More linguistic terms and descriptions

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Language units large and small

Marked forms of words - Inflection, Derivation, Declension, Conjugation · Diminutive, Augmentative

Groups and categories and properties of words - Syntactic and lexical categories · Grammatical cases · Correlatives · Expletives · Adjuncts

Words and meaning - Morphology · Lexicology · Semiotics · Onomasiology · Figures of speech, expressions, phraseology, etc. · Word similarity · Ambiguity · Modality ·

Segment function, interaction, reference - Clitics · Apposition· Parataxis, Hypotaxis· Attributive· Binding · Coordinations · Word and concept reference

Sentence structure and style - Agreement · Ellipsis· Hedging

Phonology - Articulation · Formants· Prosody · Sound change · Intonation, stress, focus · Diphones · Intervocalic · Glottal stop · Vowel_diagrams · Elision · Ablaut_and_umlaut · Phonics

Analyses, models, software - Minimal pairs · Concordances · Linguistics software · Some_relatively_basic_text_processing · Word embeddings · Semantic similarity

Unsorted - Contextualism · · Text summarization · Accent, Dialect, Language · Pidgin, Creole · Natural language typology · Writing_systems · Typography, orthography · Digraphs, ligatures, dipthongs · More linguistic terms and descriptions ·


This article/section is a stub — some half-sorted notes, not necessarily checked, not necessarily correct. Feel free to ignore, or tell me about it.

The idea that the meaning of a complex expression depends only on the meaning of its parts, and the syntactics of their combination.

...and does not e.g. depend on things said earlier, beliefs and intentions, creative or poetic constructions, interpretation in context of this text's speakers, or even an individual one.

This sense of compositionality is assumed by a lot of work in semantic analysis. For a good deal because it makes things more manageable, and in part because the rest could be called pragmatics.

Idiomatic language often does not follow compositionality.

In some cases you can get away with considering those to be concepts lexicalized into specific forms. But not really - trying to set up thorough text analysis like that often ends in a mess.

A larger issue is with the above is that it tries to prescribe an almost mathematically objective view on natural language.

A lot of real-world utterances just are more contextual than purely compositional, describing or centering around some focal event, and are understood better in the frame.


The degree to which a gramamtical process is exercised - particularly by native(-enough) speakers.

Particularly in context of word formation.


  • In English -(e)s suffix as a plural marker is quite productive, where -en (children, oxen) for the same no longer is.

For example, Dutch and particularly German are fond of word formation via (endocentric) compounds, which are compositional and readily understood because they follow a regular pattern.

Language change terms

Language change is the idea that live languages change over time.

Language change is relatively descriptional - not all linguists describing language change care to spend many words about why a change happens. Which may be quite sane :)


...expressed concepts

Lexicalization usually refers to the process in which words come to express a concept.

To say that a concept is lexicalized means that it is expressed by a word/compound/phrase, basically that it was coined or adopted to do so at some time.

Some concepts that are lexicalized in one language may not be in another. For example, the concepts expressed by the German 'weltanschauung' and Portuguese 'saudade' are not lexicalized in English. Which is why is why they are fairly acceptable to use directly (they aren't really loanwords, in that they aren't really incorporated into English - although these two examples are probably better known than many other examples).

Also consider that many idioms are concepts that are lexicalized into phrases. While there's a gliding scale into vagueness in that some idioms's meanings are more agreed upon than others, and there is always a bulk of idioms going out of style.

Similarly, there is usually a subset of compounds that has meaning that is not purely compositional, so that meaning became lexicalized in that compound.

In some way, words act as attractors for concepts, which is one reason concepts are not lexicalized in the same way in different languages, and may not be directly translatable. For example, translating brain and mind into Dutch loses some of the distinction.

Lexicalisation may be mentioned to contrast expression in words or morphemes against expression via grammatical constructions and free composition.

Other uses, other meanings

In computational linguistics (specifically in parsing tasks) lexicalization is the process of combining tokens into (lexically) meaningful units. This is a nontrivial process around characters like the period (.), which may be a full-stop, part of an abbreviation, or part of a real-valued number.

In describing (artificial) grammars, 'lexicalized grammars' those in which each elementary structure contains a lexical anchor.

lexically free, lexically fixed

This article/section is a stub — some half-sorted notes, not necessarily checked, not necessarily correct. Feel free to ignore, or tell me about it.

Some people use these terms to describe the degree to which something is tied to meaning. (verify)

For example,

  • "in stress-timed languages stress are usually lexically free, syllable-timed languages usually have lexically fixed stress" (verify)
  • "a phrase is lexically ?xed if the replacement of any of its constituents by a semantically (and syntactically) similar word results not in a valid and similar phrase, but in an invalid phrase or one that has only literal meaning." (verify)


Delexicalization, also known as semantic bleaching, refers to a word losing its independent meaning or function, becoming more of a function word; pragmatics apply more than indexical meaning or composition.

The most common verbs in a language are often fairly delexicalized: They have so many possible uses (regularly including auxiliary verb) that it is only their combination that makes for a specific meaning - which means that they are more structural than semantic.

For example, consider 'get': 'get married', 'get worse', 'get home', and many more.

The meanings tend to share only a basic sense, but are not interchangeable. For example, When you take a picture, you don't move it, grab it, accept it, bear it, or such.

Such bleached verbs may still have meaning, but often a weaker one, and it may count on human disambiguation to find the intended meaning.


Some words are misunderstood and come to have a new meaning.

A bunch of examples lie in words with a camp of people rejecting this change.

A more complex case than that is the word moot - to say that a point is moot originally meant that it was a point open for and somewhat central to discussion, but is an auto-antonym: its meaning is now usually a point open to discussion but no longer relevant. (very similar to a practical versus academic argument, and some people use such terms instead) Most people know know and use only the latter.


(a.k.a. grammatization/grammatisation, sometimes grammaticisation/grammaticization)

Has various definitions, all some variation of "things becoming more grammatical", including some or all of:

Usually accompanied by semantic bleaching, and often some phonological reduction.

There are various proposed causes.


The process in which language elements being entered into a language's morphological sources/patterns/rules.

For example, the French '-ment' suffix that forms adverbs seems to originate in a specific conjugation of the Latin word for mind.

Note this also illustrates there is overlap between this and (a subset of the possible meanings and effects of) grammaticalization.

To call something morphologized is to say it has become part of the regular patterns.

For example, at one point, apostrophe-s was morphologized to mean posession.

To call something unmorphologized is to say that it isn't regular or has stopped being so.


(Someties phonologicalization)


Diachrony is the quality/study of change in language over time.

Antonym to synchrony, the disregard for historical change.
Usually used in adjective, as in 'diachronic study.' The words seems to be used in in linguistics more than in other places.

See also

Language interactiom


Loanwords (loan words, borrowed words, borrowing) are foreign words that have been integrated into a language to some degree (be it formally or informally).

See also: