vocabularay

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Accent
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Accent: (Phonology): To pronounce a syllable with greater emphasis than the other syllables in a word. See Stress. Some languages such as Spanish and French have a written accent or mark placed over a vowel. Ex: Spanish nacion.
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Adjective
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Adjective: A syntactic category of words. It modifies or qualifies a noun. A phrase that functions as an adjective is called an adjective phrase or adjective clause. Ex: The man in the blue shirt is his father.
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Adverb
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Adverb: A syntactic category of words. It adds to the meaning of a verb, another adverb, an adjective or a whole sentence. A phrase that functions as an adverb is called an adverb phrase or adverb clause. Ex: I’ll finish in a minute.
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Allomorph
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Allomorph: (Morphology) A variant of a morpheme. For example, the three different ways in which the plural morpheme is pronounced in books, dogs and watches. See Morpheme.
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Allophone
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Allophone: (Phonology) A variant of a phoneme. Ex: the phoneme /p/ in pot (aspirated) and spot (unaspirated). See Phoneme.
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Anaphora
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Anaphora: also Anaphor (Discourse Analysis) In oral or written communication, a process by which a word or phrase, the anaphor, makes reference to another word or phrase previously used. Ex: John solved the problem but Peter can’t understand it.
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Articulation
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ArticulationArticulation: (Phonology) The formation of a speech sound. Ex: the consonant phoneme /p/ is a stop sound (Manner of Articulation: the air passage is “stopped”) and a bilabial sound (Point of Articulation: the two lips are involved).
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Aspiration
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Aspiration: (Phonology): The puff of air that follows the pronunciation of certain speech sounds. Ex: The /p/ in pill.
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Borrowing
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Borrowing: (Semantics) The incorporation of words from one language into another language. Examples of English borrowings are challenge (French) and patio (Spanish).
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Bound Morpheme
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Bound Morpheme: A morpheme that cannot be used as an independent word. Ex: the prefix (inconsistent); the suffix -ly (freely). Contrasts with Free Morpheme. Bound morphemes are classified as derivational (e.g., prefix in- as in intolerable; suffix -ment as in government) or inflectional (e.g., plural suffix -s as in girls; comparative suffix -er as in bigger).
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Clause
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Clause: A syntactic unit that consists of a subject and a verb. Ex: The sentence She didn’t come because it was raining contains two clauses, She didn’t come (independent clause) and because it was raining (dependent or subordinate clause).
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Code Switching
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Code Switching: Oral or written communication in which two or more languages or different varieties of the same language are mixed. Ex: Spanish and English—When I said that, el maestro se sonrio (the teacher smiled).
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Cognate
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Cognate: A word that has similar form and meaning in two languages. Ex: English constitution and Spanish constitucion. A false or deceptive cognate has the same or similar form in two languages but a different meaning in each. Ex: in Spanish asistir (a un curso) means “to attend” (a class), not “to assist”, and atender means “to pay attention” not “to attend a class”.
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Cognitive-Developmental Approach:
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Cognitive-Developmental Approach: In the field of psychology, an approach to child development and learning associated particularly with the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. It focuses on the study of rational thinking processes and the way thought is organized at different stages.
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Coherence
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Coherence: (Discourse Analysis) In oral or written discourse, to link the utterances of sentences and supporting sentences which relate to it.
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Communication Strategy
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Communication Strategy: (Pragmatics) In second or foreign language development, a device used by the learner to compensate for a lack of knowledge of grammar or vocabulary. Ex: paraphrasing, using gestures. These and other communication strategies are characteristic of the interlanguage of some second language acquirers.
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Communicative Competence
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Communicative Competence: (Pragmatics) The ability to communicate orally or in writing in a manner which is appropriate to the social setting, the person(s) addressed, the topic discussed, etc. It includes knowledge of the grammar and vocabulary of the language (Linguistic Competence).
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Complex Word
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Complex Word: (Morphology) A word that can be broken down into two or more meaningful parts. Ex: boys: boy + plural morpheme -s.
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Consonant
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Consonant: a speech sound produced with the vocal tract relatively constricted. See Vowel.
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Content Word
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Content Word: (Syntax) A word that makes reference to some property of the real world, such as a thing, an action, a quality. Nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs are content words. Contrasts with Function Word.
