* Glossary of terms for Applied Linguitics.


Here’s a start. Please inform me of additions.


Abstract: A brief summary of research that includes the research questions, the methods used (including participants) and the results.

Accent: The mode of utterance peculiar to an individual or locality, distinguished by features of stress, tone and pitch.

Acceptability judgment: A judgment about the acceptability of a particular utterance (generally a sentence).

Acculturation model: A model proposed by John H. Schumann that attempts to explain the influence of social and affective variables on language learning. The model proposes a link between language acquisition and the extent to which the learner adapts and integrates himself into the new culture. A higher level of acculturation (adaption and integration) results in a greater degree of language acquisition.

Achievement test: A test taken at the end of a course of study to see how well students have learnt what they have been studying. Not the same as a diagnostic test (which identifies problems to be addressed) or a placement test (which identifies the group to which the student belongs) or a proficiency test (which measures how well the student can perform in various areas of the L2).

Acquisition is the mental process by which knowledge and/or behaviour emerges naturally on the basis of innate predisposition and/or triggers from environmental input. Contrasted with LEARNING.

Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis: The basis for Krashen’s theory of SLA. According to Krashen, adults have two ways of developing competence in second languages. The first way is via acquisition, that is, by using language for communication. This is a subconscious process and the resulting acquired competence is also subconscious. The second way to develop second language competence is by language learning, which is a conscious process and results in formal knowledge of the language. For Krashen, acquisition, picking up a language naturally like children do their L1, is a process still available to adults, and is far more important than language learning. Furthermore, knowledge gained through one means (e.g., learning) cannot be internalised as knowledge of the other kind (e.g., acquisition), and only the acquisition system produces language, the learned system serving only as a monitor of the acquired system, checking the correctness of utterances against the formal knowledge stored therein.

Active vocabulary: The words and phrases which a learner is able to use in speech and writing. Contrasted with Passive Vocabulary.

Action research: Generally refers to research carried out by practitioners in order to gain a better understanding of the dynamics of how second languages are learned and taught, together with some focus on improving the conditions and efficiency of learning and teaching.

Adjacency pair: A pair of discourse moves that often go together, e.g. question and answer.

Affective Filter: Part of Krashen’s Theory of SLA. The Affective Filter is “that part of the internal processing system that subconsciously screens incoming language based on … the learner’s motives, needs, attitudes, and emotional states.” (Dulay, Burt, and Krashen, 1982: 46) Krashen argues that if the Affective Filter is high, (because of lack of motivation, or dislike of the L2 culture, or feelings of inadequacy, for example) input is prevented from passing through and hence there is no acquisition. Krashen argues that the Affective Filter is responsible for individual variation in SLA and explains why some learners never acquire full competence.

Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) A type of analysis of variance that adjusts the measurement of the dependent variable to take other variables, such as a pretest score or an aptitude score, into account.

Analysis of variance A parametric statistic that enables researchers to compare the performance between (generally) more than two groups.

Antonym: The word that has the opposite meaning of a word. For example, the antonym of “fat” is “thin”.

Aphasia: An impairment or loss of linguistic knowledge or ability. It may be due to congenital or acquired brain damage. It is sometimes called dysphasia when language loss is not total.

Apraxia: A motor planning disorder involving impairment or loss of the ability to make voluntary movements, such as the articulatory gestures involved in speech.

Aptitude: “Some characteristic of an individual which controls, at a given point of time, the rate of progress that he will make subsequently in learning a foreign language.” (Carroll, 1974, 320)

Artificial Intelligence (AI): The interdisciplinary field which develops theory on, and designs and tests, machine-based intelligent systems, like those telephone helpline systems that (fail to) understand your spoken instructions.

Audiolingualism: A form of language learning based on behaviourist psychology. Listening and speaking come before reading and writing; only the target language is used in the classroom; drills are a big part of classroom activity. The underlying idea is that the formation of good habits and automatic language use drive learning.

Aural: Related to listening.

Autism: A condition that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder which affects the
normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills.

Auxillary verbs: The verbs be, do and have are used to form different tenses in English: am/will be/were speaking / being spoken; do/does/did speak; has/have/had spoken/ been spoken.

