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Syntax & Semantics


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abstract noun
A noun denoting an idea, quality, or state rather than a concrete object, e.g. truth, danger, happiness.
accusative
A noun or adjective denoting a case of nouns, pronouns, and adjectives which expresses the object of an action or the goal of motion.
active voice
A form or set of forms of a verb in which the semantic subject is typically the person or thing performing the action and which can take a direct object
adjective phrase
A phrase with an adjective as its head.
adjective
A word class naming an attribute of a noun, such as 'sweet', 'red', or 'technical'
adverb phrase
A phrase with an adverb as its head.
adverb
A word class (or phrase) that modifies or qualifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or a word group, expressing a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, degree, etc.
adverbial
A word or phrase functioning as a major clause constituent and typically answering questions such as 'when?', 'where?', 'why?' or 'how?'
affix
A cover term which denotes an addition to the base form or stem of a word in order to modify its meaning or create a new word, including suffìxes, prefixes and infixes
affixation
The process of adding prefixes, suffixes or infixes to a word.
agreement
An instance of inflection which usually involves making the value of some grammatical category (such as number, gender, case, or person) agree between varied words or parts of the sentence.
allomorph
Any of two or more actual representations of a morpheme, such as the plural endings /s/ (as in bats), /z/ (as in bugs), and /ɪz/ (as in buses).
anaphoric reference
The use of a word referring back to a word used earlier in a text or conversation, to avoid repetition.
antecedent
An earlier word, phrase, or clause to which another word (especially a following relative pronoun) refers back to.
article
A grammatical word that signal definite or indefinite meaning.
aspect
A category or form which expresses the way in which time is denoted by a verb.
attributive
(of an adjective or other modifier) preceding the word that it modifies and expressing an attribute, as 'old' in the old dog (but not in the dog is old) and 'expiry' in expiry date.
auxiliary verb
A verb used in forming the tenses, moods, and voices of other verbs.
bare infinitive
The basic form of a verb, without an inflection binding it to a particular subject or tense, and without complementiser 'to'.
base
The root or stem of a word or a derivative, or the uninflected form of a verb.
cardinal number
A number denoting quantity (one, two, three, etc.)
case
Any of the forms of a noun, adjective, or pronoun that express the grammatical relation of the word to other words in the sentence.
cataphoric reference
The use of a word or phrase that refers to or stands for a later word or phrase.
circumstance adverbial
An adverbial that describes the circumstances relating to the main clause, by answering such questions as where, when, how, why and how much.
clause
A unit of grammatical organisation and in traditional grammar said to consist of a subject and predicate.
cleft
A grammatical construction with information broken into two clauses, to provide extra focus to one piece of information.
closed class
A class of words with a small number of members, such as articles or prepositions.
collective noun
A count noun that denotes a group of individuals or items.
collocation
The habitual juxtaposition of a particular word with another word or words with a high frequency.
common noun
A noun denoting a class of objects or a concept as opposed to a particular individual.
complement
One or more words, phrases, or clauses governed by a verb (or by a nominalisation or a predicative adjective) that complete the meaning of the predicate. In generative grammar, all the constituents of a sentence that are governed by a verb form the complement.
complex preposition
A preposition consisting of two or more words.
complex transitive
(of a verb or a sense or use of a verb) able to take a direct object, another object and/or object predicative (expressed or implied).
compound
A word which contains more than one lexical morpheme.
concord
Agreement between number and person between subject and verb.
concrete noun
A noun that refers to a concrete entity (traditionally an entity which is extended in time and space). Examples of concrete nouns are 'apple' and 'water'.
conjugation
The variation of the form of a verb in an inflected language such as Latin, by which the voice, mood, tense, number, and person are identified.
conjunction
A word used to connect clauses or sentences or to coordinate words in the same clause.
connotation
An idea or feeling which a word invokes for a person in addition to its literal or primary meaning.
