Some terms used in linguistics, language studies, language teaching and SLA research.
Based on V.J. Cook (1997), Inside Language, V.J. Cook (2004) The English Writing System and V.J. Cook & D. Singleton (2014), Key Topics in SLA
The aim is to present quick glosses, not watertight definitions. Keywords that are glossed elsewhere are in CAPITALS.

Languages List    Vivian Cook

acculturation: the processes whereby members of one cultural group do, or do not, adopt the perspectives and behaviour patterns of another

additive bilingualism: L2 learning that adds to the learner’s capabilities (Lambert). See SUBTRACTIVE

adjacency pair: a pair of discourse moves that often go together, e.g. question and answer

agreement: Agreement consists of a change of form in one element of a sentence caused by a second element, to show their common number, gender etc, for example Subject-Verb Agreement of number in English One swallow DOESN’T make a summer/Two swallows DON’T make a summer.

allophone: Allophones are alternative pronunciations of phonemes in a particular language that never affect the meaning. For example RP English has clear /l/ at the beginning of words such as lick, dark /l/ at the end of words such as kill, but these do not change the words if the wrong one is used; in Polish the two /l/s are different phonemes.

alphabetic principle: the writing system in which written symbols correspond to spoken sounds, contrasted with the LOGOGRAPHIC and ORTHOGRAPHIC principles

aphasia: aphasia is in general the impairment of the ability to use language, particularly GRAMMAR and vocabulary, usually caused by some form of damage to the brain, sometimes accompanied by other forms of impairment, consisting of types such as BROCA'S and WERNICKE'S APHASIAS

articulatory loop: in WORKING MEMORY theory the means by which information is kept in working memory by being audibly or silently articulated

assimilationist teaching: teaching that expects people to give up their native languages and to become speakers of the majority language of the country. See transitional teaching, submersion teaching

audiolingual method of language teaching: originating in the USA in the early 1940s, this made students repeat sentences recorded on tape and practice structures in repetitive drills. Its peak of popularity was the 1960s, though it was not much used in British-influenced EFL.

audiovisual method of language teaching: this emerged chiefly in France in the 1960s and 1970s and was a influence on modern language teaching in England. Visual images were used to show the meaning of spoken dialogues through film-strips and taped dialogues for repetition; no written language was used.

authentic speech: ‘an authentic text is a text that was created to fulfil some social purpose in the language community in which it was produced’ (Little et al., 1988)

bilingualism: varying definitions going from perfect command of two languages to the ability to use another language for practical purposes, however trivial the use. See second language, ADDITIVE/ SUBTRACTIVE

Broca’s aphasia: A type of APHASIA characterised by loss of ability to produce but not to comprehend speech, associated with injury to Broca’s area in the front left hemisphere of the brain (left frontal lobe)

canonical order: The canonical order of the sentence is the most usual order of the main sentence elements, SUBJECT (S), VERB (V) and OBJECT (O), in a language, for example VSO in Arabic or SVO in English. See also WORD ORDER

case: Case is variation in the form of NOUNS and PRONOUNS to show their role in the structure of the SENTENCE, in English limited visibly to pronouns, SUBJECT case he, OBJECT case him, Possessive case his, in Latin extending to NOUNS with six cases, in Finnish to fifteen, used nowadays for a more powerful abstract relationship not necessarily visible in the sentence itself.

character: the name for a single symbol of a writing system such as Chinese, i.e. ('person') is a character. The term is also used in computing for any distinct symbol such as the letter <a>, number <6> or other form <@>.

classifiers: some languages like Japanese have classifiers for counting objects (koko ni issatsu no hon ga aru (literally ‘here is one-classifier book’) to show what kind of object is involved rather than articles, resembling the English phrases for counting uncountables, a glass of water, a pile of sand, etc.

clause: A clause has the attributes of a sentence but may occur within a sentence, for example a relative clause who played the alto within the sentence The man who played the alto was Charlie Parker.

codeswitching: the ability of many bilinguals to switch language in mid-conversation or mid-sentence when talking to people who know both languages.

