Spanish Edition

© Christopher J. Pountain, 2003

Last updated January 2003

Please let the author know of any additions you would find helpful (or think future generations would find helpful).

NB: Phonetic symbols that cannot easily be reproduced in HTML are described in square brackets, e.g. [theta]

ablative See case.
absolute construction A noun phrase involving a non-finite form of the verb (present or past participle) which carries the meaning of a full clause, e.g. terminada la sesión = cuando se terminó la sesión. In Latin, such constructions were marked by the use of the ablative case.
accusative See case.
acrolect See decreolisation.
active A category of voice. See passive.
adjective Traditionally, the part of speech which qualifies a noun. But in Spanish, adjectives are often used as nouns (el viejo 'the old man'), and in colloquial register sometimes as adverbs (va muy rápido 'it goes very quickly').
adstrate Pertaining to the language of a culture which is equal in status: English loanwords in Spanish may be said to be an instance of adstrate influence.
adverb Traditionally, the part of speech which qualifies a verb: some important semantic classes of adverbs are manner, time, place. Adjectives are often said to be qualified by adverbs too: e.g. muy bien.
adversative Expressing opposition or contrast.
affective Used of suffixes in Spanish which express an attitude, such as affection or disparagement.
affix A general term for a bound morpheme. An affix may be word-initial (prefix), e.g. desafortunado, word-internal (infix), e.g. cantaría, or word-final (suffix), e.g. fácilmente.
affricate A combination, or coarticulation, of a plosive and a fricative, e.g. Spanish ch.
agent The performer of a verbal action: in an active sentence, the agent is typically the subject of the sentence; in a passive sentence, the agent (the subject of the corresponding active sentence) is usually introduced by by in English and by por in Spanish.
agent The performer of a verbal action: in an active sentence, the agent is typically the subject of the sentence; in a passive sentence, the agent is usually introduced by by in English and by por in Spanish.
aguda An oxytone (q.v.).
allative A case-function expressing the notion of 'motion towards'.
allomorph Cf. allophone. A variant form of a morpheme: -s and -es are allomorphs of the Spanish plural morpheme.
allophone Cf. allomorph. A variant form of a phoneme. Allophones are in complementary distribution, i.e., they never form oppositions with one another. Allophones are determined by the phonetic context in which the phoneme appears: e.g. the /d/ phoneme in Spanish has the allophone [d] in initial position and the allophone [ð] in intervocalic position.
alveolar Pertaining to the alveolum, or ridge between the upper teeth and the palate.
alveolum See alveolar.
amelioration The development of a more favourable meaning, e.g. Lat. casa 'hut' > Sp. casa 'house'.
analogy Parallel development of a form. Analogy is particularly apparent when an irregular form regularizes, ie, develops in parallel with the regular (productive) forms of the language, e.g. vencer now has the past participle vencido rather than the medieval vençudo. However, analogy can sometimes result in the irregularising of a regular form: andar has developed the irregular Preterite form anduve, presumably by analogy with other irregular Preterites in -u-e (tuve, supe, etc).
analytic See periphrastic.
anaphoric Reference back to an element in the preceding discourse. See also cataphoric.
antecedent See relative clause.
antonym An opposite: bueno and malo are antonyms.
apheresis Removal, or fall (of a sound), e.g. Lat. apotheca > Sp. bodega.
apical Pertaining to the tip of the tongue. The [s] of standard Spanish is an apico-alveolar sound. The tongue is often very slightly curved back ('retroflex').
apocope The loss of final sounds. Primer is an apocopated form of primero.
apodosis The part of a conditional sentence which expresses the consequence: si tengo dinero compraré el libro. See also protasis.
apposition The juxtaposition of two nouns or noun-phrases which have the same syntactic function, e.g. Valladolid, lugar de nacimiento de Felipe II.
archiphoneme Oppositions between phonemes are neutralized in certain phonetic environments, e.g. the opposition of /n/ and /m/ before /p/. In such circumstances an archiphoneme is said to occur.
article A somewhat arbitrary grammatical category: a class of determiners, which have a complex range of semantic functions. Spanish and English have a definite and an indefinite article, respectively el/the and un/a.
aspect Impressionistically, relating to the way in which an action or state is viewed: continuous, repeated, within fixed limits, etc. The difference between the Imperfect and Preterite tenses in Spanish is usually thought of as an aspectual difference, though several other verb-forms, and especially the periphrastic verb-forms, have aspectual values.
aspirate A sound chiefly consisting of the exhalation of breath, e.g. [h].
assibilation Articulated as a sibilant: /r/ is so articulated (approximating to [z]) in a number of dialects.
