I’ve decided to make a glossary as it is more practical for me, and hopefully anyone reading this. I have referenced sources where appropriate and many are notes or handouts given in seminars.

Abbreviations – ‘VC, CVC, and CCVC are the respective abbreviations for vowel-consonant, consonantvowel-consonant, consonant-consonant-vowel-consonant, and are used to describe the order of graphemes in words (e.g. am (VC), Sam (CVC), slam (CCVC), or each (VC), beach (CVC), bleach (CCVC).’ (Sounds and Letters, p.20)

AccentOxford Dictionaries defines accent as ‘A distinctive way of pronouncing a language, especially one associated with a particularcountry, area, or social class:’

‘To do with sound and the pronunciation of words. Many people strongly like or dislike certain accents and link them to particular ideas about the speakers. Accent is studied as part of dialect but this does not mean that a dialect can only be spoken with one accent.’ Coultas, A. (2003). Language and Social Contexts. London: Routledge. p. 71.  Taken from SfLQI

Adjective – A word that belongs to a class whose members modify nouns. The word specifies the properties or attributes of a noun.

Adverb – A lexical category whose members have the same syntactic distribution and typically modify themselves, adjectives, verbs, or whole clauses or sentences. Tells you when, where, how and in what manner and to what extent an action is performed.

Article – A member of a small class of determiners that identify a noun’s definite or indefinite reference.

Back channel – ‘Noises that are not full words, and short verbal responses made by listeners that acknowledge incoming talk and react to it, without wishing to take over speaking.’ (SfL QI)

Baton signals – ‘Actions that emphasise the rhythms of words.’ (SfL QI)

Bottom-up – focuses on parts to whole word/sentence/text. There is an ’emphasis on decoding text by matching graphemes to phonemes to build up the sound of words’ (ppt. handouts), and words are then put together to form both sentences and texts.

Blending – See ‘Segmenting’

Chains of clauses (S&L) – ‘Speakers often do not have time construct patterns of main and clauses. E.g. Clauses are therefore added incrementally to each I was driving along talking to Jill we like stopped at some traffic and then – bang – there was almighty crash and we got forward’. (DFES,2007, p.84).

Clause – Includes, at minimum, a predicate (expresses something about the subject) and an explicit or implied subject, and expresses a proposition.

Coherence – “‘hidden’, logical connections between ideas and information that make texts hang together meaningfully: – cause and effect between ‘cold and wet’ and ‘walked quickly’ (SfLQI)

Cohesion – surface linguistic links that tie the different parts of a text together, achieved through grammatical and lexical ties; – the sisters – they (pronoun) – cold and wet – plashed (lexical chain)  (SfLQI)

Conjunction – A word that syntactically links other words – and, but, because, however, whereby. There are different types of conjunctions.

The critical model – ‘The concept of ‘critical literacy’ is associated with…Paulo Freire…critical literacy refers to the potential of literacy as not only ‘reading the word’, but also ‘reading the world’ (Freire and Macedo 1987)…literacy was political and the question of how to teach adults to read and write became part of a political project, and was no longer seen as a neutral technique as in the functional view.’ p. 10-11, Pepen, U, Adult Literacy as a Social Practice: More Than Skills.

Deixis (S&L) – ‘Words and phrases pointing to particular features of the immediate situation. Assumes a shared knowledge between speaker and listener. Deixis is more common in spoken than in written language. E.g. This, that, these, here and there’. (DFES, 2007, p.84) ‘Words that locate an utterance in relation to space, time and who is speaking.’ (SfL QI)

DialectOxford Dictionaries defines dialect as ‘A particular form of a language which is peculiar to a specific region or social group

‘A way of speaking in which grammatical structures, phonology and/or vocabulary identify the regional or social original of the speaker. Dialect includes accent, although this is a much less clear marker of identity than it may have been in the past because of increased social and geographical mobility.’ Coultas, A. (2003). Language and Social Contexts. London: Routledge. p. 71. Taken from SfLQI 

Digraphs, trigraphs and 4-letter words – A digraph is a two-letter grapheme where two letters represent one sound such as ‘ea’ in seat and ‘sh’ in ship. A trigraph is a three-letter grapheme where three letters represent one phoneme (e.g. ‘eau’ in bureau, and ‘igh’ in night). And by definition a four-letter grapheme uses four letters to represent one phoneme (e.g. ‘eigh’ representing the /ai/ phoneme in eight and in weight). A split digraph has a letter that splits, i.e. comes between, the two letters in the digraph, as in make and take, where ’k’ separates the digraph ‘ae’ which in both words represents the phoneme /ai/. There are six split digraphs in English spelling: ‘a-e’, ‘e-e’, ‘i-e’, ‘o-e’, ‘u-e’, ‘y-e’, as in make, scene, like, bone, cube, type. A very few words have more than one letter in the middle of a split digraph (e.g. ache, blithe, cologne, scythe). (Letters and Sounds, p.19)

