Glossary of Grammatical Terms

Glossary of Grammatical Terms

A

Active Voice

An active clause has the basic form: "John wrote the essay." Compare this with the passive voice: "The essay was written." Some verbs do not occur regularly in the active form in academic texts.

Adjectival Group

An adjectival group is typically a group with an adjective as its head. That adjective is likely to be modified either before the adjective (premodification) or after the adjective (postmodification or qualification) or both. Pre-modifier are always adverbs - "e.g. extremely, rather, too, very". Postmodifiers are often adverbs or prepositionalphrases. For example, in the adjectival group "very difficult indeed", " difficult" is an adjective in the head position. It is premodified by "very" and postmodified or qualified by "indeed".

Adjective

Adjectives are words such as "beautiful", "ugly", "new" or "old". They usually denote qualities or have a descriptive meaning. The most typical position for an adjective is between a determiner and a noun. Typical forms of adjective endings are: "-able/-ible", "-ish/-like", "-ful/-less", " -ous" or "-y". Adjectives may display inflection for degree: "-er" & "-est".

They have two main functions: as modifiers of nouns in nominal groups, and as Head of an adjectival group. Adjectives are commonly used in academic texts (Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan, 1999, p. 506). According to Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan, (1999, p. 65), approximately 20% of lexical words in academic texts are adjectives, 55% are nouns, 20% are adjectives, 15% are verbs and 10% are adverbs.

Adjunct

Adjunct is a functional element of clause structure. A typical structure of a clause is SPCA - subject, predicator, complement, adjunct.Adjunct is typically realised by an adverbial group. Adjuncts provide optional information and types of adjunct include circumstantial adjunct, stance adjunct, and connective adjunct.

Adverb

Typical adverbs are words such as "hopefully" or "recently". However, other words, such as "now", "then", "always", "often"  are also classified as adverbs. Many adverbs have the "-ly" ending.

There are three main positions for adverbs: before the subject of the sentence, between the subject and the predicator, at the end of the clause.

Traditionally adverbs are divided into 5 main categories: 1. circumstantial adverbs (of time, place, manner etc) ("tomorrow, then, sooner, later, ..., here, there, outside, down, through, near, far, ..., carefully, quietly, academically, ..."), 2. stance adverbs ("certainly, apparently, wisely, hopefully, thankfully, ...") , 3. degree adverbs ("most, least, ...quietly, fairly, roughly, more or less, enough, too, ...", 4. focussing adverbs "just, hardly, only, even, ..."), 5. connective adverbs ("first, furthermore, altogether, otherwise, or rather, ...".

Adverbs are relatively common in academic texts. According to Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan, (1999, p. 65), approximately 10% of lexical words in academic texts are adverbs, 55% are nouns, 20% are adjectives, and 15% are verbs.

Adverbial Group

An adverbial group is typically a group with an adverb as its head. That adverb is likely to be modified either before the adverb (premodification) or after the adverb (postmodification or qualification) or both. For example, in the adjverbial group "more fluently than before", "fluently" is an adverb in the head position. It is premodified by "more" and postmodified or qualified by "than before".

Affix

An affix is a morpheme added to the beginning or end of a word to create another word. Affixes in English can be prefixes (before the original word) or suffixes (after the original word). In other languages there are infixes which occur within the word ("drink" - "drank", "swim" - "swam"?) and circumfixes, which are around the word.

Agent

An agent is the performer of an action. In a simple clause, the agent may be the grammatical subject, but this is not necessarily the case. In a passive clause, the agent is often signalled by "by ...". However, in academic texts, the short passive - without the agent - is much more common than the long passive - with the agent.

Agreement

In English and many other languages, certain words need to change their form when used with other words. They need to agree. For example a verb needs to change its form ("eat" or "eats") depending on which word functions as its subject: "I eat" or "He eats".

Anaphora

Anaphoric reference is when a general word refers back in the text to a more specific word. For example, in the sentence "John told me where he was going", "he" refers anaphorically to " John". In order to understand a sentence such as "He did that there", you need to understand what "he" "that" and "there" refer back to. Anaphora is an important part of cohesion, and most EAP courses pay attention to it.

Anaphoric Noun

Anaphoric nouns (Francis, 1986) are nouns such as "view" in the following quotation:

"This led many later Greek thinkers to regard musical theory as a branch of mathematics. This view, however, was not universally accepted, the most influential of those who rejected it being Aristoxenus of Tarentum (fourth century BC)."

or "process" in the following extract:

"Genetics deals with how genes are passed on from parents to their offspring. A great deal is known about the mechanisms governing this process."

They play an important role in the organisation of arguments in texts and are very useful in showing the connection between sentences and therefore in making sure that the paragraph flows. Other nouns typically used in this way are: "account, advice, answer, approach, argument, assertion, assumption, claim, comment, conclusion, criticism, description, difficultly, discussion, distinction, emphasis, estimate, example, explanation, fall, finding, idea, improvement, increase, issue, observation, proof, problem, proposal, reference, rejection, report, rise, situation, suggestion, view, warning".

Alexander, Argent & Spencer (2008, pp. 70-71) call them general nouns.

