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Glossary (includes abbreviations)

In the conclusion to each chapter, there is a list of key terms. They are explained in the glossary, as well as abbreviations (followed by `='). Sometimes the abbreviation just give the abbreviated term and if that's unclear, search for the full term. Some common terms not used in this book are listed as well because they may be used elsewhere.


To search:

Press the CTR key and F; then, type in a hyphen followed by the word you are searching. For instance, if you'd like to know subject: type -subject. That way, you get the main entry.



-Adj' = Adjective-bar

An intermediate category, see chapter 9.

-accusative case

The case of the object or prepositional object, only visible on pronouns, e.g. me, in He saw me, also called the objective case. See special topic to chapter 4.


A sentence in which the doer of the action is the subject, as in I saw an elephant, see chapter 4, section 1.3.

-Adj = adjective.


A word which often describes qualities, e.g. proud; it modifies a noun, see chapter 2, section 1.2.

-adjective complement

Complement to an adjective, e.g. of him in proud [of him], see chapter 9, section 1.


= Adjective Phrase: group of words centered around an adjective, e.g. very nice, see chapter 3, section 1.3.


Term not used in this book; alternative for `adverbial', see there.

-Adv = adverb.


E.g. proudly; it is similar to an adjective but it modifies a verb, adjective, or other adverb, see chapter 2, section 1.2, whereas an adjective modifies a noun.


A function at sentence level providing the background on where, when, how, and why the event described in the VP takes place, see chapter 5, section 1.

-AdvP = Adverb Phrase

A group of words centered around an adverb, e.g. very nicely, see chapter 3, section 1.3.


Cannot stand on its own, e.g. an ending such as -ing, see chapter 6.


Process where an affix belonging to an auxiliary `hops' and attaches to the verb immediately to the right of the auxiliary, see chapter 6 and table 6.3.


E.g. -s in she walks, ending on the verb that `agrees' with the subject, see special topic chapter 9.


Word (lexical ambiguity) or sentence (structural ambiguity) with more than one meaning, see chapters 1 and 3.


A word with the opposite meaning, e.g. hot/cold, good/bad, chapter 2.


A, an, the in English, see chapter 2, section 2.1.


When the character of the action is emphasized, as in he is reading, rather than when the action took place, chapter 6, 1.3.

-attributive adjective

Term not used in this book; an adjective that modifies a Noun inside an NP.


A `verb' that cannot stand on its own, but that `helps' (combines with) another verb, e.g. have in They have seen a riot, see chapters 2 and 6 and table 6.1.


-bare infinitive

Infinitive without a to, e.g. leave in I saw her leave, see chapter 8.


A line that marks the relationship between two nodes in tree; it shows how a phrase is divided up, see chapter 3, section 1.

-BrE                                         British English


-C = complementizer.


In English, case is only visible on pronouns. Thus, she in She saw me has nominative case, i.e. is used in subject position, and me has accusative or objective case, i.e. is used in object position.


Unit containing a lexical verb, see also main clause, subordinate clause, see chapters 7 and 8.


A focus construction of the form It is Catweazle who caused the problems, see chapter 11, section 3.


Not dividing a phrase into separate branches; used rarely in the trees in this book, see chapter 11.

-comma splice

A comma between two independent clauses, see extra topic chapter 11.


Forms such as greater that compare one situation or entity with another.


Complement to V, N, Adj, P. Complements to VPs are divided into direct and indirect object, subject predicate, object predicate, prepositional and phrasal object. Nouns, adjectives, and prepositions can also have complements, see chapters 3, 9, and 10.


E.g. that/if/whether, connects two clauses, one subordinate to the other, see chapters 2 and 7.

-complex transitive

A verb with a direct object and an object predicate, see chapter 4, section 2.


Not used in this book, except in quotes and to indicate an alternative phrasing. It is a general term to describe a word that joins two or more words or phrases or sentences together. There are subordinating (that) and coordinating (and) conjunctions, see chapter 2, section 2.3.


Sound such as b, p, f, v, t, k, made by somehow modifying the airstream, see chapter 1, 1.1. for use in a rule.


Not used in this book; a group of words that form a unit, typically a phrase.


A word that is shortened, e.g. he's for he has, see special topic chapter 6.


Connecting two phrases or clauses that are equal to each other my means of e.g. and, see chapter 3.

-coordinating conjunction

Not used in this book; same as coordinator, see there.