cognitive deficit: the limitations on processing information in a second language compared to in a first language

cognitive strategies: these involve specific conscious ways of tackling L2 learning. See learning strategies

cognitive style: a person’s typical ways of thinking, seen as a continuum between field-dependent (FD) cognitive style, in which thinking relates to context, and field-independent (FI) style, in which it is independent of context

communication strategies in SLA can be:
- individual solutions to psychological problems of L2 processing (Faerch and Kasper 1984)
- mutual attempts to solve L2 communication problems by participants (Tarone 1980)
- ways of filling vocabulary gaps in L1 or L2 (Kellerman 1990, Poulisse 1990)

communicative competence: the speaker’s ability to put language to communicative use, usually traced back to Hymes. See PRAGMATIC COMPETENCE

communicative language teaching: this bases teaching on the students’ need to communicate, originally seen as the functions that the second language had for them and the meanings they wanted to express, perhaps the most influential approach to teaching around the globe since the 1970s, in a great variety of forms.

compound bilinguals: the bilingual’s two languages are related via a common underlying set of concepts.

components of meaning: one way of describing the meaning of words is to split it up into separate components so that for example the noun boy can be seen as having the components [non-adult] [male], girl the components [adult] [female], woman, the components [adult] [female], and so on.

consciousness-raising: helping the student by drawing attention to features of the second language

consonant: Typically, in terms of sound production, a consonant is a sound which is obstructed in some way by tongue or lip contact as in /k/ keep or /b/ beep, as opposed to the unobstructed sound of a VOWEL. In terms of the sound system, a consonant is a sound that typically occurs at the beginning or end of the SYLLABLE rather than the middle, thus contrasting with vowel.

content words: Content words such as table or truth are best explained in the dictionary (lexicon). Content words form four types of lexical phrase around lexical heads: NOUNs drum, VERBs play, adjectives pretty, and Prepositions to. They contrast with GRAMMATICAL WORDS. Video

Contrastive Analysis (CA): an approach to SLA research that starts by comparing the first and second languages and uses the resulting differences and similarities to predict the problems that L2 learners face.

coordinate bilinguals: the bilingual’s two languages are distinct both in form and in terms of underlying concepts.

creole: A creole language is a new language created when children acquire their parents’ pidgin language as their first language, for example Hawaiian creole and Guyanese creole.

critical period hypothesis (CPH): the claim that human beings are only capable of learning language between the age of 2 years and the early teens

decoding versus codebreaking: processing language to get the ‘message’ versus processing language to get the ‘rules’

derivation: Derivation is how new words are created by processes such as inflections, trumpet + er = trumpeter, or compounding wind + mill = windmill. It contrasts with grammatical inflections

dialect: A dialect is a particular variety of a language spoken by a group united by region, class etc. It is usually seen nowadays as a matter of different vocabulary or grammar rather than of accent. Note: Chinese is regarded as having dialects by Chinese speakers even if the speakesr do not understand each other's speech because they all use the same written language.

diglossia: Diglossia is a situation where there are two versions of a language with very different uses, a High form for official occasions and a Low form for everyday life, as in the difference between High German and Swiss German in German-speaking areas of Switzerland.

diphthong: A diphthong is a type of VOWEL produced by moving the tongue as it is produced from one position towards another, for example in English /f/ fear and // low. It may correspond to one or two written letters.

discourse move: the speaker’s choice of what to do in the conversation, e.g. opening moves such as ‘greeting’

distinctive feature: Distinctive features are a way of analysing speech sounds in terms of a certain number of on/off elements. So the /b/ in English bass has the feature +voice, the /p/ of piano has the feature -voice, and so on.

dual route model: a dual-route model of reading aloud has two processes or 'routes': the phonological route, which converts letters into sounds through rules, and the lexical route, which matches words as wholes in the mental lexicon.

dyslexia: children with developmental dyslexia have problems with reading but not usually with other areas of development. See SLI.

elite bilingualism: either the choice by parents of bringing up children through two languages, or societies in which members of a ruling group speak a second language