Discourse Markers (S&L)  – ‘Where words or phrases denote moving from one topic or stage of a conversation to another. They act as ‘spoken punctuation’. E.g. Anyway, give Jean a ring and see what she says.’ (DFES, 2007, p.84). ‘Words or phrases used to mark boundaries in conversation between one part and the next.’ (SfL QI)

Ellipsis (S&L) – ‘Where subjects and/or verbs are omitted, because the speaker assumes the listener knows what is meant. E.g. Sounds good to me. (It/that)’. (DFES, 2007, p.84). ‘An element used in writing to prevent repetition, and in speech frequently involves the omission of personal subjects.’ (SfL QI). Omission of 1 or more words that are understood in the context but which are required to make the sentence/utterance grammatically correct. (Web source 1)

The functional model – ‘A person is literate when he [sic] has acquired the essential knowledge and skills which enable him to engage in all those activities in which literacy is required for effective functioning in his group and community, and whose attainments in reading, writing, and arithmetic make it possible for him to continue these skills towards his own and the community’s development.’ (Gray 1956) in Pepen, U, Adult Literacy as a Social Practice: More Than Skills, P. 9. This definition looks at literacy being a skill required for participation in society, as well as as an individual.It has been suggested that the individualisation element has been dropped, and it concentrates more on the social implications of literacy.

Function words – Function words are the words we use to make our sentences grammatically correct but have no lexical meaning. Prepositions, pronouns, articles, auxiliary verbs e.g. of, in, at, him, the, much, either

Flexible positioning of words and phrases (S&L) – ‘Using word order more flexibly than in
written language. I was worried I was going to lose it and I did almost.’ (DFES, 2007, p.84).

Frith’s Staged Model of Reading – 3 main stages (taken from course ppt handouts): 1) logographic stage – recognition of words by sight (social sight words), 2) Alphabetic stage – concept of letter-sound relationship, development of decoding skills, 3) Orthographic stage – large number of words recognised automatically by matching to an internal lexicon (a visual cue e.g. wh- – you might guess ‘when’, ‘where’ etc. Here you might recognise root words, prefixes, suffixes, letter patterns and groups that have meaning e.g. magician, clinician.

Fronting/front placing – ‘This involves moving an element from its normal position to the first position in construction.’ (SfL QI)

Genres – ‘Text types, both spoken and written, that share a common purpose and conventions  (SfLQI) also in the same materials: ‘originally an identifiable category or type of literary composition (e.g. novel, poetry). Now used more widely to refer to different types of written form, literary and non-literary (e.g. memo, letter, essay). Different genres have recognisable features of language and structure.’

Grapheme – letters, or a combination of letters that represent a phoneme e.g. ‘c’ in ‘car’ is the /k/ phoneme. Graphemes can be one, or multiple letters long. Some phonemes can be represented by different graphemes e.g. ‘c’, ‘k’ or ‘ck’ for /k/. For more info, see Phonics Books and Moortown Primary School’s guide. There is also a nice chart in Letters and Sounds (document p.19).

Heads (S&L) – ‘Heads occur at the beginning of clauses. Heads help orientate listeners by establishing a topic. E.g. The white house on the corner, is that where she lives?’ (DFES, 2007, p.84)

Hedging – ‘A general term describing a strategy when a speaker or writer wants to avoid coming straight to the point or speaking directly.’ (SfL QI)

IdiolectOxford Dictionaries define idiolect as ‘The speech habits peculiar to a particular person’.

Interactive Model – combines both top-down and bottom-up approaches meaning that ‘readers will predict meaning based on existing knowledge but also use what they know about sounds, letters and words’ (course handout).

Interjection – Typically brief, such as a one syllable word, which is used most often as an exclamation. Often expresses emotional reaction and may include a combination of sounds not otherwise found in the language. e.g. psst, ugh, well well, excellent.

The liberal model – ‘Accordingly, adult basic education programmes that are informed by a liberal perspective go beyond work-related and ‘functional’ skills in a narrow sense, and include the more leisure orientated uses of reading and writing, including creative writing and access to literature. Liberal adult basic education does not limit its provision to the working population, but regards literacy for older people or for those who are not part of the workforce as an equally valid activity’ p.11, Pepen, U, Adult Literacy as a Social Practice: More Than Skills.

Modal expressions (S&L)  – ‘Help to soften what is said and to communicate more indirectly. E.g. I don’t know, I think, perhaps, possibly and probably’. (DFES, 2007, p.84).

