Linguistics Midterm Review 1
Creative aspect of linguistic knowledge: Speakers’ ability to combine finite
number of linguistic units of their language to produce and understand an
infinite range of novel sentences
Linguistic competence: what you know
Linguistic performance: how you use the knowledge
What is Grammar?
Grammar: The sounds and sound patterns, the basic units of meaning, such
as words, and the rules to combine them to form new sentences
Descriptive Grammar- a linguist’s description or model of the mental
grammar, including the units, structures, and rules. And explicit statements
of what speakers know about their language.
Prescriptive grammars- rules of grammar brought by grammarian’s
attempt to legislate what speakers’ grammatical rules should be, rather than
what they are.
Prestige dialect: the dialect usually spoken by people in positions of power,
and the one deemed correct by prescriptive grammarians.
Teaching Grammars and Reference Grammars
Teaching Grammar: a set of language rules written to help speakers learn a
second or foreign language or a different dialect of their language.
Gloss: a word in one language given to express the meaning of a word in
Reference grammar: a description of a language that attempts to be as
thorough and comprehensive as possible; it can serve as a reference for those
interested in establishing grammatical facts.
Phonology: The sound system of a language; the component of a grammar
that includes the inventory of sounds (phonetic and phonemic units) and
rules for their combination and pronunciation; the study of the sound
systems if all languages
Semantics: The study of the linguistic meaning of morphemes, words,
phrases and sentences.
Morphology: The study of the structure of words; the component of the
grammar that includes the rules of word formation.
Syntax: The rules of sentence formation; the component of the mental
grammar that represents speakers’ knowledge of the structure of phrases
Lexicon: The component if the grammar containing speakers’ knowledge
about morphemes and words; a speaker’s mental dictionary. Linguistics Midterm Review 2
Universal grammar: The innate principles and properties and properties
that pertain to the grammars of all human languages.
Language Faculty: That part of human biological and genetic makeup
specifically designed for language acquisition and use.
Linguistic Theory: A theory of the principles that characterize all human
languages; the “laws of human language. ”
Sign languages: Evidence for language universals.
Finger spelling: In signing, hand gestures that represent letters of the
alphabet used to spell words for which there is no sign.
The First Language:
Mono-genetic theory of language origin: The belief that all languages
originated from a sign language.
Arbitrariness of linguistic sign
Examples of non arbitrary communications:
o Octagon Stop
o Arrow pointed in a direction One way street
CHAPTER 2: MORPHOLOGY
Word: A free sound-meaning lexical unit, which may be simple or complex.
Lexicon: The component of the grammar containing speakers’ knowledge
about morphemes and words; a speaker’s mental dictionary.
Homophones: different words with the same sounds but different meanings
o Ex: She can’t bear (tolerate) children. She can’t bear (give birth to)
children. He stood there—bare and beautiful.
Synonyms: Words with the same or nearly the same meaning
Orthography: the written form of a language; spelling.
Grammatical category: Traditionally called “Part of speech.” Also called
syntactic categories. Expressions of the same grammatical category can
generally substitute for one another without loss of grammaticality, ex: noun
phrase, verb phrase.
The first dictionary, by Robert Cawdrey, appeared in 1604, with the title A Table
Alphabetical, Containing and Teaching the True Writing, and Understanding of
Hard Usuall English Words, etc.
o It listed some 2,500 “hard words” with their explanations in ordinary
Content Words and Function Words
Content words: The nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs that constitute the
major part of the vocabulary Linguistics Midterm Review 3
Open class: The class of lexical content words; a category of words that
commonly adds new words ex: nouns, verbs.
Function Words: A word that does not have clear lexical meaning but has a
grammatical function; function words include conjunctions, prepositions,
articles, auxiliaries, complementizers and pronouns.
Closed Class: A category, generally a functional category that rarely has
new words added to it. Ex: Prepositions, conjunctions
Generic Term: A word that applies to a whole class, such as dog in the dog is
found throughout the world. A word that ordinarily has the semantic feature
(+male) when used to refer to both sexes, ex: mankind meaning the human
The brain treats content and function words differently.
Morphemes: The Minimal Units of Meaning
Morphemes: Smallest unit of linguistic meaning or function. Ex: sheepdogs
contains 3 morphemes
Discreteness: A fundamental property of human language in which larger
linguistic units are perceived to be composed of smaller linguistic units. Ex:
cat is perceived as the phonemes /k/, /ae/, /t/; the cat is perceived as the
Bound and Free Morphemes
Prefixes and Suffixes
Free morphemes: A single morpheme that constitutes a word
Affixes: Bound morpheme attaches to a stem or root.
Bound Morphemes: Morpheme that must be attached to other morphemes.
Bound morphemes are prefixes, suffixes, infixes, circumfixes, and some roots,
such as cran- in cranberry.
Prefixes: An affix that is attached to the beginning of a morpheme or stem
Suffixes: An affix that is attached to the end of a morpheme or stem. Ex: -er
in Lew is Taller than Bill.
Infixes: A bound morpheme that is inserted in the idle of a word or stem.
Circumfixes: Bound morpheme, parts of which occur in a word both before
and after the root.
Discontinuous morphemes: A morpheme with multiple parts that occur in
more than one place in a word or sentence.
Roots and Stems
Roots: The morpheme that remains when all affixes are stripped down from
a complex word.
Stem: The base to which one or more affixes are attached to create a more
complex that may be another stem or a word. Linguistics Midterm Review 4
Etymemes: A bound base that has etymological relevance. (Ex: -ceive in
Monomorphemic: A word that consists of one morpheme.