assimilation Making similar: sounds in close proximity often assimilate features of one another, and this can be an important factor in sound change. /n/ before /p/ is usually realised as [m] because it assimilates the labial features of the following consonant.
association Relatedness of meaning.
assonance A rhyme based on correspondence of vowels alone, and characteristic of Spanish poetry (thus lado and llano assonate, with the vowel pattern a-o).
atelic See telic.
atonic Unstressed.
attenuation A weakening (of meaning). Lat. teneo 'to hold' weakens to become the general verb of possession tener in Spanish.
augmentative A form which indicates largeness (e.g. the Spanish suffix -ón).
auxiliary A verb used with another, non-finite, form of a verb to form a periphrasis.
back vowel A vowel articulated by the raising of the tongue towards the velum.
back-formation The exploitation of a morphemic component not previously used in isolation. The OCast. adjective prieto is a back-formation from the verb apretar.
basilect See decreolisation.
bilabial See labial.
binary See opposition.
bound See morpheme.
broad A kind of phonetic transcription which gives only minimal phonetic detail.
caesura A pause made in a line of verse.
calque Use of a native element to model a word or expression taken from a foreign language. Sp. rascacielos is a calque of Eng. skyscraper.
case Semantic definition: the kinds of relationship that nouns have with the verb (e.g. subject, direct object, indirect object, instrument, etc.) or, in the case of the genitive, with other nouns.
Morphological definition: the distinctive inflected forms of a noun which correlate with such semantic functions. Latin is generally considered to have distinguished six morphological cases: nominative (subject of the verb), vocative (address form), accusative (direct object of the verb), genitive (expressing possession), dative (indirect object of the verb), ablative (agentive, instrumental). Prepositions also govern morphological cases.
cataphoric Referring forwards to an element in the following discourse. See anaphoric.
causative Expressing the notion of causation.
ceceo Neutralization of the opposition between /s/ and /[theta]/ and its realisation as /[theta]/.
circumlocution An expression which uses more words than are strictly necessary to convey an idea.
clause (oración) A constituent of a sentence that is itself like a sentence in that it contains a verb.
cleft sentence A sentence in which a constituent (usally an object or adverbial phrase) is introduced by the verb to be/ser and the rest of the sentence is introduced by a relative element, e.g. Conocí a Juan en Madrid (simple), Fue en Madrid donde conocí a Juan / Donde conocí a Juan fue en Madrid (cleft).
clitic Attached: used of the personal pronouns of Spanish which cannot occur on their own but which must cooccur with a verb, e.g. me, te. Clitic pronouns are also known as unstressed, atonic or conjunctive pronouns.
clitic-climbing A process by which the clitic pronoun which semantically belongs with a complement verb attaches instead to the main verb, e.g. lo quiero ver instead of quiero verlo.
close Describes a vowel which has a relatively small aperture, such as [i] or [u]; also known as high, because the tongue is raised.
coda The end of a syllable.
code-switching Moving between two languages within the same discourse.
cognate A parallel form, e.g. French hiver is cognate with Spanish invierno; both are derived from Lat. hibernu(s).
comment See topic.
complement Traditionally, the 'object' of a copular verb, e.g. Juan es médico. In modern linguistics, the term is also (and predominantly) used to denote a clause (or a clause-equivalent such as an infinitive or gerund) which functions as the subject, object or prepositional object of a verb. The grammatical element which introduces a complement is known as a complementiser.
complementary distribution See allophone.
compound Used of a verb-form which consists of more than one word, e.g. the Spanish and English Perfect (has seen/ha visto).
concessive Expressing the granting or conceding of a point.
conjoin To connect together. Juan y Pablo is a conjoined noun phrase.
conjugation A form-class of verbs characterised by inflectional patterns.
conjunction One of the traditional parts of speech the function of which is to connect two grammatical elements. When a conjunction links two like elements, it is said to be coordinating; when it introduces a subordinate clause it is said to be subordinating: María y yo fuimos anoche al cine (coordinating); Conseguí salir sin que nadie me viese (subordinating).
conjunctive Connected. See clitic.
connotation Additional, suggested meaning as opposed to literal, direct meaning.
connotative Many words can be said to have both denotative (literal, direct) meaning and connotative (additional, suggested) meaning: in Latin America, the compounds of coger have indecent connotative meaning because of the meaning of coger 'to screw'.
consecutive clause A term used in Latin grammar to denote clauses expressing the notion 'so...that'.
consonant One of the basic categories of speech sound. Consonants typically (a) are characterised by constriction or closure of the vocal tract, (b) are the onsets or codas, never the nuclei, of syllables.
continuant A speech sound whose articulation does not involve complete closure of the vocal tract; the opposite of continuant is stop or plosive.
contraction The amalgamation of two or more words as a result of shortening.