English as Lingua Franca (ELF): the version of English spoken by non-native speakers to each other internationally, with its own grammar and conventions.

epenthesis: epenthesis is the process of adding vowels to make possible syllables out of impossible consonant sequences, for example Rawanda for Ruanda

Estuary English: some people’s name for a recent accent of British English allegedly originating from the Thames estuary, known for its use of the glottal stop [] // for bet /bet/ and of /w/ for /l/ as in /fuw/ for full /ful/.

focus on form (FonF): incidental discussion of grammar arising from meaningful language in the classroom

focus on formS: deliberate discussion of grammar in the classroom without reference to meaning

font: strictly a complete set of type for printing; nowadays mostly it refers to a particular design for the whole set of characters available through a computer keyboard.

frequency: either how many times a word occurs in speech or how often it is practised by a student

fricatives: A type of CONSONANT in which the air escapes through a narrow gap created between lips, teeth and tongue, as in English /f/ fine, /s/ sign, /v/ vine, etc.

front/back: In PHONETICS the dimension in the position of the tongue for VOWELS from the front to the back of the mouth is called front/back

function (structure) words : words that have a grammatical function such as articles the/a, PREPOSITIONS to/in and PRONOUNS I/her, typically variable in spoken form and written abbreviations (have, ‘ve; is, ‘s) and in English having three or less letters. Youtube video

functional phrases: In syntactic theory, a functional phrase is built round a HEAD consisting of a GRAMMATICAL WORD Such as the (Determiner Phrase), for example the book, or a grammatical INFLECTION such as present tense ‘-s’, as in lives. According to some theories, these are not available to young children.

gender: Gender is a system for allocating different elements in the sentence to the categories of masculine, feminine and neuter. In English gender is seen only in the link between Pronouns such as she and NOUNS such as Susan, in other languages it affects AGREMENT of adjectives and VERBS with nouns. Gender is called ‘natural’ when it correlates with sex, ‘arbitrary’ when it does not, as in French la table (feminine, ‘table’) and German das Madchen (neuter, ‘girl’).

glottal stop: A speech sound made by closing the VOCAL CORDS and then releasing them, as in a cough, symbolised by //.

good language learner (GLL) strategies: the strategies employed by people known to be good at L2 learning (Stern et al)

grammar: Grammar is the system of relationships between elements of the SENTENCE that links the ‘sounds’ to the ‘meanings’. It is used to refer both to the knowledge of language in the speaker’s mind, and to the system as written down in rules, grammar-books and other descriptions. The type of grammar derived from classical languages that is often taught in schools is called TRADITIONAL grammar and is more concerned with prescribing how native speakers should use language than with describing it. Main areas of grammar are WORD ORDER, GRAMMATICAL MORPHEMES, GRAMMATICAL INFLECTIONS and PHRASE STRUCTURE. See also prescriptive grammar, traditional grammar.

Grammar-Translation method of language teaching: the traditional ‘classical’ academic style of teaching which makes heavy use of grammar explanation and translation as teaching techniques.

grammatical (linguistic) competence: the native speaker’s knowledge of language

grammatical inflections: Grammatical inflections are a system of showing meaning by changing word endings, as in the English ‘-ed’ inflection meaning past tense, I looked, absent from some languages like Vietnamese

grammatical morphemes: Grammatical morphemes is a collective term for MORPHEMES that primarily play a role in the grammar of the sentence, consisting in English of either GRAMMATICAL WORDS such as the articles the/a or PREPOSITIONS to/in or GRAMMATICAL INFLECTIONS such as the past tense ‘-ed’, liked, or the possessive ‘’s’ Albert's. In recent UG these are the heads of FUNCTIONAL PHRASES.

grammatical system: a term within Hallidayan linguistics in which ‘the grammar is seen as a network of interrelated meaningful choices’, for example articles.

grammatical words: Grammatical words (also known as 'function' or 'structure' words such as PREPOSITION by/for or determiners a/an express the grammatical relationships in the sentence rather than meanings that can be captured in the lexicon.

