Linguistic terminology terms | LETTER - L

What is labialization?


Labialization is a way of pronouncing a sound or sounds (consonants and vowels by using one or both lips.

What is a language associate?


A language associate is a person who

  • teaches you how to speak a language
  • provides you with language data, and
  • helps you do linguistic research.

Language associates should be

  • easy to work with
  • interested in the work
  • available to work on a regular basis
  • a fluent speaker of the language, and
  • a mother tongue speaker, if possible.

What is a lapse?


A lapse is a relatively long silence between turns that is due to none of the participants taking a turn.

A lapse is a kind of

Levinson 1983 299

Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson 1978 25

What is lative case?


Lative case is a case that expresses motion


The term lative case is used especially in studies of Finno-Ugric grammar.

Lative case is a kind of

Pei and Gaynor 1954 121

Gove 1966 1277

What is length?


Length is the amount of time it takes to produce a sound.

What is a lenis consonant?


A lenis consonant is a “weak” consonant produced by the lack of tension in the vocal apparatus. These weak consonants tend to be short, weakly voiced or voiceless, aspirated, low, and the following vowel tends to be lengthened.

What is a lexeme?


A lexeme is the minimal unit of language which

  • has a semantic interpretation and
  • embodies a distinct cultural concept.

It is made up of one or more form-meaning composites called lexical units .


A lexical database is organized around lexemes, which include all the morphemes of a language, even if these morphemes never occur alone. A lexeme is conventionally listed in a dictionary as a separate entry.

What is a lexical category?


A lexical category is a syntactic category for elements that are part of the lexicon of a language. These elements are at the word level.

Also known as:

part of speech

word class

grammatical category

grammatical class


Lexical categories may be defined in terms of core notions or 'prototypes' . Given forms may or may not fit neatly in one of the categories (see

Analyzing lexical categories

). The category membership of a form can vary according to how that form is used in discourse.


Payne, T. 1997a 32


There are major and minor lexical categories.

Major categories:

Every language has at least two major lexical categories:

Many languages also have two other major categories:

Minor categories:

Many languages have minor lexical categories such as:


Grammatical categories are distinct from formal relational categories such as subject, object and predicate, or functional categories such as agent, topic or definite.

What is a lexical database?


A lexical database is an organized description of the lexemes of a language.


A lexical database attempts to approximate the lexicon of a native speaker.

It includes an inventory of known morphemes and information about their meanings .

For each sense of a morpheme, it includes such things as

  • a part of speech designation
  • a definition
  • sample sentences to illustrate this sense
  • cultural annotations to indicate its significance, and
  • identifiction of semantic relationships with other morphemes.

What is a lexical form?


A lexical form is an abstract unit representing a set of


differing only in inflection and not in core meaning.

It is a component part of a lexical unit .

Examples (English)
  • The lexeme, brooch n. 'a large ornamental pin with a clasp, worn by women' has a single lexical unit with a single lexical form representing the two


    , brooch and brooches.
  • The primary sense of the lexeme ignite vt. 'to set fire to' is a single lexical unit with a single lexical form representing several wordforms such as, ignite, ignited, ignites and igniting.

What is lexical phonology?


Lexical phonology is an approach to phonology that accounts for the interactions of morphology and phonology in the word building process.

The lexicon plays a central, productive role in the theory. It consists of ordered levels, which are the domain for certain phonological or morphological processes.


Here is a diagram of the overall structure of the lexical phonology model:


The following are crucial components of lexical phonology:

  • Lexical and post-lexical rules

    Here is a table that compares lexical and post-lexical rules:

    Lexical rules …

    Post-lexical rules …

    Apply only within words.

    Apply within words or across word boundaries.

    Are prone to exceptions.

    Do not have exceptions.

    Require morphological information.

    Require syntactic information, or no grammatical information at all.

    Must be structure-preserving.

    Are not necessarily structure-preserving.

    Will not be blocked by pauses.

    Can be blocked by pauses.

    Apply first.

    Apply later.

  • Levels

    English has between two and four levels of morphology in the lexicon. The levels within the lexicon are ordered so that, to get to Level 3 from Level 1, a word must pass through Level 2. A word cannot go back to a previous level once it has left one level and gone on to another level.

    Halle and Mohanan propose the following four levels of morphology in the lexicon:

  • Level 1: Class 1 derivation, irregular inflection
  • Level 2: Class 2 derivation
  • Level 3: Compounding
  • Level 4: Regular inflection
  • We will consider the first two levels of affixation because they differ significantly. Here is a table that compares affixation on Levels 1 and 2:

    Level 1

    Level 2

    Affixes include:

    -ate, -ion, -ity, -ic, sub-, de-, in-

    Affixes include:

    -ly, -ful, -some, -ness, re-, un-, non-

    Affixation causes stress shift:

    photograph / photographic

    Affixation does not affect stress:

    revenge / revengeful

    Trisyllabic shortening occurs:

    divine / divinity

    No trisyllabic shortening occurs:

    leader / leaderless

    Nasal assimilation occurs:

    in + legal -> illegal

    Nasal assimilation is blocked:

    un + ladylike -> unladylike, not *ulladylike

    Affixes may attach to stems:

    re-mit, de-duce

    Affixes attach only to words:

    re-open, de-regulate

    Affixation is less productive and more exception ridden.

