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Linguistics

The articles here are more to do with the theoretical side of language than TEFL as such. They examine different areas of language and linguistics and though interesting to TEFL teachers they are not directly related to teaching.

They look at the inner workings of language. Why language works like it does, in other words. Think of learning about linguistics in the same way you’d learn how an internal combustion engine works. Linguistics is what’s under the hood… you don’t need to know it to drive a car, but it helps understand what’s going on if you ever break down!

So… TEFL teachers should find these useful in providing more of a background to their teaching and students, too, will find them helpful in understanding language at a slightly deeper level.

Accent, Dialect & Language in English

What is the difference between Accent, Dialect and Language?

This article looks at the differences between the three terms. People often confuse them and there is a certain degree of overlap (even linguists don’t always agree on what the difference is between them) but generally speaking we can talk about:
Accents
Accent is all about pronunciation. Two people may use the same grammar, the same syntax and…

Accuracy vs Fluency in TEFL

English‏‎ is an international language which people from all over the world learn in order to communicate with each other. Accuracy and Fluency are two factors which can determine the success of English language students in the future.

Essentially accuracy is the ability to produce correct sentences using correct grammar‏‎ and vocabulary‏‎. On the other hand, fluency is the ability to produce‏‎ language easily and smoothly.
Accuracy…

Affixes in English

An affix is a morpheme‏‎ that is attached to a root‏‎ (or stem) of a word‎ to form another word.

For example, take the word reason and add two affixes:
un + reason + able
Prefixes and suffixes are common types of affixes.

A prefix is an affix which is placed before a root.
un + kind = unkind
re + act = react
mis +…

Anagrams & TEFL

What are Anagrams?
Anagrams are simply rearrangements of letters from one word‏‎ or phrase to make another word or phrase.

The word itself comes from the Greek, anagrammatismos, ana- (up, again, back, new) + -gram (letter).

For example, the following are a few interesting anagrams.

dormitory
dirty room

Clint Eastwood
old west action

Madam Curie
radium came

a telephone…

Antonyms or Opposites in English

An Antonym or Opposite is a word which – generally speaking – has the opposite meaning to another word. For example, the following are antonyms:
big ↔ small
fat ↔ thin
tall ↔ short
old ↔ young
male ↔ female
Some words will have more than one antonym depending on context. For example
big ↔ small, tiny, miniature
And the antonym of antonym? That’s synonym which describes a word having the same meaning…

Applied Linguistics

Applied Linguistics is all about using the results of language study in real life teaching.

Linguistics‏‎ is the formal study of language. When the results of these studies are applied to TEFL at the chalkface, then this is applied linguistics. It is a relatively recent science and began to come to prominence in the 1950s in Europe and the United States.

Generally speaking, applied linguists ask a number…

Azerbaijani vs English

Azerbaijani or Azeri Turkish has over 30 million speakers based in both Azerbaijan‏‎ and the surrounding countries.

It’s closely related to Turkish and is, to a certain extent, mutually understandable.

Although there are a couple of major varieties (Northern Azerbaijani and Southern Azerbaijani) and many local dialects, they do not differ substantially and speakers don’t usually have a problem understanding each other.

Northern Azerbaijani is spoken by…

Bilingualism‏‎

It is often said that dreaming in a foreign language is proof of one’s complete mastery of that language. Dreams are the expression of our subconscious. If in our dreams we use a foreign language intelligibly then that can only mean that we have achieved the internalization of the foreign language to a subconscious level. In other words we have become bilingual! Being bilingual means living and breathing two languages…

Computational Linguistics

At its simplest, Computational Linguistics (or CL) is all about trying to create a computer which uses language in the same way as a human does. The Holy Grail would be a human having a conversation with a computer but thinking they were talking to a another human.

But this is just the tip of a giant linguistic dark continent which has never been fully mapped and since it…

Consonants‏‎ in English

The word consonant comes from the Latin word consonare meaning sound together. The English language contains 21 consonants (along with 5 vowels‏‎). The 21 consonants are: b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z In English, no words can be formed with consonants only. Commonly cited as exceptions are words like sky and fly; although listed within the…

Converse Terms

Converse Terms are pairs of words which refer to the same thing but from opposite sides.