Connects two phrases or clauses that are equal to each other, e.g. and/or, see chapter 2, also called coordinating conjunction.


A verb with a subject predicative, typically to be or to become, see chapter 4, section 2.


-D = determiner.

-dangling modifier

An adverbial clause whose subject is not the same as the subject of the main sentence, see special topic chapter 8.


For example, P is a daughter of a PP, i.e. lower in the tree but connected to the `mother' by a branch, see chapter 3.

-degree adverb

Adverbs that indicate degree, e.g. very, too, so, more, most, quite, rather, see chapter 2, section 1.2.


Describing what language users really say, as opposed to what they `should' say, see chapter 1.


Word that points or specifies, e.g. the, see chapter 2, section 2.1.

-direct object

Object of a verb such as eat, see, and enjoy. For instance, him in They saw him, see chapter 4, section 1.2.


Verb that has both a direct and indirect object, e.g. tell, give, see chapter 4, section 2.


A word used to fulfill a grammatical requirement, see dummy do and subject.

-dummy do

If no auxiliary is present in a sentence, do is used with questions and negatives, see chapter 6, 1.5.

-dummy subject

If a subject is not present, it or there are used, also see pleonastic subject, chapter 4, section 1.1, and chapter 7.



Short for `for example'.


Word or phrase left out to avoid repetition, e.g. in He wrote a poem and painted a pictures, the subject of painted has been left out.


Term not used in this book. It is the result of eliding, see above.

-embedded sentence/clause

A clause or sentence inside another phrase or sentence/clause, see chapter 7.


Sentences such as Man, what a fool he is!!, see chapter 11, section 2.


When an embedded clause (usually in subject position) is placed at the end of the sentence, e.g. It was nice [that he left]. A dummy subject it is put in the original position. See chapter 7.


-finite clauseA clause with a finite verb (see below) and a nominative subject, see chapter 7.

-finite verb

A verb expressing agreement and tense (past or present), see chapters 6 and 7.

-flat structure

A tree that does not express hierarchies because many braches descend from one node, see chapter 3, section 1.1.

-formal language

Language used in formal situations such as ceremonies, formal lectures, meeting a government official, see chapter 1.


Phrases (and clauses) have functions such as Subject and Direct Object. These are at the level of the sentence. There are also functions inside the phrase, namely determiner, modifier, and complement. See chapters 4 and 5 for functions at sentence level and chapters 9 and 10 for functions at phrase level.


-genitive case

The case that a possessive has, e.g. Catweazle's in Catweazle's book, see special topics chapter 4.


A verbal noun that ends in -ing. When it has a subject, this subject bears genitive case e.g.John's in John's cleaning up would be appreciated, briefly discussed in chapter 8, and chapter 10, section 1.


Adjective that can be modified in terms of degree, e.g. very happy, happier.


The rules to form and understand language. In this book, we focus on how to analyze sentences, rather than full texts, words, or sounds. We also focus on descriptive, rather than prescriptive rules.


A sentence (or word) that native speakers consider acceptable.

-grammatical category

Word with little meaning, e.g. Determiner, Quantifier, Auxiliary, Coordinator and Complementizer, see chapter 2.



The most important part of a unit/phrase, e.g. the N seadog is the head of the NP the blue seadog, see chapter 9.


When speakers are so conscious that a prescriptive rule exists that they make a mistake.


-i.e.Short for `namely'.


A command such as Go away, shut up!, see chapter 11, section 4.

-indirect object

Object that can be preceded by to or for, e.g. Doris in Clovis gave Doris a flower, see chapter 4.


The base form of a verb, e.g. to go, to be, see chapter 8.

-informal language

Language used in informal situations such as casual conversation. In/formality depends on the situation, the participants, the topic. See chapter 1.

-innate faculty

Enables us to acquire language, see chapter 1.


A verb without an object, e.g. laugh, swim, see chapter 4, section 2.

-irregular verbs

The past tense and past participle of these verbs are not formed by adding -ed to the present, as in the case of regular verbs. Some examples of irregular verbs are: go, went, gone; see, saw, seen; write, wrote, written. See special topic chapter 6.


-lexical category

Word with lexical meaning, such as a Noun, Verb, Adjective, Adverb, and Preposition, see chapter 2.

-lexical verb

Verb that can stand on its own, e.g. see, walk, see chapters 2 and 6.

-linguistic knowledge

Knowledge about linguistic notions and rules that we have in our heads, e.g. consonants and vowels, structure, question formation, see chapter 1.