Associational research A research type that is concerned with co-occurrence and relationships between/among variables.

Average See mean.



Bell curve See normal distribution.

Bibliography: List of books or articles. Sometimes used in the same way as Reference List, given at the end of an academic text.

Bilingual: Proficient in two languages.

Binding: Part of Chomsky’s “government and binding” version of U.G. Binding concerns the relationship between a pronoun and its antecedent noun.

Biodata Basic information about a participant. The information gathered depends on the goal of a study. In general, age, amount, and type of prior L2 study, gender, first language of participant, and proficiency in L2s are collected and reported.

Broca’s area: The region of the brain (the cerebral cortex) associated with language production.


CALL: Computer Assisted Language Learning. The term is now considered outdated. Currently, terms such as “Learning Technologies” are preferred. Virtual learning environments (such as Moodle), and the use of corpora and concordancers, are important elements.

Caretaker talk: Modified and simplified language. Often used in the L1 by parents and those talking to young children. Adults choose simpler sentences and vocabulary, repeat themselves, and paraphrase.

Case study: A detailed description of a single case, for example an individual learner or a class within a specific population and setting. Chi square (X2) A nonparametric statistic used with frequency data to test the relationship between variables.

Citation: In-text reference to a book or article, full details given in a reference list or bibliography.

Chi square (X2): A nonparametric statistic used with frequency data to test the relationship between variables. CHILDES

Classroom observation: An observation carried out in a classroom setting, often using a structured scheme or tally sheet for recording data.

Classroom research: Research conducted in second or foreign language classroom settings, often involving variables related to instruction.

Closed role play: Similar to discourse completion tasks, but in oral mode. Individuals are usually provided with a description of a situation and/or a character and asked to state what they would say in that particular situation. (See also Open role plays.)

Cloze Test: A technique usually used to assess students’ reading comprehension. Certain words from a written text are blanked out and students fill in the missing words based on their understanding from context.

Coding: Organizing data into a manageable, easily understandable, and analyzable base of information, and searching for and marking patterns in the data

Code-switching: Alternating between two or more languages within the same utterance – a common feature of bilingual speakers.

Cognates: Two words that have a common origin are cognates. Cognates are words in two languages that have a common etymology and thus are similar or identical. For example, the English word “public” and the Spanish word “publico”. “False friends” is a term used to refer to cognates that have different meanings, such as the Spanish word “libreria”, which, in English means “bookshop”, not “library”.

Collocation: The common co-occurance of words. Some combinations of words sound “right” to native English speakers,and some just sound “wrong”. Fish and chips (not chips and fish); strong tea (not powerful tea); commit suicide (not undertake suicide).

Colligation: A type of collocation, but where a lexical item is linked to a grammatical one. Surprising, amazing and astonishing are nearly synonymous. We can say it is astonishing/surprising/amazing, but we tend to say it is not surprising and not the others- surprising colligates with the negative.

Communicative competence is not only the ability to form utterances using
grammar, but also the knowledge of when, where and with whom it is appropriate to use these utterances in order to achieve a desired effect. Communicative competence includes the following knowledge: grammar and vocabulary; the rules of speaking (how to begin and end a conversation, how to interrupt, what topics are allowed, how to address people and so on); how to use and respond to different speech acts; and what kind of utterances are considered appropriate.

Concordancer: A concordancer is a computer program that will search a corpus stored in electronic form for a target item (an item of punctuation, a morpheme, a word, a phrase or a combination of words) and display all the examples it finds with the contexts in which they occur. The program is used to examine these questions: 1. What words occur in the text? 2. How often does each word occur? 3. In how many different types of text (different subject areas, different modes, different mediums) does the word appear? 4. Are there any significant subsets? (For example, in English, the 700 most frequent words account for 70% of all text.) 5. What are the collocations of the target item? 6. What are the contexts in which the word appears?

Conjuncts: Conjuncts are a type of adverbial. They are used to clarify or emphasize connections between clauses and sentences. “However”, “Thus” Likewise” are examples of conjuncts.

