Questions tagged [terminology]

Words, phrases, and acronyms specific to the study of linguistics.

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52
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7answers
16k views

Is there a linguistics term meaning “it's grammatically correct, but nobody says that”?

This happens a lot when learning a foreign language: You learn some grammar structure, and insert some nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc., in the appropriate places, only to find out that no-one would ...
38
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14answers
438k views

What's the difference between phonetics and phonology?

Having practiced armchair linguistics for some years I should be able to sum up the difference off the top of my head, yet often I don't know which term to use. And looking them up on Wikipedia doesn'...
38
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9answers
193k views

What's the difference between syntax and grammar?

From what I've read, both terms have to do with the rules of formation of sentences. I've seen grammar used in mathematical contexts, in computability theory, where it has a precise definition. But ...
25
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2answers
3k views

What do you call an IPA symbol that lacks a name (e.g. ɲ)?

Some IPA symbols such as ɲ lack any name, and when I tried searching for the symbol online, the pages I got only showed palatal nasal. But I wonder what I should call it when I talk with others. Is ...
22
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2answers
16k views

What's the difference between a “false cognate” and a “false friend”?

There are two terms used for pairs of words (in the same or different languages) that look similar but are actually unrelated: false friend and false cognate. Are these terms synonymous? If not, what'...
22
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4answers
3k views

What is “case”?

As a non-linguist, I am confused about the concept of case. What is its definition, as linguists use it? Is it about the different forms that nouns/pronouns can take? Is it about the function of the ...
21
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7answers
1k views

What divides semantics from pragmatics?

To my understanding... Semantics is the raw meaning and connotations a word carries on it's own and pragmatics is the context-dependent meaning a word holds. Is this accurate? Can anyone explain it ...
21
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1answer
2k views

What is the name for a placename that contains what the thing is in a different language?

For example Mount Maunganui. In Māori maunganui means "large mountain" and thus when literally translated into English it means "Mount Large Mountain". Another example would be the river Avon. In ...
20
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3answers
1k views

Reversal of kinship terms when speaking to a child

When Turkish people speak to children, they often address them with the kinship term that the child is supposed to use for the speaker. For example a mother may call her child "anneciğim" ("my dear ...
18
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1answer
2k views

What is the idea behind calling the adverb the garbage can of words?

As chance would have it, I came across three unrelated persons each describing the adverb as the the garbage can among the word classes. It happened in Germany and the original wording was: ...
18
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8answers
43k views

What is the difference between native language, first language, mother tongue and L1?

Note: I'm not a linguist, and I realize I might be treading in a grey area here. I'm wondering what the differences (and/or similarities) between native language, first language, mother tongue and L1 ...
16
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3answers
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Meaning of star/asterisk in linguistics

In some dictionaries/lexica, I've seen the asterisk in front of old words. What does it mean/stand for? Example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proto-Germanic#Pre-Proto-Germanic *ǵʰóstis "stranger" >...
16
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6answers
980 views

Is there a term for the syntax difference between English “I like you” and Spanish “Tú me gustas”?

English and Spanish each have one main verb for "to like". In English "to like", the grammatical subject must be the one doing the appreciating: I like her. But with Spanish "gustar", the person ...
15
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3answers
2k views

What's the term for correspondence between the written and the spoken form of a language?

Not all languages have the same degree of correspondence between the spoken and the written form. Saying correspondence, I'm referring to the equivalence between what we write in a certain language ...
15
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5answers
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Are Written and Spoken English distinct languages?

First of all, I am not a linguist, but I was thinking the other night that being literate was almost the same as being bilingual. My reasoning is that sign language is distinct from written and ...
15
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1answer
487 views

What's this loanword phenomenon called?

I've noticed that loanwords often take on more specific meanings in the target language than in the source language. To give two very common examples, sake just means alcohol in Japanese and salsa ...
15
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3answers
2k views

What are some recommended online dictionaries for linguistic terms?

For one to find out about the definitions of "generative grammar", "sandhi phenomenon", "agglutinative morphology", etc.
14
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3answers
11k views

What is a mora?

What is a mora? I tried to read the Wikipedia article that answers this question, but found it difficult to understand. Ditto with the related LSE question: Is the concept of syllables ...
14
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2answers
13k views

What's the difference between accusative, unaccusative, ergative, and unergative?

What does it mean for a language or verb to be one or the other of these typologies (examples would help)? Can it be more than one at once?
13
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5answers
13k views

What is markedness?

I am confused about the meaning of markedness. From the Wikipedia page I read: The dominant term is known as the 'unmarked' term and the other, secondary one is the 'marked' term. In other words, ...
13
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2answers
18k views

What is the difference between “anaphora” and “deixis”?

I've been trying to understand an answer from another SE site (Japanese Language & Usage) where the answer involves the differences between anaphora and deixis. Here is the link. What would be ...
13
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3answers
34k views

What's the 'official' term for when a word is at the tip of your tongue?

If I remember correctly from the half year I studied linguistics, there is a sort of official name for the situation or state your brain (or your speech center) is in when a word is at the tip of your ...
13
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7answers
2k views

What is a phoneme in the context of a signed language?

A phoneme is the smallest contrastive unit in the sound system of a language. SIL.
13
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2answers
5k views

What does a computational linguist actually do?

Currently, I working on my application for the Bachelor of Philosophy program at Penn State to major in cognitive linguistics, but at I am also a computer science major, my advisor wants me to ...
13
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2answers
2k views

What's the difference between a form of a language and a dialect of a language?

I was wondering what's the difference between a form of a language and a dialect of a language? For example, Wikipedia states that British English is a form of English and not a dialect of English. ...
13
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4answers
2k views

How are proper nouns distinguished from other nouns in linguistics (not in orthography)?