head: The head of a LEXICAL PHRASE is a lexical head around which the phrase is built, i.e. Noun Phrases like a good CD have a head NOUN such as CD. The head of a FUNCTIUONAL PHRASE may be an inflection such as ‘-s’ or a GRAMMATICAL WORD such as the.

head parameter: The head parameter captures the difference between languages in which the HEAD of the phrase comes first, i.e. the PREPOSITION head comes before its ‘complement’ in English on Tuesday, and those in which it comes last, as the Postposition head comes last in Japanese Nihon ni (in Japan).

h-dropping: H-dropping refers to the presence or absence of /h/ in the pronunciation of certain words where the letter “h” is present in the spelling, as in Harry versus 'Arry. In French h-dropping is part of the standard language; in English English, but not American, h-dropping is a social marker of low status in words like high hat or hit.

hierarchy of languages: the language hierarchy (De Swaan) goes from peripheral (local) languages like Finnish, to central like English in India, to supercentral like French used across several countries for limited reasons, to hypercentral like English used globally for any reason.  

hyper-correction: Hyper-correction is the phenomenon whereby a speaker exaggerates the prestige pronunciation beyond that used by high status speakers, for example /hnst/ for honest.

immersion teaching: teaching the whole curriculum through the second language, best known from experiments in Canada

independent language assumption: the language of the L2 learner considered as a system of language in its own right rather than as a defective version of the target language (sometimes called ‘interlanguage’. See MULTI-COMPETENCE

infix : An infix is a MORPHEMEthat is added inside a word to get a new meaning, often by changing the VOWEL, as in blow versus blew. Infixes are rare in English but common in Arabic.

inflections: a grammatical system of showing meaning by changing word endings, as in the English -ed past tense INFLECTION, I looked, absent from some languages like Vietnamese or Chinese.

instrumental motivation: learning the language for a career goal or other practical reason

integration continuum: the relationship of the languages in a community or a mind on a continuum between total integration and total separation.

integrative motivation: learning the language in order to take part in the culture of its people

interlanguage: the learner’s linguistic system as a GRAMMAR in its own right rather than as a defective version of the target language.

intonation: intonation is the change of pitch used in the sound system of language, i.e. John? versus John! Sometimes intonation refers specifically to the use of change of pitch to show attitude or GRAMMAR in a language rather than vocabulary differences, in which case it is opposed to TONE. Video.

IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet): Internationally agreed phonetic alphabet for writing down the sounds of languages in a consistent fashion.

laterals: Laterals are speech sounds produced asymmetrically in the mouth, typically /l/ in which one side of the tongue makes contact with the roof of the mouth but not the other.

language awareness: helping the student by raising awareness of language itself

language function: the reason why someone says something, e.g. apologizing, arguing, greeting, etc

language maintenance and bilingual language teaching: these teach or maintain the minority language within its group. See ASSIMILATIONIST TEACHING

learning strategy: a choice that the learner makes while learning or using the second language that affects learning, whether COGNITIVE, or METACOGNITIVE. See GLL

length: Length usually distinguishes pairs of VOWELS In a language, such as short // in // pit versus long /i:/ in /pi:t/ Pete.

letter/sound correspondences: in sound-based scripts, written symbols like letters correspond to sounds of the spoken language, sometimes simply as in ‘phonetic’ scripts like Italian, sometimes in complex and indirect ways as in English.

lexical entry: A word has a lexical entry in the mind that gives all the information about it such as its pronunciation, meaning, and how it may be used in the structure of the SENTENCE

lexical phrase: A lexical phrase is built around a lexical HEAD such as a NOUN the house on the hill, a VERB cross the road, an Adjective quick to anger, or a PREPOSITION in the spring. It contrasts with a FUNCTIONAL PHRASE.

linguistic imperialism: means by which a ‘Centre’ country dominates ‘Periphery’ countries by making them use its language

linguistics: The academic discipline that focuses on language is called linguistics and is carried out by LINGUISTS.

