to the object, me)
That is mine (referring to the subject, that)
The house is over the hill (referring to the subject, the house)
She is keen on opera
Verbs and clausesCopular verbs and complements
complex preposition A preposition consisting of more than one word. because of
in spite of
Prepositional phrases
complex sentence A sentence consisting of at least one main and one subordinate clause. She came although she was tired Sentences
compound A word or phrase formed by combining the meanings of words which represents a single sense. door + man = doorman Compounding
compound sentence A sentence consisting of two coordinated clauses. I came but you were out Sentences
compound-complex sentence A sentence consisting of both subordinated and coordinated clauses. I came to see you but you were out so I left this note
compositionality See non-compositionality.
concession A function of subordination which concedes a point. She went although she didn't really want to Condition and concession
concord A grammatical relationship whereby one form requires a change in another.
In English, this usually applies to verbs and their subjects.  In other languages, it may apply to, e.g., gender marking on adjectives or case marking on nouns.  In the latter cases it is often called agreement.
Concord may be ungrammatical in English because of notion (viewing a singular entity as plural or vice versa) or proximity (a plural or singular form being close to the verb).
It breaks easily
The army
is helping
The jury
are divided
None of his friends are here
concrete noun Nouns which refer to physical entities.
They may be mass or count nouns.
Many do not consider the distinction between concrete and abstract nouns is valid.
book, wind, mountain, paper etc. Nouns
conditional A clause whose truth is contingent on the truth of another clause. Give me the money and I’ll buy it for you
Come if you can spare the time
Should you get lost
, call me
Condition and concession
conditional sentence A sentence which consists of two clauses at least, one of which expresses the condition (the protasis) and contains the conditional conjunction or other marker of condition and one which expresses the consequence of the fulfilment of the condition (the apodosis). If you come to the party (protasis),
you'll be able to meet his sister (apodosis)
conjugate To give the inflexions of a verb showing voice, mood, tense, number and person. She arrived yesterday and Steve was happy to see her Verbs index
conjunct An adverbial which performs a connective function. It's raining and cold.  However, I'll take the dogs out Conjuncts
conjunction A word to join two ideas (clauses, verbs, nouns etc.). She went home because she felt ill (subordinating)
We ate bread and butter (coordinating)
They not only cleaned but polished the car (correlating)
connotation An additional meaning of a word (usually negative or positive)
(Compare denotation)
doctor (positive or neutral) vs. quack (negative) Semantics
consonant A sound made by wholly or partially closing the vocal tract. /p/, /b/, /f/, /t/, /h/ etc. Consonants
constituent A unit which forms part of a larger language unit. The pub over the hill, by the river, where we met Constituents
content disjunct See disjunct.
content word A word which has meaning when standing alone (compare function/al word).  These are sometimes called lexical words.
Content words are members of open classes: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs (in English).
house, bring, pretty, usually, French etc. Word class essentials
continuant A sound made by semi-closing the vocal tract. /f/ in fox Consonants
continuous An aspect of a verb tense to describe something on-going or happening in the background.
There is a technical difference between continuous and progressive aspects.
I was sleeping while she was at work
thinks I love her
Time, tense and aspect
contour The sequence of pitch and other factors in an utterance. Depicted as a wavy line or in other ways Intonation
contraction The omission of a letter or letters in a word or phrase, usually denoted with an apostrophe. can't, o'clock, Mary'll Pronunciation index
contrastive stress A special stress to mark an item as emphatic.
Also known as special stress.
She went with her mother Sentence stress
contronym A word which has two opposite meanings.
Also called an auto-antonym.
cleave (cut) vs. cleave (stick together) Lexical relationships
conversational maxims The assumed rules for maintaining coherent and cooperative communication. maintain relevance, do not over inform etc. Pragmatics
converseness The relation between antonyms in which the existence of one logically implies the existence of the other. brother / sister Lexical relationships
conversion Word formation consisting only of a change in word class. clean (adj.) clean (verb) Word formation
coordination The linking of two potentially independent clauses.
The conjunction is a coordinator.
I rang but there was no answer Coordination
copular verb
(Pl. copulae or copulas)
A verb which joins together two nouns, a noun and an adjective, a noun and its complement or a noun and a prepositional phrase.  These are sometimes called linking verbs. She became a teacher
They grew tall
She was in the garden
Copular verbs and complements
correlative conjunction Conjunctions consisting of two connected words. Either we'll take the car or he'll give us a lift Conjunction
count noun
(Adj. countable)
A noun which can have a plural and take a plural verb. 
These are distinguished from mass nouns.
The cats are in the house Nouns
creole A language usually developed a from pidgin and having all the characteristics of a full, autonomous language including an elaborate lexicon, full grammar and standard pronunciation.
What makes creoles distinct languages is that they are often acquired by children as their first (and sometimes only) native language.
Cape Verdean Creole
Jamaican Patois
Rabaul Creole German
Types of languages
dark /l/ ([ɫ]) Describing the back consonant sound at the end of full.
Compare clear /l/.
The last sound in lull (/lʌl/ or [lʌɫ]) Consonants
dangling participle The often disparaged use of a participle making it unclear what the referent is.
This is also called a misrelated participle.
While getting on the bus my wallet fell out of my pocket Dangling participles
dative The case usually denoting the indirect object or some forms of prepositional relationships. He sent me a card Case
dative shifting The act of moving the indirect object in a clause and linking it with a preposition. She read the children a story shifting to She read a story to the children Verb and clause types
declarative Expressing a statement. The rain started
The rain didn't stop
(Vb. decline)
The variations in morphology of a pronoun, noun or adjective depending on its grammatical function. She gave the letter to her Personal pronouns
deductive / evidential modality A form of epistemic modality referring to the speaker's view as influenced by evidence. It might rain later
I think it's going to be a difficult job
Modality index
defective Describing words which do not follow all the rules of their class. must is a verb which has no past form.
awake is an adjective which cannot be used attributively.
Modality indexAdjectives
defining Of relative pronoun clauses, those which define rather than simply add information.  These are sometimes called restrictive clauses.
They are contrasted with non-defining clauses.
The house which is over the road has been sold (defining)
The house, which is over the road, has been sold (non-defining)
Relative pronoun clauses
deixis (n.)
deictic (adj.)
Items which allow the language user to refer to not me, not here and not now.
Deixis may be subdivided into personal, spatial, temporal, social and textual deixis.
You went there the previous day Deixis
delexicalised verb A verb which takes its meaning from the noun with which it collocates. make the beds
pay a compliment
take a shower
demonstrative A class of determiner telling us what noun we are talking about.
The same words can also be demonstrative pronouns.
This house
That garden
Those cars
These people
An adjective which refers to the people of a country.
Dutch refers to people from The Netherlands Adjectives
denotation A word's general meaning rather than any meaning the speaker or hearer imputes.
(Compare connotation)
A coin is a piece of metal money Semantics
dental A consonant sound produced with the tongue in contact with the teeth. The last sound in teeth (/tiːθ/). Consonants
deontic modality Modality concerned with expressing duty, permissibility or obligation (or their lack). You must be more respectful to your grandfather
You don't have to be rude
Modality map
dependent clause A subordinate clause which depends for its full meaning on another, main, clause. She had enough money although she wasn’t rich Coordination and subordination
derivation The formation of a word from another by a number of processes including conversion, affixation and suffixation. housing is derived from the word house Word formation
determiner A word which comes before a noun to say what we know about it. articles: I want to buy a house in the town
demonstratives: I want to buy that house
interrogatives: Which house do you want to buy?
possessives: I want to buy his house
quantifiers: I want to buy two houses
devoiced Describing a sound which is produced with less voicing than is usual. A final /d/ may be devoiced to /t/ in
He had it (/hi.hæt.ɪt/)
diacritic See accent.
diachronic variation Changes occurring across time in a language.
Compare synchronic variation.
The loss of inflexions between Old and Middle English The roots of English
dialect A social or regional variety of a language identifiable by both accent and lexical or grammatical forms.
Other terms used to describe this are ethnolect, geolect and regiolect.
