accusative See case.
active An active sentence is
one which has a basic pattern like the man is
running or the dog bit the cat, i.e.
it describes what one thing (the subject) does, often to
another thing (the object). The verb in an active sentence
can be said to be in the active mood. See also passive.
adjective A word which
qualifies or further describes a noun or noun phrase. Examples are
colourless and green which qualify ideas in Colourless
green ideas sleep furiously.
adverb A word which qualifies
or further describes a verb. Examples are furiously which qualifies sleep in Colourless
green ideas sleep furiously, or intensely which qualifies stared in He stared
at me intensely. Adverbs can also qualify adjectives, e.g.
astonishingly in an astonishingly vivid colour, or other adverbs,
e.g. extremely in the phrase extremely slowly. Many English adverbs are formed
from an adjective plus the ending -ly. Words
like very which can only qualify adjectives
or adverbs but not verbs are sometimes called adverbs, but are perhaps best put
in a separate category.
affricative An affricative is
a phone which can be
thought of as a very rapid, blended sequence of a stop and a fricative. The stop
and fricative must be produced in a very similar positions in the mouth. An
English example is the 'ch sound' in choose,
which is like a sequence of a 't sound' (a stop) and a 'sh sound' (a fricative).
The phrases white shoes and why choose? sound very similar when spoken
rapidly. In the IPA an
affricative is represented by the corresponding stop symbol followed by the
fricative symbol. It is important to note that the two symbols represent a
agreement The syntax of a natural
language often requires some words in a sentence to share certain
grammatical features, which can show up as changes in the morphology of the
words. This is called agreement; the words are said to agree in the relevant
feature(s). For example, in English, determiners and nouns must agree in number within a noun phrase. Thus this cat is acceptable since this and cat
are singular, but
these cat is unacceptable since these is plural but cat is singular.
allophone Each of the set of
correspond to a single phoneme of a language
is called an allophone. Allophones of the same phoneme generally occur in
different contexts and never distinguish one word from another. As an example,
the 't sounds' in tea and tree constitute allophones of one English /t/
phoneme. The production of the two sounds differs in that speaker's tongue is in
a slightly different place. A speech spectrograph will show a resulting sound
difference. However, no English words differ ONLY in the substitution of one of
these 't sounds' for the other.
anaphora Some words in a
sentence have little or no meaning of their own but instead refer to other words
in the same or other sentences. This process is called anaphora. Pronouns are a good
example. Consider the sentences: London had snow
yesterday. It fell to a depth of a metre. To understand the second
sentence it is necessary to identify it with
snow rather than London or yesterday. English allows various forms of
anaphora with verbs.
For example, in I wanted to finish today, but I
couldn't do it, the words do it refer
to finish today and hence can be called
approximant An approximant is
a phone in which the
tongue partly closes the airway, but not enough to cause a fricative. Examples
in English are the phones that begin lap and
woo. Approximants can be divided into liquids and glides. Approximants
(especially glides) have some similarities to vowels.
article In English, a / an and
the are called the indefinite and definite
articles respectively. See also determiner.
(of a verb) Verbs can
show not only the time location of an action (by grammatical tense), but also features
such as whether the action is thought of as completed or continuing. A change in
a verb which shows such a feature is often called an aspect of the verb. Compare
ate with was
eating in He ate rapidly when I came
in and He was eating rapidly when I came
in. Both refer to events in the past time; the difference lies in the
implied relationship between the actions of 'eating' and 'coming in'.
Syntactically, English has two marked aspects: progressive and perfect. The
progressive aspect is formed by using the auxiliary be and the verb ending -ing. For example, I
am eating it now implies both that the time is the present and that the
'eating' is currently in progress. The perfect aspect is formed by using the
auxiliary have and the appropriate verb
ending (usually -en or -ed): e.g. I have
eaten it now, which implies both that the time is the present and that
the 'eating' is finished. An English verb can show no aspect (e.g. runs), progressive aspect (e.g. is running), perfect aspect (e.g. has run) or both perfect and progressive aspects
(e.g. has been running).
aspiration If a phone is accompanied by a
'puff of air' it can be said to be aspirated. The 'p sound' in the English word
pit is aspirated and is thus slightly
different from the 'p sound' in spit, which
is not aspirated.
assimilation Particularly in
rapid speech there is a tendency for neighbouring phones to become more
similar, presumably to make pronunciation easier. For example, although the
words Aston and Asda are both written with an s, the second word
is normally pronounced as if spelt Azda. The
reason seems to be that [s] and [t] are both voiceless, whereas [z]
and [d] are both voiced.
