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Languages adapt to the history and culture of the speech communities in which they are in use. All languages shows a
surprising level of variability concerning their phonological, morphological, syntactic and lexical structures.
Sociolinguistics: study of the relation between language and society. It says that the language varieties suffer from
social, ethnic and racial prejudice, economic and political status.
Sociolinguistics has mainly contributed to the understanding of how language behaviour and language variability are
influenced by social factors.
Languages, in fact, encode a particular social meaning which is determined by their speakers, the speech communities
they are associated with and their functions and domains of use.
There are two approches to historical language change:
. comparative linguistics, which is based on the concept of "proto language" and "language
family". For example, English is a Germanic language.
. the history of language, the study of the changes undergone by a single language over the
centuries. There can be external or internal causes of
change: the external are extralinguistic or social factors,
internal are changes leading to balance in the system.
The History of English Language (HEL) is divided into three periods:
. Old English (OE) 700-1150
. Middle English (ME) 1150-1500
. Modern English (ModEngl) 1500-1900
Tha analysis of the language concern only the internal factors, because the analysis of the language use in social contexts
is difficult for the lack of any spoken evidence for the earlier stages of the language.
2. Types of language change
- Phonological change
It deals with any mutation within the sound system of a language and can be both sporadic and regular. Sporadic change
refers to changes which affect the sound of a limited number of words, regular change implies changes leading to the
reorganisation of the phonological inventory of a language.
Unconditioned change: sound change regardless of the phonetic context in which it
happens as in the case of the so-called Great Vowel Shift.
GVS started in the 15th Century and it affected ME long vowels: /i:/ becomes a diphthong (bite), /e:/ becomes /i:/, /a:/
becomes /e:/, /u:/ becomes /au:/, /o:/ becomes /u:/. GVS lasted until 17th Century.
Conditioned change: phonological change which is conditioned by a specific phonetic
environment, for example the development of PDE fricatives
OE: only one set of fricative phonemes namely /f, s, /. Each of them was used to represent two different allophones:
. /f/ --> [f] and [v]
./s/--> [s] and [z]
. <> --> []

- Morpho- syntactic change

It refers to any change in both the morpho-phonematic and syntactic systems of a language.
An example is the levelling of the noun ending system in the transition from late OE to early ME. The endings of the plurals
of OE changed in ME and disappeared in MODEngl.
The main mechanisms of morphosintactic change are the following:
. analogy, or the process of modelling a language form in relation to an already existing form
of that language;
. hypercorrection, or speaker's awareness of the social value of the different language
varieties within their speech community;
. backformation, or the creation of a language form which is not historically documented.
Two main examples of syntactic change are: word order, such as the order of the words ina sentence, and
grammaticalisation, or the phenomenon by which a grammatical function is given to a previously autonomous word.
- Semantic change
It refers to any mutation in the meaning of individual lexical items, which i s commonly influenced by external factors such
as socio cultural change, scientific innovation and foreign language influence, namely BORROWING.
There are different kinds of semantic change:
. Change of meaning:
- widening, or the use of a particular item in mroe than one context
- narrowing, which indicates the opposite process, eg. "meat", originally used with the
meaning of "food"
. Change of connotation:
- pejoration, which i slinked to speaker's social attitude and prejudice
- amelioration, which refers to a change denoting a positive attitude towards a certain
word, eg. queen originally meaned wife, woman.

