Glossary, subject index

Book of Knowledge

Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

List of all languages referred to in the Book of Knowledge and other sections of the website.


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In this section you will find a list of terms used in various chapters of the Languages in Danger website’s Book of Knowledge (BoK) together with a short explanation of the meaning of these terms.

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Index term BoK chapter Explanation
ablative case 2 a grammatical case that is used to express motion away from something. It is found in e.g. the Finnish language.
ablaut 3 a vowel alternation within the root of a word
absolute universal 2 a general linguistic universal which holds for all human languages
accent, stress 4 1) heightened articulatory force placed on a phonetic unit of a language (e.g. a syllable) which makes it prominent in a word or phrase.
2) the way of pronounciation characteristic of a language variety or of a speaker.
affix 3 a cover term for suffix, prefix, etc.
agreement, concord 3 a relationship between words within a phrase such that the form of one word triggers a corresponding form or another word
allomorph 3 variations of a given morpheme
alphabetic script 5 a script in which ideally, each grapheme represents a phoneme of a language. In practice, there are many exceptions to this rule: e.g. some languages use alphabetic signs to represent vowel length (e.g. German) or employ multiple graphemes to represent one phoneme (e.g. Polish), etc.
analogue data format 10 a format of data which employs physical means of encoding data on a drive (e.g. grooves on a disc or magnetic impulses)
annotation, speech annotation 10 a method of time-aligned transcription of spoken data which allows one to follow the transcribed text and listen to the utterance after it has been recorded – similarly to e.g. film subtitles
approximant 4 a sound articulated with a narrowed vocal tract
argot 6 a kind of a secret social dialect, characterised especially by vocabulary. Argots are used by those social groups that wish to not be understood by outsiders (e.g. thieves)
articulation 4 the way sounds of speech are pronounced
Australopithecus 1 a genus of primates which inhabited eastern and souther parts of Africa up until 1 million years ago. The Australopithecus are ancestors of the Homo genus, including the Homo sapiens.
avoidance language 6 also: mother-in-law-language. A language variety characteristic of some cultures used under specific socio-cultural circumstances, e.g. in presence of certain members of the family. Avoidance language employs the same grammar as the regular variety, but differs from it in terms of vocabulary.
basic vocabulary 2 words for everyday concepts which are to a little extent dependent on cultural differences and are not likely to be borrowed from other languages: e.g. words for body parts or kinship terms
bilingualism 8 the use of two languages by an individual. Defining bilingualism is problematic since people with varying proficiencies in the two languages may be classified as bilingual.
classifier 3 a function word used with nouns within certain constructions telling to which class a word belongs
Clitic 3 a function word which fuses with another word without really becoming part of it
code switching 7 the use of more than one language or language variety within one utterance where the moments of transition are easily identifiable
codification 9 the provision of criteria for or features of a “correct” language variety
cognate 2 a word that two or more languages have inherited from the same ancestral language
compound 3 a word created by putting together two or more roots into one word (e.g. teapot, hairdryer)
consonant 4 a sound produced with a partially or totally closed articulatory channel
consonant alternation 3 a consonant change within the root
constructed identity 9 a deliberate and instrumental creation of distinct identity through e.g. promoting and supporting the feeling of ethnic, linguistic or cultural distinctness.
content words 3 words having their own lexical meaning, as opposed to function words which predominantly have only grammatical meaning and function
corpus (language corpus) 10 a systematized set of samples of actual uses of a language (e.g. written texts, recordings of speech) which has been collected for a purpose, e.g. for purposes of scholarly investigation, language documentation or language planning
creole 7 a language originating from a pidgin which has evolved into a fully developed language, with a complete array of grammatical distinctions, a large vocabulary and a community of native speakers
definiteness 3 a grammatical category which tells that the entity being talked about is accessible (known or otherwise identifiable) to the speaker and the hearer
derivation 3 a method of creating word-forms by attaching affixes to the root
dialect 1, 2, 6 a local/regional variety of a language. In most cases, speakers of local dialects, understand the neighbouring regional dialects of the same language
diglossia 7 a situation in which two languages or language varieties serve different domains of language usage within a community
double articulation, duality of patterning 1 the feature of linguistic signs to be divided into meaningful elements, which can be further divided into smaller elements. A phrase can be divided into words, which are composed of morphemes. These, in turn, can be divided into meaningless elements – sounds.