Augmented Transition Network.
auxiliary In English, one of a
small set of verb-like words which can precede a main verb in a verb phrase. The auxiliaries
and verbs are sometimes said to form a 'verb group' or 'compound verb'. Examples
of auxiliaries are do in I really do not know, or may in I may see him
tomorrow. Auxiliaries have verb-like properties, and may show changes in
number, person and tense. Some words (e.g. have) can be either an auxiliary (e.g. I have seen him) or a verb (e.g. I have a car).
case Nouns, noun phrases and pronouns play different
roles in sentences. These roles correspond to changes of case in many languages.
Consider, for example, the sentences She saw
him and He saw her. The words she and he are
used when they form the subject of the sentence
and are said to be in the nominative case. She and he
must be changed to her and him respectively when they form the object of the sentence
and are said to be in the accusative case. Changes due to case
are restricted to pronouns in English, but in other languages (e.g. Russian,
Modern Greek), most nouns, pronouns, articles, adjectives, etc. will vary
according to case.
theta-role See theta role.
determiner (det) The definite
article plus a small
set of other similar words which qualify nouns or noun phrases (e.g. this, that, my) can be grouped as determiners.
They determine that a particular instance of the noun is being referred (back)
to. For example, There's a man at the door
-- the word a introduces a man into the
conversation. Tell the man I'll come in a
minute -- the word the refers back to
the previously mentioned man.
dialect Generally dialects of
a language are more similar than different languages. However, what is a dialect
and what is a language is often a political rather than a linguistic question.
The division of Serbo-Croat, the common language of former Yugoslavia, into two
languages, Serbian and Croatian, shows this rather sharply. A further example of
very similar languages which might be called dialects of the same language are
Dutch (spoken in the Netherlands) and Flemish (spoken in north-western Belgium.
On the other hand, in China there are languages which are mutually
un-intelligible when spoken but are often called dialects of one Chinese
language. It is important to note that although some dialects have more social
prestige in a country than others, this says nothing about their linguistic
diphthong If the tongue moves
significantly during the production of a vowel phone, the result is a
diphthong. A diphthong sounds like a rapid, blended sequence of two separate
vowels. An example in English is the vowel sound in the word kite, which is like a rapid combination of a kind
of 'a sound' and a kind of 'i sound'. In the IPA a diphthong is
represented by two vowel symbols. It is important to note that the two symbols
represent a SINGLE phone.
object See object.
ellipsis A technical term for
leaving out words in sentences. For example, in Brian ate the ice-cream and Judy the peaches,
there is ellipsis, since the word ate is
omitted after Judy.
feature See semantic feature.
feminine See gender.
fricative If during the
production of a phone,
air is made to pass through a narrow passage, a 'friction' sound or fricative is
produced (i.e. a more-or-less 'hissing' sound). English examples are the 'f
sound' in fee or the 'sh sound' in she.
gender In some languages (but
not English), nouns
fall into a small number of classes which require changes in the articles, adjectives, etc.
which qualify them. In Indo-European languages, these classes are traditionally
called genders and labelled according to whether nouns for males (masculine
gender), females (feminine gender) or neither (neuter gender) fall into these
classes. French has two genders, masculine and feminine, shown for example by
the use of le or la for the;
German and Modern Greek have three genders, having neuter as well. Note that
grammatical gender is not tied to biological sex, since, for example, the nouns
meaning 'a young girl' are neuter in both German and Modern Greek.
genitive See also case. Genitive is an
alternative word for possessive, i.e. the genitive case marks the noun or
pronoun as the possessor of something. In English, the genitive case of a noun
is shown in writing by adding an s together
with an appropriately positioned apostrophe. Thus of the boy becomes boy's, of the
boys becomes boys'. [But note that
of it becomes its, without an apostrophe.]
glide A glide is an approximant in
which the tongue and lips move during the production of the sound. English
examples are the initial phones in woo [w]
and you [j].
(1) The word grammar is used as a collective word for
morphology and syntax, i.e. for
patterns both within and between words.
(2) The word grammar is also used a technical term
for a rule-based approach which generates a particular set of sentences.