3. The history of English

Historically English i s a Germani language. It is difficult to locate or give a date to the origin of the Germanic languages.
According to the Romanian historian Tacitus, Germanic qas the language of the population who inhabited the continental
European area east of the river Elbe, at least at the time of Ceasar (50 bC). The progenitor of Germanic is the
IndoEuropean language. It is a reconstructed language, which is considered to be the ancestor of classical languages like
Latin, Greek, Slavic and Sanskrit. The resemblance among these languages is testified by sound correspondences in some
OE period: 700-1150 A.D.
The term OE refers to the dialects spoken at that time in England by germanic populations who were called Jutes, Angles
and Saxons, and who arrived in the British isles, a former partly Romanised Celtic-speaking area, in the 5th Century AD.
The Celtic inhabitants of the British isles were assimilated or forced to move westwards and northwards and the use of
their language became geographically, socially and culturally confine to those areas.
Christianisation of the island: event that most contributed to the shaping of OE language,
started from the 6th Century. MAin

introduction f the latin alphabet, in the

socalled form
"insular script" and the progressive
abandonment by the
AngloSaxons of the Runic alphabet.
The graphemes <a,ae,e,i,o,u,y> were used for long and short vowel sounds. The consonant letters were similar to those
used today: <b,d,l,m,n,p,t,w>, <q,k,s,z> were rarely used.
<c> e <g> were used to represent both:
- the velar phonemes /k/ and /g/ when adiacent to back vowels /a,o,u/
- the palatal phonemes /t/ and /j/ before front vowels /ae,e,i,y/
9th-11th century: many manuscripts were written copied and translated from Latin to OE, namely the West Saxon dialect
of OE, the first standard written language.
Two important historical episodes for the language change during this period:
a. arrival and occupation of England by Scandinavian populations from 8th Century on
b. Norman conquest by William the Conqueror in 1066.
a. located in the north-eastern part of England by the year 867, they had almost conquered the island. King Alfred
defeated them and pushed them out of his kingdom ad re-conquered part of the Scandinavian possessions.
b. they contributed to changing Anglo Saxon England socially, politically and culturally. A new dominant French speaking
nobility substituted the Anglo Saxon court. West Saxon language was substituted by Anglo Norman, the variety of Franch
spoken by conquerors.
OE: highly inflected or synthetic language. Synthetic means that language functions, grammatical categories and relations
and verbal conjungations are expressed by the use of a system of case markers, or inflections.
The words are formed by a root and an ending. Both -i and -a endings signal that the nouns are plural and the gender is
masculine, the case is nominative.
In OE prose you can find the following word orders:
- S V, in both main and subordinate clauses;
- S [...] V, commonly in subordinate clauses;
- V S in interrogative, negative and declarative clauses.
OE distinguishes case, number and gender for nouns, adjectives and pronouns. Nouns and adjectives show four main
cases: nominative, accusative, genitive and dative, three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter and two numbers:
singular and plural.
The inflection of nouns are divided into strong and weak; strong nouns mainly refer to the masculine and neuter -a stem
nouns, weak nouns include the so called consonant or -n stem nouns, which belong to the three OE nouns genders.
Adjectives usually agree with the noun they modify and are also divided into strong and weak inflections.
The most striking differences in relation to PDE concern the forms and functions of the definite article and demonstrative
pronouns. In OE, the demonstrative covered the domains of both the PDE definite article "the" and the demonstrative
"that/those". Also the demonstrative were inflected by cases, gender and number.
Personal pronouns show 4 main cases, three persons (first, second and third) and three genders.
In OE, as in PDE, there are two tipes of verbs: strong and weak. Strong verbs form their past by changing the stem vowel,
weak verbs add dental suffixes as t,d, od or ed.
Both sotrng and weak verbs show two tenses, present and preterite. Three moods, indicative, subjunctive and imperative;
two infinite forms, two participles, present and past.
There are also two main irregular verb sub categories, the socalled present-preterite past verbs and anomalous verbs.