Southern British English Variety
diglossia Two standard varieties of a language existing together. Modern Standard Arabic alongside other varieties of Arabic
Literary Kathourevousa versus spoken Demotic Greek
Types of languages
digraph A combination of two letters representing a single sound. th and ng in thing (/θɪŋ/) Consonants
diminutive An affix meaning small.  Some carry connotations of attractiveness. leaflet
Word formation
diphthong A vowel in which there is a clear change in quality during the syllable. Vowels in road, shine etc. (/rəʊd/, /ʃaɪn/) Vowels
directive Language used to get someone else to do something. Open the window Suasion
direct object The entity on which the verb acts.
Compare indirect object.
I bought the house Case
direct speech The actual words spoken. He said, “Hello, Mary.” Indirect speech
directive modality See imperative modality.
discontinuity The splitting of an item by others. Put your coat on Multi-word verbs
discourse A continuous stretch of spoken or written language longer than a sentence. Any longer text. Discourse index
discourse marker Properly, this refers to the language which speakers use to manage interactions, conversations and other spoken events such as lectures and formal discussions.
It is now very loosely used to refer to any item which contributes to coherence and cohesion.
Feel free to interrupt with any questions.
Let me respond by saying ...
Do you have a view?
Firstly, ...
disjunct An adverbial which expresses the speaker / writer’s view of the truth of a proposition (attitudinal or content disjuncts) or how it should be understood (style disjuncts).
Also called sentence adverbials or stance adverbials.
On the face of it, it’s too expensive (attitude or content, referring to value of the proposition)
Frankly, I don’t care (style, referring to the speaker)
distributive pronoun
distributive determiner
a pronoun or determiner which signals the way in which something is apportioned. I gave everyone a drink (pronoun)
She gave each a new label (pronoun)
Each child got a prize (determiner)
Indefinite pronounsDeterminers
ditransitive Describing a verb which can take both a direct and an indirect object. He passed me the book Verb and clause types
dual A number in many languages which indicates two of something.  The form is vestigial in Modern English. Both boys are here Determiners
durative a) An aspectual form in many languages which emphasises the length of an event or state.  In English the sense is usually achieved with a progressive form and an adverbial.
b) A verb whose meaning implies a long-lasting event. When used in the progressive aspect these verbs denote duration rather than iteration.
(Compare instantaneous verb)
a) She is still complaining
b) read, study, stay etc.
dynamic a) a use of the verb, distinguished from stative.
John is being silly
She is thinking
Kirstin is swimming
Mary is paying attention
Time, tense and aspect
b) a type of passive clause.
This is distinguished from a stative passive.
The garden gets invaded by cats
The garden was cleared
The passive voice
c) a use of an adjective to express the fact that something is under the control of a person.  It is contrasted with a stative adjective referring to an unalterable characteristic. Be more patient (dynamic use)
*Don't be tall
(stative use, imperative disallowed)
dynamic modality Modality expressing ability or willingness.
Dynamic modality is sometimes referred to as personal modality because it frequently applies to the speaker / writer.
I'll get that!
I can't see the game from here
Modality map
ecolect A rare term which describes more or less the same phenomenon as an idiolect but is a variety used solelywithin a family or household. We are having Aunt Mabel's Potato Fritters Variety
(Vb. elide)
The omission of sounds in connected speech. Are you comfortable? as:
Connected speech
(Vb. ellipt)
The omission of a word or words. Can you come?
Yes, I can.
Substitution and ellipsis
embedding Inserting one clause or phrase within another.
The phenomenon is akin to recursiveness.
The woman with the red hair is coming over Clauses
empty verb See delexicalised verb.
end focus The tendency in English to place the important or new information towards the end of an utterance. Yesterday he went to London
He went to London yesterday
Postponement and extrapositioning
end weight The tendency in English to place heavier (i.e., longer and more complex) items towards the end of the utterance. He worked in London during the time he was trying to save up to open his own business
During the time he was trying to save up to open his own business, he worked in London
endophoric Referring to elements within the text which have occurred or occur later (anaphoric and cataphoric reference, respectively).
When John bought it, he was surprised at the expense of the part Cohesion
epicene Descriptive of a word which is gender neutral. teacher can apply equally well to a male or female teacher but bridegroom is marked as male Gender
epistemic modality Modality concerned with expressing a view of the truth or likelihood of a proposition. That must be the six o'clock train
She can't have been at the meeting
Modality map
epithet A descriptive rather than classifying adjective
(Compare classifier)
That's a good idea Adjectives
eponym A word derived from a person's name.
See also toponym.
wellington boots
boycotting the company
Word formation
ethnolect A dialect used by an identifiable ethnic group. New York Jewish Variety
evidential modality See deductive modality.
exclamation A phrase or clause expressing anger, despair, surprise etc.
This is also sometimes called an interjection.
How silly of me!
Word class essentials
existential Applied to the words it and there to express that they emphasise the existence of something. There is a car outside
It is your brother on the phone
Existential it and there
exonym A name by which one group of people refers to another describe a group of people but which is not used by that group to describe themselves. gringo is sometimes used by Latin Americans to describe citizens of the USA. Word formation
exophoric Referring to items outside the text. It's like that game you played when we were kids Cohesion
exponent The language used to realise a communicative function.
Also called realisation.
Structure: Would you like a / some ...
Lexis: cup of tea, cake, more etc.
Communicative Language Teaching
extrapositioning Moving an item to the beginning or the end to mark its significance or conform to end weight or end focus. It's a shame that he couldn't come
That he couldn't come is a shame
Postponement and extrapositioning
false cognate A word in another language which looks and/or sounds similar but is unconnected in derivation (and, often, meaning). okuru (Japanese = occur) and occur (English) Cognates
false friend A cognate word in another language derived from the same source but having a different meaning. sensibel (German = sensitive) and sensible (English = rational)
field See semantic field.
field The topic area in which a text is set and its goals, short and long term, which determine in part the language which is used. business, personal communication, discussion essay, procedural instructions etc. Functional grammar
filler Any spoken hesitation device. He's er, well, you know, difficult Communicative strategies
finite A form of a verb (or a clause) which is marked for tense, number or person.  It can stand alone as the only verb or verb phrase in a clause.
Finite forms may also be marked by a zero inflexion.
Compare non-finite.
John plays tennis
lost the game
have been to America
They walk
Finite vs. non-finite
fixedness The tendency for some idiomatic language to be unalterable.  It is a variable phenomenon. I ran to and fro all day Idiomaticity
form The appearance of a language item without consideration of its meaning, social use or communicative value. The past of catch is caught, pronounced as /kɔːt/ Pragmatics
fortis Of sounds produced with relatively greater force.  Also unvoiced.
Compare lenis.
/f/ and /p/ vs. /v/ and /b/ etc. Consonants
free variation Descriptive of forms of the same item which are different but occur in the same dialect. The pronunciation of often as /ˈɒf.n̩/ or /ˈɒf.tn̩/
fricative A sound produced by friction between two organs of pronunciation.
See also approximant in which no friction is audible.
/z/ in zoo
front Describing sounds made at the front of the mouth.
Compare back and central.
/i/ and /t/ Vowels
function a) The communicative value of a language item, utterance or expression. The imperative clause
Have some more
functions as an invitation not an order
b) The grammatical role played by a language element. That he was allowed home surprised me
in which we have a clause functioning as the subject of the verb
function words Words which have no meaning when standing alone but make the grammar work.  The main classes are prepositions, conjunctions, pronouns and determiners.
These are sometimes called functors or grammatical words.
Lexis index
gender A way of classifying nouns by certain characteristics such as masculine, feminine, neuter, animate, inanimate, edible, inedible etc. which affects how the grammar of the language (especially inflexions) works. le soleil (sun, French, masculine gender)
la lune (moon, French, feminine gender)
die Sonne (sun, German, feminine gender)
der Mond (moon, German, masculine gender)
genitive The possessive case.
The genitive does not only apply to possession; it can also apply to origin or description.
The policy of the government
My book
The man's request
genre An identifiable communicative function of a text which it shares with others of the same sort. Recount, Exposition, Narrative etc. Genre
geolect A dialect characteristic of speakers from a geographically defined area. Scots English Variety
gerund A non-finite verb form which functions as a noun formed from a verb with the suffix -ing.
The form is the same as that of a present participle.  It is sometimes referred to as a verbal noun but technically distinguishable: unlike verbal nouns, gerunds may be modified by adverbs but verbal nouns are more noun-like in being modifiable by adjectives and determiners.
I gave up smoking
This -ing form may not normally be used with a determiner.
