LANGUAGE AND SOCIETY: 101 LANGUAGE-RELATED TERMS
- Accent. In phonetics, those features of pronunciation which signal a person’s regional or social identity (Crystal).
- Alphabet. A writing system in which symbols represent the phonemes (sounds) of a language.
- Applied linguistics. The application of linguistics to other fields, such as language learning, speech analysis, the teaching of reading, language disorders, etc.
- Areal linguistics. The study of geographical regions which are characterized by shared linguistic properties (Crystal), even though the languages in question may belong to more than one language group.
- Bilingual education. (1) Education provided in more than one language. (2) A technique used for non-speakers of an official language whereby some degree of initial instruction is offered in the native language of the students and the instruction in the official language is introduced gradually.
- Bilingualism. (1) A situation in which an individual uses two languages (individual bilingualism). (2) A situation in which two languages are in broad use in a community (societal bilingualism). (Cf. multilingualism)
- Borrowing. The transfer of a word (or other linguistic element) from one language (or dialect) to another. A word so borrowed is known as a loan word.
- Code mixing. A speaker’s mixing of more than one language in a single sentence, lexical item or phrase.
- Code switching. A speaker’s switching, in the context of a single utterance or conversation, from one language or language variety to another.
- Communicative competence. A person’s unconscious knowledge of the rules governing the appropriate use of language in social situations (Crystal). Contrasted with linguistic competence.
- Corpus planning. That branch of language planning concerned with the selection or adaptation of the language itself, as opposed to its social and political situation (see status planning).
- Creole. A pidgin (q.v.) that has acquired native speakers and developed a speech community.
- Culture. A notoriously problematic term, defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary as the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.
- Diachronic linguistics (or historical linguistics). The study of the development of languages over time
- Dialect. A distinct form of a given language spoken in a particular geographical area or region.
- Diglossia. A situation in which two different varieties of language exist in a given speech community, each having its own functions.
- Dominant language. A language whose speakers have more political and economic power and thus more social influence than speakers of other varieties that are spoken in the same area (Cluver).
- Ethnicity. A strong sense of group identity based on such common bonds as ancestry, cultural norms, and language.
- Ethnolinguistics. The study of language with reference to its cultural context (Crystal).
- Etymology. The study of the derivation of words and their meanings.
- Gender and language. Language considered from the point of view of gender difference, for example the tendency to exclude or to single out gender in conventional language use, or the use of specific language forms, systems or behaviors by a single gender-group.
- Geolinguistics. The study of the geographical distribution of languages in the world, with reference to their political, economic, and cultural status (Crystal).
- Grammar. Systematic analysis of the structure of a language (Crystal) and the rules and principles of its use. Cf. morphology, syntax.
- Idiolect. The linguistic system of a single individual.
- Immersion. A language learning program in which only the target language is used for instruction and students are “immersed” in this language.
- Indigenous language. A language that is regarded as the longstanding language of the people of a given area or region and assumed to have originated in that area or region.
- Interlinguistics. The study of planned languages and their social, political, economic and linguistic context.
- Interpretation. The oral transfer of speech from one language to another. Interpretation is either simultaneous (going on as the speaker speaks) or consecutive (in which the interpreter interprets short stretches of speech while the speaker pauses).
- Language. The systematic, conventional use of sounds, signs, or written symbols in a human society for communication and self-expression (Crystal).
- Language acquisition. (1) The process whereby a child masters a first language. (2) The process whereby a person acquires a second or foreign language.
- Language attitudes. The feelings people have about their own language or the language(s) of others (Crystal).
- Language attrition. The process, normally non-clinical, whereby a person loses command of a language (cf. language loss, the loss of a language or of language in general as a result of trauma).
- Language change. The process whereby a language changes over time as a result of constant use.
- Language choice. The decision of an individual or community to select a particular language for general or special-purpose use. Such a selection may be informal or formal.
- Language conflict. Conflict among language communities, caused by formal or informal language policies, or language attitudes, and frequently having economic or political origins.
- Language contact. A situation in which two or more languages are in close geographical or social contact with one another, resulting in such phenomena as bilingualism, borrowing, or pidginization.
- Language death. The condition following language decline, in which a language loses all its speakers.
- Language decline. The process whereby a language gradually loses its status as the primary language of a given community and is replaced by another language.
- Language ideology. The reinterpretation of the history and present position and function of a particular language in such a way that the reinterpretation justifies and reinforces the central group values of the members of the speech community (Cluver). Cf. language attitudes.
- Language loyalty. The continued use of a language or of its traditional forms in the face of competing languages or forms.
- Language maintenance. The conscious preservation or protection of a language, particularly a language that is endangered by the dominance of other languages. Cf. language loyalty.
- Language of instruction. The language used for formal instruction in schools.
- Language planning. The (normally) conscious planning of a language to promote its use in a given context or region, a process often involving standardization and modernization (corpus planning) and the adoption of policies for its use in schools, social services, government etc. (status planning).
- Language policy. Formal procedures or practices determining what language or language form will be used under what circumstances.
- Language revival. Planned efforts to revitalize a declining language, or to reintroduce a defunct language, in a given community or region, by such means as modernization or the adoption of appropriate language policies.
- Language rights. Rights inhering in the use of a particular language, particularly one’s native language, in schools, the justice system, the government, the media, etc.
- Language services. The various services provided in a multilingual organization to facilitate communication across languages (e.g. translation, interpretation, development of terminology).
- Language shift. The gradual displacement of one language by another in certain functional domains (partial shift) or in all domains (total shift) (Cluver).
