Key Words

analytic language

An analytic language relies on word order and function words to signal grammatical relationships and structures.


"Before Common Era" (i.e., an alternative representation of "B.C.")


The relationship of nouns, pronouns, and adjectives to other sentence elements; in inflective languages, these relationships are signaled by changes in a word's form. In PDE, this occurs most obviously in the pronoun system, for example: he=subject, him=object, and his=possessive.


"Common Era" (i.e., an alternative representation of "A.D.")


A creole is a language that develops as generations of speakers use what began as a pidgin language as their primary language. Thus it develops the syntactic, lexical, and morphological sophistication required by any language functioning as the primary language of a speech community.

function word

Words like prepositions, auxilliary verbs, conjunctions, and determiners that primarily have grammatical rather than lexical meaning


possessive case, sometimes having two forms in PDE depending on function: That is my book (adjectival); That is mine (pronominal).


A change in a word's form (in English, primarily through the addition of a suffix or internal vowel change) that alters its grammatical meaning, i.e., tense, case, relationship to other parts of a sentence.

long vowels

In Old English, vowels were distinguished on the basis of quantity as well as quality. A word with a shord a might be spelled exactly the same as a word with a long a but would be pronounced with greater duration of the syllabic nucleus (e.g., a vs. aa). Long vowels in OE are usually indicated in modern editions with a macron (line) over the vowel; in OE manuscripts, an accent (á) sometimes serves the same function.


A lingua franca that consists of a hybrid language, greatly reduced in grammatical and lexical structure, developed as a consequence of contact between two or more speech communities.

strong verb

A strong verb in is one that forms its past tense and past participle through an internal vowel change, such as swim-swam-swum.

synthetic language

A synthetic language relies primarily on inflections to signal grammatical relationships and structures.

weak verb

A weak verb is one that forms its past tense and past participle through the addition of the inflectional suffix -ed.