contrastive stress When a word or morpheme is given extra stress, to indicate that it is thought of as contrasting with another, similar, element, e.g. John passed the exam, but Harry didn't. Contrastive stress as a device for topicalization is used much more extensively in English than in Spanish.
converse The reversal of rôles, especially of subject and object. Buy and sell are converse terms, since if A buys B from C, C sells B to A.
coordinate Linked grammatical elements which have equal status: two clauses may be coordinate (Fui al parque y comí un bocadillo) or one may be subordinate to the other (No dije nada al chico que me preguntó la hora).
copula Connecting: ser and estar are the copulas, or copular verbs, of Spanish. Copular verbs have complements rather than objects.
coronal Pertaining to the blade of the tongue. English [s] (and Latin American [s]) are articulated coronally.
count A type of noun which denotes an individual entity and can be pluralized, as opposed to a mass noun, which denotes a quantity.
counterfactual A condition which has not been or cannot be fulfilled.
countertonic A syllable which receives a secondary stress, e.g. internacional (-al receives the primary stress in this word).
creole A pidgin language which has become the mother tongue of a community.
cryptolect A register of language used within a social group with the deliberate intent of being unintelligible to outsiders.
dative See case.
declension A form-class of nouns characterised by inflectional patterns. Classical Latin is traditionally considered to have had five declensions; Spanish has so few noun inflections that distinguishing declension types is unnecessary.
decreolisation Movement of a creole towards a standard language, usually the superstrate, as model. The creole variety closest to the superstrate is known as an acrolect, the variety furthest from the superstrate as a basilect; intermediate varieties are called mesolects.
definite article See article. The definite article of Spanish has many other functions besides expressing definiteness.
deixis Reference to the personal, temporal or locational characteristics of a situation. Pronouns, articles and other determiners are deictic elements.
demonstrative A pronoun or adjective which expresses proximity to or remoteness from the speaker (e.g. Spanish este, ese, aquel).
denotative See connotative.
dental Pertaining to the teeth.
deontic See modality.
deponent A type of verb in Latin which was passive in form though active in meaning, e.g. obliviscor 'to forget'.
derivation Used in two senses: (a) the historical development of a form; (b) morphological derivation or the creation of a form on the basis of another.
determiner A grammatical element qualifying a noun which expresses a very general notion of number, quantity or deixis. Articles, numerals, demonstratives, quantifiers and possessives belong to this category.
devoiced (sordo) An unvoiced allophone of a phoneme which is normally voiced; the devoicing is often caused by assimilation, e.g. the /r/ of martes is usually devoiced because of assimilation to the following (voiceless) /t/.
diachronic Pertaining to the development of language through time, as opposed to synchronic.
dialect Linguistically it is impossible to distinguish meaningfully between the notions of language and dialect. The notion 'dialect of' is perhaps useful in referring to a regional or social variety of what is perceived to be the 'same' language (e.g. working-class Sevillian speech is a 'dialect' of Spanish). By this definition all speakers of a language speak dialects of that language, and the speech of the middle classes of Burgos is no less a 'dialect' of Spanish. The standard language usually evolves as a prestige dialect for essentially political reasons.
diatopic variation Variation according to geographical location.
diastratic variation Variation according to social level.
diminutive A form which indicates smallness (e.g. Spanish -ito).
diphthong (diptongo) A sequence of two vowels in the same syllable. Either the first or the second vowel will be treated as a semivowel. The combination of semivowel + vowel (e.g. [je]) is a rising diphthong; the combination of vowel + semivowel (e.g. [ej]) is a falling diphthong.
direct object See object.
disjunctive Freestanding: used especially of personal pronouns like , , etc. which are not conjunctive or clitic.
dissimilation Making different. A sound occurring in close proximity to a similar sound may change to achieve better differentiation, e.g. Lat. rotundu(s) > Sp. redondo.
dorsal Pertaining to the body of the tongue.
doublet A pair: cualidad and calidad is a doublet development of Lat. qualitate(m) (see also under learned).
durative An aspectual category indicating inherent duration. The verb dormir in Spanish is inherenty durative. The imperfect inflection in Spanish is often associated with durativeness.
dynamic See stative.
elative A case-function expressing the notion of 'motion away from'.
elision Omission or abbreviation: used particularly of the loss of sounds in fast speech or in historical development. In the pronunciation [de:so] of de eso, one of the [e] sounds is elided.
ellipsis A construction in which words are left out or implied.
epenthesis The introduction of an extra medial sound, e.g. /b/ in hombre.
epistemic See modality.
esdrújula A proparoxytone (q.v.).
etymological Pertaining to the historical derivation of a word. Used of spelling which reflects the historical origin, or etymon of a word.
euphemism The expression of an unpleasant or embarrassing notion by a more inoffensive substitute.