Content words: Words that carry meaning.

Construct: A term used to describe a variable which a hypothesis or theory wants to test.

Construct validity: How well a measurement system correlates with the construct it is designed to measure.

Contrastive Analysis: Comparing two languages to predict where learning will be facilitated and hindered. The Contrastive Analysis hypothesis was formulated by Robert Lado. It argues that a learner’s first language influences aspects of second language acquisition. According to the hypothesis, a first language displaying features similar to those of the target langugage will serve to facilitate second language acquisition. On the other hand, if the learner’s first language displays features that differ from those of the target language, acquisition of the target language will be hindered through “interference” from the first language.

Convergence: When a person changes the way they speak in order to sound more like the person they are talking to (or more like the way they think the other person speaks). For example, an additional language teacher may use less complex syntax when she is talking to a group of beginning learners.

Correlational research: A type of research that involves data collection designed to determine the existence and strength of a relationship between two or more variables.

Credibility: A term used by qualitative researchers to ensure that the picture provided by the research is as full and complete as possible.

Criterion-related validity: The extent to which tests used in a study are comparable to other well-established tests of the construct in question. Critical value The value that is used as a confidence measure to determine whether a hypothesis can be substantiated or a null hypothesis can be rejected.

Corpus: A collection of texts. The British National Corpus (BNC) is an example. It consists of a 100 million word collection of samples of written and spoken language from a wide range of sources, designed to represent a wide cross-section of current British English, both spoken and written. It is usually examined using a concordancer.

Creole: A new language created when children acquire their parents’ pidgin language as their first language, for example Hawaiian creole and Guyanese creole.

Criterion referenced tests: A predetermined level of acceptable performance is defined: students pass or fail in achieving or not achieving this level. Compare this to norm-referenced tests that set goals for students based on the average student’s performance.

Critical discourse analysis: The study of the ways in which social power, dominance and inequality are enacted, reproduced and resisted by text and talk in social and political contexts.

Critical Period Hypothesis: The critical period hypothesis states that nobody can acquire a first language if language input doesn’t occur in the first few years of life. Obviously, this is very rare. In SLA, the critical period hypothesis is used to (partly) explain why most adults fall short of real proficiency in the L2, especially with regard to accent.

Cross-Cultural Competence: Ability to respond in culturally sensitive and appropriate ways according to the cultural demands of a given situation.
Culture: The sum of the beliefs, attitudes, behaviours, habits and customs of a group of people.



Data: Data may be oral and recorded onto audio and/or videotapes; they may be written, in the form of essays, test scores, diaries, or check marks on observation schemes; they may appear in electronic format, such as responses to a computer-assisted accent modification program; or they may be visual, in the form of eye movements made while reading text at a computer or gestures made by a teacher in a classroom.

Data elicitation: A subset of data collection, data elicitation refers to the process of directly eliciting information from individuals, for example, through an interview or a task.

Data sampling: Selecting and segmenting data, sometimes using only a portion of it in a procedure known as data reduction. Also known as data segmentation.

Dialect: The regional variety of a language, differing from the standard language, in grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation or idiomatic usage. In a wider sense, dialect can refer to a language considered as one of a group that have a common ancestor: Persian, Latin, and English are said to be Indo-European dialects.

Directional hypothesis: A prediction that specifies the relationship between variables. This is generally stated in the form of X will be greater than Y. (See one-way hypothesis.)

Discourse completion test (DCT): DCT’s are a means of gathering contextualized data. Generally, a situation is provided and then the respondent is asked what she or he would say in that particular situation. There is often a follow-up response (such as “I’m sorry that you can’t come) so that the individual knows the type of response that is expected (for example, a refusal).

Distribution: A way of showing the frequency with which scores occur in a data set.

Diglossia: A situation where there are two versions of a language with different uses: the High form is used for official occasions and the Low form is used for everyday life. An example is the difference between High German and Swiss German in German-speaking areas of Switzerland.

Discourse: A unit of language greater than a sentence.

Discourse Community: The term discourse community links the terms discourse, a concept describing all forms of communication that contribute to a particular, instructionalized way of thinking; and community, which in this case refers to the people who use, and therefore help create, a particular discourse.

