Glossary

British Council Logo

Unit 1: Defining English


Codification
A ‘standard’ variety of a language is codified when its forms and rules are fixed and recorded (in dictionaries and grammar books) as the ‘correct’ options for use in education and formal writing/speaking.

English as an International Language (EIL)
English as it is used around the world in a variety of different places and contexts for a variety of different purposes.

English as a Lingua Franca (ELF)
English as it is used between people who have different first languages.

Idiolect
A person’s own, individual knowledge and habitual patterns of use of their language(s).

Lingua Franca
A bridge language between individuals who do not have the same first language.

Monolithic
The idea that languages are discrete, describable systems that exist outside the heads of individual users.

Multilingualism
The use of three or more languages by an individual or group of language users.

Native Speaker
A person who began the process of acquiring the language at a very early age outside of (but perhaps also in) the classroom. 'Nativeness' is not the same thing as nationality (because language borders are not consistent with linguistic ones) and, in addition to the 'inheritance' factor already mentioned, it also includes elements of expertise (the ability to achieve specific tasks in specific contexts) and affiliation (level of comfort in using a language and feelings of belonging to a community of language users).

Negative concord
The grammatical regularity exhibited in several varieties of English, as well as languages like Spanish and Polish, in which negation is marked more than once (e.g. I ain’t got nothing; in Spanish: No tengo nada).

Non-native Speaker
A person who began the process of acquiring the language in later childhood or beyond, mainly in an instructed situation such as a school classroom. See 'native speaker '.

Normative
An idea about how something should or ought to be, which may be different from how it actually is.

Plurilithic
The idea that languages are partially overlapping systems of dynamic linguistic resources that exist in the heads of individual users.

Psycholinguistics
The study of the mental processes involved in the acquisition and use of language.

Received Pronunciation (RP)
The British accent associated with the ‘upper classes’ of the south of England. It is not the same as ‘Standard English’, which is a lexico-grammatical variety which can be spoken with different accents.

Register
Sometimes used as a synonym of 'style'. Also, a speech variety used by a particular group of people, usually sharing the same job (lawyers or doctors for example) or hobby (train enthusiasts or football supporters for example). Types of variation might include choice of vocabulary and different grammatical constructions (in legal language, for example).

Social construction
Something that exists by virtue of people’s shared belief in it, rather than evidence they have for it from sensory experience.

Sociolinguistics
The study of language in social contexts.

Style
Variation in a person's use of language depending on their communicative context (task, role, topic, audience etc.) and the language use of the individual or group with whom the person is communicating. Types of variation might include (in)formality of expression, choice of vocabulary and degree of explicitness.


Unit 2: Using English


Accommodation
The modification of your speech style in accordance with or in response to that of others. This may be a way of attending to what you believe to be your listener's ability to understand, and/or to your respective role relationships and task-specific aims. Your modifications may also be the result of patterns within your conversation: questions that need an answer, pauses that need filling, summaries that assume agreement, registers that you converge or diverge from and so on.

Code-switching
Speaking or writing which uses elements of two or more languages (or styles/registers in monolinguals).

Converge
A speaker converges when s/he makes his/her speech style or register more similar to the style or register of the person s/he is speaking to. It has been suggested that where a speaker needs to gain the social approval of the person they are talking to, convergence will occur, and the greater the need for approval, the greater the degree of convergence. Convergence is a strategy that is motivated by the widely held belief that the more similar people are, the more intelligible, predictable and attractive they find each other.

Diverge
A speaker diverges when s/he makes his/her speech style or register more different from the style or register of the person s/he is speaking to. Divergence may occur when a speaker wants to highlight or increase the difference between him/herself and the person they are talking to.

Expanding Circle
Includes countries where English is used rarely and mostly only as a school subject. Users are thought of as learners, and English is thought of as a foreign language.

Inner Circle
Includes England and countries in which English native speakers almost entirely displaced local populations.

Interference
The negative effect of one language on the use of another. Also called 'negative transfer', interference is when the use of a structure, word or sound from another language is believed to be responsible for inappropriate use of the target language

Macro-contextual Factors
These are aspects of our identity, and the identity/ies of the person(s) we are communicating with, which may influence the way we talk to each other. Macro-contextual factors include: national or regional origin, social class, gender, age, ethnic origin, occupation, religion, sexuality, social context, multilingualism, education and social status. Macro-contextual factors are also known as 'global' factors and are assumed to exist prior to the interaction. Whether they actually influence a specific interaction will depend on the nature of the communicative task and micro-contextual factors.