existential Pertaining to existence or being: the Spanish verb haber and English there is, there are are existential expressions.
filler A word or phrase used to gain time in speech.
final clause A term used in Latin grammar to denote clauses expressing purpose.
finite A verb-form which can be the basis of a complete sentence. In Spanish, finite verbs are inflected for person and number. Non-finite forms of the verb are the infinitive, the gerund and the past participle.
flap The single rapid contact of two organs of speech, e.g. the movement of the tongue across the alveolar ridge in Spanish [r].
folk-etymology A foreign word is made to look like a morphological derivative of the host language, e.g. Sp. ruiseñor < Oc. russinhol.
foregrounding Bringing into prominence: moving an object to the front of a sentence in Spanish (e.g. el libro lo leí ayer) is a means of foregrounding the object. Topicalization is a kind of foregrounding.
fortis See lenition.
frequentative Denoting the (frequent) repetition of an action.
fricative A class of consonants produced by the organs of speech coming into close proximity, so that there is an acoustic impression of friction produced in their articulation.
front vowel A vowel articulated by the raising of the tongue towards the alveolar or palatal area.
geminate Double: Lat. vacca has a geminate /kk/.
gender Semantically significant inflectional categories of nouns; in many languages there is a more or less regular relation between gender and sex.
genitive See case.
gerund (gerundio) In Spanish, the gerundio is the form in -ndo. (In English, the cognate form in -ing is traditionally variously known as a gerund, a gerundive or a present participle depending on its function.)
given See topic.
glide Movement of the organs of speech towards (on-glide) or away from (off-glide) another sound; semivowels are glides.
grammaticalisation The exploitation of a word to indicate a grammatical function, a process which typically involves the semantic weakening or 'bleaching' of the word. An example of grammaticalisation is when a periphrastic construction loses its literal meaning; the Spanish future tense is an example of a fully grammaticalised construction while the use of ir + past participle appears to be partially grammaticalised.
grave A paroxytone (q.v.).
head The main element in a phrase, on which other elements depend. The noun phrase los otros problemas acuciantes has the noun problemas as its head.
hiatus Two vowels occurring sequentially but belonging to different syllables are said to be in hiatus, e.g. be-ata.
high See close.
homonyms Words that sound the same although spelt differently (e.g. Eng bow/bough). Also known as homophones.
homorganic Articulated with the same organs of speech: [b] is homorganic with [m], since both are labial consonants.
hyperbaton Transposition of the normal order of words.
hyperbole Exaggeration.
hypercharacterisation of gender The morphological marking of gender by an inflection in a word which etymologically has no such inflection.
hypercorrection Inappropriate use of a form which exhibits a feature recognised as being higher in prestige than the speaker's own usage.
idiolect The speech of an individual.
idiom A set phrase (e.g. a trancas y barrancas). The syntax and semantics of idioms is often idiosyncratic, and idioms are hence most appropriately viewed as linguistic units in their own right.
imperative A modal category associated with the expressions of commands. Sometimes applied morphologically to the forms ¡canta!, ¡cantad! of Spanish because these forms are not used in any other function. However, many other verb forms can express an imperative modality, e.g. the Present Indicative in Me da un kilo de patatas.
imperfective An aspectual category: the opposite of perfective. Imperfective aspect does not envisage the beginning or end of an action or state, but envisages it as being in progress. This is one of the characteristic functions of the Spanish Imperfect tense.
implosive Closing a syllable: the /n/ of entrar is implosive.
inchoative Denoting the beginning of an action.
indefinite Having vague reference. Alguien is an indefinite pronoun; un is the indefinite article.
indicative A modal category: the opposite of subjunctive. The indicative is often associated with assertion or statement.
indirect object See object.
infinitive One of the non-finite forms of the verb. The infinitive often functions as a verbal noun, and as such can be the complement of another verb.
infix See affix.
inflection A suffix or ending. Spanish has a highly inflected verb system.
interjection A word or expression which has no grammatical function but typically expresses emotion.
interrogative Associated with a question. ¿Quién? in Spanish is an interrogative pronoun.
intervocalic Occurring between vowels.
intransitive Traditionally, a verb which does not take a direct object.