Dogme: Scott Thornbury’s adopted “Manifesto” which suggests that teachers should teach “unplugged” from all the modern trappings of their trade.

Duncan’s multiple range test: A post-hoc test used to compare means following an analysis of variance.

Dyad: Two participants working together.



EAP: English for academic purposes.

Effect of instruction research: A kind of classroom research that focuses on the role and learning outcomes of (different types of) second language instruction.

Effect size A measure that can be used to determine the magnitude of an observed relationship or effect.

EFL: English as a Foreign Language.

ELF: English as a Lingua Franca. Where we’re going!

Elicited narrative: Narratives that are gathered through specific prompts (e.g., What did you do yesterday? Or, Tell me about a typical day for you.) Emic An insider’s understanding of his or her own culture.

Empirical research: Research that is based on data.

Eta2: A correlation coefficient that expresses the strength of association and can be used following a t-test. It is expressed as n2.

Ethnography: Research that is carried out from the the participants’ point of view, using categories relevant to a particular group and cultural system. It aims to describe and interpret the cultural behavior, including communicative patterns, of a group.

Etic: An outsider’s understanding of a culture or group that is not their own.

Experimental research Research in which there is manipulation of (at least) one independent variable to determine the effect(s) on one (or more) dependent variables. Groups are determined on the basis of random assignment

Error analysis: Pit Corder argued in 1967 that errors were neither random nor best explained in terms of the learner’s L1; errors were indications of learners’ attempts to figure out an underlying rule-governed system. Corder distinguished between errors and mistakes: mistakes are slips of the tongue and not systematic, whereas errors are indications of an as yet non-native-like, but nevertheless, systematic, rule-based grammar

ESP: English for Special Purposes; eg for business, science and technology, medicine etc.

Etymology: The study of the origin of words.

Extensive reading: Reading for general or global understanding, often of longer texts. Compare this with the way texts are often read in classrooms, where the focus is often on various specific aspects of the text, like grammar or vocabulary.

External validity: Refers to extent to which the results of a study are relevant to a wider population. Face validity Refers to the familiarity of an instrument and the ease with which the validity of the content is recognized. .


Factor analysis: A means of determining common factors that underlie measures that test different (possibly related) variables. It allows the researcher to take a larger number of variables and reduce them to a smaller number of factors

Field Dependent: Cognitive styles are sometimes characterised as being on a continuum between field-dependent, where thinking relates to context, and field-independent, where thinking is independent of context. The idea is that field-dependent learners (also known as analytic learners) focus on the details of language, typically grammar rules, whereas field-independent learners (also called global learners) prefer to look at the whole picture, caring more about conveying an idea than grammatical correctness.

Focus on form (FonF): Discussion of grammar that is prompted by the something that crops up during meaningful language use in the classroom. Part of Long’s Interaction Hypothesis.

Focus on formS: Note the capital letter at the end of the word formS. Contrasts with FonF, and refers to the deliberate discussion of grammar in the classroom, often with little reference to a meaningful communicative context.

Font: A typeface in a particular size and weight – e.g. Arial 8 pt. italic.

Fossilization: Most L2 learners fail to reach target language competence. They stop learning when their “interlanguage” still contains rules which differ from those of the target language. This is referred to as ‘fossilization’.

Fricatives: A type of consonant in which the air escapes through a narrow gap created between lips, teeth and tongue, as in English /f/ fine, /s/ sign, /v/ vine, etc.



Genre: A category of literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content. For example, detective novels are a genre; tourist guides are another genre.

Graded Readers: Reading material that has been simplified for language students. The readers are usually graded according to difficulty of grammar, vocabulary, or amount of information presented.

Grammar: The rules that apply to the correct formation of sentences.

Grapheme: The written symbols for sounds in language; ie letters of the alphabet or a character in picture writing (as in Japanese kange).



Headword: The headword is the main word in a phrase. For example, in the noun phrase, “the beautiful golden ring that was stolen from the museum,” the headword is “ring.”

