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An Introduction to Language Ch 1, 3-7


the scientific study of the structure, sounds, and meaning of language

Descriptive Grammar

A linguist's model of the mental grammar, including the units, structures, and rules. An explicit statement of what speakers know about their language.

Prescriptive Grammar

Rules of grammar brought about by grammarians' attempts to legislate what speakers' grammatical rules should be, rather than what they are.


The mental representation of a speakers' linguistic competence; what a speaker knows about a language.

Universal Grammar

The innate principles and properties that pertain to the grammars of all human languages


The small set of alternatives for a particular phenomenon made available by UG.


The study of the structure of words; the component of the grammar that includes the rules of word formation.


The component of the grammar containing speakers' knowledge about morphemes and words; a speaker's mental dictionary.


The rules of sentence formation; the component of the mental grammar that represents speakers' knowledge of the structure of phrases and sentences.


The study of the linguistic meaning of morphemes, words, phrases, and sentences.


Describes the property of language, including sign language, whereby there is no natural or intrinsic relationship between the way the word is pronounced (or signed) and its meaning

Creative aspect

Speakers' ability to combine the finite number of linguistic units of their language to produce and understand an infinite range of of novel sentences

Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

The proposition that the structure of a language influences how its speakers perceive the world around them.


The smallest units of linguistic meaning or function


the morpheme that remains when all affixes are stripped from a complex word


a bound morpheme attached to a stem or root


an affix that is attached to the beginning of a morpheme or stem


an affix that is attached to the end of a morpheme or stem


a bound morpheme that is inserted in the middle of another morpheme


a bound morpheme, parts of which occur in a word before and after the root


a 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


a bound grammatical morpheme that is affixed to a word according to the rules of syntax ex: "s"

Content words

The nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs that constitute the major part of the vocabulary

Function words

A word that does not always have a clear lexical meaning but has a grammatical function; conjunctions, prepositions, articles, auxiliaries, complementizers, and pronouns

Open class

The class of lexical content words; a category of words that commonly adds new words

Closed class

A category, generally a functional category, that rarely has new words added to it; ex prepositions, conjunctions


The construction and/or invention of new words that then become part of the lexicon


Words composed of two or more words, which may be written as a single word or as words separated by spaces or hyphens


Words composed of the parts of more than one word ex smog


Words composed of the initials of several words and pronounced as such

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