IPA International Phonetic Association. Click here to follow a link to the IPA home page.
isogloss A boundary between geographical areas which exhibit different linguistic features.
jargon A register of language which is used within a particular social or professional group, especially characterised by the use of vocabulary which is restricted to a field of discourse involving concepts which are not regularly expressed in everyday usage. The term is also often applied to unstable pidgin languages which are developed for ad hoc purposes, especially trade.
koinéisation Dialect levelling which occurs as a result of speakers from different linguistic backgrounds forming part of the same social community. Koinéisation may have been responsible for changes in the speech of Madrid in the 16th century, for some features of Latin-American Spanish and of Judeo-Spanish.
labial Pertaining to the lips. [m] is a labial consonant.
labiodental Articulated with the lower lip and upper teeth, e.g. [f].
laísmo Use of la as a feminine indirect object pronoun.
lateral Sound produced by the passage of air around the sides of the tongue. [l] is the most commonly occurring lateral consonant.
learned (culto) In the context of the history of Spanish, learned words are those which have not had a continuous descent from spoken Latin but which have been borrowed directly from Latin as a result of learned awareness of Latin from the Middle Ages on. Such words are minimally adapted to the sound pattern of Spanish, e.g. artículo < Lat. articulu(s) (compare the popular form artejo, which is derived directly from Latin).
left-dislocation Movement of an element to the front of its sentence.
leísmo Use of le as an direct object pronoun.
lenis See lenition.
lenition A sound change in which a relatively strongly articulated (fortis) consonant becomes weakened to its lenis counterpart, e.g. a voiceless intervocalic consonant weakening to a voiced consonant, such as [t]>[d].
lexical diffusion The process of the generalisation of a sound change through the lexicon. Incomplete lexical diffusion may result in some words not undergoing the change.
lexicalisation To become a member of the lexicon, typically used to describe a change in which a word with a suffix comes to be thought of as a word in its own right.
lexicalize To become a member of the lexicon, typically used to describe a change in which a periphrastic construction comes to be thought of as a single word or when a word with a suffix comes to be thought of as a word in its own right. An example of the former process is the future tense of Spanish, which was originally a paraphrase consisting of the infinitive + a form of the Latin verb habere and is now thought of as a single word (cantare + habet > cantará). Examples of the latter process may be seen in Spanish where affective suffixes have ceased to have any identifiable meaning: tela 'cloth' + -ón 'large' > telón 'theatre curtain'.
lexicon The stock of lexical items, or words, in a language.
lexis Study of the lexicon and lexical structure.
liquid A class of continuant consonants which are not fricative and impressionistically have a 'flowing' sound: [l] and [r] are the most obvious members.
llana A paroxytone (q.v.).
locative A case-function expressing the notion of 'place at which'. More generally, pertaining to place: allí is a locative adverb.
logographic The written representation of a word by a mnemonic sequence of letters which do not constitute a phonemic representation.
loísmo Consistent use of lo as a direct object pronoun, whether for things or people.
low See open.
manner See adverb.
marked A term often used to denote the more 'unusual' of a pair of features: the unmarked feature may be thought of as the 'default'. A clear case of markedness would be an irregular verb, which is marked by comparison with regular verbs, but there is room for considerable debate over which is the marked term of other featural oppositions (e.g. masculine and feminine gender).
mass See count.
mesolect See decreolisation.
metaphony A change to a vowel generally caused by proximity to another vowel, whose features it adopts.
metaphor A figure of speech in which one thing is called another which it resembles in some significant way.
metathesis Exchange of places by two sounds, e.g. Lat parabola > Sp palabra.
metonymy Use of a word in a transferred sense.
middle A category of voice with something of both the active and passive idea, e.g. 'to get seen'. Spanish has no middle voice inflection as such, but the reflexive often expresses a middle voice function, e.g. me cansé 'I got tired'.
minimal pair A pair of words which contrast in only one phonological segment, e.g. risa/rasa.
modal A morphological category loosely correlating with modality. Indicative, subjunctive and sometimes also imperative are moods which are traditionally distinguished for Spanish. However, many verb forms have a range of modal meanings.
modality A category of meaning associated with the truth-value of a proposition, e.g. statement, possibility, command. Two fundamental categories of modality are deontic (expressing necessity or obligation) and epistemic (expressing supposition).
monophthong A vowel which is not divisible into smaller vocalic constituents.
mood A morphological category loosely correlating with modality. Indicative, Subjunctive and sometimes also Imperative are moods which are traditionally distinguished for Spanish. However, many verb forms have a range of modal meanings.
morpheme 'Grammatical' definition: the smallest contrastive unit of grammar. 'Semantic' definition: the smallest contrastive unit of meaning. Morphemes can be free, ie actually or potentially freestanding (verdaderamente) or bound, ie obligatorily attached to another morpheme (verdaderamente).
morphological Pertaining to morphemes.
morphological derivation See derivation.
morphology The study of word structure.
narrow A type of phonetic transcription which represents a high degree of phonetic detail.
nasal Pertaining to the nose. Nasal sounds are those in which the air passes through the nasal cavity rather than the oral cavity.
native speaker A person whose first language, or mother tongue, is the language in question.
negative Denoting denial or contradiction: Spanish nadie is a negative pronoun.