linguist: In the study of language, a linguist is usually someone who studies LINGUISTICS rather than someone who speaks several languages.

logographic principle: The writing system in which written symbols correspond to meanings, as in Chinese characters. See ALPHABETIC PRINCIPLE

mental lexicon: speakers of a language store all the words they know in a mental dictionary or 'lexicon' containing many thousands of items.

metacognitive strategies: LEARNING STRATEGIES that involve planning and directing learning at a general level

Minimalist Program(me): The Minimalist Programme is the current version of Chomsky’s UNIVERSAL GRAMMAR theory, as yet only partially developed, which tries to reduce grammar to the minimum possible PRINCIPLES.

MLU (Mean Length of Utterance): MLU measures the complexity of a child’s speech by averaging the number of MORPHEMES or words per utterance, useful as an L1 measure up to about the age of 4 years.

mode: L2 users may be either in bilingual mode in which both languages are equally available to them or in monolingual mode in which only one is active, whether first or second, an idea introduced by Francois Grosjean.

morpheme: A morpheme is the smallest unit in the GRAMMAR that is either a word in its own right (free morpheme) cook or part of a word cooks (bound morpheme ‘-s’) GRAMMATICAL MORPHEMES that form part of the grammar, such as the plural INFLECTIONS ‘-s’ in books are one type. Morphemes that change one word to another, for example cooker, cookery, cookbook, are part of DERIVATION. See INFIX, SUFFIX

morphology: GRAMMAR dealing with items smaller than the word such as word-formation (hat-rack) and INFLECTIONS (‘s, -ing,- ed, etc).

movement: Movement is a way of describing the structure of the SENTENCE As if elements in it moved around, typically  in English in questions and passive constructions. Thus the question Will John go? comes from a similar structure to that underlying the statement John will come by movement of will. See SUBJACENCY and STRUCTURE-DEPENDENCY.

multi-competence: the overall system of a mind or a community that uses more than one language. Video

multilingualism: countries where more than one language is used for everyday purposes

nasals: nasals are CONSONANTS created by blocking the mouth with the tongue or lips, lowering the soft palate (velum), and allowing the air to come out through the nose, as in English /m/ mouse and /n/ nous. VOWELS may be nasalised by allowing some air to come out through the nose and mouth at the same time, as in French // son (sound).

native speaker; a person, usually monolingual, speaking the first language they learnt as a child

noun:  The lexical category of Noun (N) consists of words such as John, truth and electron. In UNIVERSAL GRAMMAR theory, a noun is the HEAD of a lexical phrase, the Noun Phrase. It can also be thought of as a potential SUBJECT of the sentence, The truth hurts.

number: Number is a way of signalling how many entities are involved, for example through the forms of NOUNS, PRONOUNS and VERBS. English, French, and German have two numbers, singular (he) and plural (they). Tok Pisin and Old English, etc add dual number; Fijian trial. Number is often used to signal other things then sheer quantity, for instance social relationship through pronouns.

Object: T he object of the SENTENCE is usually a Noun Phrase in a particular relationship to the VERB of the sentence acting as ‘receiver of the action’; for instance the verb see requires an object see something; the verb give two objects give someone (indirect) something (direct)

official language: language(s) recognized by a country for official purposes

open/close: In phonetics the dimension in which the tongue position of VOWELS varies from the top to the bottom of the mouth is called open/close

orthographic depth is the scale for alphabetic languages going from 'shallow' writing systems with close links between letters and sounds such as Finnish to 'deep' writing systems with more complex links such as English.