Catenative verbs
glide A transitional sound as a vowel (usually) moves from one quality to another, often forming a diphthong.
Also a change in pitch level.
/ɪə/ starts with the short vowel /ɪ/ and glides at the end to the /ə/ sound
duty pronounced as /ˈdjuː.ti/, gliding from /j/ to /uː/
glottal stop
A sound made at the back of the throat.
A sound made by closing and opening the back of the throat (glottis). Represented as /ʔ/.
The part of the throat involved in the production of these sounds.
See the diagram under vocal tract.
The /h/ sound in house is a glottal consonant
Pronouncing I got it as /ˈaɪ.ˈɡɒʔ.ɪʔ/
glyph A readable character in a writing system The character g may be written as G or g
(These are alloglyphs of g)
goal The entity affected by the action encoded in a verb.
Also called the patient or the recipient.
John made the dinner
The dinner was eaten with relish
Functional grammar
gradation See ablaut.
grapheme Either:
The smallest units of the writing system that represent a sound
The smallest identifiable units of a writing system
sh is the grapheme representing the sound /ʃ/
s and h are two of the graphemes of the Latin alphabet used in English
An aspect in English which refers to an event or state which exists or existed (semi-)permanently. She used to be quite helpful
tend to eat quite early
is driving to work these days
teaches in this school
would take offence easily
Semi-modal auxiliary verbsTenses and aspects
hard palate See palate.
head The main and obligatory element in a phrase which indicates its grammatical function. in the rain
the brilliant new book
headedness Referring to which element of a combination determines the meaning in a language.
English is right headed (or head final) because the second, right-hand element determines the meaning.  Other languages are left headed (or head initial).
A wind mill is a kind of mill not a kind of wind
In French, a timbre-poste is a kind of timbre, not a kind of poste
heaviness Referring to the length or complexity of a phrase or clause.  Conventionally heavy elements are placed in English towards the end of a sentence. He lost it while he was travelling on the bus from Spain to Russia with his friends Postponement and extrapositioning
heterographs words which have the same pronunciations but different spellings.
road / rode Lexical relationships
heteronyms a) words which have the same spelling but a different pronunciation and different meanings
b) words which refer to the same thing but are used in different dialect or speech communities
lead (go before) and lead (metal)
export (verb) and export (noun)

elevator (US) and lift (UK)
historical present The use of the present tense to add immediacy to an event set in the past.
So, I'm waiting for the bus yesterday, when ... Tenses and aspects
homographs Words with the same spelling but different pronunciations and/or meanings. bear (animal) vs. bear (carry)
wind (moving air) vs. wind (turn around something)
Lexical relationships
homonyms Words with the same spelling and pronunciation but different meanings. rock (stone) vs. rock (sway from side to side)
homophones Words with different spellings but the same pronunciation and different meanings. road vs. rowed
hortative Encouraging others. Shall we get this done now? Suasion
hypernym The overarching term which includes the hyponyms. vehicle includes car, bus, truck, motorcycle etc. Lexical relationships
hyponyms Any of the related terms included under a hypernym or superordinate. car, bus, truck, motorcycle are the co-hyponyms of vehicle
hypotaxis The use of conjunctions to link subordinate ideas.
Compare parataxis.
I ate breakfast before going out Spoken discourse
ideographic (adj.)
A symbol used to represent a complete idea. 下 = down (Chinese) Types of languages
idiolect Language forms distinctive to an individual. Variations in pronunciation of certain phonemes or the use of particular lexemes unique to an individual. Variety
idiom A phrase or clause used as a single concept which usually cannot be understood by understanding the words in it. It’s turned up its toes (died / become useless)
It's neither here nor there (unimportant)
illocutionary force The intended or perceived communicative value of an utterance regardless of its form.
See also Speech act.
See also Propositional content.
Is this your coat?
(meaning or perceived meaning: Please move it so that I can sit down)
Communicative Language Teaching
imperative The form of the verb used to tell someone what to do or make offers. Go home
Don’t tell her
Have some more cake
imperative / directive modality A form of deontic modality referring to an obligation placed on the hearer. You should get some rest
This has to be done before we can go
Types of modality
impersonal Having no specified agent. It was snowing Existential it and there
impersonal pronouns See indefinite pronouns.
imprecative a) a mood which is used to express the hope that something does not happen (a category of optative)
a) a mood in some languages which expresses the hope that something bad happens
c) a sentence containing a swear word intended to insult
a) If only it wouldn't get so cold
b) May he lose
c) You bloody aren't, you know
inchoate Descriptive of a verb which refers to the beginning of a state.  Particularly applicable to pseudo-copular verbs. It's getting dark Copular verbs and complements
incompatibility A feature of two or more language items which are mutually exclusive. The paper is thin vs. The paper is thick Lexical relationships
indefinite pronouns Pronouns which do not refer to specific people.  Also called impersonal pronouns. Anyone can see it's true
's at the door
is well
Indefinite pronouns
independent clause See main clause.
indexical One of the functions of intonation, speaking or writing which is typical of a person or group of people Sports commentary language.
Paper sellers' intonation.
Government reports.
indicative Expressing objective statements. I want some more Mood
indirect object When a verb has two objects, the indirect object usually refers to a person who receives or benefits.
In English the indirect object usually precedes the direct object.
Compare direct object.
She bought me lunch
I read the child a story
Verb and clause types
indirect question A question expressed in indirect speech or a polite embedded question with a similar structure. She wanted to know where the gate was
Can you tell me where the gate is?
Indirect questionsIndirect speech
indirect speech Speech which is reported, not quoted directly.
See direct speech.
He told me to come
She said she felt ill
Indirect speech
infinitive A non-finite verb form often preceded by to. I came to help
We should go
inflexion (also inflection)
inflected (adj.)
Changing the form of a word to show grammatical function or other features such as tense, person, case and aspect.  In English, this is often achieved by changes to the endings of words but can affect the central vowels.
Non-technically, inflexion may be applied to changes in tone, intonation and pitch in speech.
He plays (with the -s inflexion to show third person)
She played (with the -ed inflexion to show past tense)
They came (an inflexion on the central vowel ('o' to 'a') [ablaut])
The larger problem (inflecting the adjective to show comparative form)
The houses were too expensive (with the -s inflexion to show a plural)
Word formation
-ing form A common way to refer to the form of the verb which ends -ing and can function grammatically in various ways often lying between verbal, adjectival and nominal functions. I enjoy eating out
We were eating at the time
I object to you smoking while I'm eating
It's a drilling machine
Catenative verbsAdjectivesFinite and non-finite forms
initialism A word made of the initial letters of a phrase which are pronounced separately.
See acronym.
DVD Word formation
instantaneous verb A verb whose meaning implies a non-durative or progressive event.  Such verbs, when used in the progressive aspect imply iteration rather than an on-going event.
(Compare durative)
hit, break, snap etc. Aspect
interjection A word class signifying emotional state.
Also exclamation.
BackchannellingWord class essentials
intensifier A language item which affects the force of another. He is very happy
She is slightly depressed
Adverbial intensifiersAdjective intensifiers
interaction A language event involving two or more people which has no definable goal and exists to maintain social relationships.
See also transaction.
greetings, informal chats etc. Speaking
interrogative A question form. Do you know her?
Don't you like it?
Which do you want?
That's him, isn't it?
That's him?!
InterrogativesIndefinite pronouns
interrogative pronoun A wh-word which functions as a pronoun for the object, clause or person in questions. Who did you see?
What did he do?
Where did she go?
intonation The rise and fall in voice tone in spoken language. That's right. (falling intonation) vs. That's right!? (rising intonation) Intonation
intransitive Describing a verb which cannot have a direct object.
They arrived
She talked
He fell
We cannot have:
*They arrived the hotel
*She talked the people
*He fell the river
Verb and clause types
intrusive (adj.)
Describing the insertion of a phoneme in connected speech.  There are three in English: /j/, /w/ and /r/. In law and order, an intrusive /r/ may be produced (/lɔːr.ənd.ˈɔː.də/) Connected speech
inversion Reversing the usual order of subject and verb (or using the do operator in simple tenses). Never have I seen such a mess
Scarcely did I sit down when the phone rang.
Word order index
iterative An aspect which refers to the repetition of an event.
In English, this is usually signalled by the progressive form of an instantaneous verb.