VOCABULARY: complex process of word formation, inherited by germanic lexis, there's also influence by latin and
Latin: two major stages of influence; the first period relates to the conquest of part of the british Isles by the Romans, the
second stage concerns the period of the Christianisation of the island from the 6th Century.
Scandinavian was used for technical terms for ships, warfare and legal institutions.
1066: Norman Conquest of England, starting point of ME period. There are three stages of this period:
- 1066-1150 a transitional stage when important sociolinguistic changes occurred. The role and functions of the West
Saxons, in the administration, the Church, education and culture were reduced because of the Norman Conquest.
- 1150-1350 an early ME period during which English recovered its status of official language, testified by the increasing
number of documents in English.
- 1350-1430 a late ME period. From the 14th Century,many sociocultural changes take place in England, such as
urbanisation, the growth of London,technological discoveries, the introduction of the printing press in England by William
Caxton in 1476.
Literacy increased and there's the need of a fixed standard language.
During ME three languages were spoken in England: French or AngloNorman (language of power, bureaucracy and partly
literature), Latin (language of learning, education and the Church) and English (language of the majority of the
population). Also Gaelic and Scandinavian were spoken.
ME period: complex phenomena of dialectal variation, language contact and attempts to standardise the language.
Classic ME variety, represented by Chuacher's language:
- the levelling of the OE inflectional case system;
- the fixing of SVO word order as in PDE;
- a marked foreign influence on ME vocabulary.
During the ME period the OE noun case system was totally readjusted and adjectives' distinction between strong and
weak was lost.
Demonstrative forms were reduced to an invariable form; pronouns continue almost unchanged. The verbal system keeps
the distinction between strong and weak verbs, though some changes occur in relation to person endings.
There are new tenses:
- the future tense. Sculan (shall) and willan (will) were used in OE for obligation and necessity.
- the progressive/continuous tense, they developed now, but they weren't so used until ModEngl.
- the passive voice with be.
SVO order is present in statements and dependent clauses. VS is used with commands and wishes or adverbial phrases.
ME is the period in which a large number of French words entered the English language, for example action, age, city,
country, flower, people, river, tailor, calm, certain...
ALtin continued to exercise great power on English as the language of the Church and education.
MODERN ENGLISH period (1500-1900)
Stage of the consciousness about linguistic matters, to standardise the language.
The origin of standard English have to be found in the south eastern Midland variety spoken in London. The growth of
standard English took place through a long process of selection, acceptance, elaboration of functions and codification.
English became in this period the language used where Latin and Franch were previously used, that is government, law,
literature, education and religion. The expansion of vocabulary gave rise to the opposition between the socalled
Neologisers (contributed to introduce a certain number of new words) and Purists who believed in the preservation of
native vocabulary through, for example, processes of word formation:

- prefixation, eg. the prefix un- in adjectives

- suffixation, eg. -ers in crackers.
During ModEngl both monolingual and bilingual dictionaries were compiled.
Classical languages, especially Latin, represent in this period the model for the improvement of grammar and the
codification of its rules.
The most relevant grammar was Robert Lowth's "A short introduction to English grammar".
Another issue is the correct pronunciation. Though the concept of correct pronunciation goes back to Shakespeare's time,
it is only in the 19th Century that Receveid Pronunciation is achieved through the new universal educational system.
The main changes in ModEngl concern the inflectional system of nouns, adjectives and verbs. Strong and weak distinction
of nouns and adjectives disappear. The only noun case that survived was the genitive case, which was indicated by -s and
-s' forms. As regards adjectives, the only relics of OE and ME inflectional systems refer to the comparative and superlative
-er and -est endings.
The most conservative aspect of ModEngl grammar are pronouns, which are still marked for case, number and gender.
The only difference with PDE is the distinction in use between 2nd pers. sing. thou/thee to express lack of formality and
ye/you to express politeness.
This distinction was lost at the end of the period.
The main features of ModEngl syntax can be summarise as follows:
- inversion of subject in declarative sentence,
- multiple negation,
- omission of the subject.
By the end of 19th century the standardisation of the language was almost complete, but languages change continuously.
Late ModEngl is also the period of the socalled fragmentation of the standard in which the English language and its
speakers spread and settled in different geographical and sociocultural contexts worldwide.
Three main stages can be distinguished:
- the inreasing activity of British trading companies and the slave trade, starting from the beginning of 17th century. From
the contact between English and West African, new languages were born, namely Pidgin Englishes and Creoles;
- the establishment of stable colonial settlements in America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South AFrica and it
resulted in the formation of the socalled colonial standard varieties of English;
- the institutionalisation of English within colonies. This means that English started to be used as a second language and
became the official language of government, bureaucracy, education and religion in the colonies.
4. The sociolinguistic status of Present Day English
Since the beginning of the 20th century the term English has been used mainly to indicate the varieties of British English.
Since the middle of the 1980s, the focus of attenction shifted from questions of language norms and standard to matter of
linguistic variation taking place beyond the national boundaries of the language, namely the UK.
This new framework is commonly defined Englishes paradigm, focusing on:
- geographical location,
- linguistic and ethnic association,
- activities such as commerce, education, culture and technology,
- combination of locations and activity,
- fusion of English with other languages, eg. Frenglish, Spanglish.
- The diaspora of English
Three stages:
. the first refers to the expantion of English within the British Isles, namely Scotland, Wales and Ireland,
. the second is associated with the discovery of new territories and the establishment of the British colonies in the USA,

Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa,

. the third stage concerns its diffusion and use as second language in contents such as Africa and Asia and it mainly refers
to 19th and 20th century American imperialism, including what we commonly define globalisation.
- The countries and speakers of English
The geographical spread of PDE has been described in terms of three concentric circles:
. the inner circle, where English is used as a native language;
. the outer circle, in which English has the status of second language or language of government, media, religion anda
. the expanding circle, where English is used as a foreign language.
We have to be aware of the extensive ongoing processes of language hybridisation between the local varieties of English
and immigrant languages taking place in multicultural urban contexts such as New York and London.
- English as a global language
The world Englishes paradigm is probably the most relevant one. In addition, a pragmatic-oriented view of global English
or English for Specifi Purposes (ESP) has interpreted its use in terms of utility and strumentality.
These major aspects of English as a global language can be identified:
. the establishment of new English speaking communities in new geographical and socio-cultural contexts;
. the contact and mutual influence between English and other non-genetically related languages;
. the formation of non native varieties of English or global Englishes.
- The speech community of contemporary English
Characterised by strong ethnic and social differentiation and where social multilinguism is the norm. Their choice is
determined by sociolinguistic factors such as language attitude, language status and socio ethnic belonging.
The use of two or more varieties or languages within the same speech event, or code switching, is the most powerful
marker of language identity. It signals that sociolinguistic identities are not fixed constructs, but they are constantly
changed by phenomena of language contact.
- The varieties of English
Regional (eg. Yorkshire English)
colonial Englishes (eg. American, canadian, Australian, South African)
Immigrant Englishes (Chicano English)
Pidgin Englishes and Creoles
Shift Englishes (Aboriginal English)
English as a Lingua Franca
Global English can also be considered in two different ways:
- as a polylectal continuum rangin from standard varieties or "acrolet", which is very close to the colonial varieties and it is
used by educated people, to the low-prestigious varieties of "basilect", which is spoken by people with little knowledge of
the language and no formal or school education;
- as a cline of bilinguism. At one end of the cline we see educated English, while at the other there are varieties, like
nigerian English, which reflect a particular cultural, social and linguistic identity and show the following four functions: a)
instrumental, or English as the language of education; b) regulative, or the use of English as an administrative and
bureaucratic means; c) interpersonal referring to verbal communication between two unintelligible languages; d)
imaginative, or English as the language of different literary genres.
- The genesis of global Englishes
We need to distinguish between mistake and deviation; the former cannot be accepted, the latter from standard are

productive processes which contribute to language change.