    Affixation is more productive and less exception ridden.


    Durand 1990 178

  • Bracket erasure convention

    The bracket erasure convention is an important convention in lexical phonology. It ensures that the morphological brackets introduced within a certain level are erased before entering the next level.


    Here is an example of the bracket erasure convention. The brackets in pressurize are erased before it enters Level II.

    Level I

    [press] [-ure] [-ize]


    [press] [-ure]


    [[[press] [-ure]] [-ize]]

    Level II

    [re-] [pressurize] (Bracket erasure)


    [[re-] [pressurize]]

Examples (English)

Here is an example of an application of lexical phonology:

  • Here are the words to be considered in this example:

    • sane [sejn] / sanity [sQnIti]
    • neighbor [nejb«&u0279] / neighborhood [nejb«&u0279hUd] *[nQb«&u0279hUd]
  • The following rule applies across level 1 morpheme boundaries:

  • A tense vowel becomes lax when a short word is lengthened by adding a suffix, so that the words ends up having at least three syllables.


    Katamba 1989 139

  • This derivation demonstrates affixation in lexical phonology accompanied by the application of a phonological rule, trisyllabic shortening.

  • Sources

    Durand 1990

    Katamba 1989

    Mohanan 1986

    What is a lexical relation?


    A lexical relation is a culturally recognized pattern of association that exists between lexical units in a language.

    Examples: English paradigmatic lexical relations

    Here is a table showing some common paradigmatic lexical relations in English with example sets and underlying structure:

  • Lexical relation

    Example set

    Underlying structure


    A "happy" synonym set: { happy, joyful, glad }

    simple set


    A "temperature" set: { cold, cool, lukewarm, warm, hot }



    A "social relation" set: {( student, teacher ), ( patient, doctor )}

    set of pairs

    generic-specific whole-part

    A "whole-part" tree:

  • house
  • roof
  • walls
  • floor
  • tree

  • Underlying structure

    Each lexical relation has an underlying structure that describes the relationship that senses within a lexical relation set have with each other.

    Here are some underlying structures of lexical relations:

    Here are some kinds of lexical relations:

    What is a lexical relation elicitation frame?


    A lexical relation elicitation frame is a set of words of a particular lexical relation that is an example for eliciting more lexical relations of the same type for other words.

    What is a lexical relation set?


    A lexical relation set is a grouping of senses that are lexically related to each other.

    What is a lexical relation with a scale structure?


    A lexical relation with a scale structure is a pattern of association between lexical units in a fixed order or progression. They represent successive values of some variable property.


    A scale can be represented mathematically as

  • {… -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3 …}
  • Examples: English

    Here are some examples of lexical relations with a scale structure in English arranged in decreasing order of discreteness:

    • Rank

      • {private, corporal, sergeant, general}
      • {Kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 2 …}
    • Hierarchy

      • {county, state, country}
      • {phoneme, word, sentence, discourse}
    • Numeric

      • {one, two, three …}
      • {first, second, third …}
      • {single, double, triple …}
      • {singleton, twins, triplets …}
    • Units of measurement

      • {inch, foot, yard, mile}
      • {millimeter, centimeter, meter, kilometer}
      • {second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year, decade, century, millennium}
    • Calendar

      • {Sunday, Monday, Tuesday … Saturday}
      • {January, February, March … December}
    • Development

      • {newborn, infant, toddler, child, adolescent, adult}
      • {planning, design, implementation, production, evaluation}
    • Scalar properties

      • {cold, cool, lukewarm, warm, hot}
      • {minuscule, tiny, small, big, huge, gigantic}
      • {slightly, moderately, fairly, very, extremely}

    What is a lexical relation with a set of pairs structure?


    A lexical relation with a set of pairs structure is a pattern of association between lexical units which is characterized by a binary contrast, correlation, or correspondence between two sense sets.


    A set of pairs can be represented mathematically as

  • {(x1, y1), (x2, y2), (x3, y3),...}
  • Examples (English)
    • Opposites

      • {(true, false), (dead, alive), (open, shut)}
      • {(long, short), (good, bad), (hot, cold)}
    • Individual-group

      • {(lion, pride), (wolf, pack), (buffalo, herd)}
      • {(flower, bouquet), (banana, bunch)}

    What is a lexical relation with a simple set structure?


    A lexical relation with a simple set structure is a pattern of association between lexical units that share one or more semantic components .


    A simple set can be represented mathematically as

  • {x1, x2, x3, x4, x5}
  • Examples (English)

    The most common lexical relation of this type in English is a


    set. A synonym set consists of lexical units which share all or most of their core semantic components.

    Here are some examples of synonym sets:

    • {assembly, gathering, meeting}
    • {just, equitable, lawful, fair}
    • {happy, joyful, glad}

    What is a lexical relation with a tree structure?


    A lexical relation with a tree structure is a pattern of association that is characterized by a set of lexical units which both have an inclusion relationship with and are dominated by one lexical unit. These sets may form a taxonomy or a meronymy.