elicitation 10 a method of data collection in which desired types of data are acquired directly from speakers, according to a previously designed scenario
endangered language 8 a language that is at risk of falling out of use
(inflectional) ending 3 the last suffix attached to the stem, which conveys grammatical meaning
ethnicity 9 a term that denotes a subjective sense of shared identity based on common descent, which results in a sense of group solidarity
ethnolect 1, 9 a language of a particular ethnic group
fieldwork conditions 10 the circumstances in which linguistic fieldwork is conducted most often, i.e. on location where speakers naturally spend their time, go to work or school (as opposed to laboratory or studio conditions)
flexibility 9 a feature of the human language which enables us to communicate the same message in several different ways
function words 3 small words that are used to link words or phrases together or to express grammatical meaning
gender, noun class 3 a grammatical category which assigns nouns to certain classes (one of the examples is the masculine – feminine – neutral distinction). Which noun belongs to which class may depend on its meaning or its sound shape, but sometimes the choice is arbitrary.
genetic classification of languages 1 a way of classifying languages which looks at their origin. Genetically related languages have a common ancestor and form language families.
genre  6 a type of text characterised by its specific structure, linguistic features, and by its social function
glossing 3 a technique used by linguists to show the structure and meaning of words of a foreign language. The words are segmented into morphs, and each morph gets a translation written below it. For translation of grammatical morphemes a set of abbreviations called glosses is used, such as SG for singular, or PST for past tense.
grapheme 5 a visual symbol used in writing
graphisation 5 the development of a written form of a language or its variety
Homo sapiens 1 a species of hominini which we all are representatives of. The Homo sapiens is the only presently living species of the Homo genus.
iconicity 1 a type of a relationship between a linguistic sign and its meaning that the meaning of a sign can be told on the basis of the way it sounds or looks. Contrary to the followers of the view that signs of the human language are entirely arbitrary, i.e are a matter of convention, people supportive of iconicity claim that the relationship between meaning and form can be explained.
ideographic script 5 a script that uses graphemes which are almost only conventional representations of concepts
idiolect 1, 10 the idiosyncratic (individual) language of a particular person
implicational universal 2 a type of a linguistic universal which has the following form: “if a language has the feature A, then it also has the feature B”
inalienable and alienable possession 3 Two ways of expressing that something or someone belongs to someone/something:
(1) inalienable is used for entities which one cannot acquire or get rid of, e.g. body parts or members of the family;
(2) alienable is used for tangible entities one can acquire and dispense with (e.g. a house)
individual plurilingualism 7 the ability of an individual to communicate and function in more than one language and culture
infix 3 a morpheme which is inserted into the root of a word
inflection 3 the building of word-forms which involves the change of form within a lexeme
institutional language support 9 a set of actions aiming at the strengthening or maintaining of the position of a language, which are undertaken by or in cooperation with political and other authorities
intangible cultural heritage 6 the part of the cultural heritage of a nation, community, etc. which is not physically recorded on durable materials but is rather passed on orally to next generations: e.g. customs, rituals, sets of beliefs and the traditional know-how
International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) 2, 4, 5, 10 a unified system of alphabetic signs developed by the International Phonetic Association for the purposes of an exhaustive representation of all the sounds found in all human languages
intonation 4 the variation of pitch used in speech, which does not changing the meaning of the word (unlike tone)
jargon 1, 6 a language variety used by a certain group of professionals (e.g. linguists, doctors, priests). A jargon is characterised mainly by the use of specific vocabulary.
keyword of culture 2 words which label concepts important for a certain culture. Keywords of culture are often culture-specific: they are not easily translated into other languages.
language contact 7 A situation in which groups of speakers of different languages come into contact with one another so that the system of at least one of these languages in influenced as a result of the contact
language cultivation 9 activities aimed at the encouragement to use a language and its codified variety
language documentation 10 all activities concerned with the collection, processing and archiving of linguistic data
language endangerment 1, 8, 9 a phenomenon in which a language is no longer used by the young generations or has increasingly fewer domains of usage. Typically, language endangerment is gradual, in which case we speak of language shift. Endangered languages are in risk of vanishing.
language maintenance 9 strategies and actions supporting and strengthening an endangered language which still functions and which is used by young speakers, but whose use is growing weaker
language planning 9 activities and decisions which concern the future development of a language or a language variety
language policy 9 a set of any legislative acts which aim at shaping the relationship between the society and the language varieties in use in that society
language revitalization / revival 9 strategies and actions which aim at making the condition of a language better in comparison to its previous state: the restoration of at least some of the functions and domains of usage an endangered language (revitalization) or bringing a completely abandoned language back to use (revival)
language shift 8 the gradual loss of language which may lead to a total extinction of a language. It happens where people cease to use a language and gradually adopt another one
language variety 6, 8, 9 one of the many facets of a given language. Varieties may include dialects, accents, registers, styles or other social, geographical or functional variation, as well as the standard language variety.