-main clause

Independent clause, i.e. a sentence that can stand on its own, minimally containing a subject and a predicate and not embedded within another clause.


Auxiliary such as must, will, would, can, could that expresses necessity, uncertainty, possibility, see chapter 6.


An element whose function is to modify another element, e.g. purple in purple sage, see chapter 9.


Describe the quality of something.


See transitive.


Rules for how to build words, e.g. formal + ize, see chapter 1.


In a tree, the node above another node, e.g. PP is the mother of P.

-multiple negation

When two or more nagative words (not, noboday) occur in the same clause, e.g. I didn't eat nothing, see special topic chapter 3.


-N = noun.

-N' = N-bar

intermediate category, see chapter 3 and especially chapter 9.


E.g. not or n't, or a negative word such as nothing.


a point in the tree, e.g. NP is a node, see chapter 3.

-nominative case

The case of the subject, only visible on pronouns, e.g. she in She left early, see special topic chapter 4.

-non-finite verb or clause

A verb that lack tense and a nominative subject, e.g. to be or not to be, see chapter 6, section 3, and chapter 8.

-non-linguistic (or social) knowledge

Knowledge of social rules, see chapter 1, section 3.

-non-restrictive RC

A clause that provides background information to the noun it modifies; is often set apart from the rest of the sentence through commas or comma intonation; see chapter 10.


A word such as table, freedom, book, love, see chapter 2; table 2.1.

-noun complement

Of chemistry in teacher of chemistry, see chapter 10, section 2.

-NP = Noun Phrase

group of words centered around a noun, e.g. the red balloon, see chapter 3, section 1.1.


A word such as one, two. They can be seen as A or D, see chapter 2 and table 2.3.


-objective or accusative case

In English, case is only visible on pronouns, e.g him, in Hermione saw him. Objects typically get this case, hence the name objective. See special topics, chapter 4.

-object predicate

Often realized as an AdjP, NP, or PP, making a claim about the object, e.g. nice in I consider her nice. It occurs together with a complex transitive verb such as consider, elect, see chapter 4, section 1.3.


-P = preposition.


Either accompanied by an auxiliary, see chapter 6, or on its own heading a non-finite clause, see chapter 8, section 2.

-passive auxiliary

A form of to be used together with a past participle. For instance, was in She was arrested, see chapter 6, section 1.4.

-passive construction

A construction where what looks like an object is functioning as a subject, e.g. she in She was arrested, see chapter 4, section 1.3, and chapter 6, section 1.4.

-past participle

Typically follows auxiliary to have to form a perfect, or to be to form a passive. It can function on it own in a non-finite clause. The participle ends in -ed/-en (walked, written, chosen) or may be irregular, such as gone, swum, begun, learnt.

-perfect auxiliary        

To have when used together with a past participle. For instance, have in I have done that already.


The structure of the sound system, see chapter 1.

-phrasal verb

A verb that is always combined with a preposition-like element but which has a special meaning. For instance, look up does not mean `see upwards', but `go to the library and check on something', see chapter 5, section 3.


A group of related word, centered around a head, see chapter 3.

-pleonastic subject

see dummy subject, see also chapter 4, section 1.1.


E.g. his or Catweazle's in his book or Catweazle's book, see chapter 2, section 2.1.


Modifier that follows the head, e.g. from Venus in a stone from Venus, see chapter 9.

-PP = Preposition Phrase

Group of words belonging to the preposition, e.g. in the garden, see chapter 3, section 1.4.

-pre-D = Pre-determiner

quantifiers such as all, both, half can occur before the determiner, e.g. in all that trouble, see chapter 2, section 2.2.


Says something about the subject, typically a VP, e.g. saw him in Hermione saw him, see chapter 4, section 1.1.

-predicative adjective

Term not used in this book; an adjective that heads an AP with the function of subject predicate or object predicate.


Modifier that precedes the head, e.g. blue in a blue hat, see chapter 9.


A word indicating location (in place and time), such as at, in, on, direction, such as to, into, towards, relationship, such as with, between, among, of, see chapter 2, section 1.3.

-prepositional verb

A verb that has a PP as a complement, e.g. rely on, refer to, see chapter 5, section 2.


A rule typically learned in school, see chapter 1, e.g. don't split an infinitive, don't use multiple negation.

-present participle

Forms that end in -ing, e.g. walking, used after a progressive auxiliary, as in he is walking, or on its own in a non-finite clause, as in Walking along the street, I saw a fire.


