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This page last updated March 22, 2001 at 10:45 p.m. MDT by Daniel Roundy, dqr@ttt.org


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Definitions for Modern Linguistics (Linguistics 330)

Ablaut: A change in a vowel sound in a word that causes the word to change grammatical function, for example: foot/feet.

Accusative Case: The case that in English is used for direct objects of verbs.

Acronyms: Words formed by combining the initial sounds or letters from a group of words, for example, RADAR from Radio Detecting and Ranging, and LASER from Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

Affix: A bound morpheme that is attached to a base word (see derivational affix, inflectional affix).

Auxiliary Verbs: A verb that acts as a specifier to the main verb, for example, "can" in "can go". Some common auxiliary verbs are can, will, have, must, and should.

Circumlocution: Discussing a concept without using the actual word for it.

Derivation: A change that is made to a word by adding an affix that changes the word’s meaning or grammatical category. For example, the word "goodness" is a derivation of the word "good," made by adding the suffix "-ness." (contrast Inflection)

Derivational Affix: An affix that is added to a word in order to change its grammatical category or its meaning. There are many derivational affixes in English. Some common ones are "-ness," "-ly," "-ing," "-er" (used to mean "one who _____"), and "-tion." (contrast Inflectional affix)

Inflection: Change to a word that is made to indicate functions like tense, person, number, etc., but that does not actually change the part of speech of a word or its meaning. (contrast Derivation).

Inflectional Affix: An affix that may change the tense or number of a word, but does not change its part of speech. There are only eight inflectional affixes in English: past tense -ed, past participle -ed/-en, 3 person singular -s, progressive -ing, comparative -er, superlative -est, plural -s, and posessive -'s (contrast Derivational Affix).

Inflectional Morphemes: See Inflectional Affix.

Metaphor: A figure of speech that explains a concept with a different concept, or which takes a concept out of its regular or common use and places it into another use to which it is only somewhat related to provide a new view to the concept.

Modal: A type of auxiliary which expresses obligation, permission, etc., (for example, the English can, must, should, could, will, and so on).

Perfect Tense: A verb form expressing the completion of an action/event prior to a specified point in time. In English, the present perfect is expressed using "has" (eg: "has spoken") and the past perfect is expressed using "had" (eg: "had spoken").

Phonotactics: The study of what sound sequences are and are not allowed in a given language (for example, in English, "tnl" or "ml" are not acceptable sound combinations within a single syllable, but "fl," "ch," and "tch" are acceptable)

Pluperfect Tense: A verb form expressing the completion of an action/event prior to a specified time in the past (for example, the verb phrase "had been reading" in the sentence, "She had been reading when the phone rang" is in the pluperfect tense).

Prefix: An affix that is attached to the beginning of a word (see affix).

Preterite: A verb form expressing the completed past tense (for example, the preterite of "laugh" is "laughed").

Suffix: An affix that is attached to the end of a word (see suffix).

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