Homonym: Two words are homonyms of each other if they have different meanings but are: (a) spelled in the same way although pronounced differently. For example, “wind” as in “Harry’s hat blew off in the wind,” and “wind” as in “You have to wind the rope around the tree.” (b) pronounced in the same way although spelled differently. For example, “pear” as in “That’s the best pear I’ve ever eaten,”and “pair” as in “I bought an expensive pair of earrings.” (c) both pronounced and spelled in the same way. For example, “The bear is a dangerous animal” and “I can’t bear to watch this bullfight”.
Homophone: A homophone is a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning. The words may be spelled the same, such as “rose” (flower) and “rose” (past tense of “rise”), or differently, such “to”,”two”, and “too”. Homophones that are spelled the same are also both homographs and homonyms.Homophones that are spelled differently are also called heterographs.



Idiom: A group of words whose meaning is different from the meanings of the individual words. For example, “She let the cat out of the bag” and “He was caught red-handed.”

Informed consent: Voluntary agreement to participate in a study about which the potential subject has enough information and understands enough to make an informed decision.

Instrument reliability: Refers to the consistency of a particular instrument over time.

Intact class: A treatment group that is made up of all individuals in a given class.

Interaction effect: Associated with a factorial design. Combined effect of two independent variables.

Internal validity The extent to which the results of a study are a function of the factor that is intended by the researcher.

Interrater reliability: Consistency between two or more raters.

Interval scale: A scale in which there is an ordering of variables and in which there is an equal interval between variables.

Intervening variable: A variable that is not controlled for but can have an effect on the relationship between the independent and dependent variables.

ntrarater reliability: A single rater’s consistency at two or more points in time. Introspective methods A set of data elicitation techniques that encourage learners to communicate about their internal processing and/or perspectives about language learning experiences.

Illiterate: Unable to read and write functionally.

Input Hypothesis: The Input Hypothesis is part of Krashen’s theory of SLA.According to Krashen, second languages are acquired by understanding language that contains structure “a bit beyond our current level of competence (i + 1) by receiving “comprehensible input”. “When the input is understood and there is enough of it, i + 1 will be provided automatically. Production ability emerges. It is not taught directly.” (Krashen, 1982: 21-22.)

Interaction Hypothesis: Mike Long’s important contribution to a theory of SLA, and the most studied element of SLA. The hypothesis is being constantly modified, but here is one version: “Environmental contributions to acquisition are mediated by selective attention and the learner’s developing L2 processing capacity. … These resources are brought together most usefully, although not exclusively, during negotiation for meaning. Negative feedback obtained during negotiation work or elsewhere may be facilitative of L2 development, at least for vocabulary, morphology, and language-specific syntax, and essential for learning certain specifiable L1-L2 contrasts” (Long, 1996: 417).

Interlanguage: The L2 learner’s current “idea” of how the L2 works. A learner’s interlanguage is an emerging linguistic system that is idiosyncratically based on the learner’s experiences with the L2. The interlanguage rules are influenced by L1 transfer, teaching, communication strategies, and overgeneralization of the target language patterns.

Interlocutor: In a conversation, this refers to the person you are speaking to.

Intrinsic Motivation: Motivation in learning that comes from a sense of individual empowerment. Compare this with extrinsic motivation where you learn because you think you’ll get some kind of reward -like a (better) job.

IPA: International Phonetic Alphabet: Internationally agreed phonetic alphabet for writing down the sounds of languages in a consistent fashion.



L.A.D.: Acronym for Language Acquisition Device. The LAD is, according to Chomsky, that part of the brain, unique to human beings, which is responsible for early language acquisition. It’s role (if any) in SLA is hotly-disputed.

Language function: The reason why we say things. For example: greeting, saying sorry.

Language proficiency: The level of competence at which an individual is able to use language for communicative and academic purposes.

Language shift: Process whereby successive generations of speakers adopt a dominant language in preference to the ethnic language of their parents.

Language variety: Variations of a language used by particular groups of people, includes regional dialects characterized by distinct vocabularies, speech patterns, grammatical features, and so forth; may also vary by social group (sociolect) or idiosyncratically for a particular individual (idiolect).

