English Language Key Words - Commit these to heart; you'll need them throughout the course for both ALL the topics in English Language at AS and A2.

Accent The pronunciation of words.
Active tense

A sentence where the subject is acting on the object.
E.g. The boy kicked the ball.

Adjacency pairs

An utterance and response that are often seen together:
A: "How are you?"
B: "I'm fine, thanks."

Adjective A type of word class. Adjectives refer to words that describe a noun.

Another word class. Adverbs describe the verbs and usually end in "-ly". For example: she walked quickly.

Alliteration Repetition of a series of consonant or vowel at the beginning of words.
Amelioration Where a word's meaning lessens over time.
Anaphoric reference Using the proper noun first, and then switching to pronouns.
"Cathy glanced around the room for a moment before picking up the book and sliding it into her bag. She zipped it tight and then let out a relieved sigh..."
Assonance Repetition of the vowel sound in a series of words.
Auxiliary verb

Helps to establish when the action took place.
e.g. The cat was sitting beside the bowl.
"Was" tells us it's in the past.

Back-formation Where a word is shorted by removing the latter part of the word: "porn" is formed from "pornography".
Broadening Where a word gains wider meanings over time. "Butcher" once meant a seller of goats, and has now been broadened to a seller of meat.
Cataphoric reference Using a series of pronouns before introducing the proper noun.
"He's the current World No. 2. He's known as 'the Rocket'. He comes from the UK. It's Ronnie O'Sullivan!"

A main clause is a complete sentence, containing object, verb and subject, for example, "It was cold."

A subordinate is dependant on the main clause, e.g. "because it was late" - to understand this you need something like "he missed the bus because it was late".

CMC Computer Mediated Communication, such as email, text messages, websites...
Collocation Words that habitually go together. For example: "fish and chips" "clean and easy" "home and dry".
Colloquial The language of speech.
Compliment Tells us something about the subject. For example: "The man was busy."
Connotations From "con" which means "with", theses are the psychological associations that come with words.
Consonance Repetition of the consonant sound in a series of words.
Dialect Using different, regional lexis.
Declarative The type of sentence function that states something/describes something.
Deictic Expression Words or expressions that require context for understanding. For example: it, that, them.
Denotation The dictionary definition of a word.

Words that come before a noun to determine it. For example: "the hat" "her feather" "your drink."

"a/an" are indefinite articles, while "the" is definite article.

Discourse Structure

The structure of the text, including beginning, middle, end, any ordering.

Elision Missing out letters or sounds.
Ellipsis Missing words out, because the listener/reader can fill in the gaps.
Emoticon Iconic representation of emotions. =)
Emotive Language (often hyperbole) used to evoke emotions within the reader.
Euphemism A word or phrase used to soften a harsh reality. For example, "passed away" is a euphemism of "death."
False starts Starting again to correct yourself.
Fillers Similar to voiced pause, but actually adding a word. For example: "kinda", "like", "and stuff".
First/second/third person First person: writing in a subjective style using the personal pronouns: "I."
Second person: writing in a style to directly address the reader: "you."
Third person: Writing in an objective style using the pronouns: "he", "she", "it".
Function shift Where a word moves from one word class to another. "Google" was once a noun, but has become a verb, "to Google."
Graphology From "graph-" which means "image" and "-ology" which means "study of", graphology is literally the study of images. It is the visual aspects of text, such as: layout, font sizes, image choices, etc...
Genre The category that a text falls into. Wide examples are: letter, newspaper article, novel excerpt.
Homonym A word with the same spelling but a different meaning and sound, such as "lead" (verb) and "lead " (noun).
Homophone Words that sound the same, but have different spellings depending on their meanings: thier/they're/there.
Hybrid A cross between written and spoken language.
Hyperbole Exaggeration. (pronounced: hi-per-bo-lee)
Hypernym An 'umbrella' noun that encompasses many other nouns, such as "animal" encompasses "cat" "dog" "goat", etc.
Hyponym The words within the hypernym, with a narrower meaning than the 'umbrella' noun. Nouns like "cat" "dog" and "goat" are hyponyms of "animal".
Idiolect Individual language. Accent, pitch, favourite phrases, etc. all make up someone's personal language style.

The type of sentence function that commands.

Interrogative The type of sentence function that is a question.
Letter/figure homophone l8 - later, b - be, 2 - to, etc.

Individual word choice.

Litotes Understatements.
Media Literally means "in the middle of".
Reality -> the media -> us.
Metaphor A comparison where one thing is said to be another, which isn't literally true. It was raining cats and dogs!
Metonymy A word or phrase used to stand for a person, group or place. For example: "Number 10" can represent the Prime Minister.
Morphology Changing the spelling of words.
Narrowing When a word's meaning is narrowed over time. "Meat" once meant food in general, but now means a specific type.
Non-fluency features A general term for anything that removes fluency in spoken language - such as voiced pauses, non-voiced pauses, fillers, false starts.