neologism A recently created word or expression.
neutralization Loss of a contrast (opposition), either diachronically or synchronically. Ceceo and seseo represent the neutralization of the opposition between /s/ and /[theta]/.
nominalization The process of morphological derivation by which a noun is created.
nominative See case.
non-finite See finite.
noun (nombre, sustantivo) One of the traditional parts of speech. Nouns typically denote things, people, animals or abstract concepts; they function as subjects and objects of verbs.
noun phrase A phrase which has a noun as its head.
nucleus The centre of a syllable.
number A grammatical category correlating with the notion of number. Spanish and English distinguish singular and plural number morphologically.
object In semantic terms, an element of a sentence that is affected by the verb. Traditionally, direct object and indirect object are distinguished: indirect objects appear with verbs like 'give' ('Mary gave Joe [indirect object] a book [direct object]'). The direct object covers a number of meanings depending on the verb: 'Fred kicked the ball [direct recipient of action]', 'Fred opened the door [= caused the door to open]', 'Fred liked the new house [attitude]'. There are other kind of object which are not traditionally distinguished, e.g. 'The meal cost four pounds', 'We walked five miles'. In Spanish, it is sometimes difficult rigorously to distinguish between direct and indirect object, since the preposition a may introduce either, and the forms of the third person pronouns, which are apparently inflected for direct and indirect object (le/lo), do not always obviously correlate with these notions.
Prepositions are also said to have objects.
onomatopoeia The phenomenon of the sound-pattern of a word reflecting its meaning.
onset The beginning of a syllable.
open Describes a vowel which has a relatively large aperture, such as [a]; also known as low, because the tongue is lowered.
opposition A contrast, e.g. the opposition between voiced and voiceless consonants. Many oppositions identified in language are binary (ie involving two terms), such as singular/plural, masculine/feminine, etc.
optative Expressing a desire or wish.
oral Pertaining to the mouth.
organs of speech The organs involved in the production of speech sounds, principally the tongue, teeth, lips, alveolum, palate and velum.
oxytone A word stressed on the last syllable.
palatal Pertaining to the hard palate.
palatalized A sound in the course of whose articulation there is a movement towards the palatal area.
paradigm A structured set of forms, especially used of inflected forms, e.g. the verb paradigm.
paradigmatic Relating to the notion of paradigm. Paradigmatic relations have to do with oppositions between members of the same form-class, e.g. nouns, adjectives, verbs. Contrast syntagmatic.
paraphrase or periphrasis Use of more than one word to express a grammatical notion, e.g. the periphrastic future in Spanish (ir a + infinitive).
parataxis Strictly, the use of clauses without conjunctions, though also used to indicate absence of subordinate clauses.
paroxytone A word stressed on the next to the last syllable.
participle One of the non-finite forms of the verb, used in compound forms of the verb and adjectivally. English has a past participle (opened) and a present participle (interesting); Spanish has a past participle (abierto). The Spanish forms in -ndo are not adjectival, and are usually called the gerund; the term present participle is sometimes used for Spanish adjectives in -nte (interesante), but not all verbs have forms in -nte (e.g. abrir has no form *abriente): ie, the -nte forms are only semiproductive in Spanish.
partitive Expressing a mass concept.
parts of speech Functional classes of words: tose traditionally distinguished are nouns, adjectives, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions and conjunctions.
passive A syntactic or morphological category of voice. In English and Spanish, the passive is formed syntactically by making the object of the active verb its syntactic subject; the subject, if expressed, appears in a prepositional phrase introduced by English by and Spanish por respectively: it is known as the agent of the passive sentence. Morphologically, the form traditionally known as the passive in Spanish is formed from the verb ser + the past participle of a transitive verb.
patient The recipient of the verbal action, often a function of the direct object.
pejorative A form which has an unfavourable or disparaging meaning. Some of the affective suffixes of Spanish are pejorative.
perfective An aspectual category which typically expresses the completion of an action.
periphrastic Use of more than one word to express a grammatical notion, e.g. the periphrastic future in Spanish (ir a + infinitive). Periphrastic forms are also known as analytic. The use of a single word inflected form to express a grammatical notion, e.g. the Spanish future form in , etc, is also known as a synthetic form.
person A category, typically of personal pronouns and verb inflections, indicating relationship to the speaker ('I' = first person, 'you' = second person, 'they' = third person).
phoneme The smallest contrastive unit of sound in a language.
phonetic transcription A means of representing pronunciation, usually by use of a phonetic alphabet such as the IPA.
phonetics The study of speech sounds. Articulatory phonetics is concerned with the organs of speech involved in the production of sounds, acoustic phonetics with the physical properties of the sounds produced.
