A bound morpheme that can be added to a base morpheme. Examples include the first syllable of dis-suade, ad-vantage, anti-freeze, de-couple, and the last element of freez-es, amen-able, immer-sion, bureau-crat. Some of these are inflectional, such as freez-es, which is either a personal verb ending ("it freezes") or the plural of the noun freeze; others are derivational, by which one word gives rise to another, as with anti-freeze.
A similarity of sound in the onset of a stressed syllable. For example chalk and cheese alliterate, as do hawk and handsaw. It is a primary prosodic feature of Old English poems such as Beowulf and continued well into Middle English verse in works like Piers Plowman.
Alternate realizations of a single morpheme. The third person singular ending of glides, lifts, and misses are all allmorphs of one verb inflection; similarly the endings of coercion, exertion, and immersion are variants of the same morpheme.
A variant pronunciation of a single phoneme. The [t] sounds of tick and stick illustrate a regular distinction between released and unreleased allophones, and they are said to be in complementary distribution. Allophones in free variation, by contrast, can assume different articulations depending on the the speaker or context, such as the two different ways of pronouncing the [t] of outcome: one where the [t] is released and the other unreleased.
Relating to the hard ridge behind the front teeth (the alveolar ridge) and the hard palate at the roof of the mouth (palate); the front half of the tongue is raised to touch this position in making the first and last consonant sounds of judge and church.
A term coined by John Witherspoon (1723-94) to refer to any word or expression that seems characteristic of the English language used in North America.
One that relies heavily on word order and function words (like prepositions and auxiliaries) to supply information about the syntactic function of sentence elements. Modern English, which is lightly inflected, is more analytic than Old English. See synthetic language.
An Indo-European family of languages that includes Hittite, once spoken in Asia Minor.
The West Germanic subbranch that includes Frisian and English.
Referring to the people and/or the culture of early England; it is sometimes used for the language otherwise known as Old English. But more usually, an Anglo-Saxon manuscript might be copied by an Anglo-Saxon monk writing the Old English language.
The digraph letter form æ, Æ. The name, which is the Old English word for ash tree, was the way the Anglo-Saxons referred to the letter.
A speech sound accompanied by a puff of breath. For English speakers, the initial sounds of top and pot are aspirated, where stop and spot are not.
The phonetic process by which two adjacent sounds become more similar. The word assimilation itself illustrates the process; over time the pronunciation of the compound ad + similare modified the [d] in the direction of [s].
The formation of a new word by shortening an older form in the apparent assumption that the older word was derived from the shortened form. For example, to enthuse was created by back formation from enthusiasm, which came into the English language first.
A vowel made by lowering the tongue to the back of the mouth.
A literal translation of a word or (more often) a phrase that stays close to the idiomatic meaning in the source language. The word gospel, for example, comes from an Old English compound (roughly) good + spell, which is a direct translation of the elements of the Latin (ultimately Greek) ev-angel- "good message." Also called loan translation.
The inflection of a noun, pronoun, adjective, or demonstrative which signals its grammatical function in a phrase or clause. In Modern English the personal pronouns retain more distinctions in cases than other parts of speech, so that, for example, "she left the room" (not "her left the room") shows the appropriate case for the feminine pronoun used as the subject of the verb. Old English has four cases -- nominative, accusative, dative, genitive -- and occasionally a fifth, the instrumental. Indo-European also had another three: the vocative, ablative, and locative.
One of the major branches of Indo-European, including such languages as Old Irish and Breton.
A vowel made with the tongue in a central position in the mouth.
centum, centum language
The Latin word for "hundred," which serves as a shorthand way of distinguishing a major division based on the pronunciation of a particular sound in Indo-European. The complementary group is known as "satem languages," where satem is the Avestan word for "hundred" The initial sound of centum and satem illustrate the way the original phoneme in question, the velar [k], developed in each of the two main groups. English, Greek, and Irish, for example, are centum languages, while Polish, Albanian, and Sanskrit are satem languages.
The change in the features of an individual's language (vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar) to adjust to social circumstances.
The form of an adjective or adverb that shows a relation predicated of the quality indicated: hot (positive), hotter (comparative), hottest (superlative). English shows comparison by adding a suffix, usually -er and -est, or by using the adverbs more and most in a phrase: more contentious, most contentious.