Lexical phrases: Multi-word chunks of language. They run in a continuum from fixed phrases, like “By the way,”(when they’re often referred to as formulaic phrases), to slot- and- filler frames like “the bigger the better”.

Lexis: Words.

Linguist: A person who studies linguistics; not someone who is good at speaking many languages.

Lnguistic imperialism: The domination that one country (the “Centre” country) exerts over other countries (“Periphery” countries) by imposing the use of its language on them.

Logographics: The writing system in which written symbols correspond to meanings, as in Chinese characters.



Minimal pairs: Pairs of words which differ in only one phonological element. For example “sit” and “seat”, or “pat” and “bat”.

Monitor Hypothesis: Part of Krashen’s theory of SLA. Krashen argues that there is a fundamental difference between “acquisition” and “learning”. According to Krashen, the learned system has only one, limited, function, which is to act as a “Monitor”. Further, the Monitor cannot be used unless three conditions are met: 1. Time. “In order to think about and use conscious rules effectively, a second language performer needs to have sufficient time.” (Krashen, 1982:12) 2. Focus on form “The performer must also be focused on form, or thinking about correctness.” (Krashen, 1982: 12) 3. Knowledge of the rule.

Morpheme: The smallest semantically meaningful unit in a language. Free morphemes stand alone: dog, big, you. Bound morphemes are parts of words, typically prefixes (un; dis) and suffixes (less; ful).

Morpheme Studies: Dulay and Burt (1975) claimed that fewer than 5% of errors made by EFL learners were due to native language interference, and that errors were, as Corder suggested, in some sense systematic, that there was something akin to a Language Acquisition Device at work not just in first language acquisition, but also in SLA. The morpheme studies of Brown in L1 (1973) led to studies in L2 by Dulay & Burt (1973, 1974, 975), and Bailey, Madden & Krashen (1974), all of which suggested that there was a natural order in the acquisition of English morphemes, regardless of L1. This became known as the L1 = L2 Hypothesis, and further studies (by Ravem (1974), Cazden, Cancino, Rosansky & Schumann (1975), Hakuta (1976), and Wode (1978), cited in Larsen-Freeman and Long, 1991), all pointed to systematic staged development in SLA.



Nativists: Those who accept Chomsky’s explanation of the LAD and UG. In SLA, nativists are those who believe that L2 learners have partial or full access to UG.

Natural Order Hypothesis: Part of Krashen’s theory of SLA. The rules of language are acquired in a predictable way, some rules coming early and others late. The order is not determined solely by formal simplicity, and it is independent of the order in which rules are taught in language classes.
Norm-referenced tests: Tests that set goals for students based on the average student’s performance. See criterion-based tests for an alternative.
Noticing: Schmidt’s influential paper on the role of consciousness in second language learning argues that “subliminal language learning is impossible”, and that “noticing is the necessary and sufficient condition for converting input into intake.” (Schmidt, 1990: 130)



Oral: Related to speaking.



Parsing: Parting, break into parts. The analysis and labeling of the gramatical elements of sentences. The process of analyzing a text. In computational linguistics, concordance programs parse texts in order to identify certain features of the text. Parsing is used in psycholinguistics to refer to the way that human beings, rather than computers, work out the grammar or meaning of a spoken or written text.

Phatic Communion: Phrases used to convey sociability rather than meaning.

Phoneme: The smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances. An example of a phoneme is the /k/ sound in the words kit and skill. (In transcription, phonemes are placed between slashes.)

Phonetics: The branch of linguistics dealing with the sounds of speech, their production, and their symbolic representation.

Phrase: A phrase is a group of words which work together as a “grammatical unit” but which do not have a subject/verb structure and which therefore are not clauses or sentences.

Polyword: A group of words that acts as a single word. For example: “of course”; “the day after tomorrow”; “in a flash”.

Prefix: A prefix is a “word part” (or morpheme) that is added to the beginning of a word to change that word’s meaning. For example, “unhappy” means “not happy”; “rewrite” means to write again.

Pre test/post test design: Compares performance before treatment with performance following treatment.