phonology The study of the sound system (the phonemes) of a language.
pidgin A system of communication, based on an existing language, which grows up amongst people who do not share a common language. Pidgins differ from creoles in that the former are no one's native language.
place See adverb.
plosive A consonant whose articulation is characterised by a complete closure of the vocal tract. See continuant.
popular (vulgar) See learned.
postpose To place after: in hablarme the personal pronoun me is postposed to the infinitive hablar.
pragmatic Concerning the situational use of language and knowledge of the real world. The factors governing the choice between and usted in Spanish are often described as pragmatic, because they have to do with what speakers know about their relationship to their interlocutors.
prefix See affix.
preposition Traditionally, the part of speech that governs nouns, pronouns and other elements used nominally, expressing notions such as direction, instrument, agent, etc.
pro-drop A term used to describe languages which, like Spanish, do not obligatorily use a subject pronoun with the verb.
productive A form-class which is continuing to add to its membership through analogy or neologism: the -ar verb conjugation of Spanish may be described as productive because many new verbs (e.g. formatear, privatizar) are constantly being added to it. A form-class which has typically shown expansion at some point in the history of the language (e.g. the u-e 'strong' Preterites of Spanish) may be said to be semiproductive.
progressive An aspectual category indicating an ongoing action. The estar + gerund form of Spanish is often called the Progressive.
pronoun One of the traditional parts of speech; an item, usually of rather vague reference, which can be used in substitution for a more precise full noun (e.g. él for Juan). The main categories of pronouns are personal, demonstrative, indefinite, possessive, interrogative.
proparoxytone A word stressed on the antepenultimate (next but one to the last) syllable. See esdrújula.
protasis The part of a conditional sentence which expresses the condition: si tengo dinero compraré el libro. See also apodosis.
prothesis The introduction of an extra initial sound, e.g. Lat. schola > Sp. escuela. The /e/ is prothetic.
punctual An aspectual category indicating that an action takes place at a single moment of time.
quantifier An item (adjective or pronoun) expressing a quantity: Spanish todo, dos, cada, ninguno, etc.
reanalysis The construing of a syntactic or morphological structure in a different way.
received pronunciation (RP) The 'standard' pronunciation of British English.
redundant Not logically necessary: in Spanish Le saludé a Juan the pronoun le is logically redundant. Redundancy is very common in natural language.
reference The relation between a linguistic form and its real world meaning. Sometimes used to refer to the real world meaning itself.
register A variety of language used for a particular purpose, e.g. colloquial, legal, journalistic, etc.
rehilamiento The articulation of Spanish ll with an element of frication, which in its most extreme form reaches the voiced fricative of English pleasure.
relative clause A dependent clause which refers to a noun in the main clause. The noun in the main clause is the antecedent of the relative clause.
retroflex See apical.
rhizotonic Stressed on the stem. In Latin, verbs of the 3rd conjugation (e.g. MITTERE, PETERE), had rhizotonic infinitives; in Spanish these have been assigned to the -er or -ir conjugations, and their infinitives are no longer rhizotonic, being stressed on the inflection (meter, pedir). The radical-changing verbs of Spanish undergo modification of the stem in the rhizotonic (stem-stressed) forms, e.g. recordamos / recuerdo.
right-dislocation Movement of an element to the end of its sentence.
roll See trill.
semantic field A natural class of related meanings, e.g. 'colour', 'family relations'.
semantics The study of linguistic meaning.
semiconsonant Another term for a semivowel.
semi-deponent A class of Latin verbs which were partially deponent (passive in form but active in meaning), e.g. fido 'to trust', whose perfect form was fisus sum.
semilearned A much-disputed term, often used to characterize words which have undergone some, but not all, the changes expected in popular words
semipopular A convenient term to characterize learned words which have undergone some popular phonetic modification, e.g. afición as opposed to afección.
semiproductive See productive.
semivowel A vowel-like sound which functions in a consonant-like way as the onset or coda of a syllable. The semivowels of Spanish are [j] and [w].
seseo Neutralization of the opposition between [s] and [theta] and its realisation as [s].
sibilant A category of consonants which give the acoustic impression of hissing, such as [s], [z], etc..
sinaeresis (sinéresis) The running together of two sounds into one, typically used of two vowels forming a diphthong. Sinaeresis usually occurs in the rapid pronunciation of Spanish ahora as [ao-ra] (2 syllables) rather than [a-o-ra] (3 syllables). A special case of this in Spanish is when the two vowels concerned are separated by a word-boundary, a situation which is more accurately referred to as synaloepha (sinalefa).
sinalefa The running together of two vowels which are separated by a word-boundary into one syllable, e.g. me_ha-bló.
slang An informal spoken register of language characterised by a high incidence of linguistic features which are particular to this register.
