abstract language

Expression that signifies a concept, quality or idea rather than material or physical reality. (Opposite of concrete language)

abstract linguistic formulations

The use of expressions and structures to communicate abstract ideas.

aesthetic properties of language

Features that turn attention from the content of a message towards the way in which the message is formulated, often creating new insights and impressions


Discourse that is intended to persuade or convince; because of the polemic nature of argument, one can expect to find a significant number and variety of connectors and sophisticated scaffolding devices that facilitate elaboration, detailing and the incorporation of examples for a cogent and cohesive organization of ideas.


A verbal category that refers to some characteristic of the activity or state of a verb. It indicates if an action or state is viewed as completed or in progress (I went/I was going), instantaneous or enduring (The sun came out/The sun was shining), momentary or habitual (They vacationed at the shore/They used to vacation at the shore). Aspect is often indicated by prefixes, suffixes, infixes, phonetic changes in the root verb, use of auxiliaries.

authentic text

Oral and written communication produced by native language users and directed to an audience of native language users in the target culture, such as a newspaper article. This contrasts with a text that is created for learners in the target language solely for instructional or assessment purposes, such as a textbook reading passage.


Deterioration of language when a writer or speaker lacks the appropriate linguistic ability to produce an adequate response.


The use of language that one does know in order to explain a specific word that one does not know.


Switching from one language to another to complete an idea, thought, or sentence, often when one lacks the word or phrase in the language one started off in.

cogent argument

A type of discourse that is convincing or believable by virtue of forcible, clear or incisive presentation.


Words between languages that have a common origin and are therefore readily understood. For example, the French word “leçon” and the English word “lesson.”

cohesive devices

Language components that link ideas for smooth flow within and among sentences and paragraphs, such as conjunctions, relative pronouns, pronoun substitutions (subject, verb), adverbs of time, subordinate clauses.

concrete language

Language that is used to refer to particular persons, places and objects.

connected discourse

Coherent, sequential speech or writing.

connected sentences

A series or string of sentences or text that is topically related. Unlike paragraphs sentences are interchangeable; altering the order of the sentences does not affect the meaning of the message.

contextual clues

Hints within the communication or its context that facilitate the comprehension of unfamiliar words.

conventions of language

Matters of implicit mutual agreement among language users such as grammar and vocabulary. Such agreement is necessary for successful communication.

cultural framework

A term used to describe traditions, value systems, myths, and symbols that are common in a given society.

cultural references

Allusions to shared ideas, beliefs, values and knowledge of a particular culture/society.


The verbal representation of a person, place, thing, event, or process.


Unit of structured speech or writing.

discrete sentences

Stand-alone sentences that lack further organization, such as into paragraphs.


Errors that focus the attention of the native interlocutor on the form rather than on the meaning of the message.

economy of expression

The use of the most precise and expressive words and phrases, thus eliminating the need for excess description, wordiness, jargon, or circumlocution.


The addition of more detail and specificity in the exposition of a particular topic.

extended discourse

The extensive treatment of a topic that results in connected paragraphs; a communicative building process in both form and meaning.


Not included in the language itself, such as a visual or contextual clue that supports understanding.

false cognates

Words between languages that appear to have a common origin and thus the same meaning, but do not. For example the French word “anniversaire” (birthday) and the English word “anniversary.”


The flow in spoken or written language as perceived by the listener or reader. Flow is made possible by clarity of expression, the acceptable ordering of ideas, use of vocabulary and syntax appropriate to the context.

formal correspondence

For example: business letter, professional report, etc.

formal settings

For example: academic conferences, the professional workplace.

formal/informal writing

Features of writing (format, punctuation, choice of vocabulary) that reflect different audiences and purposes for communication.


Constituting or containing a verbal formula or set form of words such as “How are you?/Fine, thank you.” “Thanks very much./You’re welcome.”

functional language ability

A language user's ability to accomplish real world communicative tasks such as handling a simple social transaction or resolving a situation with a complication.

generic vocabulary

Words and expressions that serve equally well in a variety of categories and contexts. Such vocabulary is readily intelligible to most people, but does not normally deepen meaning. See also specialized vocabulary.


Any category of art, music, film, literature, etc., based on a set of stylistic criteria.


Correct linguistic form or structure.

hypothetical discourse

Language used to speculate or express conjecture.


A common figurative expression separate from the literal meaning of the component words.

informal settings

For example: in the home, with friends, with family, casual everyday situations.


The person(s) with whom one is speaking; a conversation partner.


The rise and fall in pitch of the voice in speech.


Of or relating to the words or the vocabulary of a language as distinguished from its grammar and structure.

low-frequency structures

Complex language constructions that are seldom utilized or required in a given language in its less formal expression, but often necessary in the most formal types of high-level communicative tasks such as persuading and hypothesizing.


The relating of a story or account of events, experiences, etc., whether true or fictitious, told in a logical and chronological order.

non-alphabetic symbols

Those elements of meaning that appear in both Roman and non-Roman languages that indicate stress, punctuation, syllabification; including ideographs and pictograms. ( ? $ ) * + 8.


A subtle or slight degree of difference, as in meaning, feeling, or tone; a gradation.

oral discourse

Spoken communication.


A self-contained, cohesive unit of spoken or written discourse that generally consists of multiple sentences linked by internal organization and connectors.


An alternative way of communicating a similar message.

persuasive discourse

Language that attempts to convince the reader or listener to adopt an idea, attitude, or action.


One's functional language ability.


A form of word play which suggests two or more meanings, by exploiting multiple meanings of words, or of similar-sounding words, for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect.


The ways in which speakers and writers put together linguistic elements they have learned (for example, words, phrases, sentences) to create an original message.


The repetition of linguistic information.

reflective writing

Written material that is planned and organized through the entire writing process. This type of writing is generally necessary to produce texts at high proficiency levels.


The level of formality or informality used in a specific context for a specific audience.


To restate or rewrite in a new, clearer or different way.

rhetorical structures

Devices of language that create a literary effect such as personification, understatement, metaphor, hyperbole.

specialized vocabulary

Words, expressions, technical terms, etc., that are meaningful to members of a specific group or field of study or endeavor.

spontaneous writing

Writing that is produced when preparation and production need to occur at the same time. It does not allow sufficient opportunity for revision, rewriting, or editing.

strings of sentences

A series of isolated or discrete sentences typically referring to a given topic but not grammatically or syntactically connected.

syllabic writing system

A writing system that uses symbols to represent syllables rather than individual sounds (such as letters). The Japanese writing system is syllabic.


The principles and rules that govern the construction of phrases, sentences, paragraphs, etc.

tailoring of language

Adjusting language so that it is the appropriate register for a particular individual or audience.

text modality

The purpose for which a text is written. For example, there is the instructive mode that refers to texts that instruct by communicating factual information (newspaper report), and there is the evaluative mode that refers to texts that make evaluative statements (that is judgments) with both factual and abstract content (newspaper editorial).

time frames

General periods of time, past, present, or future, however, these may be indicated in a particular language.

time markers

Words that indicate the time frame of an event such as adverbs or adverbial phrases such as ‘yesterday,’ ‘two years ago’.

writing protocols

A set of language-specific guidelines used by writers, for example, in English, an essay begins with a topic sentence and always has a concluding paragraph.