constituent
Any unit which is part of a larger one. This can be a recognisable part of a word as with lexical compounds or it can be a phrase in a sentence as indicated in tree representations in phrase structure grammar.
conversion
The use of an item of one class in another without any formal change, e.g. to breakfast from breakfast. Conversion is a common feature of analytical languages such as English.
coordination
Connecting two or more clauses, phrases, words or other structures with equivalent status.
coordinator
A function word used to connect (or coordinate) two or more words, phrases or clauses with equivalent status.
copula
The primary verb 'be', occurring as a main verb.
countable noun
A noun that can form a plural and, in the singular, can be used with the indefinite article.
dangling participle / dangling modifier
An adverbial -ing or -ed clause with an understood subject that is different from the subject in the main clause.
declarative
Mood: (of a sentence or phrase) taking the form of a simple statement.
definite article
A determiner (the in English) that introduces a noun phrase and implies that the thing mentioned has already been mentioned, or is common knowledge, or is about to be defined .
degree
A relational specification which is found with adjectives and adverbs.
deictic word
Relating to or denoting a word or expression whose meaning is dependent on the context in which it is used.
demonstrative determiner
A determiner indicating the person or thing referred to.
demonstrative pronoun
A pronoun indicating the person or thing referred to.
denotation
The relationship between a word and the non-linguistic, 'outside' world.
dependent clause
A clause subordinate to another clause, phrase, or word.
Determiner
A grammatical function in a noun phrase which specifies the kind of reference a noun has
determiner
A word class such as articles, pronouns or numerals, which co-occur with a noun and in some way qualifies, or determines, the noun.
direct object
A noun (phrase) denoting a person or thing that is the recipient of the action of a transitive verb.
embedding
The insertion of one syntactic phrase or unit within another.
empty word
A word which does not carry any meaning of its own but which frequently plays a role in indicating a grammatical category or expressing a syntactic relationship.
exclamative
Mood: (of a sentence or phrase) mostly expressing surprise or anger.
finite verb
(of a verb form) marked by a specific tense, number, and person.
fronting
Place (a sentence element) at the beginning of a sentence instead of in its usual position, typically for emphasis.
function word
A word whose purpose is to contribute to the syntax rather than the meaning of a sentence.
gender
(in languages such as Latin, French, and German) each of the classes (typically masculine, feminine, common, neuter) of nouns and pronouns distinguished by the different inflections which they have and which they require in words syntactically associated with them. Grammatical gender is only very loosely associated with biological distinctions of sex.
gerund
A verb form which functions as a noun, in English ending in -ing.
gradable
Denoting an adjective that can be used in the comparative and superlative.
grapheme
The smallest meaningful contrastive unit in a writing system.
homograph
Each of two or more words spelled the same but not necessarily pronounced the same and having different meanings and origins.
homonym
Each of two or more words having the same spelling or pronunciation but different meanings and origins.
idiom
A group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words.
imperative
Mood: (of a sentence or phrase) expresses a command or exhortation.
indefinite article
A determiner (a and an in English) that introduces a noun phrase and implies that the thing referred to is non-specific.
indefinite determiner
A determiner that refers to indefinite quantities, or to definite but unknown people and objects.
indefinite pronoun
A pronoun that refers to indefinite quantities, or to definite but unknown people and objects.
indicative
Mood: (of a sentence or phrase) expressing simple statement of a fact.
indirect object
A noun phrase referring to someone or something that is affected by the action of a transitive verb (typically as a recipient), but is not the primary object.
infinitive
The basic form of a verb, without an inflection binding it to a particular subject or tense.
infix
Insert (a formative element) into the body of a word.
inflection
A change in the form of a word (typically the ending) to express a grammatical function or attribute such as tense, mood, person, number, case, and gender.
interrogative
Mood: (of a sentence or phrase) expressing questions.
interrogative determiner
A determiner in a noun phrase that formulates direct or indirect questions and exclamations.
interrogative pronoun
A pronoun used at the beginning of a question or interrogative clause.
intransitive
(of a verb or a sense or use of a verb) not taking a direct object.