Apposition, in apposition

Apposition is a grammatical construction in which a sequence of units - usually nominal groups - are placed next to each other, with one element modifying the other. The units are said to be in apposition. In the following sentence "the Director of the Berlitz School at Bordeaux" has the same reference and is in apposition to "Dr. Maurice Aumont".

"Dr. Maurice Aumont, the Director of the Berlitz School at Bordeaux, looked after him in an efficient and kindly way."

Appositive postmodification is common in academic texts, accounting for over 15% of all postmodifiers (Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan (1999, p.639) . They are usually used to modify a proper noun or a technical name and are commonly given in parentheses.

"In arid country the weaver birds (small passerines related to sparrows) tend to be seasonally and sexually dimorphic."

Article

The articles are "a/an" and "the". They are a type of determiner. They are usually referred to as definite article "the" or indefinite article "a/an". "The" is more than twice as common as "a/an" in academic texts (Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan, 1999, p. 267).

Aspect

Aspect refers to the way an action denoted by a verb should be viewed with respect to time. Perfective aspect is realised by "have" + past participle of a verb. Progressive aspect is realised by "be" + present participle of a verb. Verbs with no perfective or progressiveaspect are labelled simple - present progressive, past perfect, past simple, present simple. You might somtimes read or hear simple past or simple present but it is confusing.

According to Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan (1999, p. 461) verbs in their simple form account for 94% of verb use in academic texts; progressive aspect for 2% and perfective aspect for 6%. On a short course, it would not seem to be an efficient use of time to concentrate on these forms.

Auxiliary Verb

An auxiliary verb is a type of non-lexical verb. They have mostly grammatical functions, helping to form complex verbal groups. Examples are "do", "have", may", " can". Auxiliary verbs are normally categorised into two groups: 

  1. the PrimaryAuxiliaries - "do, be, have" - with mainly grammatical functions
  2. the ModalAuxiliaries - "can, should, may, might, etc", expressing a range of meanings

B

Base

A term used in morphology to refer to the part of a word  that remains when all the affixes have been removed. For example, "happy" is the base form of "happiness, unhappy, happily, unhappiness etc". Other equivalent words are root or stem.

C

Class

A class is a member of a unit:

  • finite, non-finite, dependent and independent are classes of clause
  • nominal, verbal, adjectival & adverbial are classes of group
  • nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, pronounsdeterminers & conjunctions are classes of word.
Clause

A clause is the main unit of grammatical structure. It usually consist of a subject and a predicate. It consists of one or more groups. A typical structure of a clause is SPCA - subject, predicator, complement, adjunct. Subject is typically realised by a nominal group. Predicator is typically realised by a verbal group. Complement is typically realised by a nominal group. Adjunct is typically realised by a adverbial group.

There are two main types of clause: independent clause and dependent clauses. An independent clause is a clause that can stand alone, wheres an dependent clause cannot. A dependent clause can be either finite or non-finite.

A finite clause includes a finite verb - a verb that is marked for either tense or modality.If the verb in the clause is not marked for either tense or modality, then the clause is non-finite. 

For example: 

The Liberals were split three ways by the 1931 election. (Independent)

because they were losing their sense of identity. (Dependent - finite)

having lost their sense of identity. (Dependent - non-finite)

Clause Complex

in SFL, a clause complex is a head clause together with other clauses that modify it. This modification can either be equal (paratactic).

"The advantage of a body clock is that it can prepare an animal or plant and enable it to predict a future environmental condition and  so be ready for the event when it takes place."

or dependent (subordinate/hypotactic):

"The Amazon slowly becomes broader and slower as it leaves the jungle." 

Cleft Sentence

A cleft sentence consists of two parts, often starting with "it" or "wh-". For example "It was the lecturer who started the experiment."It-clefts are relatively frequent in academic texts (Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan, 1999, p. 959). Wh-clefts - "What I object to is violence on TV" are most common in conversation.

For example:

The conservative government increased the taxes. (non-cleft)

It was the conservative government that increased the taxes. (it-cleft)

What the conservative government did was increase the taxes. (wh-cleft)
Cohesion

Cohesion refers to the grammatical and lexical connections that exist in a text. According to Halliday & Hasan (1976) there are five types of cohesion: reference, substitution, ellipsis, conjunction & lexical cohesion.

Collocate/Collocation

Words that collocate typically occur together. A word's collocations are the words it typically occurs with. It is important for EAP students to learn the collocations of typical words in their subject area. Computer software such as Wordsmith Tools Compleat Lexical Tutor or AntConc can be used.

Colligation

A colligation is a grammatical pattern. It is important for ESP/EAP students to learn the grammatical patterns of typical words in their subject area.

Complement

Complement is a functional element of clause structure. A typical structure of a clause is SPCA - subject, predicator, complement, adjunct. Complement is typically realised by a nominal group. The main types of complement are direct object, indirect object, subject complement and object complement.

Complex Sentence

A complex sentence is a sentence which consists of more than one clause such that one clause is the main clause and the others are subordinate to the main clause:

"The Amazon slowly becomes broader and slower as it leaves the jungle."

Compound Sentence

A compound sentence is a sentence which consists of more that one clause and the clauses are connected equally:

"The advantage of a body clock is that it can prepare an animal or plant and enable it to predict a future environmental condition and so be ready for the event when it takes place."