Take for example the picture on the right. There is one action taking place here: a balloon is being passed between two people. However, we can describe this action in different ways depending on whose perspective we look at it from:
The boy gives the balloon to the girl.
The girl takes the…

Corpus (pl Corpora) and TEFL

A Corpus (plural Corpora) is a large collection of written texts which are used in computational linguistics for analysis of the way language is used. They are most often analyzed using a concordancer‏‎.
Types of Corpora
A corpus can be one or more of the following:

monolingual
multilingual
general texts
texts on a specific subject or genre e.g. scientific papers, Shakespeare plays only…

Corpus Linguistics

Simply put, Corpus Linguistics is the study of language using computer programs which analyze millions of lines of texts held in a corpus (pl, corpora). To begin with masses of samples of language are collected: from newspapers, books, transcripts of the spoken word, etc. These can then be marked up, that is, tagged to show the various parts of speech they consist of. Life + is + a + long…

Different Types of English in TEFL

When you teach English as a foreign language you don’t just teach “English”.

No, you teach a specific type of English depending on your class: different people need different English.

You can view this in the same way as dance. If you go to a dance class you don’t just learn to dance in general but instead learn Latin or Ballroom or Jazz or Modern, etc…

Diphthongs in English

The word diphthong (also spelt dipthong) comes from the Greek‏‎ δίφθογγος meaning with two sounds, or with two tones. To see what we mean, try saying these words‏‎ out loud and concentrate on the sound of the vowels‏‎ and the shape of your mouth when you say them. loudnewbeerwidelate You’ll find that the vowel sound in each of these words changes considerably when you say the word. You’ll also notice that the…

EFL‏‎ – English as a Foreign Language

EFL is an acronym we use to talk about English as a Foreign Language. EFL students are students learning English as a foreign language, that is, as a language other than their mother tongue or primary language. EFL students usually live in non English speaking countries and want to learn English mainly to use it on their travels or business trips abroad and to communicate with English speaking visitors to…

English – the language we teach!

English is the reason we’re here. This article is an overview of the language and explores a little of its history and statistics.

English (like all other languages) isn’t a pure language. It is basically a mixture, a hodgepodge of other languages which has developed and formed over time.

The basis of English was originally a West Germanic language related to Dutch and Frisian however over the years…

English for Tourism‏‎

English for Tourism is a branch of ESP or English for Special Purposes‏‎. Whilst sometimes it is about teaching people who will visit an English speaking country, more often it is teaching English to people who will work in the tourist industry, for example: hotel employees, travel agents, tour guides, airport officials, etc. A main area of this sector is key language points and important vocabulary to do with tourism…

English the Most Influential Language

A new study has mapped the global influence of different languages and as a surprise to absolutely no one, English comes out as the most important and influential language.

Russia, somewhat more surprisingly, comes in second with other languages following up well behind.

The data was collected by researchers at MIT and essentially looked at texts which had been translated from one language to another. They mapped the…

ESOL – English to Speakers of Other Languages

ESOL is an acronym meaning English to Speakers of Other Languages.

It is all about people who do not have English as a mother tongue, learning English.

A more common term to ESOL is ESL which means English as a Second Language and refers to people learning English to live in an English speaking country, e.g.

immigrants who have moved to a new country…

Fillers

In linguistics‏‎, a filler is a sound or word in speaking‏‎ used by someone to show that they haven’t finished speaking yet but are either forming their thoughts into speech or mentally searching for the right word‏.

Common fillers in English are:

um – /um/
er – /ə/

However, we can also use words (and sometimes phrases‏‎) which don’t add any meaning to what we say…

Finnish vs English

Finnish is spoken by the majority of people in Finland (92%) and ethnic Finns outside of Finland. It’s one of the two official languages of Finland (along with Swedish). It is related to Estonian and a few other minority languages in the region. Finnish uses the Latin alphabet with å, ä, and ö in addition to the 26 letters of the English alphabet‏‎. Finnish, unlike English, is also a phonetic language…

Foreign Language‏‎

If someone learns English but they live in a non-English speaking country they are most likely learning English as a Foreign Language or FL. They do not need English for everyday survival and needs, but they will need it to conduct business or take an exam or when they are visiting abroad and so on. For example, suppose a young girl in China wants to become a pilot. She will…

French vs English

The English‏‎ language was heavily influenced by French in the past and there is a great deal of overlap between the two languages, both in terms of vocabulary and grammar.