- Language spread. The increase over time of a communications network that adopts a given language variety for a given communicative function (Cooper). The expansion of a language to embrace more speakers and a wider geographical area.
- Language standardization. Language planning whereby one language variety (or elements from one variety) in a broader speech community is adopted in preference to others.
- Language universals. Properties claimed to be characteristic of all languages (Crystal).
- Lect. A specific variety of a language (as in dialect, idiolect, sociolect).
- Lexicology. The study of the vocabulary (or lexicon) of a language.
- Lingua franca. A language used to permit routine communication between groups of people who speak different native languages.
- Linguicide. The deliberate elimination of a language through the adoption and application of policies and procedures that inhibit or prevent its use.
- Linguicism. Unfair discrimination against individuals or communities on the basis of the language or languages they use or cannot use (cf. sexism, racism).
- Linguistic imperialism. The use of a dominant and powerful language belonging to an imperial power to oppress, exploit, or discriminate against speakers of other languages.
- Literacy. The ability to read and write.
- Macrolinguistics. The study of language in its broadest forms and context.
- Microlinguistics. The analysis of linguistic data involving maximum depth of detail (Crystal).
- Morphology. The branch of grammar which studies the structure of words and their formation.
- Mother-tongue education. The education of children in their native language, particularly at the elementary level.
- Multilingualism. (1) A situation in which an individual uses several languages (individual multilingualism). (2) A situation in which several languages are in broad use in a community or region (societal multilingualism). See bilingualism.
- Nation. (1) A group of individuals, often large in number, having a sense of common heritage, history, geography, or way of life (and often including a shared ethnicity and language), and a sense of distinctiveness from other similar groupings. (2) An entity having some or all of these characteristics and organized into a political unit, such as a nation state.
- National language. A language regarded as the chief language of a nation or nation state, though not necessarily constitutionally recognized as such (cf. official language).
- Nationalism. Self-conscious support for the autonomy and/or self-government of a nation
- Native speaker. A person speaking a language acquired in childhood as a first language, i.e. as a mother tongue.
- Neurolinguistics. The study of the basis in the human nervous system for language development and use (Crystal).
- Official language. (1) A language of government, formally recognized as such, in a country, state or other territorial divison. (2) A language adopted as a language of record and/or for the conduct of certain official business in an organization.
- Onomastics. The study of proper names.
- Orthography. A standardized system for writing a specific language, including spelling and punctuation where appropriate.
- Pasigraphy. A planned system of symbols which can be understood between different languages.
- Phonetics. The study of the characteristics of human sound-making, especially of those sounds used in speech (Crystal).
- Phonology. The study of the sound systems (i.e. meaningful sounds, whose smallest units are phonemes) of languages.
- Pidgin. An intermediate language emerging to facilitate communication between speakers of different languages, frequently for purposes of trade or in colonial situations.
- Planned language. A language created for a specific purpose, often to serve as an international language. Sometimes known as a constructed language. Such languages may be created independently of existing languages (a priori) or on the basis of existing languages (a posteriori). See interlinguistics.
- Pragmatics. The study of language from the point of view of its users (e.g. the choices the users make, the strategies they employ in social interaction, and the effects of these strategies).
- Primary language. The language a speaker has mastered best and which is used in most domains in which he/she functions (Cluver).
- Print culture. A culture in which printing and the availability of printed materials play an important part, for example in the uses of a language and in language change.
- Psycholinguistics. The study of the correlation between linguistic behavior and the mental processes and skills thought to underlie that behavior (Crystal). The field generally includes neurolinguistics, most aspects of language learning, language acquisition, etc.
- Register. A variety of language defined according to its use in social situations (Crystal).
- Second language. A language acquired after the native language (or mother tongue) for a particular communicative purpose.
- Semantics. The study of meaning in language, i.e. the relationship between a linguistic symbol system and the objects or concepts to which the symbols refer.
- Semiotics (or semiology). The study of signs and their use.
- Sign language. A system of gestures, made primarily with the hands, used in place of speech and often constituting a complete linguistic system.
- Sociolect. A distinct form of a given language spoken by a particular social class or occupational group.
- Sociolinguistics. The study of the ways in which language is integrated with human society (Crystal).
- Speech act. A communicative activity defined with reference to the intentions of a speaker while speaking and the effects achieved on a listener (Crystal).
- Speech community. A regionally or socially definable human group sharing a spoken language or language variety (Crystal), or a set of norms and rules for the use of language (Romaine).
- Standard language. That dialect of a language which has gained literary and cultural supremacy over the other dialects and is accepted by the speakers of the other dialects as the most proper form of that language (Pei); a prestige variety of language used within a speech community (Crystal).
- Status planning. Language planning achieved through changing the status of a language, e.g. by the adoption of policies for its use in schools, social services, government etc.
- Synchronic linguistics. The study of language or languages at a particular point in time, i.e. without taking into consideration such phenomena as language change.
- Syntax.. Study of the rules governing the way words are combined to form sentences (Crystal).
- Terminology. The technical vocabulary associated with a particular subject, and the study and development of such vocabulary. Cf. diachronic linguistics.
- Translation. The transfer of written texts from one language to another. Cf. interpretation.
- Triglossia. A diglossic situation involving not two but three language forms.
- Typology of languages. The study of structural similarities between languages, regardless of their history (Crystal).
- Vehicular language. A lingua franca (q.v.).
- Vernacular language. The non-standard ethnic language or dialect of a speech community. Cf. indigenous language.
- Working language. A language adopted by an organization for the conduct of most or all phases of its business.
- Writing system. A system for recording spoken language by means of two-dimensional visual marks. Such systems may be alphabets, syllabaries or systems of ideograms or pictograms.
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