Conjunctions

Conjunctions are introductory linking words and include terms such as "and", "but", "or" and "because", "since", " whenever". There are two main types: coordinating conjunctions ("and, or, but, nor, neither") and subordinating conjunctions ("after, although, as, because, since, as soon as", etc.).

Conjunction

One of the types of cohesion identified by Halliday & Hasan (1976). In cohesion, Halliday and Hasan (1976) identify four sub-types of conjunction - adversative, additive, temporal and causal.

Consonant

A consonant is one of the two main categories that speech sounds are divide into. The other is vowel. Consonants are formed by a closure or narrowing of the vocal tract so that noise is produced. The English consonants are: /p/, /b/, /t/, /d/, /k/, /g/, /f/, /v/, /θ/, /ð/, /s/, /z/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /h/, /m/, /n/, /h/, /l/, /r/, /w/, /j/, /ʧ/, /ʤ/.

Constituency

The hierarchical relations among the units are related by constituency:

  • a clause consists of one or more groups
  • a group consists of one or more words
  • a word consists of more than one morpheme

The groups constitute or are constituents of the clause, and words constitute a group.

Coordinate Clause

A coordinate clause forms a compound sentence by joining equally with one or more other clauses:

"The advantage of a body clock is that it can prepare an animal or plant and enable it to predict a future environmental condition and so be ready for the event when it takes place."

Coordinating Conjunction, Coordinator

A Coordinating Conjunction or Coordinator is used to join clauses of equal grammatical status in a compound sentence . The main ones are "and", "or" and "but", but "for", "nor", "so" and "yet" can also be used, as well as punctuation in writing.

"The advantage of a body clock is that it can prepare an animal or plant and enable it to predict a future environmental condition and so be ready for the event when it takes place."

D

Declarative Clause

For example, "John gave the lecture". A declarative clause has the word order: SPCA.

Determiner

Determiners include words such as "a/an", "the", "some", "any", "this", "that", " these" or "those".

They can be classified (Downing & Locke, 2006, pp. 424-434) into articles ("a, an, the") demonstratives ("this, that, these, those"), possessives ("its, their, our, Tom's" etc) , wh-determinatives ("which, whose, what, whatever" etc), qualifiers ("one, two, three, some, any, many, much, etc"), and distributors ("all, both, each, ever, neither", etc).

Direct Object

Direct object is one important type of complement, a functional element of clause structure. In the sentence "John gave the lecture", "the lecture" is the direct object.

E

Element

The elements of a clause or group are the functional parts of the structure:

  • Subject, Predicator, Complement & Adjunct are elements of Clause structure;
  • modifier, head and qualifier are elements of Nominal Group structure
Ellipis

One of the types of cohesion identified by Halliday & Hasan (1976). Halliday and Hasan (1976) identify three sub-types of ellipsis - nominal, verbal and clausal.

Embedding/Embedded Clause

Embedding occurs when one clause functions as a constituent of another clause or group. For example:

Why the research funding was withdrawn was never adequately explained. (embedded clause as Subject in clause)

The whole Cabinet agreed that there should be a cut in the amount that the unemployed were receiving. (embedded clause as Direct Object in clause)

The question was whether any kind of compromise was morally possible.(embedded clause as Subject Complement in clause)

Humans have made the environment what it is today. (embedded clause as Object Complement in clause)

After they had left the tavern, there were always some globules of mercury on the floor. (embedded clause as Adjunct in clause)

Stuart Ball's excellent account of the Conservative party in opposition is a book which casts an enormous amount of light on the inner life of the party. (embedded clause as postmodifier in Nominal Group)

See also: rankshift.

Ergative Verb

An ergative verb is a verb that can be either transitive or intransitive. However, when it is intransitive, its subject corresponds to its direct object when transitive. This is particularly important when the passive is used. An example is "increase".

Students often misuse words like "increase".

They often write sentences such as: "Inflation was increased."

when it would be more appropriate to write: "Inflation increased."

These verbs are very common in academic language and other examples are: "accelerate, begin, bend, boil, break, broaden, bruise, burn, burst, change, close, combine, connect, cool, condense, crack, decrease, deflate, develop, diminish, disperse, drop, dry, end, enrol, evaporate, expand, finish, float, flood, fracture, freeze, grow, harden, ignite, improve, increase, industrialise, inflate, join, lengthen, lock, loosen, lower, melt, mend, merge, move, multiply, open, plunge, reload, reunite, revolve, rewind, rock, roll, run, scatter, separate, shake, shut, spill, spin, split, stand, start, stiffen, stop, strengthen, stretch, swing, tear, terminate, tighten, toughen, transfer, turn, twist, vaporise, weaken."

Existential clause

See: introductory - there.

Extraposition

Extraposition refers to a process of moving (extraposing) an embedded clause from its usual position to the end of the sentence.This usually involves the use of the introductory-it construction.

For example:

That income tax will be reduced is unlikely.

It is unlikely that income tax will be reduced.

This is common in academic texts, especially with adjectives of necessity or importance, such as "sensible, essential, vital. important, desirable" (Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan, 1999, pp. 673-674).