Someone has been stealing vegetables from my garden. Aspect
jargon The use of particular lexemes confined to certain areas of study, trade or interest.  A defining characteristic is that such terms are obscure to those unversed in the area of concern. Certain sports have associated jargon and most trades and professions develop jargon terms understood only by those within them such as legal jargon used by professional lawyers Variety
judgemental / speculative modality A form of epistemic modality referring to the speaker's judgement or understanding. I think that's too much
That might not be enough
Types of modality
juncture An interruption of the normal transition between sounds which makes the pronunciation of two different phrases distinguishable. ice cream vs. I scream Connected speech
jussive modality A form of deontic modality referring to an obligation placed on a third person.
The jussive mood is also used in some languages with a distinctive verb form to express wishes about the actions of a third person.
He really should try to be more patient with the children
Mary has to be the one to do it
Types of modality
key The tone or manner in which a speech act is produced. ironic, sarcastic, bored, surprised sympathetic etc. Intonation
The level of pitch combined with the intonation contour. High key often expresses surprise or contrast.
kinesics The study of paralinguistic features such as body movements and positions, gesture and facial expressions. Turn taking
labiodental Sounds formed with the lips and teeth. /f/ in fox Consonants
larynx The part of the throat which contains the vocal folds and is important in the quality of sound production.
See the diagram below under vocal tract.
lect A term in sociolinguistics to describe varieties of language use. sociolect, dialect, idiolect etc. Variety
lenis Referring to a less strong articulation of a consonant.
Compare fortis.
/d/ and /b/ vs. /t/ and /p/ etc. Consonants
lexeme The technical term, often used loosely for 'word' and referring to a single unit of meaning.
A lexeme is also defined as all the derived words under a dictionary head word (or lemma).
the Houses of Parliament
go, going, gone
Lexis index
lexical field See semantic field.
lexical set A group of words of the same class defined by topic or by syntactical characteristics. spade, hoe, rake, watering can etc.
frequently, seldom, often, rarely etc.
Lexical relationships
lexical verb Also called a content or main verb.  A verb that is not an auxiliary and has meaning when standing alone.
She wept
Verbs index
lexical word A word which carries significance rather than performing a grammatical function.
Also content word.
Compare function word.
She went to the post office Lexis index
limiter An adverbial which functions to limit the range of the verb in some way. I merely asked Adverbials
linking When clauses are of equal weight and value they may be joined by linking conjunctions.
(Compare binding)
He came home and went to bed Complex sentences
linking verb See copular verb.
lip rounding Describing the extent to which the lips are rounded in vowel production.  The phenomenon exists on a cline from fully rounded, through neutral to fully stretched.
Combined with notions of vowel height, tongue position and vowel length, vowels can be closely described.
The sounds in foot (/fʊt/) and fit (/fɪt/) rounded and non-rounded respectively. Vowels
loan word A word borrowed from another language to fill a perceived gap (suppletion). Angst from German into English The roots of English
locative A case referring to the position of something.
In some languages, the locative is signalled by inflexions, in English by the use of adpositions.
It's in the fridge in German becomes Es ist im Kühlschrank Case
main clause The clause which is independent and may stand alone. I walked the dogs although it was snowing Clauses
main verb A verb which carries lexical meaning and may be used on its own without another verb. Also called a lexical verb.
Compare auxiliary verb.
I can't see the stage Word class essentials
manner of articulation The way in which a sound is produced. voiced, unvoiced, with friction, plosive etc. Overview of pronunciation
markedness Any deviation from the simple and prototypical form to note or emphasise. houses is marked as the plural of house
How often do you come?
is unmarked whereas
How rarely do you come?
is a marked question
mass noun A noun which can have no plural and takes a singular verb.
Compare count noun.
The milk is in the fridge
We ate pork
is important in life

Reading takes up a lot of my time
matrix clause The clause in which another is embedded. She saw that he wanted to ask a question Clauses
A constituent part of a larger entity which can be used to refer to the whole (see synecdoche). wheels as a meronym of car
handlebars, saddle, gears
are also meronyms of bicycle even when not used to represent the whole
Lexical relationships
metaphor Figurative language use where a term is used usually associated with a different idea. She exploded Synonymy etc.
metaplasm Spelling an item in the way it is sounded. Going to as gonna Four future forms
A word used to refer to an entity with which it is closely associated.
The device of using a term closely associated with something actually to mean the thing.
Number Ten as a metonym for the British government
Downing Street
has issued a statement
Synonymy etc.
minimal pair A pair of words distinguished by a single change to a phoneme in the same place in the word. butter / putter
cat / fat
sing / sung
for / far
Pronunciation essentials
modality Descriptive of language use which is concerned with the likelihood, permissibility or obligatory nature etc. of an event or state. I should be there later
It is
possible she will be late
imagine it's going to be difficult
Modality map
modal auxiliary verb A verb which tells us how the speaker feels about the main verb in terms of possibility, obligation, ability etc. I should talk to her (deontic modality)
It may rain again (epistemic modality)
I can't see (dynamic modality)
That must be wrong (alethic modality)
Modal auxiliary verbsModality map
mode The kind of text which is being constructed. oral, written, emailed, text message etc. Functional grammar
A linguistic item which adds information to the head of a phrase.
They can be pre-modifiers or post-modifiers.
A modifier is any word or phrase which qualifies or limits another.
(In functional grammar, the word modifier is used only for pre-modifiers and the term qualifier is used for post-modifying elements.)
Dogs enjoy games
has three unmodified elements but
My mongrel dogs really enjoy games of fetch
Has the same three elements modified
(a pre-modifying adjective)
men with experience (a post-modifying prepositional phrase)
Modification overview
monophthong A vowel which does not change during its pronunciation. Also pure vowel. The /ɪ/ in hit (/hɪt/) Vowels
mood Attitudinal issues with verb phrases (wish, possibility, doubt, statement of fact etc.) She is in London (declarative)
If only she were here (subjunctive)
morpheme The smallest meaningful unit of language.  There are two sorts.  Bound morphemes always occur with others but free morphemes can stand alone or form part of a word.
protesting (one free (protest) and one bound (ing) morpheme)
bookkeeper (two free (book and keep) and one bound (er) morpheme)
Word formation
morphology The study of morphemes (above), their forms and functions vis-à-vis word formation.
This also refers to the morphemic system of a language as in the morphology of English.
move A term from discourse analysis to describe a unit which is often smaller than a complete utterance but has a communicative function. That's wrong, pass me the large one
contains two moves:
a) That's wrong (information)
b) pass me the large one (imperative)
Communicative Language Teaching
multal pronouns Pronouns which refer to more of the referent.
(Compare paucal)
He doesn't have many friends but she has more Indefinite pronouns
multi-word verb A verb consisting of more than one word.  There are three sorts: phrasal, prepositional and phrasal-prepositional. I give up (a phrasal verb)
She complained about the service (a prepositional verb)
She caught up with the class (a phrasal-prepositional verb)
Multi-word verbs
multilingualism Referring to the ability to speak two or more languages at native-speaker-like levels of fluency and accuracy. Switching between English (at work) and Spanish (at home) in the USA. Sociolinguistics
mutation The change in an internal aspect of a word which signals grammatical function.
Also known as ablaut, vowel mutation, internal modification, stem modification or mutation, internal inflexion.
sing - sang
foot - feet
MarkednessBinomialsLexical or main verbs
nasal Describing sounds made by closing off the airflow and allowing the air to enter and flow out through the nasal cavity. The sounds /n/, /m/ and /ŋ/ Consonants
A sentence or verb form which refers to something not being or happening. It didn't rain
I refuse to come
That's impossible
She never comes on time
negator A word which make an utterance negative. not, hardly, never, seldom, neither etc.
neologism The coining of a new word.
Also coinage.
chairperson, user-friendly Word formation
node The term in question when studying a word's collocational characteristics in a corpus. ... when we were there we would usually go to ... Collocation
nominal (n.)
Making an element of the language perform the function of a noun. I want what you offered John
I'll take the blue
Nominal clauses and phrasesNominal adjectives
nominative The subject case. She came home Case
non-assertive forms Pronouns, adverbials and determiners which are conventionally used in negative sentences, questions and expressions of doubt or uncertainty.
Compare assertive.
I don't want anything else
I haven't
yet finished
I'm not sure there are
any left
anyone call?