Global Englishes have developed through five different chronologically ordered stages:
. foundation, the spread of English in non-English speaking countries worldwide;
. exonormative use, or the imposition of the varieties of English spoken by local native speakers;
. nativisation, the mixing and hybridisation of both local/native communities and English native speakers;
. differentiation, or acknowledgment and awareness of the sociolinguistic value of the new variety of English.
- Language contact: nativisation and acculturation
The nativisation and acculturation of Nigerian English may take palce in this way:
. borrowing of words from antive NBigerian languages to Nigerian English;
. nativisation of some standard English words, which are adapted with a new meaning to the local context;
. the adoption and change of the original meaning of some standard English words.
English has undergone a process of acculturation, manipulation and adaptation to new socio-cultural contexts through a
process of linguistic creativity.
- The linguistic features of global Englishes
. Indefinite and definite articles
In global Englishes the indefinite article is usually replaced by "one".
Deletion of the definite article is also common in global Englishes, in particular with proper nouns or when there's
reference to a specific context.
The reverse process, or "addition" happens where in standard English either the article would be omitted or an indefinite
article would be present.
. Number
A common feature in global Englishes is the deletion of noun plural marker -s, or the following phenomena:
. regularisation of standard English zero plural nouns
. use of post nominal forms "dem" and "them" as plural markers.
. Gender
In global englishes the forms he, she, it are used indiscriminately.
. Personal pronouns
In English personal pronouns cannot be deleted, but it is testified in several global Englishes.
In some other cases number contrast is not signalled as in the use of singular personal pronouns for plural.
The 2nd person plural becomes "y'all" and "you people". The singular "me" is often substituted with plural "us".
. Demonstrative pronouns
They show great variation in the case of use of the singular this/that for plural forms these/those.
. Tense
Global Englishes do not use the past tenses as we do, while they use a past tense zero markin, such as the use of present
where there would be the past.
Great emphasis in research has been placed on the process of regularisation of irregular verbs.
. Aspect
English uses the present simple to denote an habitual situation, while global Englishes uses the -s inflection to mark
The progressive form, which is expressed in standard English by the use of be + -ing participle, is usually only possible with
dynamic verbs or transition, sensation...Ing lobal englishes the distinction between dynamic and stative verbs is
global Englishes combines two modal verbs within the same sentence and they use "would" instead of "will" for the
. Concord

One of the msot widespread feature of global Englishes is the absence of the simple present 3rd person -s, or the use of
"was" for plural personal pronouns.
. Forms of "to be"
The absence of copular "be" in the present tense is commonly found in global Englishes. For habitual actions and
processes the invariant form "be" is also used.
. Word order
One of the main characteristics in global English is the ivnerted word order: Ov in declarative sentences, resumptive
pronouns in relative clauses, indirect questions.
. Tag questions
The use the form "isn't it?" for he, she, it, they.
-English as a language of power
The power of English is mainly related to its functionality in contexts such as the global economy, communication
technologies, business and education.
The knowledge of English favours social mobility and work opportunities. The aspects that reflect the global nature of
English are its socalled "range" and "depth". The former indicates the main functions and domains of use of PDE, while the
latter refers to the pluricentric nature of English and its capacity to penetrate new socio-cultural environments.
-What next?
Will English continue to be the language of global economy, trading, finance and culture?
We can foresee that an increasing divergence from the standard language, namely British and American varieties, might
result in the development of autonomous dialects, as happened with Latin and the formation of neoromance languages
such as Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and French.
The uncertainty about the future of English also relates to its status as the language of the global economy under the
control of the United States of America. Who can predict how long American hegemony and the dominance of English will


1. Accents of English
We shall focus on British English and American English, and their respective pronunciation standards, Receveid
Pronunciation (RP) or BBC Pronunciation and General American.
Variation of pronunciation is less marked in younger countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. More
importantly, accent variation is connected to other factors, such as social class, age, education and even gender.
2. Phonetics and the articulators
Phonetics is the science that studies the physical characteristics of sounds. Phonetics deals with the production
(articulatory), transmission (acoustic) and reception (auditory) aspects of sounds and its applications may span across
completely different fields.
Articulatory phonetics deals with the physiology of speech production.
Any speaker is capable of making a wide range of modifications to the vocal tract in order to utter many different sounds.
The act of phonation consists in the contraction of the muscles in our chest and the production of a flow of air which
passes through the larynx, the glottis, the pharynx, and then the oral cavity or the nose.
The opening between the vocal cords is called the glottis. The closure of the glottis creates an interruption of the air
stream, called glottal stop.
The velum or soft palate is the back part of the palate which can be raised or lowered so that the air may escape through