F

Family

Word families include words with affixes such as "-ly", "-ness" and "un-". A word family consists of a headword, its inflected forms, and its closely related derived forms.

Finite or non-finite verbal group

A finite verbal group - and hence a finiteclause - is a verbalgroup that is marked for either tense or modality.If the verb-form is not marked for either tense or modality, then the verbal group is non-finite. The non-finite verb forms are:

  • infinitive - be, eat, lock, go
  • to + infinitive - to go, to have, to study, ...
  • the -ing participle (present participle) - being, eating, looking
  • the -en participle (past participle) - been, eaten, locked
Formal Analysis

A formal analysis of language divides language units - such as sentence, clause, group, word and morpheme - into classes. For example, words are divided into word classes such as noun, verb, adjective, adverb. Groups are divided into group classes such as nominal group, verbal, group, adjectival group, adverbial group. Form classes of clause include independent clause, dependent clause, finite clause, non-finite clause, superordinate clause. These classes of unit at one level function at a higher level to form larger units.

Functional Analysis

A functional analysis of language looks at the way the formal units of language function in units at a higher level. For example a simple SPOd clause consists of the functional elements subject, predicator and direct object. The subject element may be realised by a formal unit at a lower level such as a nominal group. This nominal group then may consist of a determiner and a head. The determiner may be realised by a word such as "the". In the same way, a genre is made up of constituent stages, which are realised by items at a lower level.

Note that there is no necessary 1:1 mapping between a unit and its realisation. For example Subject may be realised by a nominal group, a prepositional phrase, a clause, or an adjectival group etc.

G

Given/New

One way of describing the information structure of a clause. The given part is the information that is already known or shared by the participants; the new part is the new information provided. In a typical English written clause, the given information is in the initial part of the clause and the new information is at the end. In spoken language, intonation and stress can change the emphasis.

Another way is theme-rheme. The theme/rheme distinction was developed by the Prague School (especially Vilém Mathesius, see: Vachek, 1966). The distinction, however, between theme/rheme and given/new was not made. It was Halliday who introduced the distinction between theme/rheme and given/new:

If we use the - admittedly rather inappropriate - term 'given' to label what is not 'new', we can say that the system of information focus assigns to the information unit a structure in terms of the two functions 'given' and 'new'. (Halliday, 1976b, p. 204).

Grammar

Grammar is an important part of ESP/EAP. As, ultimately, all that exists is words on the page or sounds in the air. These words are constructed from parts and inflect (morphology) and occur in sequences (syntax). Like all registers of English, ESP/EAP uses prepositions, articles, adverbs etc. However, the grammatical forms that are used in academic English differ in their distributions from other registers, and need to be studied carefully. See, for example, the relevant sections of Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan (1999).

As ESP/EAP contains grammar, the grammar that is necessary in any academic context will be included in any well-planned ESP/EAP course. It is certainly not necessary to teach/learn grammar before the ESP/EAP course starts and there are many reasons against doing this:

  • it may not be motivating for the learners to learn grammar that is unrelated to their specialisms;
  • some of the language taught may be used differently in ESP/EAP and the learners' specific fields of interest;
  • the learners might waste time studying aspects of the language that are not necessary for their use in EAP contexts.

The grammatical forms required for use of language in a particular academic context will be clear from the texts and contexts encountered in planning and teaching/learning the course. This is one of the important areas of ESP/EAP research.

Group

group consists of one or more words; it can be thought of as an expanded word. A typical structure of a group would be mhq - modifier, head, qualifier. Groups combine to form clauses. Typical groups are nominal groups, verbal groups, adjectival groups, adverbial groups.

H

Head

The key grammatical item in a group is the head. The other elements are modifiers. The head of a nominal group is a noun; the head of a verbal group is a verb, the head of an adjectival group is an adjective etc.

Hypotaxis/Hypotactic Clause

Hypotaxis is a form of Subordination. It occurs when one clause is dependent on another clause and therefore cannot stand alone. A hypotactic clause is not a constituent part of another clause - the superordinate clause. It therefore contrasts with embedding, a form of rankshift, in which a clause functions as a constituent part of another.

I

Imperative Sentence

For example, "Eat the fish". Word order PCA.

Indirect Object

Indirect object is one important type of complement, a functional element of clause structure. In the sentence "John gave the lecture to the students", "The students" is the indirect object.

Infinitive

The infinitive form of the verb is the base or unmarked form, e.g., "go", "walk", "kick". In English the infinitive form may be used alone or with "to".

Inflection

Several classes of word in English have different forms; they inflect.

  • Regular verbs have five forms: "begin", "begins", "began", "begun", "beginning".
  • Some adjectives have three inflected forms: "weak", "weaker", "weakest".
  • Nouns typically have three forms: "lady", "ladies", "lady's" and also perhaps "ladies' ".
Interrogative Sentence

For example, "Did John write the essay?" Word order - AuxSPCA.

Introductory-it

Introductory-it is used in extraposition - a process of moving (extraposing) an embedded clause from its usual position to the end of the sentence.

For example:

That income tax will be reduced is unlikely.

→ It is unlikely that income tax will be reduced.