When you ask most people the difference between common nouns and proper nouns they mostly can only tell you that proper nouns start with a capital letter. But this has problems: Capital letters and ...
13
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2answers
380 views

Is it possible for a non-native version of a language to be classed as a dialect?

I know pretty much what constitutes a dialect for native speakers of a language, but I wonder if countries that don't speak it as a primary language, but have a large segment of the population that is ...
13
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5answers
4k views

What does “generative” mean? Can a linguistic theory be non-generative?

If we ignore the political distinction "theories of those who generally agree with Chomsky" vs "theories of those who generally disagree with him" (which is better described by "Chomskian" vs "non-...
12
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5answers
6k views

Rudeness by being polite

When talking to learners of my mother tongue, Swedish, I've sometimes had to explain how using too polite language can be taken as rude or insulting, as it creates a certain distance between the ...
12
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3answers
3k views

Is a loanword also a cognate or are the two terms mutually exclusive?

A borrowing or loanword is when a word from language A is added to the lexicon of language B, with whatever phonological adaptations are necessary. But is a cognate only a word directly inherited ...
11
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3answers
1k views

What is the definition of “rare language”?

The term "rare languages" is sometimes used in newspaper headings, blog posts, etc. For example: This Innovative Platform Ensures That Kids in India Have Access to Stories in Their Mother Tongue, The ...
11
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3answers
7k views

What exactly is diglossia?

Any language has a formal variety, primarily (although not exclusively) used in writing, and one or more informal varieties, used in everyday speech. Yet, for some languages, like Norwegian and Arabic,...
11
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2answers
757 views

What is an “adjectival article”? Apparently Albanian “të” is one

Being in Albania I decided to sit down with a word frequency list of the language and look each up so I would know some of the common words I see around me. The second most common word in Albanian is ...
11
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4answers
11k views

When you think one word, but write another, similar sounding word?

If you are writing or typing and you are thinking of one word, but then type another word made of the same phonemes, what is that called and what are the linguistic and /or psychological phenomena ...
11
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5answers
71k views

What is recursion?

What is recursion? I've looked at the Wikipedia's explanation (recursion and then recursion in language) but that explanation is not really clear.
11
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3answers
535 views

Are different “aspects” of a Polish verb the same lexeme or different lexemes?

Polish verbs have two "aspects", imperfective and perfective, which means you use a different word depending on whether the activity you're describing is ongoing or habitual, or if it's definite or ...
10
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8answers
5k views

Why do we call sound pitches “low” and “high”?

We use "low" and "high" in everyday speech when talking about sound, pitch or even frequency. However, if you think of it, the sound of a bassoon is no way closer to the ground ("lower") than the ...
10
votes
2answers
390 views

What is the hierarchy for studies inside linguistics, or: How many different kinds of error can one make in language?

At least in my mind, language can be generally considered as a sequence of paragraphs, each being a sequence of sentences, each being a sequence of words, each being a sequence of letters. I ...
10
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4answers
1k views

What are the criteria for deciding whether a language is “natural”?

I read in the Linguistics section on the Wikipedia page for American Sign Language that ASL was "proven [to be a natural language] to the satisfaction of the linguistic community by William Stokoe, ...
10
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3answers
2k views

The origin of the term 'verb'

References tell me that the term 'verb' originally means 'word'. This is easily understood by usages such as 'verbal abuse', 'verbal agreement', 'he's very verbal', etc. That said, of all the various ...
10
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1answer
1k views

What is this feature of British English called?

In British English you'll often hear them post-fixing expressions that American English tends to keep up front. For example, I've heard British English speakers (golf commentators in particular) say ...
10
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5answers
28k views

What is the difference between a word root and a word stem?

What is the difference between a word's root and a word's stem?
10
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2answers
4k views

Is the German “conjunctive” the same as the “subjunctive” of other languages? If so why the different name?

Many languages have a subjunctive mood but German has a conjunctive. However is the German conjunctive just a different name for the same mood? If the two are different what is the difference? If not ...
10
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3answers
1k views

Meaning of sufformative versus suffix

In reading Daniel Block's commentary on Ezekiel, I have come across the word sufformative. (Block uses it of the Hebrew masculine singular ending -em.) I have searched all around but cannot find a ...
10
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3answers
11k views

Is a diphthong one phoneme or two, or does it depend?

In Mitch's answer to "What is the difference between a diphthong and a glide?" and its comments it seems more than one of us is at least a bit confused as to how many phonemes a single diphthong ...
10
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2answers
602 views

Proper terminology for the types of dual

I was reading an article about typology of Russian language by Gasparov, B. M. (“Structure of Russian language from typological point of view (Intro to sociogrammatics). Article 2. Morphology of the ...
10
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2answers
300 views

Is the prefix “proto-” reserved only for unattested languages ?

I'm not sure if there's a consensus in linguistic nomenclature about using the aforementioned prefix in naming the reconstructed languages. As we all probably know, in linguistics, there's a custom ...
9
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5answers
6k views

What is the difference between a copula and a transitive verb?

I can only speak from an English perspective. Be seems to me to be a transitive verb, when joining a subject and an object, yet it is described as a copula. What I mean is The bullseye is the ...
9
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3answers
11k views

What's the difference between recursion and embedding?

Chains of relative clauses and strings of attributive adjectives are both examples of recursion--Correct? Chains of relative clauses have each non-initial relative clause embedded within the previous ...
9
votes
2answers
330 views

What is it called when a word is constructed out of a language, but is not a part of that language?

I am not a linguist in any way shape or form, but I am studying Japanese, and came across this linguistic issue that fascinates me. Over on the Japanese Language and Usage site, there is a discussion ...

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