J The tenth letter of the alphabet, /dʒeɪ/ in the IPA, a consonant, and JULIET in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. To remember the way to say it, well, there aren't that many well-known cultural references: j-bar, j-cloth, j-curve, j-particle. Or for the younger students, well, you've probably heard of J-Z, or better known as Jay-Z...
JARGON These are words and expressions that are used in special or technical ways by particular groups of people, particularly when working with each other, both in writing (computer instruction manuals, for example - usually written by computer people) and in speaking (people who work in the computer industry, for example, one reason why they are often thought of as boring, geekish or nerdish). This often makes the language - and their language - difficult or even impossible to understand unless you know or work in the field the language is used. I trust you don't use it with me...
JOINED-UP WRITING See cursive, handwriting and script (2).
K The eleventh letter of the alphabet, /keɪ/ in the IPA, a consonant, and KILO in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. To remember the way to say it, we have the K in K-pop (as in Gangham Style... sorry, what do you mean you've never heard of that?) and more obviously, the K as in OK. For a long time in N4GB it also seems to be a first letter that English grammar or glossary terms don't like very much (apart from that very unpopular, unliked and unloved letter X), but now we've found some. And they're both the same, but different...
KAFKAESQUE An eponymous term, this is a style of writing that is similar to Franz Kafka, one of the most important people as regards 20th-century literature; his stories typically featured individuals who face strange or weird situations (there's more to it than that, but that would take a bit of explaining). See also Orwellian, eponym.
KEYWORD This is a word or phrase used to emphasize how important it is, for example: You, me, and our customers - cooperation is our keyword! But perhaps the other meaning is better known to you lot, as in a word or phrase that you type into a search engine to find certain websites or documents, or simply a word or phrase that you type into your computer, and is included in a file or document if you're looking for a particular file. Not to be confused with key word, unless you're into corpus linguistics.
KEY WORD Also known as a node, in corpus linguistics, this is a particular word or phrase which, by using a concordancing program (something similar to an app that you can get on your computer), allows you to see words before and after this key word and to see how this key word or phrase is used in context. Often there are several examples showing lines (known as concordance lines) in the form of extracts taken from registers that are made up of spoken conversations, academic papers, fictional writing and the news. This type of display is known as key word in context (KWIC). And the purpose? To study the choices we make when we write or speak based on various factors that influence the way we do so. That's about the simplest explanation I can think of. Now look at all those words in red if you're still not sure of some of the words... See also keyword, which really is not the same thing. It's one word, not two.
KWIC Also known as key word in context. See key word. Not to be confused with keyword - that's something else. Notice that gap between the two words?
L The twelfth letter of the alphabet, /el/ in the IPA, a consonant, and LIMA in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. To remember the way to say it, we have the L in L-plate... actually, I'm rather struggling to think of something with that one.
LANGUAGE Okay, here goes: it's a form of communication that uses sets of sounds and written symbols which can vary depending on the people who live in different countries, and may use very different sounds and written symbols. It can also refer to writing, which is a style used to express its message in a form that can be understood by its readers. See also prose, style and register.
LANGUAGE VARIATION The study of two major types of language varieties: registers and dialects.
LATIN An old, classical language that was first used in Ancient Rome in around the first century BC, and was the official language of the Roman Empire. Along with Greek, it was considered a kind of 'perfect language' and was used widely in England in the middle ages, particularly in the areas of education and diplomacy. However, as English developed and became a separate language and Latin itself was in decline, grammarians from the 17th century onwards still considered Latin as a standard by which English should be judged, and a lot of English instruction was modelled on Latin and even made to conform to Latin syntax. As a consequence, there were attempts to force a lot of Latin grammar rules upon a language that was not the same, and some of these so-called rules still persist today. See also prescriptivist.
LEMMA See lexeme.
LETTER Rather boringly, letters are written symbols which are used to represent one of the sounds in a language. They can be individual letters, or two letters may be put together to make one sound. For example, the C and the H can be put together to make a new sound. Or as it turns out, three new sounds: /tʃ/ as in children, /ʃ/ as in Champagne, and /k/ as in Christmas.
LEXEME Also known as a lexical word, lexical unit, lexical item or lemma. This is what we could describe as a minimal meaningful unit of language. What am I on about? This is, basically, a word (or even phrasal verb) that exists and it does not matter what parts we add on (inflections), they all take the meaning of that lexeme. For example, driving, drove and driven are forms of the lexeme drive. Lexemes can be made up of more than one word: sit in for (as in the meaning replace for a short time) can be inflected as sat in for and sitting in for. See also morphemes.