This is common in academic texts, especially with adjectives of necessity or importance, such as "sensible, essential, vital. important, desirable".

(Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan, 1999, pp. 673-674).

Introductory-there- existential clauses

An English sentence such as "A discrepancy was in the experimental results." is possible but unusual. The conventional academic way of putting it is to begin the sentence with "there" and postone the indefinite subject. In this way you can focus on the existence or occurrence of something. Although simple sentences are possible - "There are, however, some discrepancies." - it is more usual to expand the nominal group by postmodification or an adverbial group (Biber, Conrad & Leech, 2002, pp. 415-6):

A discrepancy was in the experimental results.

→ There was a discrepancy in the experimental results.

Introductory "there" is usually used in academic writing to introduce the existence or occurrence of something. This can be then taken up as the theme of the next sentence. In this sense, it is commonly used to introduce a series of items:

  • There are many features of animals which could be improved on, and which are as they are because of the legacy of the past. For example, ...

  • I suggest that there are three possible approaches:  i) We can treat the brain as a black box into whose contents it is not efficient to enquire. ii) ...

It-Cleft Sentence

An it-cleft sentence consists of two parts, starting with "it". For example "It was the lecturer who started the experiment."It-clefts are relatively frequent in academic texts (Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan, 1999, p. 959).

For example:

The conservative government increased the taxes. (non-cleft)

It was the conservative government that increased the taxes. (it-cleft)

L

Lemma

In vocabulary study, a lemma is a headword and its main inflected and reduced (n't) forms.

Level

Language can be thought of as a series of levels linked by realisation - the main levels are the extralinguistic level (context of culture & situation), the content levels of discourse-semantics and lexico-grammar, and the expression levels of phonology and graphology.

Lexeme

In vocabulary studies, the term lexeme includes items such as multi-word verbs ("catch up on"), phrasal verbs ("drop in") and idioms ("kick the bucket").

Lexical Verb

A lexical verb is a verb with a dictionary meaning. It contrasts with auxiliary verb.

Lexical Word

A lexical word is a word with a dictionary meaning. It contrasts with a function word, such as a preposition or an auxiliary verb.

Lexico-Grammar

The lexico-grammar of the language is the vocabulary and grammar.

M

Modal Verb

A modal verb is a type of auxiliary verb. Its function is to modulate the meaning of the verb. They have grammatical functions, helping to form complex verbal groups. Examples are "can", "may", might", "must". According to Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan (1999, p. 456) modal verbs account for 15% of verb use in academic texts. It is therefore important to teach/learn them from an early stage.

Modification

A group consists of one or more words; a head word which is modified either before the head word (premodification) or after the head word (postmodification or qualification) or both.

Morpheme

A morpheme is the smallest grammatical unit. For example the word "eating" is made up of two morphemes: "eat" and "ing". There are two main kinds of morphemes: free morphemes and bound morphemes. Free morphemes, such as "eat", can occur alone; bound morphemes, such as "-ing" cannot occur alone. There are two types of bound morpheme: Inflectional morphemes ("-ing" in "eating"and derivational morphemes ("un" in "unimportant"). The study or morphemes is morphology.

Morphology

Morphology is the branch of grammar that studies the structure and form of words. It contrasts with syntax, the study of word combinations.

It consists of two fields: the study of inflection and the study of word formation or derivation.

N

NICE properties

The four NICE properties distinguish auxiliary verbs from main verbs. Auxiliary verbs are involved in Negation, Inversion, Code and Emphasis.

Negation Auxiliaries form negatives with not or n't. e.g.cannot, don't, wouldn't
Inversion Auxiliaries invert with what comes before them to form questions: 

[I will] see you soon →[Will I] see you soon?

Code Auxiliaries allow a following verb to be deleted: 

John never writes reports, but Mary does.

Emphasis Auxiliaries can be used for emphasis:  I do like cheese.
Nominal Group

A nominal group is typically a group with a noun as its Head. That noun is likely to be modified either before the noun (premodification) or after the noun (postmodification or qualification) or both. 60% of all nominal groups have a modifier (Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan, 1999, p. 578, 589, 597). A typical structure is dmhq - determiner, modifier, head & qualifier. Written academic language uses nouns and nominal groups to a much greater extent than other word classes (Biber, 2006, p. 48, 137).

For example, in the nominal group "important research by Jones", "research" is an noun in the head position. It is premodified by "important" and postmodified or qualified by "by Jones".

It would therefore seem sensible for EAP teaching to concentrate on nouns and building nominal groups rather than verbs and verbal groups.

Nominalisation

The process of forming a noun from some other word class. e.g. "red" + "ness" = "redness". EAP uses a large number of nominalisations, but see Billig (2013).

Noun

Nouns are words such as "Henry", "England", "letter", "laughter" & "beauty". They are defined partly by their form and partly by their position or function.

There are several word endings that indicate that a word is a noun. Typical examples are "-ity", "-ment", "-ness", "-tion", & "-hood". They usually change their form (inflect) for plural:- "-s", "-es".

With regard to their position, nouns frequently follow determiners "a", "the", "this", "that" and their main function is head of a nominal group. Nouns are often classified into common nouns, proper nouns and pronouns. Nouns are common, however, as modifiers in academic texts (e,g, "government agencies") (Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan, 1999, p. 589, 596).

