English language terms – a glossary

terms used in the study of English language

This glossary of English Language terms contains the vocabulary and the jargon you will need in any analysis of language and its use. These terms are needed in a number of different subjects: language and linguistics, communication skills, the analysis of prose and poetry, and even certain aspects of philosophy.

Abbreviations
letter(s) or shortened word used instead of a full word or phrase

Accent
the features of pronunciation which indicate the regional or the social identity of a speaker

Acquisition
the process by which language skills are developed – particularly in infancy

Adjectives
a word which modifies a noun or a pronoun

Adverbs
a word which modifies a verb, an adverb, or an adjective

Agreement
the grammatical logic and coherence between parts of a sentence

Alliteration
the repetition of consonant sounds – usually at the beginning of words

Apostrophes
a raised comma used to denote either possession or contraction

Articles
a word that specifies whether a noun is definite or indefinite

Assonance
the repetition of vowel sounds

Audience
the person or persons receiving a speech or piece of writing

Brackets
Curved or square punctuation marks enclosing words inserted into a text

Capitals
Upper-case letters used to indicate names, titles, and important words

Clauses
a structural unit of language which is smaller than the sentence but larger than phrases or words, and which contains a finite verb

Cliché
an over-used phrase or expression

Colons
a punctuation mark indicating a pause ranking between a semicolon and a full stop

Commas
a punctuation mark indicating a short pause in a sentence

Conjunction
a word which connects words or other constructions

Consonant
an alphabetic element other than a vowel

Context
the setting in which speech or writing takes place

Dialect
a form of speech peculiar to a district, class, or person

Diglossia
the existence of two official languages in a society

Diphthong
two vowel characters representing the sound of a single vowel

Ellipsis
the omission of words from a sentence

Figure of speech
expressive use language in non-literal form to produce striking effect

Form
the outward appearance or structure of language, as opposed to its function, meaning, or social use

Full stop
a punctuation mark indicating the end of a sentence

Function
the role language plays to express ideas or attitudes

Grammar
the study of sentence structure, especially with reference to syntax and semantics

Grapheme
the smallest unit in the writing system of a language

Graphology
the study of writing systems

Homonyms
words with the same spelling but with different meanings

Hyphen
a short horizontal mark used to connect words or syllables, or to divide words into parts

Idiom
a sequence of words which forms a whole unit of meaning

Irony
saying [or writing] one thing, whilst meaning the opposite

Intonation
the use of pitch in speech to create contrast and variation

Jargon
the technical language of an occupation or group

Language change
the development and changes in a language

Lexis
the vocabulary of a language, especially in dictionary form

Metaphor
a figure of speech in which one thing is described in terms of another

Metonymy
a figure of speech in which an attribute is substituted for the whole

Morpheme
the smallest unit of meaning in grammar

Morphology
a branch of grammar which studies the structure of words

Narrator
the person (named or unknown) who is telling a story

Noun
a word which names an object

Onomatopoeia
a word that sounds like the thing it describes

Oxymoron
a figure of speech which yokes two contradictory terms

Paradox
a figure of speech in which an apparent contradiction contains a truth

Paragraph
a distinct passage of writing which is unified by an idea or a topic

Parenthesis
a word, clause or even sentence which is inserted into a sentence to which it does not grammatically belong

Participle
a word derived from a verb and used as an adjective or a noun

Parts of speech
the eight common parts of speech are the verb, noun, adjective, adverb, pronoun, preposition, conjunction, and interjection

Phonetics
the study of the production, transmission, and reception of speech sounds

Phonology
a study of the sounds in any language

Phrase
a group of words, smaller than a clause, which forms a grammatical unit

Point of view
a term from literary studies which describes the perspective or source of a piece of writing

Preposition
a word which governs and typically precedes a noun or a pronoun

Pronoun
a word that can substitute for a noun or a noun phrase

Punctuation
a system of marks used to introduce pauses and interruption into writing

Received pronunciation
the regionally neutral, prestige accent of British English

Semantics
the study of linguistic meaning

Semicolon
a punctuation mark which indicates a pause longer than a comma, but shorter than a colon

Sentence
a set of words which form a grammatically complete statement, usually containing a subject, verb, and object

Simile
a figure of speech in which one thing is directly likened to another

Slang
informal, non-standard vocabulary

Speech
the oral medium of transmission for language

Spelling
the convention governing the representation of words by letters in writing systems

Standard English
a dialect representing English speech and writing comprehensible to most users

Structure
the arrangement of parts or ideas in a piece of writing

Style
aspects of writing (or speech) which have an identifiable character generally used in a positive sense to indicate ‘pleasing effects’

Stylistic analysis
the study of stylistic effects in writing

Symbol
an object which represents something other than its self

Synonym
a word which means (almost) the same as another

Syntax
the arrangement of words to show relationships of meaning within a sentence

Tense
the form taken by a verb to indicate time (as in past-present-future)

Text
any piece of writing or object being studied

Tone
an author’s or speaker’s attitude, as revealed in ‘quality of voice’ or ‘selection of language’

Verb
a term expressing an action or a state of being

Vocabulary
the particular selection or types of words chosen in speech or writing

Vowel
the open sounds made in speech – as (mainly) distinct from consonants

Writing
the use of visual symbols to represent words which act as a code for communication

© Roy Johnson 2004


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3 Responses to “English language terms – a glossary”

  1. harriete siglor says:

    This website helped me pass my exams. Thankyou guys! xoxoxo

  2. Lilly Posnett says:

    Any idea what DEAF features are? Or is this just something my teacher’s made herself and out on the sheet?

  3. Roy Johnson says:

    Maybe the teacher is referring to the sign language that deaf people use to communicate?

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