orthographic principle: A writing system in which written symbols have a system of their own, corresponding neither to sounds nor to meanings. Cf. ALPHABETIC PRINCIPLE

parameter: In UNIVERSAL GRAMMAR theory the variation between languages is seen as a question of setting values for a small number of parameters, for example Italian sets the PRO-DROP PARAMETER to have a value of pro-drop and thus allows sentences without SUBJECTS , vende (he sells), while German sets the value to non-pro-drop and thus has subjects in all sentences Er spricht (he speaks). Cf HEAD PARAMETER

parsing: the process through which the mind works out the grammatical structure and meaning of the sentence, whether TOP-DOWN OR BOTTOM UP

person: Person is a way of linking the SENTENCE to the speech situation through the choice of PRONOUN or VERB form, often in terms of the person speaking (first person, I/je/ich, etc), the person(s) spoken to (second person, you/tu/vous/du/Sie, etc), and other people involved (third person), he/she/it/they  il/elle/ils/elles  er/sie/es/Sie etc). Sometimes person is extended to people not previously mentioned (fourth person), as in Navaho, and to listener-included ‘we’ versus listener-excluded ‘we’, as in Melanesian Pidgin English yumi and mipela. Often linked to NUMBER.

phoneme: The distinctive sounds of a particular language system are its phonemes, studied in PHONOLOGY. Thus in English the sounds /p/ and /b/ are different phonemes because they distinguish /pi:k/ peak from /bi:k/ beak; the sounds [p] and [ph] are different phonemes in Hindi because they distinguish two words, but do not in English as they simply form two variant ALLOPHONES of the same phoneme without ever distinguishing two words.

phonetics: The sub-discipline of LINGUISTICS that studies the production and perception of the speech sounds themselves is called phonetics and contrasts with PHONOLOGY.

phonology: the area of LINGUISTICS that studies the sound systems of particular languages is phonology, and is contrasted with PHONETICS.

phrase structure: the phrase structure of the sentence links all the parts together in a structure like that of a family tree. So the Noun Phrase the soprano combines with a VERB to get the Verb Phrase played the soprano, which in turn combines with the Noun Phrase Sidney Bechet to get the SENTENCE Sidney Bechet played the soprano

pidgin: A pidgin language is created by speakers of two different languages for communicating with each other. Pidgins share similar characteristics wherever they arise such as CV SYLLABLE structure. Examples are: Tok Pisin (Papua New Guinea), Cameroon Pidgin English, Ivory Coast Pidgin, etc. See also CREOLE.

plosive: A speech sound made by blocking the air-stream completely with the tongue or lips, allowing the air to burst out after a brief moment, as in English /t/ tea or /b/ bee. See VOICE ONSET TIME.

pragmatic competence: Chomsky's term for the speaker’s ability to use language for a range of public and private functions, including communication. See GRAMMATICAL COMPETENCE

prefix: A prefix is a MORPHEME that is added to the beginning of a word to create another word by DERIVATION as “Brit” is added to “pop” to get Britpop.

preposition: The category of grammar called preposition (P) consists of words like to, by and with. In UNIVERSAL GRAMMAR theory the Preposition is the HEAD of a LEXICAL PHRASE, the Preposition Phrase. When coming before a NOUN, the category is called ‘preposition’ as in in Basin Street, when after a Noun a ‘postposition’ Nippon ni (Japan in)

prescriptive grammar: grammar that ‘prescribes’ what people should say rather than 'describes' what they do say

principle: In the Universal Grammar theory, principles of language are built-in to the human mind and are thus never broken in human languages. Examples are STRUCTURE-DEPENDENCY and SUBJACENCY.

pro-drop: The pro-drop PARAMETER (null subject parameter) divides languages into pro-drop languages in which the SUBJECT of the SENTENCE may be left out, as in Italian Sono di Torino (am from Turin) and Chinese Shuo (speak), and non-pro-drop languages in which the subject must be present in the actual sentence as in English, German, and French.

pronoun: Pronouns such as he and them differ from NOUNS in that they refer to different things on different occasions: She likes it can refer to any female being liking anything; Helen likes Coltrane only to a specific person liking a specific object. English pronouns have CASE(she versus her) and NUMBER (she versus they).

prototype theory: in Rosch's theory, words have whole meanings divided into basic level (‘table’), superordinate (‘furniture’), and subordinate (‘coffee table’)

punctuation: 'the rules for graphically structuring written language by means of a set of conventional marks' (Coulmas, 1996, 421).

r-dropping: some standard accents of English such as American are ‘rhotic’ in that they have /r/ before CONSONANTS bard is /ba:rd/ or before silence fur //. Other accents of English such as British RP are ‘non-rhotic’, in that they do not have /r/ in these two positions, i.e. bard /ba:d/, fur //. R-dropping is a marker of low status in the USA and lack of r-dropping is a marker of rural accents in England.

reverse transfer: carrying over aspects of the second language to the first.