Written academic language uses nouns to a much greater extent than other word classes (Biber, 2006, p. 48). According to Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan, (1999, p. 65), approximately 55% of lexical words in academic texts are nouns, 20% are adjectives, 15% are verbs and 10% are adverbs.

It would therefore seem sensible for EAP teaching to concentrate on nouns and building nominal groups rather than verbs.
Number

In English nouns and verbs can be described as singular or plural, depending on the number of things being referred to. For example "cat" is singular, "cats" is plural.

O

Object

Object is one important type of complement, a functional element of clause structure. It includes direct object and indirect object.

Object Complement

Object complement is one important type of complement, a functional element of clause structure. In the sentence "They elected John president", "president" is the object complement.

P

Passive Voice

A passive sentence has the basic form "The fish was eaten." It includes a passive verb. According to Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan (1999, p. 477) verbs in their passive form account for 25% of verb use in academic texts. The short passive (without "by ..." ) is much more common than the long passive with "by ..."). It is therefore important to teach/learn passive forms from an early stage.

Some verbs in academic texts occur mostly in the passive form.

Perfective Aspect

Aspect refers to the way an action denoted by a verb should be viewed with respect to time. Perfective aspect is realised by "have" + past participle of a verb. Progressive aspect is realised by "be" + present participle of a verb. According to Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan (1999, p. 461) verbs in their simple form account for 94% of verb use in academic texts; progressive aspect for 2% and perfective aspect for 6%. On a short course, it would not seem to be an efficient use of time to concentrate on these forms.

Phrasal Verb

Phrasal verbs (verb + adverbial particle) such as "pick up" and prepositional verbs (verb + preposition) such as "deal with". Advanced students and teachers of advanced students often want to spent a disproportionate amount of time on phrasal verbs. They are, however, rare in academic texts (Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan (1999 p. 409). Prepositional verbs are, however,  more common.

Plural

In English nouns and verbs can be described as singular or plural, depending on the number of things being referred to. For example "cat" is singular, "cats" is plural. Plural nouns are common in academic writing (Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan, 1999, p. 291-292).

Post-Modification

A group consists of one or more words, a head word which is modified either before the head word (premodification) or after the head word (postmodification or qualification) or both. Typical postmodifiers are:

relative clause - students who have no previous experience

to-clauses - the solution to the problem of inflation; the question to be debated

ing-clauses - a brake consisting of a drum divided into twelve compartments

en-clausescanoes preserved by a hard plaster; a brake consisting of a drum divided into twelve compartments; the curve shown

prepositional phrase - we need to bring to the box a special tool with a ready-compressed spring

adverb (group) - the road back; the people outside

adjective (group) - varieties common in India; the festival proper; something different

According to Biber, Johansonn, Leech, Conrad & Finegan (1999, p. 606), nominal groups with postmodifiers are common in written texts. The most common postmodifiers in academic texts are prepositional phrases, followed by relative clauses. Postmodifiers can be either restrictive or non-restrictive. Overall, restrictive postmodifiers are more common (85%)in academic texts.

Predicator

Predicator is a functional element of clause structure. A typical structure of a clause is SPCA - subject, predicator, complement, adjunct. Predicator is typically realised by a verbal group.

Prefix

A prefix is a morpheme added to the beginning of a word to create another word. Affixes in English can be prefixes (before the original word) or suffixes (after the original word.

Pre-Modification

A group consists of one or more words, a head word which is modified either before the head word (premodification) or after the head word (postmodification or qualification) or both. Typical premodifiers are:

adjective (group) - the constitutional aspects

ed-participle - a balanced budget; from the confused events of 19-24 August; the emitted light

ing-participle - growing problem, one striking feature of the years 1929-31; existing structures

noun - market forces; cabinet appointments

According to Biber, Johansonn, Leech, Conrad & Finegan (1999, p. 589), nominal groups with premodifiers are three to four times more common in written texts than in conversation. Adjectives and nouns are the most common premodifiers in academic texts.

Preposition

Prepositions are words such as: "up", "on", "in", or "over".

Prepositional Phrase

A prepositional phrase is a preposition followed by a nominal group - "in the town".

Prepositional Verb

Phrasal verbs (verb + adverbial particle) such as "pick up" and prepositional verbs (verb + preposition) such as "deal with". Advanced students and teachers of advanced students often want to spent a disproportionate amount of time on al verbs. They are, however rare in academic texts (Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan (1999 p. 409). Prepositional verbs are, however,  more common.

Progressive Aspect

Aspect refers to the way an action denoted by a verb should be viewed with respect to time. Perfective aspect is realised by "have" + past participle of a verb. Progressive aspect is realised by "be" + present participle of a verb. According to Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan (1999, p. 461) verbs in their simple form account for 94% of verb use in academic texts; progressive aspect for 2% and perfective aspect for 6%. On a short course, it would not seem to be an efficient use of time to concentrate on these forms.

