Linguistic terminology terms | LETTER - V

What is valency?


Valency refers to the capacity of a verb to take a specific number and type of arguments (noun phrase positions).


The terminology comes from chemistry, in which the valency of a chemical element is its capacity for combining with a fixed number of atoms of another element—for example, hydrogen can bond with only one other element, and is called monovalent.

Verbs can be divided into classes based on their valency (how many arguments or ‘valents’ they can take). In some languages, these classes may have distinctive morphosyntactic characteristics, such as unique case marking patterns, or restrictions on tense/aspect/modality marking.


Here are some examples of possible verb classes based on valency:

Verb class

# of arguments

Example (English)

Univalent, agentive

1 agent


Univalent, patientive

1 patient


Divalent (or Bivalent)


kill, eat



give, put

See also

Brown & Miller 1996 359

What is a verb? (Linguistics)


A verb is a member of the syntactic class of words that

  • typically signal events and actions
  • constitute, singly or in a phrase, a minimal predicate in a clause
  • govern the number and types of other constituents which may occur in the clause, and
  • in inflectional languages, may be inflected for

    • tense
    • aspect
    • voice
    • modality, or
    • agreement with other constituents in

      • person
      • number, or
      • grammatical gender.
Here are some kinds of verbs:
A verb is a kind of

Crystal 1980 374

Hartmann and Stork 1972 248

Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, and Svartvik 1985 96

Mish 1991 1309

Givón 1984 52

What is a verb phrase?


Here are two senses for verb phrase:

  1. In traditional terminology, a verb phrase is a phrase that

  2. In generative grammar, a verb phrase is a syntactic unit that corresponds to the predicate . In addition to the verb, this includes auxiliaries, objects , object complements , and other constituents apart from the subject .
A verb phrase is a kind of

Crystal 1980 374

Hartmann and Stork 1972 248–249

Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, and Svartvik 1985 61

What is a verbal adjective?


A verbal adjective is an adjective which is similar to a verb in form and meaning.

Examples (English)
  • A very arguable case
  • A much argued case
  • A trying set of circumstances
A verbal adjective is a kind of

Hartmann and Stork 1972 165, 249

Crystal 1985 326

Mish 1991 858, 1309

Crystal 1980 258

Pei and Gaynor 1954 160

What is a verbal noun?


A verbal noun is a noun that is morphologically related to a verb and similar to it in meaning.

Examples (English)
  • The word description, related to the word describe, is a verbal noun.

    In the following example, walking is a verbal noun:

  • Brisk walking is good exercise.
  • Generic
    A verbal noun is a kind of

    Crystal 1980 374

    Hartmann and Stork 1972 95, 249

    Schachter 1985 10

    Mish 1991 515, 1309

    Pei and Gaynor 1954 83

    Palmer 1986 156

    What is a verbal particle?


    A verbal particle is a member of a closed class of particles which co-occur with some verbs to form phrasal verbs. In some languages, verbal particles are identical to certain adpositions.

    Example (English)
  • The item give up is a verbal particle, as in the following:

    • He gave up smoking.
    • He gave smoking up.
  • Example (Akan)

    The item ‘answered’ is a verbal particle, as in the following:

    Kofi gyee Kwame so
    Kofi received Kwame on

    ‘Kofi answered Kwame.’


    Schachter 1985 45

    A verbal particle is a kind of

    Schachter 1985 45–46

    What is vertical deixis?


    Vertical deixis is place deixis that indicates location upward or downward in relation to the speaker or other deictic center .


    Denny 1978 74

    What is a verticality schema?


    A verticality schema is an image schema that involves “up” and “down” relations.

    • Standing upright
    • Climbing stairs
    • Viewing a flagpole
    • Watching water rise in a tub
    A verticality schema is a kind of

    Johnson 1987 xiv

    What is a visual evidential?


    A visual evidential is a sensory evidential signaling that the speaker 's evidence for the truth of his or her statement is derived from the speaker’s own sight.

    A visual evidential is a kind of

    Oswalt 1986 36

    What is vocative case?


    Vocative case is a case that marks a noun whose referent is being addressed.

    Example (Latin)
  • The word Brute in the following example is in vocative case:

  • Et tu, Brute! ‘You too, Brutus!’
  • Source:

    Hartmann and Stork 1972 251

    Vocative case is a kind of

    Crystal 1980 377

    Hartmann and Stork 1972 251

    Pei and Gaynor 1954 228

    What is a vocoid?


    A vocoid is a sound made with an open oral cavity such that there is little audible friction in the mouth.

    It has the potential to be analyzed phonemically as a vowel.


    Here is a diagram of the vocoids. A language will use only some of these:

    A vocoid may also be a glide or syllabic sonorant, such as the following:

    • [j]
    • [l`]
    • [n`]
    See also

    What is voice?


    Voice is a grammatical category that expresses the semantic functions attributed to the referents of a clause. It indicates whether the subject is an

    • actor
    • patient, or
    • recipient.
    Examples (English)
  • The following sentence is in active voice :

  • Jones built the house.
  • The following sentence is in passive voice :

  • The house was built by Jones.
  • Kinds
    Here are some kinds of voice:
    Voice is a kind of

    Pei and Gaynor 1954 228–229

    Hartmann and Stork 1972 251–252

    Nida 1949 168

    Elson and Pickett 1988 31

    Bybee 1985 20–21

    Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, and Svartvik 1985 159

    Crystal 1985 329

    Mish 1991 1320

    What is a voiceless vowel?


    A voiceless vowel is a vowel that is produced with no vibration of the vocal folds.

    What is volitive modality?


    Volitive modality is a deontic modality that expresses the speaker’s attitude of hope, wish, or fear concerning the proposition expressed by the utterance .

    Here are some kinds of volitive modality:
    Volitive modality is a kind of

    Pei and Gaynor 1954 229

    Palmer 1986 116–117

    What is a vowel?


    A vowel is a sound made when the impedance of the air through the vocal tract is minimal and the vocal tract is completely open.

    What is vowel harmony?


    Vowel harmony is a type of assimilation which takes place when vowels come to share certain features with contrastive vowels elsewhere in a word or phrase ( Crystal 1992 168 ).

    • A front vowel in the first syllable of a word would require the presence of a front vowel in the second syllable.
    See also
    • Options for symbolizing vowel harmony

    What is a vowel modification?


    A vowel modification is an addition or alteration to the basic way that a vowel is articulated.