However there are a number of major issues that French native speakers have when they learn English and this article is all about the common problems you’ll have when teaching English to French speakers and how to overcome…

Frisian vs English

Frisian refers to a closely related group of Germanic languages: West Frisian spoken in the Netherlands Saterland Frisian spoken in Lower Saxony, Germany‏‎ North Frisian spoken in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany East Frisian Low Saxon, the dialect of East Frisia in Lower Saxony, Germany Although the language was at risk of being eroded by German‏‎ there have been moves to spread its use and now about 350,000 people speak it, mainly in the…

Generative Grammar

Generative Grammar is a branch of theoretical linguistics that tries to provide a set of rules that can accurately predict which combinations of words‏‎ are able to make grammatically correct sentences‏‎. Generally speaking it suggests that humans have the ability to learn language built in and just by exposure to language they can learn it.

In basic terms it looks at the way English is put together and tries to…

Greek vs English

Greek is spoken by about 12 million people. The majority of these are in Greece and Cyprus‏‎ whilst the Greek diaspora are generally bilingual.

This article looks at the kinds of problems Greek as a mother tongue speakers have in learning English.
Background
In Greece English films are subtitled on the television rather than dubbed and exposure to English, albeit passively, is widespread. American and British…

Homophones‏‎

Homophones are words that sound the same but with very different meanings.

The words are usually spelt differently or, if they are spelt the same, come from different roots. For example, the words may be spelt the same, such as rose (as in the flower) and rose (as in the past verb form‏‎ of rise), or differently, such as two and too.

Homophones are often used…

How Many Tenses Are There in English?

How many Tenses are there in English? It sounds like a simple question, but, unfortunately, it isn’t.

This is because different people – including both students and TEFL teachers – have different definitions of what a tense actually is and there is no single, accepted one.

However, in English there are 3 general definitions of what a tense is all about:
Tenses & Time
Some people…

Indlish or English‏‎

The Facts Surat is a port city in the state of Gujarat situated on the banks of the Tapti river, in central India. Surat is one of the largest and most populous cities in India. It is the administrative capital of the Surat District, the 2nd largest city in the state of Gujarat, and the 8th Metro city of India. Gujarati is the main language spoken in Surat and the…

Inflection in English Grammar

Inflection refers to the way we change the form of a word to show different parts of grammar such as voice, person‏‎, number, gender‏‎, mood, tense or case.

A simple example is when we change I to me depending on where it is used in a sentence. The person remains the same, the word changes.
I love you.
You love me.
Although some languages are highly inflected with complex…

Innatism in TEFL

There are many approaches to the study of language: cultural, social, artistic, historical etc.

There is also an approach which looks at language and how the brain manages to decode and use it. To explore this idea, take a look at this famous sentence:
Colorless green dreams sleep furiously.
It was created by the linguist, Noam Chomsky‏‎, and it is a good example of a perfectly correct…

Intonation in English

Intonation is the system of rising and falling levels, as well as variations in pitch sequences, when we speak. People don’t talk in a monotone (unless they’re very boring) but instead there is rising and falling in what they say.

In other words, intonation is the melody of speech.

Intonation is about how we say things, rather than what we say. It helps us understand the…

IPA – International Phonetic Alphabet

The IPA or International Phonetic Alphabet is an alphabet‏‎ of sounds (not letters). It is used to show how to pronounce words‏‎.

Using the IPA in your class is a useful tool to give your students. It will help them understand the pronunciation of English words they find in the dictionary‏‎ and also enables you to explain pronunciation quickly and efficiently to them.

The IPA does not necessarily…

Italian vs English

Italian (= italiano or lingua italiana) is a Romance language spoken by about 60 million people in Italy‏‎, and by another 10 million Italian descendants in the world, particularly in Argentina‏‎, Uruguay, southern Brazil‏‎ and Venezuela where they form a very strong physical and cultural presence.

Italian is also the official language of the small state of San Marino and the Swiss cantons of Grigioni and Ticino. It is…

Japanese vs English

Japanese is an East Asian language spoken by about 125 million speakers, primarily in Japan, where it is the national language.

According to recent research by the FSI Japanese is the hardest language for English speakers to learn and, presumably, Japanese speakers find learning English the hardest also. This article then is about the kind of problems and issues Japanese speakers have when they learn English.
Word Order in…

Korean vs English

Korean is spoken as a first language by over 70 million people. This article looks at the kind of issues Korean native speakers have when they learn English. Overview Korean is the official language of North Korea‏‎ and South Korea as well as the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in China. It is the first language of approximately 72 million people. English education is big business in South Korea and many…

Language Acquisition and Language Learning‏‎

While need or motivation can be strong impulses in second language learning, they do not influence language acquisition. The question is do we as children acquire language for any other reason than that we are communicating (speaking) animals and language is as natural to us as breathing? I think part of the way we learn a second language is similar to the way we learnt our first language. How much?…

Language Functions and TEFL

When we talk about Language Functions, we are talking about the reason we use a language. This can be contrasted with grammar which is how the language works.