Speech sounds and word forms are said to be in complementary distribution when allophones and allomorphs form a consistent separation so that, for example, the [t] of stop is an allophone that is always unaspirated, while the [t] of top is always aspirated, and there is no overlap between the two.
The matching correspondence of grammatical forms, such as number, person and gender, often signalled by inflected endings. In Modern English, the sentence "The girl knows she is ready" shows concord in the singular forms of girl, knows, she, and is; there is also concord between the natural gender of girl and the feminine pronoun she. Also known as agreement.
A phoneme made when the speech organs create an obstruction against the flow of air from the lungs. The sound may be voiced or unvoiced.
The use of be (uninflected) to indicate a habitual state. It is usually associated with African-American varieties of English. 'He be quiet" means that he is consistently, habitually quiet. "He is quiet" is more localized: he is quiet right now.
A word made by combining the unstressed syllables of one word with another, such as don't from do + not and gonna from going + to.
The alphabet used to transcribe Old Church Slavonic, Russian and certain other Slavic languages. Named after St. Cyril, reputed to have invented it for missionary purposes in the ninth century.
The northeast part of Anglo-Saxon England heavily settled by Scandinavians and governed by their law code. (Pyles & Algeo)
A function word like the used with certain nouns that are definite.
deictic (deixis, n.)
A function word that serves to specify, such as the demonstratives this and these. Deictics also include words indicating relative time, like now and then; place, like here and there; and personal pronouns.
A pronoun like this, these, that, and those which specifies a relation to the speaker.
Relating to changes over time: often equated with historical changes. Usually contrasted with synchronic.
A mark or notation made in addition to the letter form to differentiate sounds in the spelling of a language; they can include accent marks, for example, or a tilde (~) or dieresis (ü, ö).
double negative (or multiple negative)
The use of more than one negative for emphasis, now ususually considered grammatically incorrect but current in some dialects of English. Before about 1700 it was a common construction. "I can't get no satisfaction" is a double negative worth singing. Because there can be more than two, it is sometimes called "multiple negative."
A grammatical number, like singular and plural, found in some Indo-European languages. It indicates exactly two of something.
A branch of the Germanic languages that includes Gothic (now extinct)..
A word the sound of which mimics its referent: quack, boing, splash. Sometimes also called onomatopoeia, as with Tennyson's "murmuring of innumerable bees." See also sound symbolism and phonaestheme.
From a Greek word meaning to fall short, the omission of a phrase, word, or sound where it is otherwise expected. When words are omitted in writing, their absence is indicated by three dots (. . .). An unstressed syllable from the beginning of a word may be omitted, as with 'bout for about and possum for opossum. Sometimes a middle syllable may be omitted as with some dialectial pronunciations of necessary and medieval.
The insertion of a sound in the middle of a word to make it easier to pronounce, such as the [d] in thunder (OE thunor) and the medial schwa often heard in the pronunciation of realtor and athlete. When a vowel is involved it is often called svarabhakti.
The modification of a word's spelling to reflect the spelling in the language from which it is derived; examples include adventure (ME aventure) and indict (ME indite), the latter of which has not had its pronunciation affected. Not yet.
The inflected form of a verb showing agreement with the person and number of the subject and showing tense and mood. The infinitive, for example, does not specify any of these. A finite verb usually serves as the predicate of a clause.
A popular modification of a word's spelling and/or pronunciation to make it resemble familiar morphemes and phonemes. In most cases the modified word is borrowed from another language; examples: chaise lounge and woodchuck.
When used of allophones, it indicates pronunciations that can change depending on the speaker and the circumstances of articulation. Examples would include instances where precise articulation is important, as when speaking with deliberate care to a non-native speaker or over a poor telephone line. In such cases American speakers, for example, might pronounce the middle consonants of ladder and latter differently, though they would not do so in ordinary speech. Free variation contrasts with complementary distribution.
A semantically light part of speech used to create the syntactic structure of a phrase or clause; the category includes auxiliary verbs, prepositions, the definite article, and conjunctions. The number of such words is limited, unlike other parts of the lexicon, which can increase indefinitely.
A large subcategory of nouns (and adjectives, pronouns, and demonstratives) which in Indo-European languages is vaguely associated with biological sex: masculine, feminine, and neuter. In other language families gender is based on other arbitrary groupings. In Old English gender has little to do with the biological associations of nouns, and is thus called grammatical gender. In Modern English, grammatical gender has increasingly given way to natural gender, although the parts of speech (with the notable exception of pronouns) no longer distinguish gender by morphology.