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Diacritic
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Diacritic: A written mark used in some languages to indicate different ways in which a letter is pronounced. Ex: in Spanish, the diacritic mark – over the letter n as in the word Montana (mountain) indicates that the second n is pronounced (nj) whereas the first n is pronounced (n).
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Digraph
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Digraph: A combination of two letters that constitute a single sound. Ex: the English letters th as in think, and ch as in church, and the Spanish letters ch as in muchacho (boy).
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Diphthong
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Diphthong: (Phonology) A vowel combination that constitutes the nucleus of a single syllable. It involves two vowels, with one gliding to the other. For example, in the English word boy the diphthong (oi) consists of the vowel /o/ gliding into the vowel /i/.
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Discourse
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Discourse: (Pragmatics) Term used to indicate a language communication unit larger than a sentence, such as a paragraph or a conversation. The study of spoken and written discourse is known as Discourse Analysis.
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Discourse Competence
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Discourse Competence: (Pragmatics) The ability to produce oral or written discourse in a coherent and cohesive manner and following the norms of different types of communication or genres (e.g., interviews, speeches, story-telling, conversations, essays, letters).
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Ellipsis
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Ellipsis: (Syntax) To omit a word or phrase in a sentence when it is considered unnecessary. For example, in the following coordinated clauses the verb is omitted to avoid repetition: John works as a teacher and Liz as a counselor.
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Embedding
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Embedding: (Syntax) To make a sentence an integral part of another sentence. Ex: in You know that he is sincere, he is sincere is embedded in the sentence You know it…
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Empiricism
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Empiricism: A school of thought that believes that all knowledge originates in experience and should be based on observable facts. Contrasts with the view that many forms of knowledge are innate. See Rationalism.
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Formal Language Style
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Formal Language Style: also Formal Speech (Pragmatics) A variety of language used in formal situations such as lectures, debates, ceremonies. Contrasts with Informal Language Style which is used in casual communication exchanges with relatives, friends, etc.
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Free Morpheme
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Free Morpheme: A morpheme that can be used as an independent word. Ex: pencil, desk. Contrasts with Bound Morpheme.
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Function of Language
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Function of Language: (Pragmatics) The purpose for which language is used. Examples of language functions are requesting, questioning, complaining and persuading.
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Function Word
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Function Word: (Syntax) A word that shows grammatical relationships between words or sentences. Ex: articles (the), conjunctions (and), and prepositions (to). Contrasts with Content Word.
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Glide
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Glide: A vowel-like sound that precedes or follows a true vowel. The English words you and we begin with glides. Glides are also called semivowels.
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Grammar
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Grammar: 1) A description of the structure of a language and the relationships between its morphological and syntactical subsystems. Some linguists include the description of the sounds of a language as part of grammar. 2) For transformational-generative linguists, grammar is a description of the speakers’ knowledge of their language and the principles they follow when using it.
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Grapheme
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Grapheme: A written symbol or a combination of symbols that represent a phoneme. Ex: the letter p in pair; the letters ph (phoneme /f/) in telephone.
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Great Vowel Shift
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Great Vowel Shift: A set of changes in the vowel sounds of Middle English that took place around the fifteenth century. Many of the differences between the pronunciation of Modern English words and their spelling are due to these changes.
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Heuristic
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Heuristic: 1) (Pragmatics) One of Halliday’s functions of language. According to linguist M. A. K. Halliday (1978), children in the early stages of language development use language to explore the external world and the “world” inside them. They learn (acquire knowledge) by their own personal discoveries. 2) (Education) Teaching strategies used to encourage students to learn by inquiry or discovery.
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Homographs
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Homographs: (Semantics) Words that have different pronunciation and meaning but are written in the same way. Ex: read (They read the paper everyday) and read (They read it yesterday).
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Homonyms
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Homonyms: (Semantics) Words that share the same pronunciation and spelling but have different meaning. Ex: bank (financial institution) and bank (side of a river).
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Homophones
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Homophones: (Semantics) Words that have the same pronunciation but are written differently and have different meaning. Ex: sun and son. Homophones are sometimes called Homonyms.
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Ideograph
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Ideograph (also Ideogram): A symbol used in the writing system of some languages (e.g., Korean, Chinese) to represent whole words or ideas.