Functions are why we use language: to greet people, to order a meal, to ask the time and so on. Grammar, on the other hand, is how words fit together so we can understand each other.
Communication
At its…

Language Register in TEFL Teaching

In linguistics‏‎, the term Language Register is used to talk about the type of language a person might use in a certain social context, in other words, how formally they will speak.

For example:

A speaker might say I never done nuffin’ when talking to their friends, but when presented before the Queen that same speaker may well change the way they speak and say…

Latin vs English

Latin was the language spoken by the Ancient Romans around 2,000 years ago. It developed in the Italian peninsula specifically in Latium, the region of central western Italy, in which the city of Rome was founded and grew to be the capital city of the Roman Empire. The original people living there were the Latins and the word, Latin in fact means the “language of the Latins.” Latin quickly reached…

Lemmas in English Vocabulary

Simply put, a lemma is the base form of a word, typically found in a dictionary where it’s known as a headword.

From the lemma we can form many related words. So, for example, here are a few lemmas and their forms:
do: do, does, did, doing
run: running, ran
fruit: fruits, fruity, fruitful
Interestingly, the 10 most common lemmas make up about 25% of all words we use!
Lemmas…

Lexical Chunks

A Lexical Chunk is a unit of language which is made up of two or more words.

Here are a few examples of lexical chunks:
Good morning.
Nice to see you!
What’s the time?
Other lexical chunks can include phrasal verbs‏‎, idioms, collocation‏‎s and so on.

Lexical chunks are the common coinage of English. They’re the bread and butter, the everyday and the mundane. They’re the…

Lingua Franca

Here’s a scenario for you: a ship sinks at sea and 10 survivors manage to struggle to a desert island. Each survivor comes from a different country and speaks a different language. And none of them speak any other language other than their own.

Ten years later a rescue boat finally arrives and they discover the survivors all speaking a strange language between them.

The survivors…

Maltese

Maltese is primarily the language spoken in Malta (alongside English). The language comes from Siculo-Arabic which is the form of Arabic spoken in Sicily about 1,000 years ago. The vocabulary of Maltese is about 50% derived from Italian‏‎ and Sicilian with around 15% English words…

Mandarin (Chinese)

There is not one single Chinese language as such but several varieties of Chinese which are more or less mutually understandable; the language is spoken by over 1 billion people (making is more popular than English). Of the different varieties Mandarin is the most widely spoken version with over 800 million speakers. This includes “Standard Chinese” which is the Beijing dialect of Mandarin. (The other major variety is Cantonese.) MT…

Monolingualism

Monolingualism is knowing and using just one language. This language will be the speaker’s mother tongue‏‎.

Contrast this with bilingualism. where someone knows and uses 2 languages as mother tongues and also multilingualism‏‎ where someone has more than 2 languages as their mother tongues.

A person who speaks just one language is a monoglot. Although no reliable statistics are available, anecdotal evidence suggests that native born…

Mother Tongue (MT) Influence

MT Influence or Mother Tongue Influence is when the grammar‏‎ or vocabulary‏‎ of a student’s Mother Tongue‏‎ influence the way in which they use their Target Language‏‎ or TL.

For example, in Greek‏‎ (and a number of other languages) people say open or close a light instead of turn on and turn off. Thus a Greek learner may well say:
* I closed the light and went to sleep.
*…

Multilingualism

Multilingualism is the ability to speak more than one language.

In some definitions this means speaking a language as a native speaker or to native speaker standard, however some definitions are more flexible allowing multilingual to mean being able to communicate in more than one language (though not necessarily to native speaker standard).
Types

type
explanation

monolingual
speaking 1 language only…

n-grams and TEFL

In the fields of computational linguistics an n-gram is a sequence of items from a corpus‏‎ of language.

An n-gram could be any combination of letters, phoneme‏s, syllable‏‎s or words‏‎, etc. Looking at n-grams is useful to help work out how language works and is used in everyday situations.