Assertive and non-assertive
nonce word A lexeme invented for the occasion. Pass me the picker-upper Word formation
non-compositionality Describing the variable quality of idiomatic language, much of which cannot be understood by understanding the elements that make it up.
Also referred to as opacity.
He's the black sheep of the family Idiomaticity
non-defining See defining.
non-finite A form of the verb not marked for tense, person or number.
Compare finite.
She wants to help
I watched her enjoying the show
Let me go
Finite vs. non-finite
non-restrictive See defining.
notation Phonemic (broad) or phonetic (narrow) transcription of language sounds. He came home
notional (adj.)
A conceptual category smaller than a communicative function. weight, temperature, location, duration etc. Semantics
noun A word for a person, place, thing, feeling or characteristic.  Nouns can be subjects or objects of verbs and prepositions.
(Sometimes substantive)
He went to the station
London is my home
Envy is an unpleasant emotion
Peter broke his glasses
noun phrase A group of words acting as a noun with a noun as the head. The old man sailed the fishing boat In-service syntax index
nucleus The centre of a syllable preceded (optionally) by the onset and followed (optionally) by the coda. The word start (/stɑːt/) contains the nucleus vowel (/ɑː/) preceded by the onset (/st/) and followed by the coda (/t/). Syllables
number The grammatical category which contrasts singular, dual and plural. They arrived late at my house and they were both hungry Personal pronounsDeterminers
object The entity the verb acts on. She read a book (direct object)
She told me a story (indirect object)
I got the house painted
Verb and clause types
object case See accusative.
object complement The complement of a verb which acts on the object rather than the subject.
See subject complement and complement.
They made her Head Girl Verb and clause types
onomatopoeia Descriptive of words which are imitative of the meanings they convey.
The phenomenon is variably disputed.
Language evolution(passim)
onset The first (optional) item of a syllable coming before the nucleus. The word start (/stɑːt/) contains the nucleus vowel (/ɑː/) preceded by the onset (/st/) and followed by the coda (/t/) Syllables
opacity See non-compositionality.
open-class items These are word classes which in theory are limitless and to which additions can be made when the need arises to express a new idea. nouns, adjectives, adverbs and verbs Word class map
operator The first auxiliary verb in a verb phrase.  It is distinguished by being the determiner of the question form.
The term is used in other senses in linguistic studies, e.g., to refer to aspect, modality and tense.
Do you want it?
What have you seen?
John could have done it → Could John have done it?
Primary auxiliary verbsModal auxiliary verbs
optative Wishing and hoping often expressed using a subjunctive form. If only it would get warmer Suasion
orthography Referring to the conventional spelling and writing system of a language. BrE doubles the 'l' on some verbs to form participles Spelling
palatal (adj.)
The roof of the mouth divided into the hard palate towards the front and the soft palate (velum) at the rear.
Sounds made here.
The /ʃ/ sound in ship is palatal Pronunciation overviewConsonants
paradigmatic Referring to the vertical relationship between items in a clause.
Compare syntagmatic.
In He bought a house, the verb may be replaced with many other transitive verbs: sold, decorated, furnished etc. Lexical relationships
parallelism The use of paired words in constructions. They walked arm in arm Idiomaticity
parataxis Strictly the non-use of conjunctions.  Loosely the use in speaking of very simple and repeated conjunctions.
Compare hypotaxis.
I ate bacon, eggs, cheese, toast and butter
I went to London and I visited my brother and then I came home and then I realised I had forgotten my keys and I called him and he said ...
Spoken discourse
paronym A cognate word in another language. The words paper, papel, papír and papier are cognates in English, Spanish, Hungarian and French respectively Cognates
parsing Analysing a sentence by identifying its constituent parts and their grammatical functions. Tree diagrams. Sentence grammar
part of speech See word class.
participles A non-finite form of the verb.  There are two.
Participles often act as adjectives.
She was beaten (past participle)
He is working today (present participle)
She is delighted
A falling rock hit the car
Verbs index
partitive An expression which refers to part of a larger amount.
Partitive expressions are often confused with collective nouns which have an opposite function.
A pile of books
A can of beer
A pane of glass
Partitives and classifiers
passive voice A clause in which the subject undergoes the action.
Direct passives are formed by raising the direct object and indirect passives by raising the indirect object.
Compare active voice.
Direct passives:
They were arrested
The house got damaged by the storm
Indirect passive:
He was given a book
The passive voice
pathetic fallacy Endowing an inanimate object with an animate trait. The car is being difficult Adjectives
patient In a passive voice clause, the receiver of the action of the agent.
See also goal.
John was arrested by the police
It was
his car that was damaged by the bus
The passive voice
paucal pronouns Pronouns which refer to less of the referent.
(Compare multal)
He doesn't have many friends but she has even fewer Indefinite pronouns
perfect An aspect of the verb describing its relationship to another time.
He has arrived (setting the past in the present)
He had arrived (setting the past in the past)
He will have arrived (setting the past in the future)
Time, tense and aspect
performative A verb form which encompasses its effect. I name this ship ...
I promise
Present tense forms
periphrasis (n.)
The use of a separate word instead of an inflexion especially in the case of forming comparative and superlative forms of adjectives.
Periphrasis also refers to any occasion when we have two or more words performing the work of one.
This is even more old
This is even older
I took a shower
is a periphrastic form of
I showered
The government's decision
has the periphrastic form
The decision of the government
person A grammatical category which indicates who something is about.
There are three in English:
first person singular and plural (I, we, me, our etc. )
second person singular and plural (you, your, yours)
third person singular and plural (it, they, their, he, she, her, its, his etc.)
I came home
She talked to me
We were happy
They helped us
You didn't come
They needed you
She hated the film
The film delighted him
broke the fence

She gave them the bill
Personal pronouns
personal pronoun A pronoun for an identifiable person or persons (or thing).
The form of personal pronouns varies by case and number although the system is defective in English.
Give it to me
Peter did it himself
He came home
They went to London
That's not mine, it's his
personal modality See dynamic modality.
phatic Descriptive of meaning-free language used to establish or maintain rapport and relationships. Hello, there Teaching functional languageBackchannelling
phoneme The smallest contrastive (i.e., meaningful) component of a language's sound system.
/p/ and /b/ in pat and bat Pronunciation overview
phonetics The study of speech sounds.
phonology The study of the speech sounds of a particular language or languages.
phonotactics The study of possible syllable structures in a language. /vr/ is not possible at the beginning of a word in English but is in Greek. Phonotactics
phrasal verb See multi-word verb.
phrase A group of words with one grammatical function in a sentence. He went to the shops (prepositional phrase)
The three boys left (noun phrase)
They have opened the box (verb phrase)
She was tired but happy (adjective phrase)
They worked extremely hard (adverb phrase)
pitch The height or frequency of a sound. Intonation
pidgin A grammatically and lexically simplified means of communication which is used by groups who do not share a common language.  Pidgins are typically used for trading purposes and are not fully formed languages.
See Creole.
Bimbashi Arabic (soldier Arabic used in Sudan)
Russenorsk (a pidgin based on Norwegian and Russian)
Types of languages
place of articulation The place where a sound is produced. labial, dental, velar etc. Overview of pronunciationConsonants
plosive A sound produced by stopping and suddenly releasing the breath.
Also stops.
/p/, /ɡ/ Consonants
plurale tantum
(Pl. pluralia)
The term for a noun which almost always appears in the plural.
scissors Nouns
A word which has more than one connected but distinct meanings.  This is often difficult to distinguish from a homonym. The glue has set
Set the clock for 6
portmanteau word See blend.
positive adjective or adverb The form of an adjective or adverb which is unmarked for degree.
This is also called the base form.
hot is the positive form from which hotter and hottest (comparative and superlative forms) are derived
recently is the positive form from which more recently and most recently are formed
possessive case See genitive.
possessive determiner A type of determiner which refers to origin, possession or description. His letter upset me
That's my car over there
The government has its problems
Case and the genitive
post-modification An item following the head of a phrase and adding information to it. The woman in the red shirt Noun post-modification
postposition An item performing the same function as a preposition but which follows rather than precedes its complement or object. He came two hours ago
The expense aside, we must have it
Prepositional phrases
A sound produced in this way is audible when following a vowel.
Contrasted with pre-vocalic in which the sound is only audible before a vowel.