Formally, a grammar consists of a set of nonterminal symbols
(one of which is the start symbol), a set of
terminal symbols and a set of productions or
re-writing rules. Terminals (e.g. words) are the basic units of the sentences
which the grammar generates. Nonterminals are symbols used only in the grammar
itself. A production is a rule which says that the symbols on the left-hand side
can be re-written as those on the right-hand side. One of the nonterminals must
be the start symbol, i.e. the symbol from which re-writing starts.
grapheme A grapheme is a
'spelling unit'. For example, in Spanish the combination ll represents a different sound from a single
l. Thus these are two graphemes. In English,
graphemes may be quite complex. For example -tion behaves more-or-less as a single grapheme in
words like function.
idiolect The language used by
one individual is sometimes called an idiolect. A dialect or language can
then be regarded as a collection of mutually intelligible idiolects.
object See object.
Indo-European Linguists divide
languages into a number of families, based on similarity and shared descent.
Indo-European languages were natively spoken in a broad band through Europe to
northern India and Bangladesh. Historically, the only major non-Indo-European
languages spoken in this area were Finnish, Hungarian, Basque and Turkish. It is
believed that all the Indo-European languages are descended from one language
spoken around 4,000 BC. It is important to be aware that different language
families may be based on quite different principles, both in their sounds and in
inflection A grammatical
change in the form of a word (more accurately of a lexeme). In English,
inflections are restricted to the endings of words (i.e. -s is the usual
written plural inflection in English. Inflections in nouns may show changes of
number, gender, case, etc.; in verbs, of
number, person, tense, aspect, etc.
Intonation refers to changes in the tone or
frequency of sounds during speech. For example, in English the tone usually
falls at the end of a statement and rises at the end of a question, so that
You want some coffee. and You want some coffee? can be distinguished by tone
alone. In some languages (e.g. Chinese, Thai), sequences containing the same
phones but with different intonation patterns correspond to different
IPA The International Phonetic
Alphabet or IPA is a set of symbols which can be used to represent the phones and phonemes of natural
languages. A subset which can be used to represent 'Standard English English'
(roughly the dialect of middle-class people from the south east of England) is
given in a separate table.
language See natural
language and dialect.
length Length refers to the
time duration of a phone. The English words
beat and bead differ the length of the vowel as well as the
voicing of the terminal stop; the vowel is longer in bead than in beat. In some languages the length of consonants
may also be important.
lexeme The five words eat, eats, eating, eaten and ate are morphological
variants of the word eat. In a sentence
their underlying meaning will be the same. Thus we may say that the five words
form a single lexeme, i.e. a single 'meaning entity'. A dictionary would be
expected to contain only one definition for all five words.
lexicon Often used as a
technical term for the list of words and their types which is used with a grammar.
liquid A liquid is a kind of
English examples are the initial phones in lap and rap.
masculine See gender.
mood A verb may be in the active or passive mood, and hence
so may the sentence in which the verb appears. Compare the dog chased the cat (active) with the cat was chased by the dog (passive).
morphology The structure of
words and the study of this structure. Thus, for example, a morphological
analysis of the English word redefining
might yield the root define, the prefix
re indicating repetition, and the ending
nasal A nasal is a phone made by allowing
air to flow out of the nose while stopping it in the mouth. English has three
such phones: those which end the words rum,
run and rung.
language Any language naturally used by people, i.e.
not a man-made language like a programming language or Esperanto.
neuter See gender.
Natural Language Processing.
nominative See case.
nonterminal See grammar.
noun Generally defined as a
word standing for the 'name of something.' A useful test is that a noun or a
noun phrase can be
replaced by a pronoun, e.g. it or her.
Examples of nouns are people, cats and intelligence in Many
people think that cats have considerable intelligence. The strings of
words many people and considerable intelligence are noun phrases in this
Noun Phrase. See also phrase.
number In English, nouns and verbs can be described as
singular or plural depending on whether the reference is to one or to many. Thus
in the cat runs, cat is singular as is runs, whereas in cats
run, cats is plural as is run. English nouns are generally clearly marked as
singular or plural; verbs are clearly singular only in the third person singular of the
(of a sentence) The direct
object of an active sentence is a noun, noun phrase or pronoun which suffers
the action of the verb.