Morphology – The branch of linguistics, and one of the major components of grammar, that studies word structures. E.g. science, scientist, scientifically; play/played, start/started

Noun – A grammatical classification which included words which refer to people, places, things, ideas, or concepts.

Paralinguistic ‘Tones of voice that alter the meaning if what is being said: whisper, breathiness, nasality, extra lip-rounding.’ (SfL QI)

Phoneme – ‘a sound in a word’ or ‘A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a word that can change its meaning (e.g. in/bed/ and /led/ the difference between the phonemes /b/ and /l/ signals the difference in
meaning between the words bed, led). It is generally accepted that most varieties of spoken English use about 44 phonemes. In alphabetic writing systems (such as English) phonemes are represented by graphemes.’ (Letters and Sounds [document p.19])

Phonics – ‘Phonics consists of knowledge of the skills of segmenting and blending, knowledge of the
alphabetic code and an understanding of the principles underpinning the way the code is
used in reading and spelling’ (p.19 Letters and Sounds)

Phonetics – The general study of the characteristics of speech sounds

Phonology – The description of the systems and patterns of speech sounds

Phrase – A syntactic structure that consists of more than one word but lacks the subject-predicate organisation of a clause. e.g. because of her smile, after the devastation.

Pragmatics – The study of intended meaning in a social context e.g. if there’s a big party and someone asks “Would you like to come to my party?” “yes, OK.” – Really they mean “no”.

Preposition – A word that links a noun, pronoun or gerund to other words.

Pronoun – A pronoun is a pro-form (a word that substitutes for another word or phrase) which functions like a noun and substitutes for a noun or noun phrase. There are different types of pronouns.

Register – ‘a variety of language selected for use in a specific social situation. in particular, the register differentiates formal from informal use of language, e.g. the register of weather forecasting will vary in different social, and in written and spoke contexts’. SfLQI

Schema – shared knowledge of the world, including knowledge of cultural conventions, beliefs and attitudes  (SfLQI)

Segmenting and Blending – ‘Segmenting and blending are reversible key phonic skills. Segmenting consists of
breaking words down into their constituent phonemes to spell. Blending consists of building words from their constituent phonemes to read. Both skills are important. The skill of blending (synthesising) phonemes, in order, all through the word to read it, tends to receive too little attention in the teaching of phonics; it is very important to make sure that children secure blending skill.’ (Letters and Sounds, p.20)

Semantics – The study if the meaning of words, phrases and sentences. the focus is on conventional meaning rather than what the words mean in a particular context or occasion.

Sentence – A complete grammatical unit composed of one or more clauses (ends with a full stop).

Simple View of Reading –  ‘proposed by Gough and Tunmer (1986) but also promoted by The Independent Review of the Teaching of Early Reading: Final Report DES (2006)’ and ‘involves both word recognition and comprehension’ (class ppt). It is suggested that ‘learning word recognition is a finite task but developing abilities to comprehend different texts continues through life’ and this marks a move from learning to read to reading to learn.

Standard EnglishOxford Dictionaries define Standard English as ‘The form of the English language widely accepted as the usual correct form’.

Syntax – The area of grammar that studies the rules that govern the ways in which words combine to form phrases, clauses, and sentences

Tags – ‘A string of words consisting of an auxiliary verb and a pronoun with or without ‘not’’ (SfL QI). E.g. She hasn’t, has she?

Tails (S&L)  – ‘Tails occur at the end of clauses, usually reinforcing an antecedent pronoun. E.g. She’s a very good swimmer, Jenny is.’ (DFES, 2007, p.84). ‘A slot available at the end of the clause in which the speaker inserts grammatical patterns that amplify, extend of reinforce what he/she is saying’ (SfL QI).

Top-down model – focuses on the whole to the parts. It relies on predicting the whole context and we bring our previous knowledge in this approach, asking ourselves ‘does that make sense?’. It suggests that readers use ‘what they already know about the structure and meaning of language…knowledge of the world, text structure and cues from illustrations to extract meaning’ (course handout). This doesn’t completely ignore decoding skills, which can be used if needed.

Trigraphs – See ‘Digraphs’ 

Vague language (S&L) – ‘Can help soften what is said. Can help the speaker to sound less assertive. E.g. Thing, stuff, or something, or anything, whatever, sort of and kind of.’ (DFES, 2007, p.84)

Verb – A word that signals events or actions. The ‘doing’ word.

Word class – One of the traditional categories or words intended to reflect their functions in a grammatical context e.g. nouns, verbs, adjectives…


DFES, (2007) Improving Speaking and Listening Skills, Accessed: 

Skills for Life Quality Initiative, Literacy 4.7: Personal use of language, Session 1: Speaking and listening. Accessed via

Web sources 

Source 1 –

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