LEXICAL ITEM See lexeme.
LEXICAL UNIT See lexeme. Again.
LEXICAL WORD See lexeme. Oh, this is starting to get a little boring...
LEXICOGRAMMAR Yes, it's a kind of grammar, and it's a technical word to do with the analysis of the choice of words used in writing and speaking as we express ourselves. So for example, my choice of vocabulary - oh all right, lexis (see below) - and the choice of both vocabulary and the grammar we use (that's lexicogrammar folks!), may depend upon who (or whom if you want to be formal) you are expressing yourself to. So, for example, the same question may be asked in different ways - that is, a different choice of lexicogrammar - to either a professor: May I ask if you have some time available to see me? or a person you know well: See you later, then? See also lexico-grammatical patterns.
LEXICO-GRAMMATICAL PATTERNS The study of grammar and vocabulary. Although usually separate areas of study, when people use a language they bring forward their knowledge of how vocabulary works with their knowledge of how grammar works. For example, English native speakers know that some verbs can be followed either by the infinitive: I offered to pay for the drinks. (we know it isn't offered paying for the drinks; and we know that we would usually say I avoid playing tennis when it rains. (We know it isn't avoid to play tennis.) See also lexicogrammar.
LEXIS This looks like it should be the name of a pair of jeans, but it is, in fact, a technical word for vocabulary. And if you're studying English seriously, then it's a word that, perhaps, you should know. See also lexicogrammar. It's just above this.
LINGUIST This is a person who studies linguistics. They can be rather good at speaking or learning foreign languages. That was a great help, wasn't it, so to understand this better, you should read the next entry...
LINGUISTICS This is, basically, the study of how language works. Linguists look at the language and see how it is spoken, how it is evolving, and maybe even try to predict the direction it may be going. These days, linguists now have more access to information and use various corpora and from this, are able to study the way vocabulary and grammar works and evolves, and to show how a language is spoken and written and not to judge how it should be spoken and written. That's the job of prescriptivists, and they're not always right as they don't always pay attention to the evidence!
LINKER These are words or phrases that we use to link, or connect, or join ideas. We often do this to join sentences and phrases (but not always). For example, It was a nice day. I went out can be linked by the linker 'so' to form the sentence It was a nice day so I went out. Some more: I always go to work early. My sister goes to work very late can be I always go to work early. However, my sister goes to work very late. More than two ideas can also be linked to each other using linkers: That new coat would be very expensive. There's no other coats for sale. Buying that would not make him happy could then be That new coat would be very expensive. In addition, there's no other coats for sale, and buying that would not make him happy! See also connectives and conjunctions.
LINKING VERB See copula verb.
LISTENING For the dictionary definition, this is the act of concentrating on hearing something or the act of paying attention. It is also a part of four (or five, depending on how you see the exam) sections of the Cambridge Advanced Exam in English as a foreign language (the other three parts are reading/use of English, speaking and writing). This part of the exam tests your ability to follow and understand a range of spoken materials, such as interviews, radio broadcasts, presentations, talks and everyday conversations (thanks Cambridge English for the definition).
LITERAL TRANSLATION See translation.
LITERARY DEVICES This is a technique used in writing. This is when a writer wants to use some kind of 'special effect' in their writing. No, we're not talking movie style, but examples of literary devices include using a 'flashback' (when the story is told from a point of view of a character who recalls something they were involved in the past) or an analogy, among others. See also personification, repetition, oxymoron, imagery and rhetorical question.
LITERATURE This is a word to describe novels, plays and poetry that are considered to be important. It is also the name given to studying books and articles and how important they are, or it is another word for written material that people give you when selling things or wanting to tell you how to do things: If you want more details of our offer, I can give you the necessary literature.
LOANWORD This is when a language adds a word from another and makes it part of their language, often with little or no translation. The English language has been doing this throughout its life, and here are three examples of loanwords to English. We have Doppelgänger [German] a double, or look-alike person: You know what? I saw your doppelgänger in the bus station! Aficionado [Spanish] an enthusiastic admirer or fan of something: he's a cookery aficionado., and Faux pas [French] Breaking a commonly accepted social rule: Well, that was a bit of a faux pas, picking your nose in the interview. See also borrowing, calque
LONGHAND This is not only your ordinary handwriting, but it is also writing out - by hand - text in full, that is, using complete words and normal letters and not by typing it or even using shorthand, which is writing by using shortened forms or special symbols.
LOWER CASE These are the small letters and not capital letters, and are more often used to describe printed text.
L2 See second language.