Thus in Those people dislike cats, cats is the object of the sentence. In English,
only pronouns show case, and become accusative when
forming the object of a sentence: thus, e.g., cats in the sentence above must be replaced by
them rather than they. In other languages, nouns, adjectives,
articles, etc. may all change case. The indirect
object of a sentence in English is a noun or equivalent which,
if the sentence were re-worded, would require a to (or sometimes a for). Thus in Your
mother gave my brother a cake, a cake
is the direct object and my brother the
indirect object, since if we reverse brother
and cake we need a togiving Your mother
gave a cake to my brother. Direct and indirect objects may take different
cases in some languages; e.g. in German, me
is mich (accusative) when it
is the direct object, but mir (dative) when
it is the indirect object. See also subject.
parse To analyse a sentence
using a grammar, including deciding whether it is valid and what its structure
is according to the grammar.
theta-role See theta role.
passive A passive sentence is
one which has a basic pattern like The cat was
killed or The cat was killed by the
dog, i.e. it describes what one thing (the subject) has done to
it, often by another thing. The verb in an passive
sentence can be said to be in the passive mood. See also active.
(of a verb) Verbs (in
Indo-European languages at least) often vary depending on whether the subject of the verb is
in the first person (singular = I, plural =
we), the second person (singular and plural
= you in modern English), or the third
person (singular = he, she or it,
plural = they). Only the verb be in the singular shows a full set of changes due
to person in modern English: I am, you are, it
phone A phone is a 'unit
sound' of a language in the sense that it is the minimal sound by which two
words can differ. For example, the English word feed contains three phones since each can be
independently substituted to form a different word. In the IPA, the three phones can
be written as [f], [i] and [d]. Examples of substitutions are: [fid] - [f] + [s]
gives [sid], i.e. seed; [fid] - [i] + [u]
gives [fud], i.e. food; [fid] - [d] + [t]
gives [fit], i.e. feet. The whole of each
phone must be substituted to change one word into another. It is important to
note that whether or not speakers can distinguish between sounds is not a test
of whether they constitute distinct phones. The word tea could be represented as [ti] and the word
tree as [tri]. However, the two 't sounds'
are not quite the same: the tongue is further back in the mouth when pronouncing
the [t] in [tri] than when pronouncing the [t] in [ti]. How far to divide up
phones is essentially a pragmatic question. See also allophone, phoneme.
phoneme A phoneme is a
minimally distinctive set of sounds in a language; sound sequences which differ
in a single phoneme can constitute different words. Thus the pairs tipdip and trip-drip show that English has two distinct
phonemes, which we can write as /t/ and /d/, since substituting one for the
other produces a different word. However, the pronunciation of /t/ (and /d/) is
not the same in each pair: the tongue is further back in the mouth when /t/ is
followed by /r/. Hence there are at least two phones corresponding to
the /t/ phoneme. However there are no two English words in which the ONLY
difference is that the 't sound in trip' is
replaced by the 't sound in tip' -- these
two sounds are allophones of the
same phoneme. English speakers do not need to recognize the difference between
phonetics Phonetics is the
study of the sounds of speech (i.e. the study of phones). It can be
distinguished from phonology which is more concerned with the
underlying theory (i.e. the phonemes which underlie
phones and the rules which govern the conversion of phonemes to phones and vice
rule At some theoretical level, words can be
considered to be composed of phonemes. The actual
sound of a word then depends on which allophone is chosen
for each phoneme. The context-sensitive rules which determine this are called
phonological rules. Thus the word input can
be considered to contain the phoneme /n/. However in fast speech in many
dialects of English, the phone used will be [m]. The relevant phonological rule
for English is that a nasal becomes articulated at the same position as a
phonology See phonetics.
phrase A string of words can
often act as an exact grammatical substitute for a single word; such a string is
called a 'phrase'. Thus e.g. a noun can be replaced by a
noun phrase -- compare Whiskers is over
there with That appalling pet of yours is
over there, in which That appalling pet of
yours is a noun phrase equivalent to the noun Whiskers.
plural See number.
pragmatics A technical term
meaning, roughly, what the person speaking or writing actually meant, rather
than what the words themselves mean.
preposition A preposition is
one of a finite set of words (e.g. at, from, by)
which in English must usually be followed by a noun or its equivalent. A
(PP) consists of a preposition followed by a noun, pronoun or noun phrase.
Two major uses of prepositional phrases are to show location (e.g. on the mat in the cat
sits on the mat) and motion (e.g. into the
house in the cat runs into the
house). The word preposition comes
from pre plus position. In other languages (e.g. the Indo-European
languages of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh), there are
postpositions: words which come after a noun or its
production See grammar.
pronoun A pronoun is one of a
small set of words which can substitute for a noun or noun phrase. It usually
refers back to a previous occurrence of the noun or noun phrase. Thus, e.g.,
it in the previous sentence is a pronoun
which refers back to A pronoun in the
sentence before. The process of referring is sometimes called anaphora.
semantics A system where the meaning of a word just
is the thing it refers to.
