English Language Language Acquisition Key Terms

HideShow resource information


An individual's own 'linguistic fingerprint'.

1 of 68


A variety of language appropriate to a particular purpose and context. 

2 of 68


The smallest contrastive unit in the sound system of a language.

3 of 68


The study of sounds used in speech, including how they are produced. 

4 of 68


The vocabulary of a language.

5 of 68


The study of meaning. 

6 of 68


The way words are arranged to make sentences.

7 of 68


The area of language study that deals with the formation of words from smaller units called morphemes. 

8 of 68


The study of the sound systems of language and how they communicate meaning. 

9 of 68


A stretch of communication.

10 of 68


The factors that influence the choices that speakers make in their use of language- why we chose to say one thing rather than another.

11 of 68

Language Acquisition Device (LAD):

The human brain's inbuilt capacity to acquire language.

12 of 68

Universal Grammar:

The explanation that all world languages share the principles of grammar despite surface differences in lexis and phonology. Sometimes called linguistic universals. 

13 of 68

Phonemic Expansion:

The variety of sounds produced increases. 

14 of 68

Phonemic Contraction:

The variety of sounds is reduced to the sounds of the main language used.

15 of 68


A speech sound that is produced when the vocal tract is either blocked or so restricted that there is audible friction.

16 of 68


A sound made without closure or audible friction.

17 of 68


A vowel in which there is a perceptible change in quality during a syllable. 

18 of 68


An invented word that has a consistent meaning.

19 of 68


A single word expressing a whole idea.

20 of 68


A form (especially a noun) used to address a person.

21 of 68

Content Word:

A type of word that has an independent 'dictionary' meaning, also called a lexical word.

22 of 68

Function Word:

A word whose role is largely or wholly to express a grammatical relationship.

23 of 68

Social Interactionists:

Those who believe that child language develops through interaction with carers. 

24 of 68

Positive Reinforcement:

When a behaviour is rewarded, including verbal praise to encourage this behaviour to be repeated. 

25 of 68

Negative Reinforcement:

When an undesireable behaviour is unrewarded with the intention that it will not be repeated.

26 of 68


Those who believe that language is acquired through imitation and reinforcement.

27 of 68


A feature of a child's language where the word used to label something is 'stretched' to include things that aren't normally part of that word's meaning.

28 of 68


A feature of a child's language where the word used to label is 'reduced' to include only part of its normal meaning. 

29 of 68


The hierarchical structure that exists between lexical items. 

30 of 68


A subordinate, i.e. a word that is more generic or general and can have more specific words under it. 

31 of 68


A more specific word within a category or under a hypernym. 

32 of 68

Inflectional Morphology:

The alteration of words to make new grammatical forms. 

33 of 68

Derivational Morphology:

The creation of new words by adding prefixes or suffixes.

34 of 68

Mean Length Utterance (MLU):

A measure of children's ability to produce stretches of language; the number of morphemes is divided by the total number of utterances to find the average length. A higher MLU is taken to indicate a higher level of language proficiency. 

35 of 68

Copula Verb:

A verb used to join or 'couple' a subject to a complement. 

36 of 68


Lexical items that 'point' towards something and place words in context.

37 of 68

Free Morpheme:

One that can stand alone as an independent word, e.g. apple.

38 of 68

Bound Morpheme:

One that cannot stand alone as an independent word, but must be attached to another morpheme/word (affixes, such as the plural '-s', are always bound, as is the comparative adjective inflection '-er').

39 of 68

Cognitive Theorists:

Those who believe that language acquisition is part of a wider development of understanding. 

40 of 68

Virtuous Error:

Syntactic errors made by young children in which the non-standard utterance reveals some understanding, though incomplete, of standard syntax.

41 of 68


A learner's extension of a word meaning or grammatical rule beyond its normal use.

42 of 68

Stative Verb:

Verb that describes a state; stative verbs are not usually used in the progressive aspect, which is used for incomplete actions in progress.

43 of 68

Dynamic Verb:

A type of verb that expresses activities and changes of state, allowing such forms as the progressive. 

44 of 68

Egocentric Speech:

The running discourse style of speech used by children where no listener is directly addressed and the talk is focused on the child's activities. 

45 of 68

Child-Directed Speech (CDS):

Any of various speech patterns used by parents or care givers when communicating with young children, particularly infants, usually involving simplified vocabulary, melodic pitch, repetitive questioning, and a slow or deliberate tempo. 

46 of 68


The development of a child's utterance into a longer, more meaningful form.

47 of 68


The commenting on, extending and replacing of a child's utterance.

48 of 68

Language Acquisition Support System (LASS):

This refers to the child's interaction with the adults around them and how this interaction supports language development.

49 of 68

Object Permanence:

The awareness that objects continue to exist even when they are no longer visible.

50 of 68


The process of transferring a skill from adult to child and then withdrawing support once the skill has been mastered. 

51 of 68


Those who believe that humans have an inbuilt capacity to acquire language. 

52 of 68


The way in which a text appears logical and well constructed. 

53 of 68


A written symbol, letter or combination of letters that is used to represent a phoneme.

54 of 68


Words with very similar semantic value.

55 of 68


The study of the graphic features of the printed page.

56 of 68


A system of teaching reading and spelling that stresses basic symbol-sound relationships and their use in decoding words; a system used especially in the early stages of reading. 

57 of 68


The strategies used to help decode written texts successfully.

58 of 68


Errors made by children when reading.

59 of 68

Cursive Handwriting:

Handwriting in which the characters are joined in rounded and flowing strokes.

60 of 68


A process of linguistic change in which people adjust their dialect, accent or speech style to those of others, often occurring to express solidarity and understanding.

61 of 68


A defined use of language as a result of membership in a social group.

62 of 68


The study of the use of letters and the rules of spelling in language. 

63 of 68

Emergent Writing:

Children's early scribble writting, a stage of their literacy development.

64 of 68


The typographical feature where a portion of the letter goes above the usual height for letters in any font. 

65 of 68


Where part of a letter goes below the baseline of a font.

66 of 68


A graphic unit in which two symbols combine, or any sequence of two letters produced as a single sound, e.g. 'sh' 

67 of 68


A lexical item that has the same pronunciation as another.

68 of 68


No comments have yet been made

Similar English Language resources:

See all English Language resources »See all Child language acquisition resources »