A new word.

Besides completely new words, like 'email', there are four types:

  1. Recast: Giving an existing word a new meaning, e.g. cookies for computers are quite different to the edible ones.
  2. Compound: Joining two existing words together to form a new one: firewall, laptop, website...
  3. Acronym: Initals that are read like a word. Such as RAM and ROM.
  4. Abbreviation: MSN, URL, HTML...

A type of word class. Nouns refer to words that are names, e.g. of a person, place or thing.

  • A proper noun requires a capital letter, such as someone's name: Elizabeth.
  • A common noun requires no capital letter, but usually has 'the' or 'an' before it: the girl.

A noun phrase is where two nouns that act like one noun: football pitch.

Concrete nouns are physical objects like tables, chairs, etc.

Abstract nouns are non-physical things like emotions, ideas and feelings.

Object The person or thing that the verb is affecting.
Onomatopoeia Where a word sounds like what it's describing. For example: crash, smash, hiss, bang...
Over/under-extension Over-extension: Where a child uses a word in a wider context than its indented use. Such as "Daddy" for every male in the family.
Under-extension: Where a child uses a word in a narrower context than its intended use. Such as "shoes" for a particular pair of shoes.
Paralinguistic Features From "para" which means "outside" and "linguistic" which is about language, paralinguistic features are features of conversation outside of the speech. For example: facial gestures, posture, eye contact, laughing...
Parsing Identifying each part of a sentence. E.g. the subject, verb and object.
Passive tense A sentence where the object is being acted upon to it by the subject.
E.g. The ball was kicked by the boy.
Patterning Repeating sentence structure.
Pejoration Where a word's meaning strengthens over time.
Personification Giving something inhuman, human qualities.
Phonology From "-ology" meaning "the study of" and "phone" meaning sound, this is the study of sound.

The underlying meaning.

Preposition Used to position things in a sentence.
Examples are: to, under, in, behind, on, by, at...

Pre-modification: Words (usually adjectives) that come before a noun to describe it. For example: the pink, gently swaying flower.

Post-modification: Words that come after a noun to describe it. For example: the flower, which was pink, swayed gently...


Another word class. Pronouns are words that stand in the place of nouns, to avoid repetition. For example: he, she, they.

Prosodic Features Aspects of voice (pitch, volume, intonation, stress) that contribute to understanding.
Register Level of formality. The difference of word choice, depending on the formality of the situation.
Rhetoric Using language to persuade.
Rhetorical Question A question asked to which the answer is obvious and doesn't need responding to.
Sibilance Repetition of the "s" "sh" sounds in a series of words.
Simile Comparison where something is like something else: The water gushed down like a raging torrent.
Semantic field Semantics is concerned with meaning. When a group of words are together with similar connotations, they're part of one "theme" or semantic field.
Sentence function What the sentence does. There are three basic functions: interrogative, imperative, declarative.
Sociolect Language of a social group.
Spatial metaphors Metaphors concerned with space. 'enter a chatroom' - technically, you're not moving anywhere.
Subject The person or thing doing the verb.
Synchoronous / asynchronous CMC

Synchronous CMC: Communication that happens at the same time, e.g. IM, chatrooms, etc.

Asynchronous CMC: Communication with a time delay, e.g. email, forums, blogs...

Tag questions Questions added to the end of speech to check the listener's understanding. For example: "d'ya know what I mean?"
Tautology Rhetorical feature - use of redundant language that adds no information.
Techspeak David Crystal's word for any jargon relating to ICT.
Tenor The relationship between the text and the reader.
Topic Management A person bringing a conversation back to the topic. Usually shows power within the conversation.
Transcript From "trans-" which means "across", a transcript is a written record of conversation that was originally spoken. (Taking spoken language across to written language).
Transient Temporary language - text messages are deleted, for example, soon after being read.
Triadic Structure Writing a list of three things for flow. For example:
"We have sought justice in the past, we seek justice today, and we will seek justice in the future."

Another word class. Verbs are "doing" words. For example: run. "Be" is also a verb, which means "is" and "am" from that root are too. A sentence must have a verb.

Modal verbs are verbs that change the mode of the sentence. For example: "I can walk" is a declarative, but "I must walk" is imperative.

Virtuous error Where a child makes a mistake with their language, but follows a grammatical rule that would be acceptible for other words. "He runned.." "It was the baddest..."
Voiced Pause/Unvoiced Pause

Voiced pause: "erm", "um", "err".

Unvoiced pause is naturally a pause but without a sound.

Word class The category a word falls into is its class; for example: Noun, adjective, adverb and pronouns are all types of word classes.

If you think of a word not included in the list, don't hesitate to email me!