Pronouncing car as /ˈkɑːr/
Pronouncing the /r/ at the end of father in father is here (/ˈfɑːð.r̩.z.hɪər/)
Connected speech Transcription
pragmatics The study of how meaning is achieved via language.  It is unclear where the lines separating pragmatics and semantics should be drawn. Pragmatics
and post-determiners
A limited set of determiners which can be placed before another determiner or may follow a determiner. My three friends drank all my beer Predeterminers
predicate The clause following the subject which provides the information. Mary went to London Types of verbs
predicative This describes an adjective which is linked to the noun by a copular verb.
See attributive.
The house is old
She grew angry
prefix A morpheme attached to the beginning of a word which, usually, changes its meaning. displeasure
Word formation
preposition A word which links the verb to a noun or adverbial.
He walked across the park
She arrived at six
Prepositional phrases
prepositional complement or object A word or phrase (usually nominal) which generally follows the preposition (but can precede a postposition) and denotes the reference for the preposition or postposition. Go to the cinema
contains the prepositional object or complement, the cinema
The money aside
contains the postpositional object or complement, the money
prepositional passive A passive construction in which the prepositional object or complement becomes the subject.
The active clause
We talked about the problem
can become a prepositional passive as
The problem was talked about
prepositional phrase A group of words which includes the preposition as its head and its complement (or object).
over the bridge
under the river
Prepositional phrases
presupposition A truth taken for granted in what someone says.
See also implicature and entailment in the guide to pragmatics.
The garden shed was demolished
in which the fact that you know what shed and that it was previously extant is assumed.
pre-vocalic See post-vocalic.
primary auxiliary verb An auxiliary verb which forms a tense, voice or aspect with a main verb.
It was destroyed
I got my car cleaned
I have been to London
Primary auxiliary verbs
productivity The ability of a language item or rule to continue to generate new examples. Forming and adjective by adding -able to a verb is productive, using -ible is unproductive.
Any newly coined noun may be made plural with the addition of -s or -es.
Word formation
pro-drop Descriptive of a language, such as Modern Greek or Italian in which the subject pronoun is routinely omitted. Sono (I am in Italian, a pro-drop language)
Ich bin (I am in German, a non-pro-drop language)
Types of languagesExistential there and it
pro-form A language item that stands for another which may be a word, phrase, clause or longer text. He told me to eat better and I will do so
I won't be able to come but Mary may
Pro-formsEllipsis and substitution
progressive The aspect of the verb which shows that something is ongoing. I am writing this sentence Time, tense and aspect
prominence The amount an item stands out in a stream of speech. That's his car Intonation
pronoun A word which stands for a noun or other nominalised expression. Give me it
We talked among ourselves
proper noun A noun for a person, place or job.
See common noun.
The President
Mr Smith
The Alps
propositional content The meaning conveyed by an utterance rather than the functional effect of the utterance (its illocutionary force).
Propositional content is sometimes distinguished from modality insofar as the latter concerns the speaker's view of an event whereas the former simply states a fact.
If I say:
There's an apple tree in my garden
The propositional force is that
a) I have a garden
b) the garden contains an apple tree
(The illocutionary force might be an offer to allow you to harvest the crop.)
Communicative Language TeachingPragmaticsSemantics
prosodic (adj.)
Concerned with movements in pitch and tone. Intonation
prospective An aspect which refers to future time.
In English, this is often signalled by the progressive form or going to and with adverbials.
I'm seeing her later
I think it's going to be cold tomorrow night
The train arrives shortly
pseudo-cleft A type of cleft sentence using a wh-word.
Such a cleft may be reversed.
What I wanted was more time
More time was what I wanted
pure vowel A vowel which does not change during its pronunciation. Also monophthong. The /ɪ/ in hit (/hɪt/). Vowels
qualifier Any term which adds information to a noun phrase.
(In functional grammar, this term only applies to items which follow the head of the noun phrase.  Items which precede it are referred to as modifiers.)
The man from Berlin
The tired
Noun modificationAdjectivesDeterminers
quantifier A type of determiner which refers to quantity. Give me a few minutes
We don't have a lot of money
Would you like some cake?
question tags
An interrogative.
A phrase attached to the end of a positive or negative sentence to make it a question.
Is she here yet?
You are coming, aren’t you?
You aren’t going to eat that, are you?
I don't believe she's coming, i
s she?
realise / realisation See exponent.
Received Pronunciation A high-prestige regionally unidentifiable British accent. So-called BBC English (once) Transcription
recipient See goal.
reciprocal pronoun Pronouns which express mutuality. They spoke to each other Personal pronouns
reciprocal verbs A distinction sometimes made between verbs concerning the participants in an action.
Reciprocal uses imply both subjects were engaged.
Mary was talking to us (non-reciprocal use)
Mary and we were talking (reciprocal use)
Verb and clause types
recursiveness / recursion The ability, confined to human language, to embed an infinite (in theory) number of phrases and clauses within each other. The people who were in the house which is on the corner of the street where his mother, who was very old, lived were always helpful if she needed anything that ... Language evolutionClauses
reduplication The repetition of an item (or a closely related form). Don't shilly shally
The car went clunkety clunk
redundancy A measure of the amount of unnecessary information encoded in the language. These people are not welcome
in which the plural is signalled by the form of the demonstrative, the form of the noun and the form of the copular verb (66% redundancy)
Skills index
referent The item to which a pro-form refers.
(The term is also used to describe the concept or object to which a sound refers.)
See also antecedent.
The chair was expensive but I bought it

(chair (/tʃeə/) = a piece of furniture or the manager of a meeting)
reflexive pronoun A pronoun which refers to (i.e., is co-referential with) the subject of the verb. She was talking to herself Personal pronouns
reflexive verb Verb use in which the subject and the object are the same. She was washing
The dog was scratching

in which we assume the objects to be herself and itself respectively.
Verb and clause types
regiolect A dialect of a macro-language which may not be mutually comprehensible with other regiolects. Moroccan vs. Egyptian Arabic Variety
register A variety socially defined by occupation, interest group or field of enquiry. legal register
medical register
football register
Style and register
relative adverb An adverb which modifies the verb phrase in a complex sentence to say, e.g., where or when something occurred. This is the house where he lived
That was the moment when I understood
Relative adverbs
relative pronoun One of the following which refer to the subject or object of a sentence or to possession: who, whom, which, whose, that.
The rules for the use of relative pronouns are quite complicated.
He is the man who told me the story (referring to the subject)
He bought the car that he saw on the road (referring to the object)
Relative pronoun clauses
relative tense
relational tense
A tense which can only be fully understood in relation to another time marker. She has arrived, so now we can start
(relating the past to the present by embedding it in the present)
Time, tense and aspect
reported speech See indirect speech.
restrictive See defining.
retroflex An /r/ sound made by curling the tip of the tongue backwards.  Transcribed phonetically as [ɻ]. The Indian English /r/ sound. Transcription
retronym A word which has been coined to describe something obsolete. the lexeme rotary telephone describes what would have been referred to simply as telephone before the advent of touch-button dialling Word formation
reversed cleft See pseudo-cleft.
rheme The additional information which follows the theme of an utterance or sentence followed by the rheme. The manager made some new rules Theme and rheme
rhythm The regular repetition of stress in a language Intonation
rhotic Describing an accent in English in which the /r/ sound is usually audible.
The opposite is non-rhotic.
Standard American English pronouncing the /r/ non-pre-vocalically: my father decided as /ˈmaɪ.ˈfɑːð..də.ˈsaɪ.dəd/.
Received pronunciation in British English is generally non-rhotic (/maɪ.ˈfɑːð.ə.dɪ.ˈsaɪ.dɪd/).
root See stem or base form.
rounding See lip rounding.
schwa The commonest vowel in English, variably spelled.
It is transcribed as /ə/.