Google Books offers an n-gram search online. This allows users to see how a word, etc, is used. It…

Native Speakers

A native speaker of English is a person who has grown up speaking English‏‎ as their first language or mother tongue‏‎. In terms of English teachers this usually means from one of the major English speaking countries: the USA‏‎, the United Kingdom, Ireland‏‎, Australia, Canada‏‎, New Zealand‏‎ or South Africa‏‎.

A non-native speaker is someone who has learned English at school and knows English in addition to their mother tongue…

Neologisms‏‎

A Neologism is newly created (or “coined”) word. New words often apply to new concepts or inventions, or perhaps when an old idea takes on a new meaning. Some random neologisms: aspirin hyperspace internet Islamaphobia wiki bling wmd phishing Quite simply, these words did not exist several years ago. Trivia Washington Post columnist Bob Levey ran a monthly neologism competition for over 20 years (from 1983 til 2004, when he…

New Zealand English‏‎

New Zealand English (NZE) is a variety of English which is close to Australian English in pronunciation but has several subtle differences often overlooked by people from outside these countries. Some of these differences show New Zealand English to have more affinity with the English of southern England than Australian English does whilst others indicate the influence of the local Maori speech. In pronunciation NZE shares sounds with both Australian…

Phonemes in English

Phonemes are the smallest possible sounds in a language which have a distinct meaning.

So what does that mean in practice?

Well, take these two words:
kiss – miss
When we say them, the only difference is the very first sound of each word:
k and m
This means that those two sounds, k and m, are phonemes because when one changes to the other, the…

Phonology‏‎

Phonology is the branch of linguistics concerned with the study of the sound system of a language. Contrast this with Phonetics which which studies the sounds of speech and they way in which they are interpreted. Generally speaking it is not necessary to have an academic knowledge of this subject in order to teach effectively…

Pidgin & Creole

These 2 terms are related and often overlap. They’re used to talk about different methods used to communicate.

Simply put:

Pidgin is a simplified form of language used by two different groups to communicate.
Creole is a pidgin which has formed into a full language (and is learnt as a mother-tongue by children)

Pidgin
A Pidgin is a simplified form of language that…

Punctuation‏‎ in English

Punctuation is the use of different marks to show how a sentence‏‎ is constructed and should be read and understood. It is, if you like, the written equivalent of pauses and emphasis.

In English the following punctuation marks are used:

apostrophes
brackets or parentheses
colon
commas
dashes or hyphens
ellipsis‏‎
emoticons
exclamation mark
inverted commas or quotation…

Puns in TEFL Teaching

Puns are ambiguous; they are words (or phrases) which sound the same but which have two very different meanings used for humorous effect. (A traditional explanation of a pun is a “play on words” but since this defines everything from puns to Spoonerisms to Malapropsims to Pig Latin it really is too general to use here.)

This example illustrates a pun well:
A boiled egg for breakfast…

Runes vs English

Runes are the letters in the runic alphabets. Runic alphabets were alphabets used by various Germanic tribes not only to write their own languages but also in divination and magic. They were used throughout northern Europe, Scandinavia, the British Isles, and Iceland before Christianity spreading from Rome took over and made these tribes abandon their runic alphabets to adopt the Latin alphabet.

The earliest runic inscriptions date back…

Second Language Acquisition‏‎ or SLA

The way in which someone learns a second language‏‎ is known as Second Language Acquisition or SLA.
Overview
SLA is often regarded as mimicking the way in which native speakers acquire their first language (or Mother Tongue‏‎ (MT)) and it is often felt that imitating this methodology in the classroom is the most useful way to help learners acquire a second language.

There are several main stages involved here…

Second Language‏‎

When a student learns English in order to live and work in an English speaking country we say they are learning English as a Second Language.

For example, these kinds of people learn English as a second language:

an Afghan refugee resettled in Australia
a Russian student who is studying at an American university
a French woman who marries an English man and goes…

Semantic Fields in TEFL

A semantic field (sometimes known as a lexical field) is a group of words related by meaning. In teaching a semantic field could be:

animals
verbs of perception‏‎
foodstuffs

In practical terms the definition is quite loose and general.