Pronoun

Pronouns are words such as "he" or "them". They occupy the same position in clauses as nominal groups. They either refer to a nominal group within the text or to the outside situation. They can be classified into personal pronouns ("I, he, she, us, it", etc), reflexive pronouns ("myself, yourself" etc), interrogative pronouns ("who, what, which". etc), indefinite pronouns ("somebody, anybody, nothing, everybody", etc), and deictics ("this, that"). Pronouns are relatively rare in academic text - nouns are ten times more common (Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan, 1999, p. 235-236) .

Pseudo-cleft

See Wh-cleft.

Q

Qualification

See postmodification.

R

Rank

Rank refers to the different levels of organisation withing grammar. The four levels that are identified are: sentence, clause, group, word and morpheme.

Sentence

Recent studies have investigated how e-commerce might succeed, though we still have no definite suggestions.

Clause

Recent studies have investigated how
e-commerce might succeed
(though) we still have no definite suggestions

Group

recent studies
have investigated
no definite suggestions

Word

suggestions
still

Morpheme

suggest
investigate
-tion
-s
-ed

 

A unit of one rank usually consists of one or more of the units of the next lowest rank until we come to the bottom of the scale. More exactly,the units of one rank are constituents of the units of the next higher rank. This is usually the case. Howvever, there are circumstances in which a unit can include a unit equal to or higher than itself. See: Rankshift.

Rankshift

Rankshifting refers to the use of a unit as a constituent of another unit of the same or lower rank on the rank scale.

Why the research funding was withdrawn was never adequately explained. (rankshifted clause as Subject in clause)

See: embedding.

Realisation

Realisation refers to the relationship between the more abstract and the more concrete levels of language - e.g. the relationship between content and expression is one of realisation or encoding. The meaning is realised by the sound or writing; discourse-semantics is realised by lexico-grammar, subjects may be realised by nominal groups etc.

Reference/Referential cohesion

One of the types of cohesion identified by Halliday & Hasan (1976) They identify three sub-types of referential cohesion - personal, demonstrative and comparative.

Relative Clause

A relative clause is a clause which functions as a postmodifier in a nominal group. They are usually introduced by a relative pronoun: "which, where, who, that, whose". 

Stuart Ball's excellent account of the Conservative party in opposition is a book which casts an enormous amount of light on the inner life of the party. 

Relative Pronoun
A relative pronoun, a wh-pronoun or a relativiser usually introduces a relative clause, functiing as a postmodifier in a nominal group. For example; "which, who, whose, that".See relative clause.

S

Sentence

A sentence in written English is a string of words that starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop. It may consist of one or more clauses. It is not easy to identify a sentence in spoken English.

There are three main types of sentence: simple, compound and complex.

Simple form of the verb

The simple form of the verb is a verb form with no perfective or progressive aspect. Perfective aspect  is realised by "have" + past participle  of a verb. Progressive aspect is realised by "be" + present participle  of a verb - so present progressive, past perfect, past simple, present simple. You might somtimes read or hear simple past or simple present but it is confusing.

According to Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan (1999, p. 461) verbs in their simple form account for 94% of verb use in academic texts. On a short course, it would seem to be an efficient use of time to concentrate on these forms.

Simple Sentence

A simple sentence consists of one clause that stands alone.

Singular

In English nouns and verbs can be described as singular or plural, depending on the number of things being referred to. For example "cat" is singular, "cats" is plural.

Subject

Subject is a functional element of clause structure. A typical structure of a clause is SPCA - subject, predicator, complement, adjunct. Subject is typically realised by a nominal group, but may not be. For example, in the sentence: "Having to rewrite his dissertation was time-consuming," the subject is an -ing clause.

Subject Complement

Subject complement is one important type of complement, a functional element of clause structure. In the sentence "John is a teacher", "a teacher" is the subject complement.

Subordination

Subordination occurs when one clause is dependent on another clause. Two different processes are involved here: hypotaxis and embedding. Hypotaxis is a relationship between clauses: one clause is dependent on, but not a constituent of another clause. The dependent clause my be introduced by subordinating conjunctions, such as: if, when or because

While it served to reconcile warring elements in the Conservative party, in the other parties it prevented any such reconciliation.

Embedding involves one clause functioning within the structure of a group which is then a constituent of a clause.

For example:

Why the research funding was withdrawn was never adequately explained. (embedded clause as Subject in clause)

Subordinate Clause

A subordinate clause is a clause which depends on another clause.

While it served to reconcile warring elements in the Conservative party, in the other parties it prevented any such reconciliation.

Subordinating Conjunction, Subordinator

A Subordinating Conjunction or Subordinator is used to join clauses in a complex sentence. They make the clause they introduce a subordinate clause. Common ones are "after", "although", " as", "before", "if", "since", "that", "until", "when", " whereas", "while" as well as phrases such as "as soon as", "in order to", "provided that".

While it served to reconcile warring elements in the Conservative party, in the other parties it prevented any such reconciliation.

Substitution

One of the types of cohesion identified by Halliday & Hasan (1976). They identify three sub-types of substitution - nominal, verbal and clausal.

Suffix

A suffix is a morpheme added to the end of a word to create another word. Affixes in English can be prefixes (before the original word) or suffixes (after the original word).