irregular
(of a verb or other word) having inflections that do not conform to the usual rules.
lexeme
A basic lexical unit of a language consisting of one word or several words, the elements of which do not separately convey the meaning of the whole.
lexical category
A term that is used to indicate that words belong to different classes with different morphological and syntactic properties.
linking adverbial
An adverbial that links different clauses together.
main clause
A clause that can form a complete sentence standing alone, having a subject and a predicate.
mass noun
A noun denoting something that cannot be counted (e.g. a substance or quality), in English usually a noun which lacks a plural in ordinary usage and is not used with the indefinite article.
modal verb
An auxiliary verb that expresses necessity or possibility.
modifier
A word, especially an adjective or noun used attributively, that restricts or adds to the sense of a head noun.
mood
The use of verbal inflections that allow speakers to express their attitude toward what they are saying (e.g. a statement of fact, of desire, of command, etc.).
morpheme
A meaningful morphological unit of a language that cannot be further divided.
morphology
The level of linguistics which is concerned with the structure of words, both from the point of view of inflections and of word-formation.
negation
Reverses the truth of a clause or a phrase by means of a negative word (e.g. not, no, never), an indefinite pronoun/determiner (nothing, nobody, no) or an affix with negative force (non-, un-, iN-, -less).
nominative
Relating to or denoting a case of nouns, pronouns, and adjectives in Latin, Greek, and other inflected languages, used for the subject of a verb.
non-finite verb
(of a verb form) not limited by tense, person, or number.
non-restrictive relative clause
A clause which gives extra information that could be left out of a sentence without affecting the structure or meaning.
noun phrase
A phrase which has a noun as its head.
noun
A word (other than a pronoun) used to identify any of a class of people, places, or things (common noun), or to name a particular one of these (proper noun).
number
A grammatical classification of words that consists typically of singular and plural.
object
A noun or noun phrase governed by an active transitive verb or by a preposition.
object predicative
A function in the clause through which something is predicated about the Object of the clause.
ordinal number
A number defining the position of something in a series, such as ‘first’, ‘second’, or ‘third’. Ordinal numbers are used as adjectives, nouns, and pronouns.
part of speech
A category to which a word is assigned in accordance with its syntactic functions. In English the main parts of speech are noun, pronoun, adjective, determiner, verb, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection.
participle
A word formed from a verb (e.g. going, gone, being, been) and used as an adjective (e.g. working woman, burnt toast) or a noun (e.g. good breeding). In English participles are also used to make compound verb forms (e.g. is going, has been).
particle
A function word associated with another word or phrase to impart meaning.
passive voice
Denoting a voice of verbs in which the subject undergoes the action of the verb.
past tense
A tense expressing an action that has happened or a state that previously existed.
perfect
Aspect: denoting a completed action or a state or habitual action which began in the past.
person
A category used in the classification of pronouns, possessive determiners, and verb forms, according to whether they indicate the speaker (first person), the addressee (second person), or a third party (third person).
personal pronoun
Each of the pronouns in English (I, you, he, she, it, we, they, me, him, her, us, and them) comprising a set that shows contrasts of person, gender, number, and case.
phrasal verb
An idiomatic phrase consisting of a verb and an adverbial particle, as in ‘break down’, bound in meaning.
phrase
A small group of words standing together as a conceptual unit, typically forming a component of a clause.
plural
(of a word or form) denoting more than one, or (in languages with dual number) more than two.
positive
Denoting the primary degree of an adjective or adverb, which expresses simple quality without qualification.
possessive determiner
A determiner in a noun phrase that marks possession.
possessive pronoun
Pronouns that refer to something owned by the speaker or by someone or something previously referred to.
predicative
(of an adjective or noun) forming or contained in the predicate, as old in the dog is old (but not in the old dog) and house in there is a large house.
prefix
An element placed at the beginning of a word to adjust or qualify its meaning.