All morphemes are bound or free. Affixes are bound morphemes. Root
Morphemes can be bound or free.
Rules of Word Formation.
Morphological rules: Rules for combining morphemes to form stems and
Derivational morphemes: Morpheme added to a stem or root to form a new
stem or word, [possibly, but not necessarily, resulting in a change in syntactic
category. Ex: -er added to a verb like kick to give the noun kicker.
Derived word: The form that results from the addition of a derivational
morpheme. Ex: firm + ly- firmly is a derived word.
The Hierarchical Structure of Words
Hierarchal structure: The groupings and subgrouping of the parts of a
sentence into syntactic categories, ex: in glossary.
Tree diagrams: A graphical representation of the linear and hierarchical
structure of a phrase or sentence. A phrase structure tree.
Accidental gaps: Phonological or morphological form that constitutes
possible but non-occurring lexical items. Ex: blick, unsad.
Lexical gaps: Possible but non-occurring words; forms that over the
phonotactic rules of a language yet have no meaning. Ex: blick in English
Possible word: A string of sounds that overs the phonotactic constraints of
the language but has no meaning. Ex: gumble.
Productive: Refers to morphological rules that can be used freely and apply
to all form to create new words. Ex: the addition to an adjective of –ish
meaning “having somewhat of the quality,” such as newish, tallish, incredible-
Antonyms: Words that are opposite with respect to one of their semantic
Conversion: Process in which an existing word becomes assigned to another
syntactic category. EX on Pg 59
Blends: similar to compounds, but parts of the words combined are deleted,
so they are “less than” compounds.
Back-formations: Creation of a new word by removing an affix from an old
word. Ex: donate from donation Linguistics Midterm Review 5
Abbreviations: Shortened form of a word
Clipping: The deletion of some part of a longer word to give a shorter word
with the same meaning. Ex: phone from telephone
Coined: The construction and/or invention of new words that then become
part of the lexicon. Ex: e-commerce
Eponyms: A word taken from a proper name Ex: such as john for “toilet”
Acronyms: Word composed of the initials of several words, Ex: PET scan
from positron emission tomography scans.
Grammatical morphemes: Function word or bound morpheme required by
the syntactic rules. Ex: to and s in he wants to go.
Inflectional morphemes: Bound grammatical morpheme that is affixed to a
word according to rules of syntax. Ex: third-person singular verbal suffix –s
Suppletive forms: A term used to refer to inflected morphemes in which the
regular rules do not apply. Ex: went as the past tense of go.
Case: A characteristic of nouns and pronouns, and in some languages articles
and adjectives, determined by the function in the sentence, and generally
indicated by the morphological form of the word.
Morphological Analysis: Identifying Morphemes.
Paradigms: A set of forms derived from a single root morpheme. Ex: give,
gives, given, gave, giving.
CHAPTER 3: SYNTAX
Syntax: The part of the grammar that represents a speaker’s knowledge of
sentences and their structures.
Rules of Syntax: Principles of grammar that account for the grammaticality
of sentences, their hierarchical structure, their word order, whether there is
structural ambiguity. Ex: system from the word un + system + atic + ally.
Grammatical or Ungrammatical:
Well formed: Sequences of words that conform to the rules of syntax.
Ill formed: Sequence of words that violate the syntactic rules.
What else do you know about Syntax?
Ambiguity: The term used to describe a word, phrase or sentence with
Hierarchical structure: The groupings or subgroupings of the parts of a
sentence into syntactic categories. Ex: the bird sang [[[the] [bird]] [sang]];
The groupings and subgroupings of morphemes in a word Linguistics Midterm Review 6
Structural ambiguity: The phenomenon in which the same sequence of
words has two or more meanings based on different phrase structure
analyses. Ex: He saw a boy with a telescope.
Grammatical relations: Any of several structural positions that a noun
phrase may assume in a sentence.
Direct Object: The grammatical relation of a noun phrase when it appears
immediately below the verb phrase (VP) and next to the verb in deep
structure; the noun phrase complement of a transitive verb. Ex: the puppy in
the boy found the puppy.
Tree diagram: A graphical representation of the linear and hierarchical
structure of a phrase or sentence.
Constituents: A syntactic unit in a phrase structure tree. Ex: the girl in a
noun phrase constituent in the sentence the boy loves the girl.
Constituent structure: The hierarchically arranged syntactic units such as
noun phrase and verb phrase that underlie every sentence
If the sentence has more than one constituent structure, it is ambiguous, and
each tree will correspond to one of the possible meanings.
She drove the car to the store.
Does it answer a question?
✔Where did she drive the car? to the store
Can we replace it with a pronoun?
✔She drove the car there
✔To the store is where she drove it to.
✔It was to the store that she drove to
Syntactic Category: Traditionally called “parts of speech”; also called
grammatical categories; expressions of the same grammatical category can
generally substitute for one another without loss of grammaticality. Ex:noun
phrase, verb phrase.
Noun phrase (NP): category of expressions containing some form of a noun
or pronoun as its head, and which functions as the subject or as various
objects in a sentence.
Verb phrase (VP): The syntactic category of expressions that contains a
verb as its head along with its complements such as noun phrases and
prepositional phrases. Ex: gave the book to the child.
Verb: The syntactic category, also lexical category, of words that can be the
head of a verb phrase. Verbs denote actions, sensations, and states. Ex: climb