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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A referent is the word to which another word in a sentence or text refers. It is an important element of textual cohesion . For example, a pronoun must have a referent noun which is already understood (this noun is called the pronoun's antecedent) or its meaning will be unclear or ambiguous.

Referents can be

  • exophoric (when the referent is outside of the text),
  • endophoric (when the referent is within the text),
  • anaphoric (when the reference precedes the pronoun, e.g. 'John will cook the meal he is a fine chef.' Here, the pronoun, 'he' is an anaphoric referent) or
  • cataphoric (when the referent follows the pronoun, e.g. 'I know what he means about it' said the captain about the steward's behaviour.' - here, the pronouns 'I', 'he' and 'it' all have cataphoric referents).


When context results in a commonly recognisable style to be produced, the resulting style is called a register (e.g. an informal register, a medical register, a scientific register). Context can be an effective way to categorise texts.

Relative clause

A kind of clause (a group of words built around a subject and verb ) that is a variety of adjectival clause . Relative clauses are used to give extra detail about the subject or object noun of a main clause in a sentence. e.g. A main clause might be, “The butcher sold me some sausages.' and a relative clause could be, ' who works in Tesco's' . The sentence could then become, 'The butcher, who works in Tesco's, sold me some sausages.'

A relative clause usually begins with a relative pronoun such as: that, which, who, whom, although 'that' is often elided as in: 'He knew [that] we were going early.'.

Root Word

A free morpheme to which can be added a affix (a prefix or suffix) that acts to change the root word's meaning or function.