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Idiolect
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Idiolect: (Pragmatics) The way in which language is used by a single individual. This includes voice quality, choice of words and idiomatic expressions, writing style, etc.
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Interlanguage
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Interlanguage: (Second Language Acquisition) A transitional linguistic system developed by learners in the process of acquiring a foreign or second language. This transitional system differs from both the mother tongue and the target language and is characterized by the use of various communication strategies, overgeneralization and transfer of communication patterns from the native language.
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Intonation
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Intonation: (Phonology) Variations in the pronunciation of phrases or sentences that follow certain patterns. It is also called pitch contour and involves changes in the pitch of the voice, syllable length and speech rhythm. See also Pitch; Tone.
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Jargon
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Jargon: The special type of oral or written language used by members of a profession or other groups with common interests. Ex: the jargon of teachers, lawyers or scientists.
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Juncture
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Juncture: (Phonology) The type of connection or transition between two consecutive phonemes in a phrase or sentence. It is like a “dividing line” and helps the listener distinguish the meaning of two similar utterances (e.g., grade A and gray day).
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Language Acquisition Device (LAD
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Language Acquisition Device (LAD): Term coined by Noam Chomsky. It is viewed as a sort of inborn mechanism that enables human beings to acquire a language. See Transformational Linguistics.
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Language Change
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Language Change: Change in language that takes place over time. All languages have changed and continue to change.
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Language Transfer
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Language Transfer: The various ways in which one’s mother tongue affects the acquisition of a second or foreign language. There are two types of language transfer. Positive Transfer generally occurs when the two languages share a similar grammatical or lexical form. Negative Transfer or Interference is the inappropriate application of a rule or form from the first language the target language. For example, a Spanish speaker learning English may say the house white instead of the white house, since in Spanish the adjective generally follows the noun.
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Language Varieties
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Language Varieties: (Pragmatics) Variations in pronunciation, grammatical structures, or vocabulary within a language. Language varieties are related to a number of factors, such as different educational background, region, social class or the situation in which communication takes place (formal informal).
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Lexicon
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Lexicon: A listing of all words in a given language. Also: a speaker’s mental dictionary.
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Linguistic Relativity
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Linguistic Relativity: A belief held by some anthropologists and linguists, particularly Edward Sapir and Benjamin L. Whorf (around the 1950s) that the structure of the native language determines to a great extent the way people view the world. This position is also called the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis or the Whorfian Hypothesis.
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Metalanguage
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Metalanguage: The language used to describe or analyze the characteristics of a language. For example, the following statement is in metalanguage: In Spanish, the plural morpheme has two allomorphs, (s) and (es).
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Morpheme
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Morpheme: The smallest unit in a language that carries meaning; it may be a word or part of a word. Ex: book; plural -s in cats. Morphemes are not the same as syllables. The word unhappiness for example, contains four syllables: un-hap-pi-ness but only three morphemes: un-happi-ness.
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Morphology
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Morphology: The study of morphemes and their variants (allomorphs). It is also the study of word formation, i.e., the way morphemes are combined.
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Nonstandard Language
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Nonstandard Language: (Pragmatics) A variety of language that differs in pronunciation, grammar or vocabulary from the standard variety of that language. It lacks social prestige and is not considered acceptable in formal contexts.
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Noun
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Noun: A syntactic category of words. It functions as the head of a Noun Phrase. Ex: book, in the noun phrase the blue book.
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Noun Phrase (NP):
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Noun Phrase (NP): (Syntax) A word or group of words with a noun (or a pronoun) as the head. Ex: Frank in Frank finished already; She and the new counselor in She is the new counselor.
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Nucleus
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Nucleus: (Phonology) The loudest part of a syllable, usually consisting of a vowel or a diphthong. Ex: in the word set, the vowel /e/ is the nucleus.
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Old English
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Old English: The Germanic language spoken in Britain from the sixth to the eleventh centuries A.D. It is the ancestor of Modern English.
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Onomatopoela
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Onomatopoela: A word or group of words that imitate a natural sound. For example, animal sounds such as meow and bow wow. These sounds are interpreted differently in languages. Ex: in Spanish a cat says miau and a dog, guau; a rooster says cock-a-doodle-doo in English, kokekokko in Japanese, and quiquiriqui (or cocoroco) in Spanish.