preposition
A word governing, and usually preceding, a noun or pronoun and expressing a relation to another word or element in the clause.
prepositional phrase
Part of a sentence which consists of a noun phrase preceded by a preposition and which functions in its entirety as a complement to a verb.
prepositional verb
A verb followed by a preposition, bound in meaning, in which the verb and preposition positions cannot be switched around or cannot be changed.
present tense
A tense expressing an action that is currently going on or habitually performed, or a state that currently or generally exists.
pro-form
A word or lexical unit which is dependent for its meaning on reference to some other part of the context.
progressive
Aspect: denoting an aspect or tense of a verb that expresses an action in progress
pronoun
A word that can function as a noun phrase used by itself and that refers either to the participants in the discourse (e.g. I, you) or to someone or something mentioned elsewhere in the discourse (e.g. she, it, this).
proper noun
A name used for an individual person, place, or organisation, spelled with an initial capital letter.
quantifier
A determiner or pronoun indicative of quantity.
reciprocal pronoun
A type of pronoun that expresses a mutual relationship between two or more parties.
reflexive pronoun
A type of pronoun that ends in -self and, prototypically, refers back to the subject of the clause.
relative clause
A clause that is attached to an antecedent by a relative pronoun.
relative determiner
A determiner in a noun phrase that initiates a relative clause.
relative pronoun
A pronoun which combines the function of a personal or demonstrative pronoun with that of a conjunction, subordinating one sentence or clause to another.
restrictive relative clause
A clause which gives extra information that could not be left out of a sentence without affecting the structure or meaning.
rheme
A term applied to the new information conveyed in a sentence.
root
1) In grammar the unalterable core of a word to which all suffixes are added. 2) In etymology, the earliest form of a word. 3) In phonetics, the part of the tongue which lies furthest back in the mouth.
semantic field
A lexical set of semantically related items.
semantics
The study of meaning in language.
sentence
The basic unit of syntax. A structural unit which contains at least a subject and a verb possibly with other complements and which may occur with subordinate elements (in relative clauses) or which may be concatenated with other sentences.
simple
Aspect: denoting a tense formed without an auxiliary.
singular
(of a word or form) denoting or referring to just one person or thing.
stance adverbial
An adverbial that expresses the speaker’s feelings, evaluation, or comment.
stem
The root or main part of a word, to which inflections or formative elements are added.
subject predicative
A function in the clause through which something is predicated about the Subject of the clause.
subject
A noun or noun phrase functioning as one of the main components of a clause, being the element about which the rest of the clause is predicated.
subjunctive
Mood: (of a sentence or phrase) expressing what is imagined or wished or possible.
subordinate clause
A clause, typically introduced by a conjunction, that forms part of and is dependent on a main clause.
suffix
A morpheme added at the end of a word to form a derivative.
superlative
(of an adjective or adverb) expressing the highest or a very high degree of a quality.
surface structure
The structure of a well-formed phrase or sentence in a language, as opposed to its underlying logical form.
syllable
A unit of pronunciation having one vowel sound, with or without surrounding consonants, forming the whole or a part of a word.
syntax
The study of the possible combinations of words in a language.
tense
A set of forms taken by a verb to indicate the time (and sometimes also the continuance or completeness) of the action in relation to the time of the utterance.
theme
The first major constituent of a clause, indicating the subject matter, typically being the subject but optionally other constituents.
transitive
(of a verb or a sense or use of a verb) able to take a direct object (expressed or implied).
tree diagram
A method of representing the structure of a sentence — or occasionally a compound — so that the internal hierarchical organisation is evident.
uncountable noun
A noun that cannot form a plural and cannot be used with the indefinite article.
verb
A word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence, and forming the main part of the predicate of a sentence.
voice
A form or set of forms of a verb showing the relation of the subject to the action.
word class
A category of words of similar form or function; a part of speech.
word order
The sequence of words in a sentence, especially as governed by grammatical rules and as affecting meaning.
word
A single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing, used with others (or sometimes alone) to form a sentence.