Language Terminology by


 English language terms are defined in the first section below. The next section has definitions for English modifiers, verbs, other types and affixation. 

Antecedent = a word, phrase or clause that is replaced by a pronoun or other substitute in the same sentence or in another sentence.

   example: In “Sam lost his hat and can’t find it”, “Sam” is the antecedent of “he” & “hat” is the antecedent of “it.”

 Articulation = facility with words; using language and speech easily and fluently.

 Concept = a general notion or idea; a conception; an object of thought. An idea of something formed by mentally combining all its characteristics.

 Dialect = a certain form or variation of a language retained by special groups which varies from the general standard for that language.

 Grammar = the prescribed forms in language. The rules of language.

 Inflection = modulation of the voice; change in pitch or tone of voice.

 Intonation = the pattern or melody of pitch changes in speech, especially the pitch pattern of a sentence which distinguishes kinds of sentences.

 Jargon = a special language pattern used by a particular group of people

 Language = Any system of formalized words, symbols, signs, sounds, gestures or the like used as a means of communicating thought, mental concepts, emotion, etc.

 Lingua franca = language that is widely used as a common means of communication among speakers of other languages.

 Linguistics = the science and study of language, including phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics.

 Meaning = what is intended to be expressed or indicated in communication. The mental image or concept that a sender tries to transfer to a receiver in communication.

Morpheme = any of the minimal grammatical units of a language that cannot be divided into smaller independent grammatical parts.

Morphology = the patterns of word formation in a particular language, including inflection, derivation, and composition.

Nomenclature  = terminology; the system of terms peculiar to a particular science, art or subject.

Objective (objective case) = a case specialized for the use of a word as the object of a transitive verb or of a preposition.

Phonetics = the science and study of speech sounds and their production, transmission and reception.

Phonology = the study of the rules governing pronunciation and speech sounds in a language.

Possessive = pertaining to a case that indicates possession, ownership, origin, etc.

Pronunciation = the act or result of producing the sounds of speech, including articulation, stress and intonation. The conventional patterns of speech sounds for a language.

Semantics = the study of meanings of words, signs, sentences, etc.

Sense = a particular meaning of a word or phrase. A particular mental image or concept.

Stress = special effort in speech that creates emphasis by increasing the relative loudness of a syllable or word.

Subjective (subjective case) = pertaining to the subject of a sentence.

Syllable = an uninterrupted segment of speech with a single sound resonance.

Syntactic = pertaining to syntax; regarding the rules for the formation of grammatical sentences in a language.

Syntax = the rules for the formation of grammatical sentences in language. The study of the patterns of formation of sentences and phrases from words.

Term = a word or group of words that designates something, especially in a particular field.

Terminology = nomenclature; the system of terms peculiar to a particular field.

Vernacular = the natural informal speech patterns used by persons indigenous to a certain area.

Word = the unit of language that functions as the principal carrier of meaning. Words are usually separated by spaces in writing.

Subject = a syntactic unit that functions as one of the two main constituents of a simple sentence, the other being the predicate. A subject consists of a noun, noun phrase or noun substitute which often refers to the actor in the sentence or to the state of being expressed by the predicate.

Note: a sentence has two parts, the topic of the sentence is the subject and what is said about the subject is the predicate. The subject usually comes first and identifies the agent of the action and tells us who or what is doing something. The most frequent forms of the subject are nouns, pronouns and proper nouns (all called nominals). The predicate always has a verb which often has modifiers such as adverbs.

Predicate = a syntactic unit that functions as one of the two main constituents of a simple sentence, the other being the subject. A predicate consists of a verb and all the words governed by the verb or modifying it, the whole often expressing the action performed by the subject or the state of being of the subject.


A modifier is a word, phrase or sentence element that limits or qualifies the sense of another word, phrase or element. Modifiers describe the distinctive features of things. They modify the meaning of other words by adding a description or by making the meaning more precise. Although there are at least five different word types that can act as modifiers, only adjectives and adverbs are used specifically for that purpose and these two will be discussed first. The discussion of when nouns, pronouns & verbs can be used as modifiers in special situations will follow since these word types are not normally used this way. Adjectives and adverbs are full-time modifiers while nouns, pronouns & verbs are “occasional” modifiers.

Adjective Modifiers

Adjective: an adjective modifies the meaning of a noun or pronoun by providing information to give it a more specific meaning. Adjectives answer the questions “Which, What Kind Of & How Many or How much”? Adjectives are descriptive words that usually precede the words they describe in English. When two or more adjectives are used together before a noun, they are usually arranged in a recognizable order (not separated by commas). An article will always be first, a noun used as an adjective will always come last, directly before the noun or pronoun being modified.

example: I bought a small old red hand-blown French wine bottle.

Typical Order for Adjectives              Example

  1. Article or pronoun used as an adjective
  2. Size small
  3. Age old
  4. Colored
  5. Participle hand-blown
  6. Proper adjectives french
  7. Noun used as an adjective wine

     noun that is being modified            bottle

Articles: The most commonly used adjectives are the articles, a, an, and theThe is called the “definite article” because it calls attention to a specific person, place, or thing. A and an are known as “indefinite articles” because they refer to things without being specific as to which particular thing. Use a before words beginning with a consonant sound (a cat, a dog) and use an before words beginning with a vowel sound (an artist, an elephant). It is the pronounced sound, not the letter, which determines whether a or an should be used (a uniform, an L-shaped room, an 18th-century creation).

Compound Word Adjectives: hyphenated compound words can also function as adjectives that often answer the question “what kind of?”. e.g. A many-sided issue. A life-and-death struggle. Yosemite-like mountains.