The vowel at the beginning of about (/ə.ˈbaʊt/) Transcription
segmental See suprasegmental.
semantic component
semantic feature
A part of a word's meaning. The word bachelor includes the features / components male and unmarried. Semantics
semantic field An area of meaning containing a group of semantically related items. gardening: hoe, fork, spade, planter, mower etc. Lexical relationships
semantic space The prototypical features of a lexeme which determine the limits of its use. The semantic space of the word machine includes any mechanical device with moving parts such as engine, pump, electric drill, hair dryer etc. but excludes telephone, router and television which have no moving parts and are electronic in nature. Teaching lexis
semantics The study of meaning. It is not clear where the dividing lines between semantics and pragmatics are drawn. Semantics
semi-modal auxiliary verb A verb which can act both as modal auxiliary verb and as a lexical verb. I dared not / didn't dare ask again Semi-modal auxiliary verbs
semiotics / semiology The study of systems of signs. Human language is the most important semiotic system but there are others such as bird calls, Morse code, semaphore etc. SemanticsLanguage evolution
semi-vowel A phoneme which may act as either a vowel or a consonant depending on the environment. 'w' in way (consonantal /w/ ) vs. in how (vocalic /aʊ/) Vowels
sentence adverbial An adverbial which modifies the whole of a sentence rather than only the verb phrase
Also called a disjunct or stance adverbial.
Unfortunately, I missed my train Disjuncts
sentence stress The syllable(s) or word(s) in a sentence where the heaviest stress falls.  This is often, unless a special meaning is intended, on the information towards the end of the utterance. I went home
I went home very late
I went home by bus
Sentence stress
sequencer An adverbial which signals the ordering of events. firstly, next, then etc. Adverbials
shell noun A noun which serves to encapsulate a range of propositions in order to make cohesive referencing more accurate. The problem is ... and ... as well as ... which also involves ... .
This needs to be addressed in three ways.
Shell nouns
sibilant A consonant fricative making a hissing, s-like sound. /s/ in hiss, /z/ in maze Consonants
simile (n.)
similative (adj.)
The device of making comparisons, often with the use of as ... as or like.  The sense of one item is carried over to the sense of the other so in this way they are synonyms. He's like a fish out of water Synonymy etc.
slang A term often used disparagingly to refer to casual or 'wrong' language use.
Slangs are generally spoken forms characterised by very informal uses and often confined to certain class and regional groups.
Cockney Rhyming Slang SociolinguisticsVariety
sluicing Reducing wh-clauses to the single wh-word or a short wh-phrase. I heard someone singing that song but I don't know who Nominal clauses
sociolect A dialect defined by social class or role. Upper class British pronunciation Variety
soft palate See palate.
special stress See contrastive stress.
speculative modality See judgemental modality.
speech act An utterance defined by the intention of the speaker and the response of the hearer. It's cold
(meaning or understood as Please close the window)
Communicative Language Teaching
stance adverbial See disjunct or sentence adverbial.
standard Something used as a measure, norm, or model in comparative evaluations.
A standard form is that which is seen as the baseline from which other varieties differ.
Standard Australian English differs from Standard British English but also differs from the varieties used by members of certain social and occupation groups within Australia. Variety
starred form See asterisked form.
stative a) a use of the verb, distinguished from dynamic.
I think that's a good idea
He has been the manager for years
She looks unhappy
The door was broken
Time, tense and aspect
b) a type of passive clause.
This is distinguished from a dynamic passive.
The garden gets invaded by cats
The garden was cleared
The passive voice
c) a use of an adjective to express the fact that something is not under the control of a person.  It is contrasted with a dynamic adjective referring to a characteristic under the subject’s control. Be more patient (dynamic)
*Don't be tall (stative)
stem The part of a word to which affixes are added which is responsible for the word's meaning.
In many languages, the stem of verb, in particular, is a bound morpheme which cannot stand alone.  In other languages, such as English and Chinese, which have few inflexions, the stem is often indistinguishable from the base form of a verb.
The stem of an adjective or adverb is sometimes referred to as the positive form.
See also base form.
Word formation
stop A consonant sound made by closing the vocal tract.
Also plosive.
/t/ in batted Consonants
stress shifting
The degree of force with which something is said.
Stressed syllables will usually be louder, higher pitched and longer.
The opposite is unstressed.
Stress may be main (primary) or secondary.
Stress shifting frequently occurs on verb-noun pairs
He came to you?!
He travelled to London by train
is stressed as follows:
The words export (verb) and export (noun) are pronounced as /ɪk.ˈspɔːt/ and /ˈɪk.spɔːt/.
Sentence stressWord stress
stress timing Allowing stressed syllables to be longer than unstressed syllables. English, Persian languages, Dutch are at the stress-timed end of the cline. Sentence stress
structure words See function words.
style The level of formality on a cline from very informal to very formal with most language somewhere in between (neutral). Pass the salt (informal)
I wonder if I could trouble you for the salt (formal)
Please pass the salt (neutral)
Style and register
style disjunct See disjunct.
suasion Encouraging others to do something or wishing for something. The concept includes the hortative (encouraging) and optative (wishing). I wish it would rain
I'd prefer you not to do that
subject The doer, animate or otherwise, of the verb. She came at six
The wind howled
My car has broken down
Subjects and objects
subject case See nominative.
subject complement The complement of a verb which refers to the subject rather than the object.
See object complement and Complement.
John is angry Verb and clause types
subjunctive A mood which expresses doubt or tentativeness. It would be good were he to work harder Subjunctive
subordinate clause A dependent clause which depends for its full meaning on another, main, clause and cannot stand alone. She had enough money although she wasn’t rich Coordination and subordination
subordinator A type of conjunction which introduces a dependent or subordinate clause. She came because I invited her
If you ask me, of course I'll help
substantive A noun or any language item that functions as a noun.
The poor
What you ask for is impossible
I enjoy reading
It is open
The door's open
substitution The replacement of an item with another. If you like the shirts, buy one Substitution and ellipsis
suffix A morpheme added to the end of a word which usually affects its word class but can alter its meaning.
resentment (a noun from a verb)
slowly (an adverb from an adjective
nationalise (a verb from an adjective)
Word formation
superlative The form of an adjective or adverb which means the most or least.
See comparative.
The tallest boy in the class
The most expensively dressed man
The least important point
Adjectives Adverbs
superordinate See hypernym.
suppletion (n.)
suppletive (adj.)
Describing the phenomenon of a form which is differently derived and cannot be inferred to be a connected form. The past tense of go is went which is derived from the verb wend and not from the same root as the verb go.
The plural of cow is cattle (with different derivations)
Types of verbsNouns
suprasegmental Concerned with analysing speech above the level of individual sound.  The opposite is segmental (analysing speech phoneme by phoneme or syllable by syllable).
Also known as plurisegmental.
Connected speechIntonation
syllabic consonant A consonant without a vowel sound at all which constitutes a syllable. The word nation has the second syllable as a syllabic /n/ and is transcribed as /ˈneɪʃ.n̩/ TranscriptionSyllablesConsonants
syllabic writing A writing system in which each symbol represents a syllable rather than a sound. Japanese Katakana script Spelling
syllable A unit of rhythm in speech. It contains a nucleus (usually a vowel) and optional onset and coda elements. The word nation has two syllables and is transcribed as /ˈneɪʃ.n̩/ (with the second syllable a syllabic consonant). Syllables
syllable timing Forcing all syllables to take the same amount of time to utter. French, Italian, Spanish and Mandarin are all at the syllable-timed end of the cline. Sentence stress
syllepsis Referring to a situation where there is a relationship between one word and a number of others but agreement cannot be complete.
See also zeugma (which is a term sometimes synonymously used).
I am not sure if Mary or the children know / knows Concord
synchronic variation Variations occurring at the same time in a language.
Compare diachronic variation.
Northern US and southern US English Sociolinguistics
syndetic Referring to the inclusion of a coordinator.
See also asyndetic.
She went to the boss and complained Coordination and subordination
synecdoche The use of part of something to mean the whole or the whole of something to mean a part (see meronymy). Take a head count
The army is here
Synonymy etc.
synthetic causative A word which has been made a causative verb with the addition of a suffix. dead → deaden
acid → acidify
synonym A word which means approximately the same as another. It's a big house
It's a large building
Synonymy etc.
syntagmatic Referring to the horizontal (syntactical) relationship between items in a clause.
Compare paradigmatic.
In He bought a house, the verb may only be followed by a noun phrase to act as the object. Lexical relationships
syntactical (adj.)
The study of word and phrase combinations and sentence structures.
A central concern of the study of syntax is the identification of word and phrase class and the elements of phrases which constitute well-formed clauses and sentences.
Syntax index
tag See question tag.
teleological modality A form of deontic modality referring to that which is necessary to achieve an aim.