sociolect A socially defined variety of speech.
speech community A group of people who speak what they recognise to be the same language or dialect.
stative Denoting a state of affairs (as opposed to dynamic, denoting an action).
stop Another term for a plosive.
stress The degree of force with which a syllable is uttered. Syllables may be stressed (tonic) or unstressed (atonic) (see also countertonic).
strong Irregular (used of verbs).
subject In semantic terms, traditionally, an element of a sentence which performs the action of the verb (though this definition is problematic). Syntactically, in English and Spanish, the subject is the element with which the verb agrees in person and number.
subjunctive A modal category: the opposite of indicative. The subjunctive is associated with a number of meanings, especially commands, hypothesis, denial and emotive attitude.
subordinate Of secondary importance: a subordinate clause is one which depends on another. Subordinate clauses function as consituents of their main clause: the function can be nominal (in which case they are called complements), adjectival (e.g. relative clauses) or adverbial (e.g. temporal clauses).
substrate Pertaining to the language of a culture which is inferior in status: Basque is said to be a substrate to Latin during the Romanization of the Iberian Peninsula.
suffix See affix.
superstrate Pertaining to the language of a culture which is superior in status: Germanic is said to have had a superstrate influence on Latin in the Dark Ages.
supine A verbal noun (a category of Latin grammar).
syllable An element of speech that acts as a unit of rhythm.
synaloepha (sinalefa) See sinaeresis.
synchronic Pertaining to one chronological stage of a language, as opposed to diachronic.
syncope The loss of medial sounds, e.g. Lat viride(m) > Sp verde.
synecdoche A figure of speech in which the name of a part refers to the whole, e.g. las faldas referring to 'women'.
synonym A word meaning the same as another. However, it is doubtful whether a pair of words are ever completely synonymous, and it is usually safer to speak of 'near synonyms' (e.g. pueblo and aldea).
syntagmatic Referring to the linear relationship of elements in an utterance. The notions of 'subject of', 'object of', are syntagmatic relationships.
syntax The study of sentence structure.
synthetic The converse of analytic. See periphrastic.
taboo Superstitious or obscene connotations. Taboo words are prone to replacement by euphemisms.
telic An aspectual category indicating an action which necessarily has a final point (e.g. drown) as opposed to one which is open-ended (e.g. play); the latter is referred to as atelic.
temporal Pertaining to time or tense.
temporal clause A dependent clause which functions as an adverb of time.
tense A morphological category relating to time reference, e.g. the present tense. Tense is also used more generally to denote the different forms of a verb (e.g. we speak of the imperfect tense and the preterite tense, though these two forms are differentiated aspectually rather than temporally).
time See adverb.
time reference See tense.
tonic Stressed.
topic The element of an utterance which is the focus of the speaker's attention and about which something is said (the comment). The topic of a sentence is often information which is already known about (given information).
topicalization A syntactic or other device to bring an element in a sentence into prominence, particularly noticeable when that element is not the subject of the sentence.
transition relative A relative pronoun used in a conjunction-like way.
transitive Traditionally, a verb which takes a direct object.
transparency Parallelism between form and meaning.
trill A sound made by the rapid tapping of two organs of speech together (e.g. Spanish [rr]). Alternatively known as a roll.
triphthong A group of three vowels in the same syllable. In Spanish, this only happens in cases of sinalefa (e.g. de hoy).
unmarked See marked.
unvoiced or voiceless A sound in which the vocal cords do not vibrate.
valency The capacity of a verb to take particular combinations of case-functions. Transitive and intransitive are different valencies.
velar Pertaining to the velum or soft palate at the back of the mouth.
verb Traditionally, the part of speech which expresses an action, event or state.
verb phrase A group of words which have the same function as a verb, e.g. seguimos cantando.
vocal cords Two muscular folds in the larynx that vibrate to produce voice.
vocalic Having the properties or value of a vowel: in English, the consonant [l] is often vocalic (e.g. the second [l] in little).
vocalisation Becoming a vowel: certain consonants, e.g. implosive [l], are particularly prone to this process.
vocative See case.
voice A syntactic category having to do with the relations of subject and object to the verb: see active, passive and middle.
voiced A sound in which the vocal cords vibrate.
voiceless See unvoiced.
voseo Use of the pronoun vos instead of 'standard' to express the familiar second person singular. In River Plate Spanish, there are special forms of the verb associated with vos .
vowel One of the basic categories of speech sound. Vowels typically (a) are characterised by there being no constriction or closure of the vocal tract, (b) are the nuclei of syllables.
yeísmo Neutralization of the opposition between /j/ and /[zh]/ as /j/.
yod An unstressed front vowel in hiatus, e.g. the /e/ of Lat. vinea.