See pronoun.


Indicating that the action is or was going on, see chapter 6, section 1.3.


Referring to an NP, PP, VP, AdjP, or AdvP by means of a pronoun, e.g. chapter 3, section 1.


Words such as he, she, it, me that refer to an NP; pronouns replacing PPs (there), AdjPs (so), AdvPs (thus), or VPs (do so) are called either pronoun or pro-form.


A construction such as What he did was stupid, used to emphasize/focus a part, see chapter 11, section 3.


Words such as all, some, many, each; they are either like determiners or adjectives, or occur before determiners, see chapter 2 and table 2.3.


See Yes/No Question and WH-Question, and chapter 11, section 1.


RC = relative clause

See below and chapter 10, section 2.

-regular verbs

Verbs formed by adding -ed to the present to form the past tense and the past participle, as in the case of regular verbs such as walk, walked, walked.

-relative clause

A clause/sentence that typically modifies a noun, e.g. the tree which I see from the window, see chapter 10, section 2.

-restrictive RC

A relative clause with highly relevant information, see TABLE 10.1.


-S = sentence

a group of words that includes at least a verb/VP, chapter 3, section 2, and chapter 7, section 1.

-S' = S-bar

An S with a C added, see chapter 7, section 2.


An adverbial that modifies the entire sentence or expresses the feelings of the speaker, e.g. unfortunately, as opposed to a VP-adverbial. See chapter 5, section 1.

-SC = Small Clause


A unit that contains at least a verb. The subject may or may not be expressed, see chapter 7.


The linguistic aspects to meaning.


Auxiliary such as dare (to), need (to), used to, ought to, have to. They have properties of both main verbs and modal verbs, see chapter 6, section 1.1.


For example, a P and NP are sisters of each other; each has a branch going up to the `mother', see chapter 3, 1.1.


Point to something, i.e. a determiner's function in a phrase.

-split infinitive

Separating the to from the verb, e.g. as in to boldly go ..., see special topic chapter 5.

-small clause

A sentence in which the verb has been left out, chapter 4, section 3.

-strong verbs

Term not used. Originally, a term for a verb that had a different vowel for the present, the past, and the past participle, e.g. swim, swam, swum. Now the terms is often used for any kind of irregular verb, e.g. be, was, been.


In English, the subject is what agrees with the verb in person and number, see chapter 4, section 1.1, and table 4.1.

-subject predicate

Often realized as an AdjP, making a claim about the subject, e.g. nice in She is nice. It occurs after a copula verb such as be, become, see chapter 4, section 1.3.


Expressing a wish or intention or necessity, e.g. go is a subjunctive verb in it is important that he go there, see chapter 11, section 4.

-subordinate clause

Dependent clause, or clause embedded in another by means of a complementizer such as that, because, if, see chapters 7 and 8.

-subordinating conjunction

Not used in this book, same as complementizer, see there.


An adjective such as greatest, see chapter 2.


A word with an almost identical meaning, e.g. often and frequently, chapter 2.


Rules for how words are combined into phrases and sentences, the topic of this book, see chapter 1.


-t = trace


A repetition of the subject and the auxiliary, as in She has been there before, hasn't she? See chapter 4, section 1.1.


Indicating past or present time.


Used to indicate that a word or phrase has been moved, a `trace' is left in the original position, see chapters 10 and 11.

-transitive or monotransitive   

Verb with one object, e.g. see, see chapter 4, section 2.


A representation of the units/phrases of a sentence by means of branches and nodes, see chapter 3.


-Universal Grammar

Grammatical properties shared by all languages, see chapter 1.


-V = verb

-V' = V-bar

An intermediate category, see chapter 5.


A lexical category often expressing a state, act, event or emotion, see chapter 2, section 1.1, and table 2.1.

VGP = Verb Group

Only used if there is one or more auxiliary, see chapter 6.


Sounds such as i, e, a, o, u, made by not blocking  the airstream, see chapter 1, 1.1. for use in a rule.


An adverbial that modifies the action of the verb, e.g. quickly, slowly, as opposed to an S-adverbial, see chapter 5, section 1.



A question that starts with who, what, how, why, when or where, see chapter 11, section 1.2.

-word order

Linear sequencing of words and phrases.


-Yes/No question

A question for which the appropriate answer would be `yes', `no', or `perhaps', see chapter 11, section 1.1.



Questionable sentence.


Ungrammatical sentence.


May occur more than one.

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