lexeme 3 a technical term for “word” understood as an abstract unit of meaning and form
lexicostatistics 2 a method used for establishing the degree of genetic relationship between languages, which looks at the percentage of cognates in wordlists, mostly of the Swadesh list type
lingua franca 7, 8 a language that is adopted as a common language between speakers whose first languages are different (e.g. German for an American and a Frenchman)
linguistic awareness 10 the metalinguistic knowledge and ability of a speaker to describe and explain rules and structures of their language, as well as beliefs and opinions about language use
linguistic behaviour 10 a term used to describe all human conduct which involves the use of language: everyday conversations, language use in social contacts between community members, linguistic customs and traditions
linguistic data 10 a sample of an actual use of a language preserved in a durable form, e.g. a text, a dictionary or a recording
linguistic fieldwork 10 activities connected with the gathering of linguistic data for the purposes of language documentation in a place where the language is spoken
linguistic landscape 9 The visibility and salience of languages in the public sphere on a given territory or in the private sphere (e.g. in someone’s home)
linguistic sign 1 a meaningful unit of language. In the structuralist theory of language, of which the linguistic sign is an important part, a linguistic sign is a relationship between the unit of language and the concept in the extralinguistic world which is signified.
linguistic universals 2 features common for all human languages
linguistics 1 the branch of science dedicated to the study of languages
linguonym 1 the name of a language variety
loanword, loan word 7 a word originating in a different language. The language the word comes from is called the donor language, the language which takes the loanword is the recipient language.
logographic script 5 a type of script in which graphic symbols indicate particular concepts 
mental lexicon 4 a complicated system residing in the mind, which stores all the information about the units of a language
metadata 10 data about data; additional information about the main data. For example, for a phonetician data can be represented by speech signals and then metadata will be all additional information, e.g. about the time and location of the recordings, name of the speaker, technical quality, etc.
metalinguistic 1 a term referring to the possibility of talking about language. It is held that only humans have this capacity.
metaphor 6 a figure of speech and a source for semantic change that relies on a perceived similarity between two concepts.
microlnaguage 9 a language that is spoken by a small group, of a few or of a dozen of still remaining speakers
minimal pair 4 a pair of words which differ from each other only by one single sound
monolingualism 1, 9 a phenomenon in which only one language is used in a country or a region or a situation in which a person speaks just one language
morph 3 a concrete spoken or written manifestation of a morpheme
morpheme 3 the smallest unit of a language (part of a word) that bears meaning
morphology 3 a branch of linguistics which studies the formal make-up of words
multilingualism 1, 7, 9 a phenomenon in which multiple languages are used by a person or in a region/state. Different patterns of coexistence of several languages can be meant by ‘multilingualism’: e.g. some societies employ different languages to serve different domains of usage (which is called diglossia), while in others, one language is a minority language, but the whole of the community is able to use both the minority and the majority language so that they are present in all domains, etc.
normalization 9 the choice of one particular language variety over another as the standard form
number 3 a grammatical category which expresses count distinctions. The basic number distinction in languages is between ‘one’ (singular) and ‘more than one’ (plural)
oberserver’s paradox 10 a phenomenon connected with data collection that while the most reliable data presents language as used by people in natural settings when they are not observed, such data can be only obtained by observation
onomatopoeia 1 a word which immitates sounds (e.g. “meow” or “to buzz”)
oscillogram 4 the least technically complicated method of phonetic visualization which displays the sound wave propagation in time
passive bilingualism 8 a situation when a bilingual understands more than one language but is able to use only one of them fluently
person 3 a grammatical category which makes distinctions in the realm of discourse participation. Grammatical person typically distinguishes between the speaker(s), the addressee(s) and others
phonation 4 the process by which the vocal folds produce sounds
phone 4 the concrete, physical and perceptible sound of speech (realisation of a phoneme)
phoneme 4 the smallest linguistic unit which can differentiate meaning, but has no meaning of its own. Phoneme is an abstract category comprising phones.
phonetic alphabet 10 a set of alphabetic signs designed for a systematic representation of the sounds of a language. The IPA alphabet provides probably the most well-known example.
phonographic script 5 a script in which each grapheme represents a sound unit of language, e.g. a syllable or a phoneme
phonotactical restriction 2 a rule stating the possible combinations of phonemes in a given language
pictographic script 5 a script which uses graphemes, which constitute visual (pictorial) representations of the objects in the surrounding world and bear much resemblance to the objects they symbolize
pidgin 7 a simplified language variety, used for communication between people not sharing a common language. Pidgins have a limited vocabulary, some items of which are taken from local languages, and are not native languages (i.e. children do not acquire pidgins), but arise out of language contact between speakers of other languages.
possession 3 the relation between a possessor (the “owner” in a broad sense) and the thing possessed
prefix 3 a morpheme that precedes the root of a word
productivity 1 1) the ability of the human language to form an unlimited number of new utterances on the basis of what was seen or heard before.