An Indo-European case that shows possession (the dog's tail), although it has other uses as well.
A branch of Indo-European that includes English, German, Dutch, Swedish, Frisian and other languages that arose in northwestern Europe.
Associated with the speech organ in the back of the oral cavity, the glottis. A glottal stop can be heard in the separation of syllables in a phrase like uh-oh.
A closing of sound produced by stopping the flow of air through the throat using the glottis. Most Americans produce a glottal stop in the middle of uh-oh.
Great Vowel Shift
A systematic change in the long vowels in late Middle English that resulted in a new array of vowels, which includes diphthongs and tense vowels but which no longer generates a systematic distinction for length. Also called the Tudor Vowel Shift.
Named after Jacob Grimm (1785-1863), a formulation that describes a systematic change in the stop consonants of Indo-European within the Germanic languages. Grimm built on the earlier discoveries of Rasmus Rask (1787-1832).
A genitive ending attached to the end of a phrase: the Queen of England's hat; the man who mistook his wife for a hat's medical treatment.
The Indo-European family of languages which includes ancient and modern Greek.
hypercorrect pronunciation, hypercorrection
A nonhistorical pronunciation or construction based on the mistaken assumption that an error is being avoided; examples might include "between you and I" and the [t] articulated in often.
A variety of language peculiar to an individual. Spenser's deliberately antiquated language in The Fairy Queen is a famous literary example.
The verb mood employed in commands and some requests.
Impersonal verbs have no subjects stated or understood. Old English had a few, one of which survives in the fossilized form methinks ("it seems to me").The equivalent to the impersonal in Modern English has it as a dummy subject: it was raining.
A sound change caused by assimilation to a high front vowel (or the semivowel [j]) which draws the articulation of adjacent back vowels to a forward position. It lies behind the plurals feet, mice, men, some derived verbs (drank, drench), and some abstract nouns (foul, filth). Also called i-umlaut.
The "default" verb mood, used for reporting factual information or used in any construction that is unmarked for another mood.
The extensive family of languages that can be traced back to a source in eastern Europe, somewhere near the Black Sea. Until the centuries of European colonial expansion, the geographical spread of the languages extended from western edge of Europe, eastward to the edge of what is now China, and south to the Indian subcontinent. English is part of the West-Germanic branch of Germanic languages. Other major branches include Slavic" class="glossedpage">Balto-Slavic, Celtic, Italic, Albanian, Hellenic, Armenian, Anatolian, Indo-Iranian, Tocharian.
A major branch of Indo-European including the Persian (Farsi, Pashto) and Indic (Hindi, Sanskrit, Urdu) sub-branches.
An Indo-European case, already rare in Old English, that indicates the means by which some action is performed. It survives fossilized in a few Modern English phrases, such as the in "the more the merrier."
In phonology, interdental indicates sounds made by placing the tip of the tongue between the front teeth.
A branch of Indo-European which includes languages that developed on the Italian peninsula, such as Latin.
The loss of distinctions in inflected endings, especially in early Middle English.
mid vowel, middle vowel
Neither high nor low; the schwa is a good example.
A form or set of forms of a verb in an inflected language, serving to indicate whether the verb expresses fact, command, wish, conditionality, etc. (OED). The system of moods in middle and modern English is relatively impoverished compared to that of Old English and some other Indo-European languages.
See double negative.
One of three sub-branches of Germanic, which includes Norse, Danish, Swedish, and Old Icelandic.
A part of speech used to name a person, place, thing, quality, or action, and which can be used as the subject of a verb.
See echoic word.
A syllable that ends with a vowel.
Etymologically "correct writing," the conventional writing system for representing the words in a language.
The systematic display of the inflected forms of a part of speech using an illustrative example.
The ending of a verb that denotes a relation with the speaker: first person speaking, second person spoken to, third person spoken about. The distinctions correspond to the three categories of personal pronouns.
A written representation, using a conventionalized writing system, of the spoken sounds of a language.
A simplified language invented for the purposes of contact between speakers who have no common tongue. It has a limited vocabulary and a reduced grammar.
An affix placed at the beginning of a word.
The most prominent stress on a syllable in a word or a phrase.
A hypothetical form of a word for which no written record exists. It is customarily preceded by an asterisk, e.g. Indo-European *tu (gives English thou).