the mouth or nose. Some consonants are called velar [k,g], because they involve a stricture between the tongue and the
The alveolar ridge is between the hard palate and the front teeth; when the tongue is in contact with the alveolar ridge we
can produce alveolar sounds such as the plosives [t, d] and the nasal [n]. The palato alveolar consonants are produced
with the front of the tongue behind the alveolar ridge and the body of the tongue raised towards the palate, as in the
production of the palato alveolar consonants [r].
The tongue is perhaps the most important articulator because it is the change of its position inside the oral cavity which
determines the type of sound produced. Lips, teeth, tongue, palate and pharynx are the main articulators.
3. Graphemes and phonemes
The term grapheme refers to a letter of the alphabet. A phoneme is a distinctive sound in a language capable of creating a
distinction in meaning between two words.
In many cases grapheme and phonemes share the same mark or symbol. In many other cases there is no one-to-one
correspondence between grapheme and phoneme eg. <c> represents the phoneme /k/ in "cut".
Many graphemes are silent, it means that they are not pronunciated in certain English words, eg. <t> in castle.
Some pairs of words are homophones (ortographically different but phonetically identical): aloud and allowed. Some are
homographs (ortographically identical, but phonetically different): lead [li:d] (condurre) and lead [led] (piombo).
The most widely used phonemic and phonetic notation is the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), a set of symbols used
for representing the phonemes and sounds of all languages.
The phonetic transcription which considers only phonemic value is called broad transcription, while the transcription
which signals a greater amount of phonetic information is called narrow transcription.
4. English phonology
Phonology is the study of the sounds which have a functional and distinctive role in a language. Suprasegmental
phonology deals with units larger than the phoneme (syllables, rhythm groups and intonation phrases) and their related
phenomena (stress, rhythm and intonation).
The phonemes have no individual meaning but they can combine to form meaningful patterns (words).
"Sit" and "set" are called minimal pairs because they differ only by one phoneme.
The different realisations of the same phonemes in different contexts are called "allophones" and are represented in
transcription by diacritic symbols added to the phonemic ones. Allophonic variation does not involve any change in the
meaning of words but it is responsible for some differences in accents. For all these reasons, phoneticians consider the
phonemes abstract entities, or rather abstract, conventional representations of a family of slightly different phones. For
example in the word "top" the "t" is aspirated, and in the word "train" the "t" is affricate.
5. The pronunciation of British English
In English there are 43 phonemes, 11 vowels, 8 diphtongs and 24 consonants. Phonetically, vowels are oral, voiced and
egressive sounds produced without any obstruction to the airstream coming from the lungs.
Diphtongs are sounds consisting of a glide from one vowel to another.
Consonants are sound produced with an egressive flow of air coming out of the mouth or the nose accompanied by
obstruction or friction in the articulators. All vowels are voiced, while consonants can be voiced or voiceless depending on
the vibration or otherwise of the vocal cords.
The final sound added to the vowel inventory is the schwa [ ]. This is a sound of English which doesn't have a proper
phonemic status because it occurs only in unstressed syllables.
The boundary between vowel and consonants phonemes is not clear-cut. As for consonants we include /j/ and /w/,
although their articulation does not involve any obstruction; but they are always followed by a vowel and, moreover, they
are preceded by the article "a".