2) we also speak of ‘productivity’ with respect to the grammatical units of language, e.g. derivational affixes are productive if they are widely used to form new words.
psycholinguistics 1 the study of the psychological side of language, which deals with e.g. language acquisition and processing
recording scenario 10 a semi-structured design of a recording session in which e.g. the topic of the conversation is set beforehand
recording session 10 a term used to include all events happening during the recording
reduplication 3 a technique of word formation in which new words are formed by repetition of words or morphemes
regional language 6, 9 an autochthonous language of a particular region, which is not an ethnic or national minority language. A regional language is typically closely related to the dominant state language.
relational database 10 a type of a database which includes information not only about the data itself, but also about the ways in which various types of data are related and organized
root 3 a morpheme which bears the lexical meaning of a word
semasiography 5 a script in which graphic symbols represent concepts directly and are not dependent on linguistic structures
sign language 1 a system of conventionalised gestures used in communication among and with deaf people
slang 1, 6 a sociolect used by a certain group of common interest or conduct (e.g. members of the hip-hop culture, hippies, students)
sociolect 6 also: social dialect; a broad term comprising language varieties used by groups of members of a society who share common activities or social backgrounds
sociolinguistics 1 the study of the place of language in society and the social significance of its varieties
spectrogram 4 the most informative and most widely used method of technological visualization of the phones in a recording
speech 1, 4 the most natural oral use of language
standard 6 a language variety which has a consciously developed unified form and which typically enjoys high prestige in the society
standarization 9, 6 the establishment of a uniform version of the language
stem 3 the part of a word to which an inflectional ending is attached, if there is one; a stem may contain only the root, a root plus one or more affixes, or more than one root with or without affixes
structuralism 2 a trend in formal linguistics which considers language primarily an internally organised system and investigates how the signs of a language relate to each other to form a system of meanings
suffix 2, 3 an affix placed after the root of the word
Swadesh list 2 a type of a wordlist created by the linguist Morris Swadesh. Such a list includes 100-200 items of basic vocabulary and is used for purposes of establishing the level of genetic relationship between languages.
syllabic script 5 a script in which graphemes represent syllables
syntax 3 the branch of linguistics that studies the combination of words into phrases and of phrases into clauses/sentences
tone 4 a change in the pitch of a phonetic unit of a language which influences the meaning of a linguistic sign
transcription, phonetic transcription 4, 10 the written representation of spoken utterances which reflects e.g their prosodic features
transfix 3 a discontinuous affix which is placed within the root of a word
translanguaging, polylanguaging 7 a phenomenon in which speakers employ all the linguistic resources at their disposal for communicative purposes regardless of whether these resources represent a single or multiple language systems (not to confuse with code switching in which one can tell the distinct places of transition between languages)
transliteration 5 the conversion of a text from one writing system into another
typological classification of languages; linguistic typology 1, 2 a system of classifying languages which looks at the similarities of structures found in them. Typology is concerned with questions such as: ‘How do languages express future?’, ‘How many genders do languages distinguish?’, etc.
Universal Grammar 2 an innate system of linguistic rules which enable every human being to consrtuct the grammatical structure of any surrounding language. The theory of Universal Grammar was developed by Noam Chomsky.
urban dialect 6 a language variety specific to a particular city. An urban dialect typically combines features of regional and social dialects: e.g. it contains vocabulary items typical for the surrounding region and reflects the sociolinguistic situation in the city, e.g. language contacts and the professional structure of the inhabiting population.
verbal art 6 a type of language use (including written works) whose main function is cultural expression and not merely communication: e.g. creating literature, performing customs, riddling, etc.
vocative (case) 2 a grammatical category of a noun (mostly considered a case) which is used to address an interlocutor or an object or to call its name
vowel 4 a sound produced with a widely open articulatory channel
word order 1, 3 the order in which words are combined to form phrases and clauses. We mostly speak of the basic word order, i.e. the order of appearance of the subject, the object and the verb in a transitive clause.
word-form 3 a concrete manifestation of a lexeme in a spoken or written text
word-formation 3 the creation of words in the sense of a lexeme, i.e. abstract linguistic units of meaning and form
writing 1, 5 the symbolic representation of the sounds of a language by means of graphic signs
writing system 5 a system of visual symbols and rules of orthography which are used to record a language on a durable material

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