RP: The prestige accent of British English is known by the two letters RP, originally standing for ‘Received Pronunciation’. It is spoken in all regions of the UK, even if by a small minority of speakers.

sans-serif letters have no cross-strokes and usually constant line width. < Fred specialized in the job of making very quaint wax toys.>

schema (pl. schemas or schemata): the background knowledge on which the interpretation of a text depends

script: ‘a predetermined stereotyped sequence of actions that defines a well-known situation’ (Schank and Abelson, 1977)

second language: ‘A language acquired by a person in addition to his mother tongue’ UNESCO. See BILINGUALISM. See Second Language Acquisition Topics website

second language (L2) user: someone who knows and uses a second language at any level, as opposed to a second language learner. Youtube Video

sentence: A sentence is the largest independent unit in the GRAMMAR of the language. It may include other CLAUSES within it. Sometimes it is necessary to distinguish the lexical sentences of spoken language, distinguished by their 'completeness' of structure etc, from the textual sentences of written language, distinguished by punctuation.

serif letters have small cross-strokes (serifs) and variable line width. <Fred specialized in the job of making very quaint wax toys.> (sentence with all the letters of the alphabet).

short-term memory (STM): the memory used for keeping information for periods of time up to a few seconds. See WORKING MEMORY.

sign language: A sign language differs from other human languages in using a gesture system rather than a sound system.

Specific Language Impairment (SLI): Specific Language Impairment (SLI) is one term for difficulties with language development in children unaccompanied by non-linguistic disabilities, possibly genetic in origin and characterised inter alia by missing grammatical morphemes.

structural grammar: teaching term for GRAMMAR concerned with how words go into PHRASES, phrases into sentences

structuralist linguistics: a method of describing language as sets of structures by e.g. Leonard Bloomfield, to be learnt by stimulus and response, applied to language teaching by Robert Lado and Nelson Brooks, leading to the AUDIOLINGUAL METHOD.

structure-dependency: Structure-dependency is a restriction on MOVEMENT in human languages that makes it depend on the structure of the SENTENCE, rather than on its linear order. A PRINCIPLE of UNIVERSAL GRAMMAR.

style: Style is used by Labov and others to refer to the dimension of formal to informal in language use.

subjacency: Subjacency is a restriction on grammatical MOVEMENT in the SENTENCE that prevents elements moving over more than one boundary, the definition of boundary varying as a PARAMETER from one language to another.

subject: The Subject (S) is the NOUN Phrase of the SENTENCE alongside the Verb Phrase in its structure, John likes biscuits, compulsory in non-pro-drop languages in the actual sentence but may be omitted in PRO-DROP languages; it often acts as the ‘agent of the action’.

submersion teaching: extreme sink-or-swim form of ASSIMILATIONIST teaching in which minority language children are simply put in majority language classes

subtractive bilingualism : L2 learning that takes away from the learner’s capabilities. (Lambert). See ADDITIVE

suffix: A suffix is a MORPHEME that is added to a word to create another word by DERIVATION. Felon thus becomes a second noun by adding “-y” felony, and an adjective by adding “-ous” felonious.

syllable: A sound structure usually consisting of a central VOWEL (V) such as /a:/, with one or more CONSONANTS (C) preceding or following it, such as /b/ or /k/ CV /ba:/ bar and VC /a:k/ ark. Languages vary in whether they permit only CV syllables or allow CVC syllables as well and in the combinations of C that may be used. See EPENTHESIS

Task-Based learning: a teaching method in which learning arises from particular tasks the students do in the classroom.