Syntax

Syntax is a traditional term for the study of the rules governing the way words are combined to form sentences in a language. In contrasts with morphology, which studies the structure of words

Systemic-Functional Linguistics (SFL)

Systemic-Functional Linguistics (SFL) is a theory of language which grew out of the work of J. R. Firth, a British linguist of the 30s, 40s, and 50s, but was mainly developed by M. A. K. Halliday. SFL places the function - what it does and how it is used - of language in the centre. From my point of view, it is the only complete theory of language, starting, as it does, with the social context - and genre - and including all the levels down to spelling or phonetics.

T

Tense

Tense is an inflection of the verb that relates to time. English has two tenses: present ("study") and past ("studied"). According to Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan (1999, p. 456) verbs in the present tense account for 70% of verb use in academic texts and verbs in the past tense for 20% of verb use in academic texts. It is therefore important to teach/learn them from an early stage. See Aspect..

Theme/Rheme

One way of describing the information structure of a clause. The theme is the initial part of the clause - the topic - and the rheme is the final part of the clause - what is being said about the topic. Another way is given/new. Knowledge of these relationships is useful in constructing coherent paragraphs in EAP. It is sometimes called topic/comment (e.g. Hocket, 1958, p. 201)

The theme/rheme distinction (although in the early days the distinction between theme/rheme and given/new was not made) was originally conceived by Henri Weil (1844/1887, p. 29):

"There is then a point of departure, an initial notion which is equally present to him who speaks and to him who hears, which forms, as it were, the ground upon which the two intelligences meet; and another part of discourse which forms the statement ( l'énonciation), properly so called."

and then developed by the Prague School (especially Vilém Mathesius, see: Vachek, 1966) and Halliday (e.g. Halliday, 1967b). It was Halliday who introduced the distinction between theme/rheme and given/new.

U

Unit

A unit is a stretch of language that carries grammatical patterns or which operates in grammatical patterns - sentence, clause, group, word and morpheme.

V

Verb

Verbs are words like "eat", "singing" & "listened". They are defined partly by their form and partly by their position or function.

Verbs usually change their form - that is they inflect. A typical verb such as "eat" has five main forms: "eat", "eats", "eating", " ate" & "eaten". Theses form as often referred to as base, -s, -ing, -ed, -en. Irregular verbs may have fewer forms. For example "walk" has only four forms: "walk", "walks", "walked", "walking".

With regard to their position, they often fit in the following patterns: "The researcher... the report", "He ... carefully". "She ... intelligent".

Their main function is head of a verbal group. There are two main types of verb: lexical verbs and auxiliary verbs.

Verbs are not as common as nouns in academic texts. According to Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan, (1999, p. 65), only approximately 15% of lexical words in academic texts are verbs, whereas 55% are nouns, 20% are adjectives  and 10% are adverbs.

Verbal Group

A verbal group is typically a group with a verb as its head. That verb is likely to be modified either before the verb (premodification) with auxiliary verbs or after the verb ( postmodification or qualification) or both. An example is "has been eaten".

A verbal group can be finite:

The more recent biography by Kenneth Rose adds hardly anything to it.

The same sort of government ruled from 1931 to 1940.

or non-finite:

The National Government decided to appeal to the country.

He asked Churchill not to let the conference collapse.

Drawing on North American experience, the Commission concluded that `poor management was an important contributory factor to New York's problems".

Given suitable investment of funding and resources, the goal should be for the world's entire energy requirement to be produced by renewable forms of energy production as soon as possible in the next century.

Voice

A verb - or a clause - may be in the active or passive voice.

An active clause has the basic form: "John wrote the essay." Compare this with the passive voice: "The essay was written." Some verbs do not occur regularly in the activevoice in academic texts.

Vowel

A vowel is one of the two main categories that speech sounds are divided into. The other is consonant. Vowels are formed by changing the shape of the mouth, without any close contact. The English vowels are: /ɪ/, /e/, /æ/, /ʌ/, /ɒ/, /ʊ/, /ə/, /i:/, /ɑ:/, /ɔ:/, /u:/, /ɜ:/, /eɪ/, /aɪ/, /ɔɪ/, /əʊ/, /ɑʊ/ /ɪə/, /ɛə/, /ʊə/.

W

Wh-Cleft Sentence

A wh-cleft sentence (or pseudo-cleft sentence) consists of two parts, starting with "wh-". For example "What I object to is violence on TV". Wh-clefts are most common in conversation.

For example:

The conservative government increased the taxes. (non-cleft)

What the conservative government did was increase the taxes. (wh-cleft)

Word

A word, in written English, is identified by having a space (or punctuation) before or after it. A word consists of one or more morphemes.Words combine to form groups.

Word Family

A word family consists of a headword, its inflected forms, and its closely related derived forms. It includes words madfe with affixes such as "-ly", "-ness" and "un-". For example "tidy, tidies, tidied, tidying, tidily, tidiness, untidy, untidily, untidiness" belong to the same word family.

Word Class

Traditional wordclasses (or parts of speech) are

  • nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, pronounsdeterminers & conjunctions.

They are often divided into major (or open) classes - nounsverbsadjectivesadverbs -  and minor (or closed) classesprepositionspronounsdeterminers & conjunctions.

Word Order

The sequential arrangement of words in a larger linguistic unit.