Recursive Transition Network.
feature A semantic feature is a 'primitive' which a
language processor (human or computer) is assumed to be able to determine
independently of the language system. The meaning of words such as nouns or adjectives can then
be described in terms of sets of these features. For example we might describe
the meaning of words such as boy, man, girl and
woman in terms of the features YOUNG, MALE
and HUMAN. Boy would be [+YOUNG, +MALE,
+HUMAN], woman would be [-YOUNG, -MALE,
semantics Used as a technical
term for the meaning of words and sentences (see also pragmatics).
singular See number.
symbol See grammar.
stop Some phones are produced by
completely stopping and then releasing the flow of air out of the mouth. These
sounds are called stops. In most dialects of English there are three stop
positions, corresponding to the initial phones in pale, tale and
stress Words can be divided
into syllables, usually centred around a vowel. In many languages,
including English, the duration and relative loudness of a syllable -- its
stress -- are important. Thus only stress distinguishes the noun process (as in the sentence This process is called assimilation) from the much
less common verb process (as in the sentence
I usually process at the degree ceremony).
The noun is stressed on the first syllable, the verb on the second.
Speech To Text.
subject(of a sentence) The
subject of a sentence is the noun or noun equivalent
which performs the action of the verb. See also object.
syntax The syntax of a
language comprises, roughly speaking, the patterns into which its words can be
validly arranged to form sentences. The combination of morphology and
syntax is sometimes called the grammar of a
tense(of a verb) The tense
of a verb specifies the time at which its action occurs. The clearest examples
in English are the present and past tenses. When saying I am eating an apple the speaker refers to the
present; when saying I was eating an apple,
s/he refers to the past. Tense and aspect are not easy to
separate in English: I have eaten the apple
is partly a reference to the past (tense), and partly a reference to the
action's being complete rather than continuing (aspect).
node A node in a transition network at which parsing
terminal See grammar.
role See theta role.
role Also written using the Greek letter instead of
the word theta. Verbs require a number of
other components to be present in a sentence to complete their meaning. These
components can be said to play participant theta roles. For
example, in the sentence The girl put the bottles
on the table, the action of 'putting' involves three necessary thematic
roles. These are Agent, the entity doing the putting; Patient, the entity which
suffers the action of being put; and Location, where the Agent puts the Patient.
A sentence containing the verb put will
involve these three roles, even if they occur in different positions due to the
syntax of the sentence. Thus exactly the same entities play exactly the same
theta roles in the sentence The bottles were put on
the table by the girl although the syntax is different from the previous
sentence. In addition to participant theta roles, there are
circumstantial theta roles. These show additional, non-required
components. For example, in the kitchen
plays a participant theta role in He was putting
apples in the kitchen but only a circumstantial theta role in He was eating apples in the kitchen. In both
cases in the kitchen is a location, but
put requires this role, eat merely allows it to be present.
Text To Speech.
unvoiced See voicing.
verb A verb is traditionally
described as a 'doing' word; thus in the sentences Colourless ideas sleep furiously and The dog bit the cat, sleep and bit
are verbs. English makes extensive use of 'verb groups' or 'compound verbs',
such as has been eating in He has been eating fish in which one or more auxiliaries is
combined with a verb.
voiced See voicing.
voiceless See voicing.
voicing Voicing refers to
whether or not the vocal cords are vibrated during the production of a phone. Phones such as vowels or [b] or [d] in
which the vocal cords are vibrated are said to be voiced.
Phones such as [s] or [p] in which the vocal cords are not vibrated are said to
be voiceless or unvoiced.
vowel (1) A phone which is produced
by allowing lung air to pass over the vibrating vocal cords and then freely out
of the mouth is called a vowel. Thus vowels can be continued until you run out
of breath. The positions of the lips and tongue alter the size and shape of the
resonating cavity to produce different sounds. (2) A letter of the alphabet
usually pronounced using a vowel phone is also called a vowel. Be careful to
distinguish these two usages. In a language with non-phonemic spelling, such as
English, they can be quite different. The word site, for example, contains two vowel letters but
only one vowel phone.