Micro-contextual Factors
These are aspects of the spoken interaction between two or more people that may influence the way we subsequently talk. Micro-contextual factors include: 'pairs' of actions (such as question/answer, greeting/greeting, offer/acceptance or refusal), one person's laughter generating laughter from others, generally only one person talking at any one time, one person starting to talk if another signals that s/he is coming to the end of what they want to say. Micro-contextual factors are also known as 'local' factors and get created during the interaction. Whether they actually influence a specific interaction will depend on the nature of the communicative task and, possibly, macro-contextual factors.

Model
Someone or something which is used as a standard to be met, or goal to be achieved, by a language learner.

Negotiate Meaning
A process that speakers go through in order to support and check their mutual achievement of understanding. The process involves various strategies such as: repeating your own or another's talk, correcting what you or another have just said or are saying, asking clarification or checking questions, summarising, pausing to allow thinking time or to show non-comprehension, etc.

Outer Circle
Includes former colonies of the UK and USA where English is used as a second or additional language. English often has official status in these countries, and may be used as the medium of government, business or education. English may also be used as a national lingua franca in multilingual Outer Circle countries.

Repertoire
One’s entire set of language (and other communicative) resources, including different styles, registers, dialects, languages, and non-verbal cues.

Target
The language which a person is learning.

Translanguaging
The social and/or educational practice of drawing on one’s entire repertoire of languages to create, communicate and negotiate meaning.

World Englishes
Refers to the use of English in different ways by perhaps one-third of the world's population spread across every continent, but especially in post-colonial contexts. Scholars of World Englishes embrace diversity and question the assumption that native speakers own, or are especially competent in the use of, English.


Unit 3: Learning English


Concordance
A list of all instances of a word form which are used in a text or collection of texts, together with the preceding and following contexts in which they appear. A collection of texts analysable in this way is called a corpus.

Connectionism
A cognitive theory of language acquisition and use which suggests that what is acquired and used is stored as vast interconnected networks of simple units, rather than as general rules using symbols for complex entities.

Declarative Memory
The storage of facts, concepts or ideas which may be deliberately learned and require selective attention to be used. Word forms and memorised sequences of word forms, with links to their meanings, are initially represented in declarative memory.

Fossilisation
A process by which linguistic features considered 'incorrect' in the target language/variety become a permanent part of the way that a learner speaks or writes. These linguistic features may be present in a learner's use of an additional language because of language transfer or general learning processes.

Interlanguage
The theory that a language learner's knowledge of their additional language is a dynamic linguistic system which is different from both their own first language and the target language, and which can be studied in its own right.

Overgeneralisation
A process, common in both first and additional language acquisition, whereby a learner extends the use of a grammatical rule beyond its conventional uses. Overgeneralisation often involves making words or structures follow a regular pattern where they conventionally would not. For example, a learner of English might say goed instead of went or mans instead of men.

Procedural memory
The storage of unconscious knowledge and skills which are acquired gradually, through practice, and may be engaged automatically. Grammatical rules are examples of languages processes stored in procedural memory.

Prototype
(A representation of) an object or a thing which is considered by many people to be typical of its class or group.

Schema
Patterns of thought or behaviour, mental structures which organize a person's knowledge of the world and provide a framework for future understanding.

Transfer
The use of patterns from one language (perhaps the learner's first language) in another language (perhaps the language being learned). Also known as cross-linguistic influence.


Unit 4: Teaching English


Bridging activities
Learning activities in which learners bring into the classroom examples of how they use/experience English outside the classroom (especially online) and then analyse, with the teacher, how/why they differ from ‘Standard English’.

Realia
Objects from learners’ daily contexts and experiences used for learning/teaching purposes.


Unit 5: Changing English


Applied Linguistics
Applied Linguistics explores the role played by language and languages in perceived problems of communication, social identity, education, health, economics, politics and justice, and aims to develop ways to resolve these problems.

Input
Input is language which a learner hears or reads and from which, potentially, s/he can learn.

Intake
Intake is input which a language learner can actually (not just potentially) use to learn. Some forms of input may be too complicated, too fast, too quiet (and so on) for a learner to understand and therefore use for learning. Intake is a sub-set of input.