Probability: An estimation of the likelihood of something occurring due to chance.

Purpose sample: A sample selected in order to elicit a particular type of data. The sample may or may not be representative of the population at large.

Pro-drop parameter: The pro-drop parameter is Chomsky’s most well-known parameter, and it refers to the use of pronouns. Having described certain principles that apply to all language grammars (e.g., All sentences have a subject), Chomsky argued that different languages have different on/off switches that are set by input. The pro-drop parameter says that in some languages the subject pronoun can be dropped, but in others it can’t be. In Spanish, for example, you can say “Yo vivo en Barcelona”, or “Vivo en Barcelona”; the pronoun “yo” isn’t necessary. But in other languages, English, for example, the subject pronoun is necessary (“I live in Barcelona.”). So if, as a child, you’re in a Spanish-speaking context, the input you get will switch the pro-drop parameter to “on”; if you’re in an English-speaking environment, it will be switched to “off”.



Qualitative research: Research in which the focus is on naturally occurring phenomena and data are primarily recorded in non-numerical form. Quantification The use of numbers and sometimes statistics to show patterns of occurrence.

Quantitative research: Research in which variables are manipulated to test hypotheses and in which there is usually quantification of data and numerical analyses. Quasi-experimental research A type of experimental research but without random assignment of individuals


Random sample A sample that has been selected in such a way that each member of a population has an equal chance of being selected.

Range: A measure of dispersion, range indicates the distance between the highest and lowest score. It measures the spread of a set of scores.

Ratio scale: An interval scale that displays information about frequencies in relation to each other

Realia: Props or other physical items which are used to increase the realism of classroom activities like role-plays. Train schedules, menus, contracts, and costumes are examples of realia.

Reaction time: The time between a stimulus and a learner’s response. Reaction time experiments are usually computer-based and can also be used to investigate processing. Regression line A line that can be drawn through scores on a scatterplot. It is the line of best fit, that is, the one which allows for the clustering of scores on the line. Reliability The degree to which there is consistency in results

Register: A variety of a language used for a particular purpose or in a particular social setting. Formal (“How do you do.”), neutral (“Pleased to meet you.”) and informal (“Hi, how’s it going?”) registers are commonly referred to, but there is a lot of argument about the meanings of terms like “register”, “field” or “tenor”.

RP: The prestige accent of British English: ‘Received Pronunciation’. Queen Elizabeth II doesn’t speak with an RP accent, and nor do many current newsreaders on the BBC. So RP is best seen these days as a reference point, not an objective, for ELT.



Saccade: Short rapid movement of the eye when reading texts. Saccades and fixations explain the reading process. The distance the eye moves in each saccade is between 1 and 20 characters with the average being 7–9 characters. A fixation is the point at which a saccade jumps to the next one. Readers don’t move their eyes smoothly from left to right (or right to left) from line to line along a text. Skilled readers make regressions back to material already read about 15 percent of the time and they use longer average fixation durations, shorter saccades, and more regressions.

Scanning: Reading quickly for specific information: a reading stratagem. Scanning and skimming are 2 important reading strategies.

Schema: The plural is often called “schemata”. Schemata theory relates to the background knowledge which is needed to successfully interpret a text. A schema of motorcycle racing is needed to interpret this text: “Pedrosa, tucked behind Lorenzo, saw Lorenzo nearly do a high-side coming out of the corkscrew, dived inside and nailed it into the straight.”

Script: The visible part of a writing system. Another word for alphabet.

Silent Way: Caleb Gattegno’s method of FLT, very influential in the 1980s. It is based on the premise that the teacher should be silent as much as possible in the classroom and the learner should be encouraged to produce as much language as possible. The use of colour charts and coloured cuisenaire rods characterised his work.

Skimming: Reading for gist. As opposed to “Scanning” where you look for specific information in a text.

SLA: Second Language Acquistion. Those who study SLA don’t accept any clear distinction between learning and acquistion, such as that made by Krashen. SLA covers all aspects, psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic, of the process whereby L2 learners reach a certain level of proficiency in the target language.

Social distance: The position of the learner with respect to the target language community.