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Orthography
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Orthography: Any writing (spelling) system that is used by a speech community to write its language. In most cases, the written symbols (orthography) of a language do not represent its speech sounds in a systematic way.
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Paralinguistics
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Paralinguistics: (Pragmatics) The study of nonverbal features used to emphasize, support or modify the meaning of what is verbally expressed. Examples of these paralinguistic features are facial expressions, gestures and body posture.
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Part of Speech
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Part of Speech: (Syntax) A traditional term used to describe the group of words that share certain grammatical properties, such as the place where they may occur in a sentence, the words with which they may be combined, and the kinds of affixes they can take. Examples of parts of speech are the noun, the verb, the preposition, the conjunction and the adjective.
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Passive Sentence
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Passive Sentence: (Syntax) A sentence in which the subject corresponds to the object of an active sentence. Ex: passive The cat was chased (by the dog); active The dog chased the cat.
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Phoneme
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Phoneme: (Phonology) The smallest element in the sound system of a language that can make a difference in meaning. For example, if the sound /l/ in late is changed to /b/, there is a change in meaning: bait. Therefore, /l/ and /b/ are phonemes in English. See Phonology; Allophone.
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Phonology
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Phonology: The study and description of the sound units of a language (phonemes), their variants (allophones) and the various ways in which phonemes can be combined.
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Pitch
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Pitch: (Phonology) The relative height of speech sounds due to the vibration frequency of the vocal cords. The faster the vocal cords vibrate, the higher the pitch. Differences in pitch may cause differences in meaning. In English, for example, a rising pitch is used to ask the question: Coming? And a falling pitch to respond: Coming. In some languages, the pitch of individual syllables is used to express different meanings. See Tone.
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Proxemics
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Proxemics: (Pragmatics) The study of the relative physical distance between people when they are communicating with each other. See Nonverbal Communication; Paralinguistics.
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Rationalism
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Rationalism: A school of thought that views reason as the main source of knowledge. Rationalists claim that certain perceptual and conceptual capacities are innate. They also maintain that language is a mental activity, a set of cognitive processes. Related term: Mentalism. Contrasts with Empiricism.
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Rhetoric
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Rhetoric: (Discourse Analysis) The study of effective writing. In more general terms, rhetoric deals with both oral and written discourse, and analyzes the features that make communication clear and effective in relation to a specific topic, the intended audience, etc. See Coherence, Discourse, Competence.
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Schwa
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Schwa: (Phonology) A mid-central vowel generally found in unstressed syllables in English. Ex: above, sofa, telephone.
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Semantic Field
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Semantic Field: A group of words with related meanings. Ex: color terms blue, yellow, etc.
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Semantics
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Semantics: The study of meaning and the ways in which it is structured in a language.
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Semiotics
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Semiotics: The study of systems that use signs for communication purposes. Human language is the most important semiotic system, but there are other systems, such as sign language and traffic signals.
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Slang
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Slang: A very informal speech variety. It is considered unacceptable by some people even in informal situations. The term slang is not equivalent to colloquial language, which is an informal speech variety.
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Social Dialect
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Social Dialect: also Sociolect, Social Variety (Pragmatics) A variety of a language used by people who belong to a particular social class. See Language Varieties.
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Speech Act
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Speech Act: (Pragmatics) A functional unit in communication. Ex: requests, commands, apologies. Speech acts are also called “functions”. See Function of Language.
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Stem
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Stem: also Root (Morphology) A word or part of a word to which an affix can be added. Ex: the word child to which the suffix -hood is added to form the word childhood.
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Stimulus-Response Theory (S-R):
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Stimulus-Response Theory (S-R): A learning theory associated particularly with American psychologist B. F. Skinner. See Behaviorism.
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Strategic Competence
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Strategic Competence: (Pragmatics) The ability to use a variety of strategies to communicate effectively or to compensate for a breakdown in communication. See Communication Strategy; Discourse Competence.
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Stress
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Stress: (Phonology) A word or syllable pronounced with more emphasis or force than the other word or syllables. A stressed syllable or word has generally longer duration and a higher pitch. It is sometimes called accent.
