5.3 Glossary/key terminology – for reference

Term Definition
consonant (2 meanings)
  1. a speech sound (phoneme) that obstructs the flow of air through the vocal tract; for example, the flow of air is obstructed by the lips in /p/ and /b/ and by the tongue in /t/ and /d/. There are 24 distinctive consonant sounds in English. The letter ‘y’ can represent a consonant sound (yes) or a vowel sound (happy, cycle).
  2. also refers to the 21 letters of the alphabet (except vowels ‘a’ e’ ‘i’ ‘o’ and ‘u’)
consonant digraph a combination of two consonant letters to represent a single consonant sound, e.g. ‘ch’ in cheese, ‘th’ in thanks.
context refers to a situation in which spoken or written language is used. Situational context takes into consideration the place, the type of interaction, the number of people involved and the relationship between them, etc. The context influences the choice of language, vocabulary, or formal or informal register. Linguistic context refers to the language in which a particular item occurs, e.g. to understand the meaning of a word, it is often necessary to consider it in the context of the sentence, phrase or the text in which it occurs.
decode to translate the visual symbol into component sounds that make up a word
digraph two letters which represent one phoneme, e.g. ‘th’ in bath, ‘ai’ in train, ‘ch’ in church
formal style of language where the choice of words, grammar and address is determined by distance from, or lack of knowledge of, the audience (e.g. letter of application, business meeting, polite conversations with strangers) or by difference in status (e.g. doctor and patient). It tends to have more elaborate grammatical structures, longer and more formal technical vocabulary (e.g. ‘receive’ rather than ‘get’, ‘thank you’ rather than ‘thanks’).
genre refers to different types of written form, literary and non-literary (e.g. story, list, letter). Different genres have recognisable features of language and structure.
grapheme the smallest distinctive unit in a writing system representing a sound. A grapheme may consist of one or more letters (e.g. the phoneme /s/ can be represented by the grapheme ‘s’ in sun, ‘se’ in ‘house’, ‘c’ in ‘city’, ‘sc’ in ‘scene’ and ‘ce’ in ‘science
homonym two words with the same spelling or pronunciation but different meanings (e.g. right = correct / opposite of left; kind = type / caring)
homophone two or more words that have the same pronunciation but different meaning or spelling (e.g. pair/pear, right/write/rite)
informal style of language where the choice of words, grammatical construction and form of address is more colloquial and familiar than formal language, and which uses less technical or complex vocabulary (e.g. ‘Best wishes ‘ v. ‘Yours sincerely’; ‘Can you give me a hand’ v. ‘Could you please assist me.’)
key words words that carry the substance of a phrase or the meaning of a sentence, particularly in a subject that learners need to understand
language experience an approach to learning that uses the learner’s own words to provide the basis for language work. Typically, a teacher produces a written version of a ‘spoken text’ supplied by the learner which can then be used for reading and writing practice.
phoneme the smallest contrastive unit of sound in a word. There are approximately 44 (or 46) phonemes in English (the number varies depending on accent). A phoneme may be represented by one, two, three or four letters (e.g. the words ‘to, ‘shoe’ and ‘through’ all end in the same phoneme).
phonemic alphabet the English phonemic alphabet includes 44 (or 46) distinctive sounds (phonemes) of the English language.
phonetic symbol symbol used to denote a particular sound in a language
phonics an approach to teaching reading and spelling that is based on establishing links between sounds (phonemes) and their written alphabetic representation (graphemes)
stress the emphasis with which a syllable is pronounced. In any word of more than one syllable, there will be one stressed syllable (e.g. im port ant). In each phrase, clause or utterance, one word/syllable will receive the main stress.
syllable each beat in a word is a syllable. Dividing longer words into syllables can help learners understand word structure and help with reading, speaking and spelling.
vowel (2 meanings)
  1. a speech sound (phoneme) which is produced without audible friction or closure. Every syllable contains a vowel sound. There are 20 distinct vowel sounds in English, many long or short (e.g. ship/sheep)
  2. ‘vowel’ also refers to the five vowel letters in the alphabet: ‘a’ ‘e’ ‘i’ ‘o’ ‘u’
vowel digraph a combination of two vowel letters which represent a single vowel sound (e.g. ‘ea’ in ‘please’ or ‘oo’ in ‘look’) 
split digraph a digraph that is split by a consonant, usually a long vowel sound (e.g. ‘a-e’ cake, ‘i-e’ five)

There is a more detailed glossary on p.217 – p.222 of the course reader.