    Examples (English)
    • Generic-specific

    • animal

    • horse

    • appaloosa
    • arabian
    • Tennessee walker
    • dog


    • Whole-part

    • arm

    • elbow



    What is lexical tone?


    Lexical tone is the distinctive pitch level carried by the syllable of a word which is an essential feature of the meaning of that word.


    An inventory of minimally distinctive pairs and sets in the lexicon will give you some idea of the

    functional load

    of tone in the lexicon.

    Examples: Yaka (Bantu pygmy, Central African Republic)

    Tone is marked as follows:

    • The acute accent |a@| means high tone
    • The unmarked |a| means low tone

    These are examples of lexical tone in nouns.

    • mbo@ka village’
    • mboka@ ‘field’
    • mbo@ka ‘civet cat’
    • kusu ‘termite hill’
    • ku@su@ ‘species of tree’
    • m&u0254k&u0254 ‘evening’
    • m&u0254k&u0254@ ‘kind of honey’
    • m&u0254@k&u0254 ‘ceinture degrimpage’

    These are examples of lexical tone in verbs:

    • tanga ‘to drip’
    • ta@nga ‘to count, to read’
    • ka@la ‘to take all in one go’
    • kala ‘to escape’
    Examples: Ngiti (Central Sudanic, Zaire)

    Tone is marked as follows:

    • The acute accent |a@| means high tone
    • The grave accent |a$| means low tone
    • The unmarked |a| means mid tone
    • The wedge |a&| means rising tone

    These are examples of lexical tone in pronouns:

    • ma
    • ma& ‘we’
    • ny&u0268 ‘you’ (singular)
    • ny&u0268ô ‘you’ (plural)
    • a$badhi ‘he’
    • aba@dh" ‘they’

    A lexical tone is a kind of


    See also

    What is a lexical unit?


    A lexical unit is a form-meaning composite that represents a

    Also known as:


    What is a lexical verb?


    A lexical verb is a member of the open class of verbs which form the primary verb vocabulary of a language.


    The adjective lexical is applied generally to the vocabulary of a language, especially to distinguish content words from function words.

    Example (English)
  • The verb come in will be coming is a lexical verb.
  • Generic
    A lexical verb is a kind of

    Crystal 1985 326

    Mish 1991 687

    Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, and Svartvik 1985 96

    What is a lexicon?


    A lexicon is the knowledge that a native speaker has about a language. This includes information about

    • the form and meanings of words and phrases
    • lexical categorization
    • the appropriate usage of words and phrases
    • relationships between words and phrases, and
    • categories of words and phrases.

    Phonological and grammatical rules are not considered part of the lexicon.

    What is a link schema?


    A link schema is an image schema that consists of two or more entities, connected physically or metaphorically, and the bond between them.

    Examples (English)
    • A child holding her mother’s hand
    • Someone plugging a lamp into the wall
    • A causal “connection”
    • Kinship “ties”
    A link schema is a kind of

    Johnson 1987 117–119

    What is a literal meaning in a lexical database?


    The literal meaning is used to give the glosses of the individual components of a multi-morpheme expression, such as a compound or an idiom , where the meaning of the whole is different from the sum of its parts.


    You only need to fill in the literal meaning if the entry is a compound or an idiom.


    The literal meaning of the word for "train" in Chinese is "fire car."

    What is a literal translation?


    A literal translation is a translation that follows closely the form of the source language.

    Also known as:

    word-for-word translation


    Larson 1984 10

    What is litotes?


    Litotes is the use of a negated antonym to make an understatement or to emphatically affirm the positive.

    Examples (English)
    • In John 6:37 in the Bible, the clause I will in no wise cast out means "I will certainly receive."
    • An expression of the form not unX, as in the following:

      Moreover, the attempt is not unsuccessful. (Eduard Schevardnadze)


    Example from Beekman, Callow, and Kopesec 1981 183

    Litotes is a kind of

    Pei and Gaynor 1954 125

    Beekman and Callow 1974 183

    What is locative as a semantic role?


    Locative is a semantic role which identifies the location or spatial orientation of a state or action.

    A locative semantic role does not imply motion to, from, or across the location.

    Examples (English)
    • The paper is in the folder.
    • The ship sank at sea.
    Locative is a kind of

    Longacre 1983 161

    What is locative case?


    Locative case is a case that expresses location at the referent of the noun it marks.


    The term adessive case, a synonym of locative case, is used especially in studies of Finno-Ugric grammar.

    Locative case is a kind of

    Crystal 1980 214–215

    Mish 1991 701

    Lyons 1968 299

    Crystal 1985 7

    Gove 1966 25

    What is a logical relation?


    A logical relation is an interpropositional relation in which a proposition is related to another, in reasoning, as

    • a premise to a conclusion, or
    • an antecedent to a consequent.
    Here are some kinds of logical relations:
    A logical relation is a kind of

    Beekman, Callow, and Kopesec 1981 102

    Longacre 1983 101

    Halliday and Hasan 1976 257

    Johnson 1987 63–64