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Structural-Descriptive Linguistics
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Structural-Descriptive Linguistics: A theory of language developed by American linguists (around the 1930s) as a reaction to traditional grammar and prompted by a philosophical trend toward empiricism. Its main proponent was Leonard Bloomfield. Traditional grammarians focused on correct language use (prescriptive approach) and emphasized the written language. For structuralists, language is primarily speech, and the goal of linguistic study is the description of languages as actually spoken (descriptive approach). Structural linguists viewed language as a system, a set of elements structurally related: phonemes, morphemes, words, phrases and sentences. They examined only the observable aspects of language and rejected any attempt to relate language to thought or mental processes. Influenced by behavioral psychology, structuralists claimed that language is a set of speech habits acquired by conditioning. At the end of the 1950s, the combination of structural linguistic theory and behavioral psychology led to the development of a second or foreign language teaching methodology called the Audiolingual Approach.
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Style
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Style: (Pragmatics) Language variations ranging from colloquial to formal depending on the topic, the situation, the audience, etc. The term register is sometimes used to refer to a stylistic variety.
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Syllable
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Syllable: (Phonology) A phonological unit that usually consists of a vowel preceded and/or followed by a consonant. Ex: the English word swinging has two syllables, swing and ing, the Spanish word constitucion has four syllables, cons-ti-tu-cion.
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Syntax
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Syntax: The study of the internal structure of sentences and the relationship among their component parts.
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Tone
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Tone: (Phonology) 1) A change in pitch that affects the meaning of sentences. Also called intonation. Examples of intonation languages are English, Portuguese and Spanish. See Pitch. 2) In tone languages (e.g., Chinese and Thai), a variation in pitch that changes the meaning of a word. In Thai, for example, the word maa (middle tone) means “to come” whereas maa (high tone) means “horse”.
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Transformational Linguistics
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Transformational Linguistics: also Tranformational-Generative Grammar: A theory of language originally proposed by American linguist Noam Chomsky in 1957 and developed partly as a reaction to structural-descriptive views. According to Chomsky, the study of language should move beyond a description of language structures at an observable level (surface structure) to an analysis of a more abstract level of language (deep structures) and the rules that govern surface structures (transformational rules). Chomsky added a rationalist dimension to linguistic science by claiming that the general features of grammatical structure are common to all languages and reflect certain fundamental properties of the mind (Universal Grammar). He also maintained that a linguistic theory should be concerned with the speakers’ knowledge of their language. This knowledge, which is mainly subconscious, constitutes the speakers’ linguistic competence and is different from their linguistic performance, their actual oral or written communication. Chomsky rejected Skinner’s behaviorist principle that language learning is just habit formation. In Chomsky’s view, language learning is a creative process; it is “rule-governed behavior”. Children develop language by applying rules they subconsciously know. This kink of learning is possible due to an inborn capacity to acquire language (Language Acquisition Device). The views of transformational linguists have led some cultural anthropologists to the study of the rules that underlie cultural behavior and search for cultural universals.
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Verb
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Verb: A syntactic category of words. It functions as the head of a Verb Phrase. For example, in the sentence They solved the problem correctly, the verb solved is the head of the verb phrase solved the problem correctly. There are different types of verbs. A Transitive Verb can take an object. Ex: She bought a book. An Intransitive Verb does not take an object. Ex: They smiled. A verb, usually a form of to be, that equates the subject and the complement of a sentence is called Copulative or Linking Verb. For example, are in They are good students. Other examples of copulative verbs are look, feel, become, remain and sound.
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Verb Phrase (VP):
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Verb Phrase (VP): (Syntax) A word or group of words with a verb as the head. Ex: finished their work is the verb phrase in the sentence They finished their work.
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Vocal Tract:
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Vocal Tract: (Phonology) The region above the vocal cords that produces speech sounds. It consists of the throat, the nasal cavity and the oral cavity.
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Vowel
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Vowel: (Phonology) A speech sound produced without any obstruction of the airstream from the lungs. Vowels are usually pronounced with vibration of the vocal cords. A consonant, on the other hand, is a speech sound produced with the vocal tract relatively constricted.
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Word Formation
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Word Formation: (Morphology) The various processes by which new words are added to the lexicon of a language. Ex: borrowing words from another language; adding affixes to existing words (derivation); creating completely new words such as software and input.

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