This form of modality is often expressed with conditional structures.
If you want to get into university you need to study hard
must leave now or we'll miss the train
Types of modality
(a)telic (adjs.)
A use of a form which implies an end to the event or state (telic) or does not (atelic). The party went on till midnight (telic)
The party went on past midnight (atelic)
Time, tense and aspect
tenor The relationship between the speaker and the hearer or the writer and reader of a text which determines in part the language that is used. Tenant to landlord, boss to subordinate, peer to peer etc. Functional grammar
tense The form of the verb marked for time or aspect. He walked (simple past)
She has been walking (present perfect progressive)
Time, tense and aspect
text A stretch of discourse of indeterminate length which has an identifiable communicative purpose. A poem
A warning notice
A novel
A conversation at work
Skills index
that-clause A subordinate clause which begins with that.
That-clauses may function as direct objects or subjects of verbs or as complements of adjectives (but not prepositions).
When that is omitted, the clause is referred to as a zero-that-clause (Ø that-clause).
She expects that we'll get some rain
I'm delighted that you could come
That he was sent home surprised me
I hope that you can come
Adjective complementsIndirect speechNominal clauses
theme The starting of point of an utterance or sentence followed by the rheme. The manager made some new rules Theme and rheme
tone The pitch of a syllable which is distinctive in some way.  Some languages, e.g., Mandarin and Thai, may alter meaning depending on the tone of the production of a lexeme.  These are tonal languages. Word stress
tongue height See vowel height.
tone unit A sequence of tones in an utterance which identifies a meaning unit. Sentence stress
tongue position In the production of vowels, three horizontal tongue positions are recognised: front, central and back.
Combined with notions of vowel height, lip rounding and vowel length, vowels can be closely described.
Front vowels: /e/ and /iː/
Central vowels: /ə/ and /ɜː/
Back vowels: /ɒ/ and /ɑː/
tonic syllable The syllable on which a change of pitch commences. That's a BAD idea Intonation
topic sentence Usually the first sentence of a paragraph which sets the subject and from which all else is related until a new paragraph is begun. Now we turn to the nesting habits of flamingos. Theme and rheme
topicalising Placing the topic of the utterance in front. That manager, he is very strict Fronting
toponym A word derived from the name of a place.
See also eponym.
denim trousers
bourbon whisky
Word formation
transaction A language event involving two or more people which has a definable goal for at least one participant.
See also interaction.
service encounters, professional meetings etc. Speaking
transcription Any method of rendering spoken language in writing.  Also called a notational system. Transcription
Describing a verb which can take one or more objects.
Compare intransitive.
She smoked cigars
He threw me the book
Types of verbs
trill A rapid tapping consonant. The Spanish trilled /r/ sound transcribed as [r] in, e.g., perro. Transcription
triphthong A disputed category referring to a vowel which contains three separate sounds. /eɪə/ as in player or mayor, starts with /eɪ/ and glides to /ə/ Vowels
A word which more narrowly defines another concept.
The phonomenon.
The word stroll is a troponym of walk because its meaning contains the idea of walking slowly in a relaxed manner Synonymy etc.
turn The single contribution of a speaker in an interaction.  It may contain one or more speech acts. So, how are you feeling now?
That's his mother.  Do you want to talk to her?
uncountable See mass noun.
universal pronoun
universal determiner
a pronoun or determiner which refers to a complete set of nouns.
I gave all a drink (pronoun)
She gave all delegates a label (determiner)
Everyone got a prize (pronoun)
Every child got a prize (determiner)
unmarked See markedness.
unproductive See productivity.
unvoiced See voiced.
Use refers to the communicative value of an utterance, usage to its form and denotational meaning. I have a headache
Answer A: Take an aspirin (language use)
Answer B: Paper is flammable (language usage only)
Communicative Language Teaching
uvula The teardrop-shaped fleshy part at the back of the throat.
See the diagram below under vocal tract.
variety An identifiable form of the language spoken in a geographical area or unique to certain registers and social classes. American English
legal English
Language variety
The rear, soft section of the palate where some sounds are made (called velar sounds). The sounds /ɡ/ and /ŋ/ are velar consonants Pronunciation overview
verb A word class referring to an event, action or state. Peter arrived
Jill was unhappy
It continued raining
Types of verbs
verb phrase A group of words acting as a verb. She has taken the car home In-service syntax index
verbal noun It is sometimes referred to as a gerund but technically distinguishable: unlike gerunds, verbal nouns, may not be modified by adverbs but are more noun-like in being modifiable by adjectives and determiners.
The form is the same as that of a present participle.
Your complaining was not justifiable Catenative verbs
vocal folds Also known as vocal cords.  Two folded membranes in the larynx which vibrate to produce voiced or lenis sound. Pronunciation overview
vocal tract The whole of the area where speech sounds are produced:
vocal tract
vocative The form of the noun used when addressing.  English does not mark the vocative case. John, you are wanted on the phone. Case
voice a) A form of the verb or clause showing the relationship between the subject and the object (active voice) or the agent and the patient (passive voice). John (subject) opened the letter (object)
The letter (patient) had been written in haste by the manager (agent)
The passive
b) The addition of vibration of the vocal folds to the production of a consonant sound (and all vowels).
The opposite is voiceless or unvoiced.
See also devoicing.
The distinction between game (/ɡeɪm/) and came (/keɪm/).  The first sound of each is respectively voiced and unvoiced. Pronunciation overview
vowel A sound made without restriction of the vocal tract or any friction. Vowels may form the nucleus of a syllable.
Vowels are classified in four ways: height, tongue position, lip rounding and length.
See cardinal vowels for a diagram.
/i/, /e/, /eɪ/ etc. Vowels
vowel height
(tongue height)
This refers to the position of the tongue vertically in the mouth when making a vowel sound: high, mid or low.
Combined with notions of tongue position, lip rounding and vowel length, vowels can be closely described.
/iː/ and /uː/ are high vowels
/e/ and /ɔː/ are mid vowels
/e/ and /ɔː/ are low vowels
vowel length Some vowels are represented with a length-mark colon ('ː') following them.  Length is relative and vowels can be made longer or shorter by any speaker of English.
Combined with notions of vowel height, lip rounding and tongue position, vowels can be closely described.
The sound /ə/ is formed in the same way as /ɜː/ but the latter is a long(er) vowel
vowel mutation See ablaut.
weak form The unstressed vowels in connected speech which are usually rendered more briefly and with a different quality. The transcription of
The man has been to see me
may be:
with four weak forms: /ə/, /ə/, /ɪ/ and /ə/.
Connected speech
The words what, who(m), when, where, why, how and which that perform a variety of grammatical functions. Where is your car? (adverbial function)
Who told you? (pronoun function)
When did she go? (adverbial function)
That's the man who told me the story (relative pronoun function)
InterrogativesRelative pronoun clauses
word class
word categories
What used to be called parts of speech to classify words by their grammatical function.  There are two main categories:
a) closed-class words to which we can rarely if ever make additions.
See function words.
b) open-class items to which we can add new members.
See content words.
Function or structural words:
Content or lexical words:
Word class index
word family The group of words seen under the same dictionary head word or lemma.
See lexeme.
happy, happiness, happily Lexical relationships
word formation The process by which new words are formed from existing resources including affixation and conversion. clean (adj.) clean (verb)
nation, national, international
Word formation
word order The ordering of elements in a language such as subjects, verbs and objects and nouns and adjectives etc.
See also canonical word order.
English is Subject-Verb-Object and Adjective-noun Word order
word stress The place in a word where the heaviest stress falls.
This is sometimes referred to as accent.
Compare, e.g. export (verb) with export (noun) and photograph vs. photographer (/ˈfəʊ.tə.ɡrɑːf/ vs. /fə.ˈtɒ.ɡrə.fə/). Word stress
yes-no question A question usually formed by inversion or the do operator which allows a single word yes-no answer. Do you like fish?
Was he at the party?
zero The absence of a specific marking in the morphology for an item.
The is not the same as absence; it is the absence of marking.
She enjoys Ø music (zero article)
You wentØ home (zero inflexion on the verb)
She went to London and Ø saw her mother (zero anaphoric marking to the subject of saw)
zero-that-clause See that-clause.
zeugma A figure of speech which exploits polysemy for effect.
See also syllepsis.
They grew vegetables and bored
He took his hat and his leave