Adverb Modifiers

Adverb = an adverb modifies a verb, ad­jective or another adverb by providing information to give it a more specific meaning. Adverbs are frequently formed from adjectives by adding the suffix “-ly” to the adjective, but beware that many adjectives also end in “-ly”Adverbs answer the questions “How, When or Where?”, but when modifying an adjective or another adverb they answer only one question “To what extent?”,  (such an adverb is often called an “intensifier”). Most adverbs can form the comparative and superlative degrees by using “more or most” in front of the adverb.

Other Modifiers – Nouns, Pronouns & Verbs

Verbs that can be used as adjectives usu­ally have the “-ing” or “-ed” suffix attached and are called participles.  examples: a burning desire; a devoted friend

Nouns or pronouns can sometimes function as adjectives when they modify other nouns or pronouns.

examples: a brick house, a stone fence

Some nouns can func­tion as adverbs that answer the question “Where? or When?” e.g. home, yesterday, today, tomorrow, mornings, afternoons, evenings, nights, week, month and year.


Verb = a word that functions as the main element of predicates and that typically expresses action, a state of being, or a relation between things. A verb may be inflected for tense, voice, or mood and to show agreement with its subject or object.

Tense = a category of verbal inflection that serves chiefly to specify the time of the action for a verb or a state expressed by the verb. Verbs that are not inflected according to the normal pattern are referred to as Irregular Verbs and are often listed in tables for quick reference.

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs = All verbs can be described as either transitive or intransitive, depending on whether they transfer action to another word in the sentence. A verb is transitive if it directs action toward someone or something named in the same sentence. A verb is intransitive if it does not direct action toward someone or something. The word to which a transitive verb directs its action is called the object of the verb.  Intransitive verbs never have ob­jects.

Note: You can determine whether a verb has an object and is thus transitive by asking the question “Who?” or “What?” with regard to the verb. If you can identify something as “who or what”, then that something is an object of the verb and the form is transitive. If you cannot identify a “who or what”, then the form is intransitive.

Verbs – English vs. Indonesian – Similarities and Differences

  1. Passive Verbs– Only transitive verbs can be passive. When a direct object is in the sentence the structure of the sentence determines whether a passive verb is used or whether the “normal” or “active” verb is to be used.  English uses the “-ed” suffix. Unfortunately, this “ed” suffix has other uses which cause confusion. 
  2. Tenses – tenses are verbal time markers in English. English tenses are formed in the normal or “regular” way by adding the suffixes “-ed” and “-ing”, but not all verbs follow the rule. Irregular verb tenses need to be memorized or become accustomed to and tables of common irregular verb formations are widely available 
  3. English changes the form of verb for 3rd person singular usage by adding an “s” or a form of “s” – which unfortunately overlaps with plural nouns and creates confusion because the words are spelled the same.
  4. Indo“ber-“prefix creates Indonesian words that some scholars classify as adjectives while others refer to them as verbs. They often translate into English as adjectives since they express a state of being or having a certain characteristic.

Other Word Types

Noun = a word that is used to identify anything that can be named. Nouns often refer to persons, places, things, states, or qualities. Proper nouns are always capitalized and refer to the name of a person, place, or thing. Common nouns are all nouns other than proper nouns. The possessive case of nouns is formed by adding an apostrophe and an “s” to words that do not end in an s or a z sound.

Note:  a noun can function as a modifier of another noun (i.e., it can function as an adjective).

Pronoun = a word of general reference that is used as a replacement or substitute for a noun or noun phrase. e.g., “he” is a pronoun for Bill or Joe, etc. Certain pronouns can also function as adjectives.

Interjection = a word that expresses strong emotion and which is able to function by it­self, independent of other words in a sentence.

Conjunction = a word that serves as a connector between words, phrases or clauses in a sentence.

Preposition = a word that is used before a noun or pronoun to form a phrase that functions as a modifier of verbs, nouns, or adjectives. A preposition typically expresses a time or spatial relationship between the noun or pronoun that appears with it and another word or phrase in the sentence.

Note: prepositions and conjunctions function in sentences as connectors. Preposi­tions express relationships between words or ideas, whereas conjunctions join words, groups of words and entire sen­tences. Many words can be classified as both prepositions and conjunctions.


root word = words that are able to have affixes attached are called “root words”. Root words can be further classified as base roots, multiple-word roots, previously-affixed roots, and roots with other combining forms.

affix = a standard set of letters attached to a root word that creates a new word. An affix is not able to be used alone in language but must be attached to another unit such as a root word. The word affix is a general term for a prefix, a suffix, or a confix.

prefix = an affix attached to the front of a root word that creates a new word.

suffix = an affix attached at the end of a root word that creates a new word.

infix = an affix that is inserted within a root word and which creates a new word. An infix is usually placed into the root word after the first syllable of the root word. Infixes are rarely used in English and are not productive.

 derived word = the new word that is formed when an affix is attached to a root word.

 derivation = the process of adding affixes to a base (root word) to produce new words that are able to undergo further inflection.

root word family = a related group of words consisting of a root word and all derived words that are formed from that root word by the addition of various affixes and combining forms.

combining form = a linguistic unit that has a function similar to an affix but which cannot be technically classified as an affix.

inflection = Process or device of adding affixes to a base (root word) to give it a different syntactic function without changing its word type. Inflection can also be described as the change in the shape of a word, generally by affixation, by means of which a change of meaning or relationship to some other word or group of words is indicated. (contrast with “derivation”).



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