Split infinitive: When you split the infinitive by placing an adverb in between the “to” and the verb. A famous example is from Startrek: “To boldly go”.

Suffix: A suffix is an affix which is placed after the stem of a word. Common examples are case endings, (“s” indicates the plural of a noun, for example) and verb endings (“ed” indicates the past of regular verbs, for example). More fruitful for ELT are suffixes such as “ness”, “hood”, “less”, “ism” and “ment”.

Suggestopedia: A teaching method developed by the Bulgarian psychotherapist Georgi Lozanov. Since Lozanov was not allowed to leave Bulgaria, and since he frequently disowned his “disciples”, it’s still not clear what the method consists of. Wild claims that 2,000 people who attended a session given by Lozanov at a theatre in Sofia in 1976 staggered out speaking English fluently fanned the flames of speculation. The idea of Suggestopedia is to enhance learning by lowering the affective filter of learners. Learners sit in a comfortable environment and listen to an English text which is accompanied by Bach or some pre-classical music. Go figure.

Survey: A means of gathering information about a particular topic, for example, attitudes or opinions about a school program. A questionnaire is a type of survey.

SYSTAT: A statistical package for data analysis.

Systematic sample: A sample that has been determined by the selection of every nth individual or instance/occurrence for sampling data. T score A standard score based on a z score (multiply z score by 10 and add 50).

Syntax: Sometimes called word order; how words combine to form sentences and the rules governing sentence formation. The basis of grammar.



Taxonomy: The classification of elements. Sometimes used to provide a conceptual framework for analysis. An example is Rebecca Oxford’s taxonomy of ESL learning strategies.

TBLT: Acronym for Task Based Language Teaching. Asking students to do meaningful tasks using the target language, such as decide on the best place to go for a holiday, or write a letter applying for a job. The emphasis is on task outcome (they completed the task well) rather than on the accuracy of language forms.

Teachability hypothesis: “An L2 structure can be learnt from instruction only if the learner’s interlanguage is close to the point when this structure is acquired in the natural setting”.(Pienemann)

Teacher Talk: The language teachers use when teaching. It most usually refers to simplifying speech for students.

Thesaurus: A book that lists words in groups of synonyms or words with similar or near meanings.

Think-aloud A type of verbal reporting in which individuals are asked what is going through their mind as they are solving a problem or performing a task.

Time series design: A design type that involves repeated observations over a set period of time where the participants serve as their own control.

Transcription conventions: Notations used to facilitate the representation of oral data in a written format. While there are no generally agreed-upon conventions common to all studies, researchers may recognize certain symbols; for instance, the use of dots to convey pauses or silence.

Total Physical Response: A teaching technique developed by James Asher whereby a learner responds to imperatives and other language input with body motions. No longer seen as a complete method in ELT, but still used to great effect in many modern classrooms.
Transfer Knowledge of the L1 used in learning the L2. Transfer can be positive or negative.

Transferability: How far qualitative research findings are transferable from one context to another. The extent to which findings may be transferred usually depends on the similarity of the context.

Triangulation: Triangulation involves using multiple research techniques and multiple sources of data in order to explore the issues from all feasible perspectives. Using the technique of triangulation can aid in credibility, transferability, confirmability, and dependability in qualitative research.


U.G.: Universal Grammar. Chomsky’s system of principles that are common to all languages. The principles have certain open parameters which are fixed by experience. As the parameters (see pro-drop parameter) are fixed, a core grammar is determined.

Use and Usage: Use refers to the function of language: how it’s used to communicate. Usage refers to the grammatical explanation of a language.



Washback: The effect (positive or negative) of testing on teaching. Influence may be beneficial, for example, when a test leads to improvement of syllabus and teaching. Negative backwash may occur when the test inadequately reflects course objectives, but exerts an influence on what is taught. Negative washback is commonly associated with tests which give what is considered to be undue emphasis on grammar.



Zero Conditional: An if/then statement where something that is generally true is described. Both parts of the conditional use the present tense. For example: If you heat water to 100 degrees celsius,it boils. (Not if you’re making tea at the peak of Mt. Everest, of course.)

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