teachability hypothesis: ‘an L2 structure can be learnt from instruction only if the learner’s interlanguage is close to the point when this structure is acquired in the natural setting’ (Pienemann)

tone: Usually tone means a unit of pitch change for a given language, English having about seven tones. Sometimes tone is used to contrast a tone language where tones are used to show vocabulary differences such as Chinese and an INTONATIONlanguage where tones show attitudes, GRAMMAR etc, such as English.

top-down and bottom-up: starting from the SENTENCE as a whole and working down to the smallest parts of it, versus starting from the smallest parts and working up

traditional grammar: ‘school’ GRAMMAR concerned with labelling sentences with parts of speech

transitional teaching : teaching that allows people to function in a majority language, without necessarily losing or devaluing the first language.

typography: 'the structuring and arranging of visual language' (Baines & Haslam, 2002, 1)

Universal Grammar: Sometimes Universal Grammar refers simply to the aspects of language that all languages have in common. In the Chomskyan sense Universal Grammar refers to the language faculty built in to the human mind, seen as consisting of PRINCIPLES such as STRUCTURE-DEPENDENCY and PARAMETERS such as PRO-DROP.

uvular /r/: An /r/ pronounced with tongue contact at the uvula at the back of the mouth—the usual French /r/

verb: A Verb (V) is a lexical category in the GRAMMAR made up of words such as like and listen. In UG theory it is the head of the lexical Verb Phrase (VP). Different types of verbs specify whether there is a need for: no OBJECTEric fainted, one object Billie sang the blues two objects Mary gave the money to her brother, an animate SUBJECT the man fainted not the rock fainted, and so on.

vocal cords: ‘vocal cords’ are flaps in the larynx which may open and close rapidly during speech to let out puffs of air, producing a basic vibrating noise called VOICE

voice: voice in PHONETICS is technically the vibration contributed to speech by allowing flaps in the larynx known as VOCAL CORDS to rapidly open and shut as air passes through them. Presence or absence of voice is then a DISTINCTIVE FEATURE that separates voiced sounds like the /d/ of dime from unvoiced sounds like the /t/ of time.

Voice Onset Time (VOT): when a PLOSIVE sound is created by blocking the airway through the mouth, the moment when VOICE starts is called the Voice Onset Time. Voicing may start before release (minus VOT) or after release (plus VOT). For example English /p/ is distinguished from /b/ by its longer VOT inter alia. VOTs vary from one language to another.

vowel: In terms of sound production, a vowel is a single speech sound produced by vibrating the VOCAL CORDS and not obstructing the mouth in any way, as in the // of bank, shaped by the position of the lips into rounded and unrounded sounds as in English /i:/ bee and /u:/ boo, and by the position of the tongue into OPEN/CLOSE as in English /u:/ loot vs // lot and FRONT/BACK as in English /e/ bet versus /u/ foot. In terms of sound structure, a vowel typically occurs as the core of the SYLLABLE rather than at the beginning or the end, thus contrasting with CONSONANT.

Wernicke’s aphasia: Wernicke’s aphasia is the name of a type of APHASIA involving difficulty with comprehension rather than  speaking, associated with injury to Wernicke’s area in the back left area of the brain (posterior upper temporal lobe).

word order: a crucial aspect of the grammar of many languages is the order of the elements in the SENTENCE, called word order in general. One variation is the order of SUBJECT, VERB and OBJECT, whether SVO, SOV, or whatever, the main order for a language sometimes being called its CANONICAL ORDER. Another word order variation is whether the language has PREPOSITIONS before NOUNS in New Orleans or postpositions after Nouns Nippon ni (Japan in). See HEAD PARAMETER

working memory: the memory system used for holding and manipulating information while various mental tasks are carried out. See ARTICULATORY LOOP.  

writing system: a set of visible or tactile signs used to represent units of language in a systematic way…': [sense 1] 'the basic types of graphic systems designed to represent language…'; [sense 2] 'spelling, i.e. a system of rules underlying the use of the graphemes of the language.' (Coulmas, 1996, 560 ).