Linguistic Library (Mike Green)

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A glossary of linguistic terms, designed for A Level (UK) English Language Students.

Browse the glossary using this index

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Minor sentence

A minor sentence is a sentence without a subject and/or verb. Exclamations are an example, “Not on your life!' Poets and writers use them to create the effect of real conversation.

Modal Verb

A type of auxiliary verb that communicates how likely something is to happen, or the degree of intent behind it.

  • He might win
  • she could go
  • She will leave
  • He must lose. 


Modification describes the grammatical process in which the semantic value of a word (usually a noun, verb or adjective) can be 'modified' or changed by the addition of another word or phrase (usually an adjective or adverb).

For example, nouns can be both pre-modified (by adjectives, e.g. A tall dark stranger' or other nouns, e.g. 'oven glove') as well as post-modified, e.g. 'The man with an ice-cream. Prepositional phrases can also act as modifiers when they act as the complement of a verb, as in, 'The man is a pig!'.


An important aspect of grammar, but far less so than syntax. Morphology is the study of the way words are formed from smaller units called morphemes. A morpheme is the smallest part of a word that can create or change the word's meaning or function (e.g. un-, happy, -ness). Prefixes and suffixes (i.e. affixes such as, e.g. un-, -tion) are called bound morphemes because they cannot exist without being bound to a base or root word base words (e.g. interest, intent) are called free morphemes because they can exist as independent root words.