A Dictionary of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics

A Dictionary of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics

A Dictionary of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics

A Dictionary of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics


This dictionary of grammatical terms covers both current and traditional terminology in syntax and morphology. It includes descriptive terms, the major theoretical concepts of the most influential grammatical frameworks, and the chief terms from mathematical and computational linguistics. It contains over 1500 entries, providing definitions and examples, pronunciations, the earliest sources of terms and suggestions for further reading, and recommendations about competing and conflicting usages. The book focuses on non-theory-boumd descriptive terms, which are likely to remain current for some years.
Aimed at students and teachers of linguistics, it allows a reader puzzled by a grammatical term to look it up and locate further reading with ease.


This dictionary is intended primarily for students and teachers of linguistics, though I hope it may also prove useful to others who sometimes want to look up unfamiliar or half-remembered grammatical terms. Unlike other dictionaries of linguistics, this one concentrates exclusively on the terminology of grammar—mainly on syntax (sentence structure), but also to some extent on morphology (word structure).

Naturally, to keep this book down to a manageable size, I have had to make a selection from the thousands of terms which make an appearance somewhere in the grammatical literature. However, the 1,500 or so terms which are defined here should include virtually every term you are likely to encounter outside of highly specialized monographs.

Aware of the typically short lifespan of the terms coined by the proponents of particular theoretical frameworks, I have chosen to devote the larger part of this dictionary to purely descriptive terms which have been and are widely used by grammarians of varying theoretical persuasions, and which seem likely to remain current for some time, such as antipassive, Bach-Peters sentence, ergative, gapping, gender, inalienable possession, infix, island constraint, pied piping and subcategorization.

With terms denoting theoretical constructs, I have been a little more selective, but terms which are used in at least two major theories of grammar are normally included: binding, c-command, Head Feature Convention, LP rule, specifier, unaccusative, X-bar system.

The specific terminology of particular theories of grammar is treated as follows. Given the dominant position of Government-Binding Theory, the terminology of that framework is covered in some considerable detail: A-bar binding, barrier, Burzio’s generalization, exceptional case marking, m-command, proper government, theta role. Rather more limited coverage is provided for four other frameworks: Generalized Phrase Structure Grammar, Lexical-Functional Grammar, Relational Grammar and Role-and-Reference Grammar. The specific terminology of other frameworks is, regrettably, not covered, though every theory of grammar known to me receives an entry under its name.

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