Sometimes a word will belong to just one semantic field but more usually it will belong to several. For example the…

Semantics

Semantics is the study of meaning. This can include the meaning of individual words‏‎ and also the way in which their meaning may have changed over time. Meaning in languages is mainly studied by linguists. In fact, semantics is one of the main branches of contemporary linguistics. But there are also strong connections to philosophy. In the last century much work in semantics was done by philosophers, and some important…

Sound Stress in English

Stress is used to talk about the emphasis given to certain sounds, words or phrases‏‎ when we speak. In English there are basically 2 times we talk about stress: on words in an utterance; and on syllable‏‎s in a word. Stress on Syllables Take the word, august, as an example. It is made up of 2 syllables: au + gust If we stress the first syllable then the word is pronounced august…

Spanish vs English

¿Hablas español? About 470 million people do! In fact Spanish is the second most popular first language in the world (after Mandarin; English is third) and also the third most popular language on the internet (after English then Mandarin). As a first language it is mainly spoken in Spain, Latin America and the USA but it is also a popular second language with 78 million people speaking it; it is…

Stephen Krashen

Professor emeritus at the University of Southern California. Krashen is a linguist, an educational researcher, and an activist.

Krashen has contributed to the fields of Second Language Acquisition (SLA), Bilingual Education, and Reading.

He is credited with introducing various influential concepts and terms in the study of second language acquisition, including the Acquisition – Learning Hypothesis, the Input Hypothesis, the Monitor Theory, the Affective Filter, and…

Syllables in English Pronunciation

A Syllable is a unit of spoken language which typically consists of a vowel‏‎, optionally with a consonant before and/or after it. The number of letters in a syllable is not important as it is the sound of the syllable which matters.

One way to think of syllables is as beats of a song. For example, here’s a line from Happy Birthday:
Happy Birthday dear Annabel
And here it…

Syntax in English

Simply put, Syntax is the collection of rules which go together to form sentences and phrases in a language.

For example, the rules of syntax say that an English sentence can be formed thus:
{subject} + {verb} + {object}
Michael + rowed + the boat
The rules of syntax say this is not permissible, however:
{subject} + {object} + {verb}
* Michael + the boat + rowed…

TESL‏‎ – Teaching English as a Second Language

TESL stands for Teaching English as a Second Language. It’s pronounced TESL to rhyme with WRESTLE.

Simply put, this means teaching English to people who are not native English speakers but who live in a country where English is the main language. For example, teaching English to Chinese speaking immigrants in Canada.

It used to be quite a common acronym in the US and Asia. However…

The English Alphabet‏‎

The English Alphabet contains 26 letters. These can be divided into vowels and consonants‏‎.

The vowels are: a,e,i,o,u

The consonants are: b,c,d,f,g,h,j,k,l,m,n,p,q,r,s,t,v,w,x,y,z

Every word has at least one vowel sound. When we write them, however, some words do not have one of the vowels above, such as:
fly, hymn, why
Although these words have a vowel sound, they use the consonant letter y instead of a vowel…

The Etymology‏‎ of English

Etymology is the study of the history of words‏‎. It tells us when words entered a language, where they came from and how they have changed over time. Basically etymology explains what our words used to mean and how they sounded in the past. As an example take a look at the word teach: teach – meaning to instruct. This is from the Middle English, techan which is from the…

The International Phonetic Association

The International Phonetic Association or IPA is the major as well as the oldest representative organization for phoneticians. It was established in 1886 in Paris.

The aim of the IPA is to promote the scientific study of phonetics and the various practical applications of that science.

One of the major contributions of the IPA to the world of linguistics has been the International Phonetic Alphabet or…

The Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone is an ancient Egyptian inscribed stone from about 200 BCE.

It was inscribed with a decree issued on behalf of King Ptolemy V. What is important to linguists is that the same decree appears in 3 different languages.

The top is in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics; the middle is in Demotic (a form of early Egyptian) and the lower text is in Ancient Greek‏‎.

Because…

Utterances in English

An Utterance is the spoken equivalent to a sentence‏‎.

As a sentence is bounded by a capital letter‎ and a period or full stop (or other punctuation‏‎) so an utterance is often (though not always) bounded by silence or a breath or pause.

Having said this, there is no precise definition of utterance that linguists use.

Written sentences tend to be well formed in terms…

Varieties of English‏‎

Varieties of English are the different kinds of English used around the world. Often these are geographically based. The varieties are more or less similar and while most English speakers can understand each other, there are occasional problems.

The four people in the picture (Whoopi Goldberg, Kylie Minogue, the Queen and Usain Bolt) all speak English as their mother tongue but very differently.
Background
English has been the…

Voiced and Voiceless in English Pronunciation

Voiced and Voiceless (sometimes Unvoiced) describe the two different ways we can make sounds in our mouths.

The basic difference is this:

voiced sounds occur when the vocal chords vibrate
voiceless sounds occur when the vocal chords are still

An Example of Voiced & Unvoiced
The best way to explain this is with an example. Take these two words:
van – fan
To make both…

Vowels and Consonants in English

Vowels and Consonants are the sounds which go to make up the English language.

If air passes straight through the mouth without being stopped or constricted anywhere, this forms a vowel sound.

If the air is stopped at any point or the mouth is constricted somehow, then this creates a consonant sound.

For example, take the word too. It begins with the…

Vowels in English

The word vowel comes from the Latin word vowis meaning voice. In English we should make the distinction between spoken vowels and written vowels.

In spoken English there are approximately 12 basic vowel sounds (see below); in written English, however, there are just 5 vowels. This means, obviously, that the written vowels can be pronounced in different ways.

Every written word has at least one vowel: a…

What is a Lexeme?

LEXEME is the term used in Linguistics‏‎ to refer to a word (a minimal unit of language) with a distinctive meaning (a semantic value) and often a specific cultural concept attached to it.
banana, love, animal, run
These are all lexemes.

Lexemes can be seen as the basic elements of a language.

Importantly, a single lexeme can have different forms which are sometimes quite different.

forms of…

What is a Lexicon?

In general terms, a Lexicon is a list of words. It is almost synonymous with vocabulary. For example, we can talk about: a personal lexicon – the words which an individual knows a social class lexicon – the words used by a certain class of person; of course this can be extended to talk about the lexicon of any group of people a lexicon of English – all the words…

What is a Morpheme‏‎?

As they say, a Morpheme is the smallest linguistic unit of language which has meaning. Putting it simply, if you take a word like unquestionable you can break it down into 3 morphemes: un = notquestion = askable = able to be Each of the 3 morphemes has a meaning and if you take one away, the meaning of the word changes. Morphemes can’t be broken down any further; they…

What is Collocation‏‎?

The more you use language, the more you realise that certain words tend to hang around together like best friends forever. For example, if you have a decent knowledge of English you can probably guess the missing words here: a foregone __________ New Year!a _____ guess The fact of the matter is that some words always go around in groups; they’re like best friends who spend as much time as…

What is Discourse Analysis‏‎?

Discourse Analysis – or DA – is all about examining and analyzing spoken or written language (and to a lesser extent, sign language). It’s about taking language, putting it under the microscope and looking at it closely to see how it works and then taking it out and looking at it again in the wider world. A bit like examining a coin from the time of Julius Caesar and then…

What is Lexicography‏‎?

Lexicography is basically all about compiling dictionaries. It’s about sitting in a stuffy, darkened, room carefully going over words: examining them, investigating them, analyzing them. It’s about asking what exactly words are and what they mean. Perhaps even why people use one word over another. And then writing it all down. But although it might sound fairly straightforward, there’s a lot more to it than that. Questions a lexicographer…

What is Linguistics?

Linguistics is the scientific and academic study of language. It tries to answer basic questions such as

What is language?
How is language represented in the mind?
How does language work?

The underlying goal of linguists is to discover the underlying rules of all languages; that is, the common elements which form a language.

Of course, the person who studies linguistics is…

What is Morphology‏‎?

Simply put, Morphology is the study of the words in a language. It does go deeper, but generally speaking it studies and looks at language in terms of: spelling pronunciation definition part of speech etymology (and obsolete usages) non-standard or slang/taboo usage Importantly morphology looks at the way in which words are formed and their parts: morphemes, affixes and so on. Questions which Morphology Asks Morphology overlaps with other linguistic…

What is Phonetics‏‎?

Phonetics is the branch of linguistics‏‎ which studies the sounds of speech and they way in which they are interpreted. Contrast this with phonology‏‎ which is the study of the sound system of a language. Phonetics looks at the way in which sounds are produced (the position of the tongue, the lips, etc) and the way in which sounds are perceived (i.e. the way in which the ear works) and…

Your Mother Tongue (MT)

Your Mother Tongue (or MT) is the language you learn and speak as a child.

It is sometimes known as First Language (FL), Native Language (NL) or Arterial Language. Note that it is NOT always the language spoken by your mother!

It is usually the language learned in the home thus a bilingual‏‎ child may well have two MTs.

A student’s MT is of interest to…