A letter from the writing system of Germanic languages developed before the introduction of the Latin alphabet.
A theory postulating that language shapes and limits one's perception of the world. Named for Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf.
One of the most basic divisions in Indo-European languages, named after the Avestan word for hundred. The group includes many of the languages to the south and east in the geographic spread of IE. See centum language for information on the complimentary group and the meaning of the distinction.
A less prominent stress often heard in the second elements of compounds and in other polysyllabic words (like the last syllable of attitude).
The study of meaning in the lexical elements of a language.
Any usage that distinguishes one variety of language from another, though ususally with deleterious social connotations. For example, saying "irregardless" instead of "regardless" would, in the opinion of Professor Donoghue, mark the speaker as intolerably ignorant.
In Judges 12:4-6, where the term originates, shibboleth is used as a password. The Israelites could pronounce it, but a mispronunciation would reveal the speaker as an enemy.
In phonology, the process by which a long vowel becomes short.
The association of certain phonemic sounds with a set of related thoughts or feelings, such as the [sl] in slime, slurp, slip, slug, which carries over to Lewis Carroll's slithy toves. Such sounds are sometimes called phonaesthemes.
Pronunciation changed because of a word's spelling, even if it is unhistorical. An early example is author, in which the <h> is scribal, but over time it was perceived as part of a <th> sequence and pronunciation changed accordingly.
A prestigious form of the language taught in schools, supported by grammars and dictionaries, and used in established institutions.
In phonology, a consonant made by temporarily blocking the flow of air, then releasing it. Examples include [t], [g].
The emphasis marked by pitch, loudness, and/or length for a syllable in a word or phrase.
A Germanic noun or adjecive declension in which the stem originally ended in a vowel (Pyles & Algeo). One of the two main categories of nouns and adjectives in English and other Germanic languages; contrasted with weak declension.
A verb that forms its preterite and past participle by a change in the root vowel. Modern English has about seventy such verbs, like swim, swam, swum; give, gave, given; see, saw, seen. Old English had about 300.
A verb mood used when the proposition concerns something other than a factual statement, such as belief, hope, hypothesis, desire: he insisted that she drive home (not drives). The subjunctive is used sparingly in modern English. In Old English it was more common and was also used in certain syntactic constructions, especially clauses beginning with subordinating conjunctions.
The process of using an unrelated word to fill out a paradigm. The preterite of go is went, which comes from a different verb, but went is still the preterite inflection of go. The various forms of the verb of being (e.g., was, are, is, been) are from four originally distinct verbs, collapsed together into one paradigm as the various inflections of a single verb.
A figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole or a species for the genus: all hands on deck involves two part-for-whole substitutions, hand for sailor and deck for every part of the ship associated with the deck. Metonymy and synecdoche are often used interchangeably.
A semantic change transferring the attributes associated with one sense to another, such as loud colors, bright sound.
A language that uses morphemes such as inflectional endings to supply grammatical information about the syntactic function of sentence elements in the clause. Indo-European examples include Latin and Greek; examples from other language groups include Arabic and Turkish. Contrasted with analytic languages.
One made with the muscles at the base of the tongue tensed, such as [i]. Contrasted with lax vowels.
A letter from the Germanic runic alphabet added to the Latin alphabet in Anglo-Saxon England to transcribe dental fricatives. It was used through the Middle English period and was gradually replaced by the sequence [th].
The name for a diacritical mark used, for example, in Spanish spellings of words like señora.
A branch of Indo-European, long extinct, once spoken in central Asia.
Tudor Vowel Shift
See Great Vowel Shift.
The grouping of languages based on similarities in structure.
A plural form for a noun that shows no difference from the singular, such as deer, salmon.
In phonology, an allophone of a stop made by moving the tongue or lips to begin the stop, but without following through. For many speakers, the [k] of blacktop is unreleased although the tongue rises to the velum.
A descriptive sound law that accounts for a class of exceptions to Grimm's Law; named after Karl Verner, who formulated it in 1875.
A morphological category applied to verbs, which in Indo-European languages like Greek varies between active, passive, and middle. It indicates a relation between the verb's subject and its action. Modern English has no true passive but produces the equivalent by means of a verb phrase (he was flattered).
A subbranch of Germanic which includes English, Frisian, Dutch, Yiddish, and German.
The Old English dialect spoken in the south and west of England.
The sequence of words in a phrase or clause. In English it is essential to syntax.