Linguistic Library (Mike Green)
Note: You may download the entries for this glossary here. If you wish to use this in your own Moodle course, first make a blank glossary and then follow the instructions for importing glossary entries here.
A glossary of linguistic terms, designed for A Level (UK) English Language Students.
- Original glossary written by Steve Campsall - HTML version at http://www.englishbiz.co.uk/
- Edited and converted to moodle form by Mike Green - email@example.com "
Special | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | ALL
This term is used to describe pronouns . A pronoun always has a referent (i.e. a noun to which it refers).
Phonetics is the study of the different speech sounds that can create speech and the way these are created by the various 'organs of speech' in the body including the tongue, palate, lips, pharynx, etc. Phonology is sometimes considered to be a part of grammar : it is the study of the structure of speech sounds and how these can be combined to create clarity of meaning in a sentence. Just as there are grammar 'rules' that apply to the syntax of a sentence and the morphology of words, there are, of course, phonological rules.
In even very early childhood, children are able to produce (i.e. articulate) the full range of sounds needed to create all of the words used in any language, yet as language acquisition progresses, those phonemes that do not apply to English words become forgotten so much so that in later life, if a second language is then learned, the pronunciation of non-English phonemes needs to be re-made this time at a wholly conscious level, as opposed to the ability to pronounce each English phoneme without thought. Even 'non-words' such as 'erm', 'uh?', etc. use English phonemes.
A phoneme is the smallest unit of speech-sound that can - by itself - change the meaning of a word or be a complete word in itself. There are more than 44 phonemes in the standard English dialect which is 18 more than the number of letters in the alphabet. Each of these phonemes is given a symbol so that the accurate pronunciation of any English word can be represented in writing. The extra sounds we have above the number of letters we have available in part explains the complexities of English spelling (i.e. orthography). Consider the word might, in which there are three phonemes m-ight-t (represented as m/aj/t using the International Phonetic Alphabet or IPA), changing just a single phoneme can completely change the meaning of this word, e.g. mate, m-a-te (represented as m/e/t phonetically).
Phonology also covers the study of important sound features such as rhythm, pitch, tone, melody, stress and intonation. These phonological language features are also referred to as the prosodic or suprasegmental features of language.
A phrase is a key grammatical unit and so is something you need to get to grips with. A phrase is a group of words that shares a close relationship. This means that a phrase acts as a unit with individual meaning, but without being sufficiently complete in its meaning to form a clause or sentence .
Phrases - with words - are the basic building blocks of clauses and sentences. A phrase can always be split into two parts: its head word which is linked to some kind of modification of the head word. The head word is the central part of the phrase and the remaining words act to modify this head word in some way, e.g. "The peculiarly strong creature" - can you see that the head word of this noun phrase is the noun, "creature"?
As suggested above, a phrase does, in fact, act just like an individual word. The next example sentence contains three phrases and a single main clause. Can you recognise which are the phrases and which is the clause?
You might like to think that, between each word of the three phrases above, there exists a kind of “word glue” that gives the phrase its coherent quality. The phrases "In a frenzy", "without thinking" and "by the neck" all can be seen to exist as individual units of meaning, i.e. as individual phrases.
Pragmatics is the study of inferred meaning. It is the social force words can take on - beyond their basic semantic value - when used in certain contexts.
Semantics is sometimes said to be the study of sentence meaning; pragmatics to be the study of utterance meaning. This seems confusing - but think of sentence meaning as being that which a dictionary can reveal, whereas utterance meaning requires knowledge of the social context of the whole communication - of the people involved, their social or professional relationship and of other situational aspects pertaining to the time and place in which the words were used.
Pragmatics can allow language to be used in interesting and social ways: knowing that your listener or reader shares certain knowledge with you allows your conversation to be more personal, lively or less extended. It also allows you to use words and give them inferred elements such as power aspects, because your listener is aware of your social standing, for example. Similarly, language can act in ideological ways to reinforce a society's values - again, pragmatically. At another level, language users can rely on pragmatics to help them cut down on the number of words needed to make meaning clear - and hence contributes to a more lively style.
Here are a few examples that require more than a semantic analysis to reveal the intended meaning of the text's words and phrases, but where the pragmatic meaning is perfectly clear:
'BABY SALE - GOING CHEAP' (poster seen in shop window - but no babies are for sale).
'Quick! Fire!' (and you know you must run).
'Pass the salt' (and you know it's not an order).
'Are you going into town?' (and you know it's a request for the person to come with you).
'He's got a knife!' (and you don't ask how sharp it is)
'I promise to be good.' (and you don't expect a repeat of the bad deed).
'The present King of England is bald.' (said on TV, yet you can work out what is meant even though we have a queen).
'Another pint...?' (and you know you've already had one).
'I said, 'Now!'' (and you know when).
'I put him forward for the honour.' (and you know who gets it).
'Gosh - it's cold in here!' (and someone shuts the door or window).
An important area of pragmatics is in the study of language and power. The implicit understanding of a power relationship between, say, two speakers, is often indicated by the meanings implied by the language used. This meaning can be very context dependent.
The predicate is all that is written or said in a sentence or clause about its grammatical subject, e.g. He sang every song in the book.
An affix - i.e. a bound morpheme - that is added to the beginning of a word to change its meaning: e.g. un+happy. See suffix .
A small word or phrase that begins a longer adverbial phrase (called the object of the preposition) that acts to tell about place, time or manner and relate this aspect to some other word in the sentence, e.g. in, on, by, ahead of, near.
A word used often - but not always - to replace a noun, e.g. Alex, when the teacher came into the classroom, you mean you really didn't see her? See also person .
Purpose is the reason why a text was created. This may be, for example, to entertain, explain, instruct, persuade or inform. The purpose of a text is its writer or speaker’s controlling idea: the message they wish the text to leave with the reader or listener. When you consider a text’s purpose, you need to recognise how the writer has chosen stylistic devices to bring about a particular series of effects on the reader. One of the most common purposes is to persuade – and it can be one of the most difficult to determine because professional writers are experts at making persuasion appear to be information: quite a different thing (as wartime propaganda has shown). Audience is also a way to categorise texts.