Depending on the vertical distance between the tongue and the palate a vowel can be open, half open, close.
Depending on which part of the tongue is raised it may be front, central or back.
Depending on duration, a vowel can be long or short.
Long vowels are also classified as tense, while short vowels are classified as lax, with reference to the tension or otherwise
of the muscle bundles located at the back of the tongue.
Finally, the position of the lips may be rounded, spread or neutral.
It is a combination fo two vowels, or better an oral, voiced, egressive glide from one vowel to another vowel uttered with
the same emission of sound. The first element is normally more audible than the second. In English there are 8
diphthongs. Five are called "closing" because their second element is a close vowel, three are called "centring" because
their second element is the central unstressed sound [ schwa ].
Closing diphtongs may become triphthongs if a schwa is added.
English consonants may be oral (the air escapes through the mouth), nasal (the air escapes from the nose), voiceless (no
vibration of the vocal cords) or voiced (the vocal cords vibrate). Moreover all consonants can be described according to
two parameters, such as manner of articulation and place of articulation.
Almost all consonants are oral, only three are nasal [m, n,
[s] is a voiceless consonant and so you will perceive no vibration at all. Instead, if you try pronouncing [z], you will perceive
vibration because it is a voiced consonant. The voiceless consonant phoneme are: /p,t,k,f, ,s, ,h/. The voiced
consonant phonemes are: /b,d,g,v, ,z, ,m,n, , r,w,j/.
The bilabial consonants /p,b,m/ and the semivowel /w/ are pronounced with both lips brought together. For the
labiodental consonants /f,v/ the lower lip and the upper teeth are kept close to each other. The dental consonants / , /
involve the contact of the blade (front part) of the tongue behind the upper teeth.
The obstruction of the flow of air is realised in an alveolar position (the tongue in contact or raised closed to the alveolar
ridge) for /t,d,n,l/ and /s,z/.
The fricatives /
/, the affricates /
/, and the liquid /r/ are articulated with the tongue in a further back
position called palatoalveolar.
The semivowel /j/ has a palatal articulation. Finally for the plosives /k,g/ and the nasal / / the contact occurs between
the tongue and the soft palate velum and the /h/ involves a stricture in the glottis.
In the release of voiceless plosives /t,p,k/ a "h" is heard. This phenomenon is called aspiration and it occurs when these
phonemes are at the onset of a syllable.
In final position the difference between [p,t,k] and [b,d,g] also has to do with the preceding vowel, which is shorter before
voiceless [p,t,k] and longer before voiced [b,d,g].
Fricatives are also called sibilants or continuants. The air escapes through a small space between the articulators,
producing a hissing sound. Fricative consonants are: labiodental /f,v/, dental / , /, alveolar /s,z/, palato-alveolar /
/ and glottal
Affricates are a combination of homorganic plosives and fricatives, they are the palatoalveolar / / and / /.
In the production of the nasals /m,n/ the air escapes through the nose. / / is more difficult especially for foreign people.
The rule in English is that /g/ is never pronounced after / / at the end of a morpheme, except for the comparative -er
and the superlative -est. eg. long-->longer.
The liquid consonant /l/ has two important allophonic realisations: in syllable initial position its pronunciation is
accompanied by front resonance; in this case it is said to be "clear". In syllable final position or before another consonant
its pronunciation is accompanied by back resonance and it is said to be "dark".

The liquid /r/ presents many different types of pronunciation in English. If a word ending with silent /r/ is followed by
another word beginning with a vowel, the /r/ is pronounced to link the two words. This phenomenon is called r-linking.
In English some consonants may be syllabic, that is, they may occur as the nucleus of syllables; the most common cases
are with /l/ and /n/.
A phonetic phenomenon typical of British English is the glottalisation or glottal stop, indicated by the symbol /?/. It
consists in the complete closure of the glottis in the pronunciation of the plosives /p,t,k/ and of the affricate / / in final
position or when followed by a vowel, a liquid or a nasal.
6.The pronunciation of American English
Differences in pronunciation between British and American English are perhaps more marked than differences in
vocabulary or grammar.
The most important difference between the two phonemic inventories is in the open and back area.
In AmE the diphthongs / ,
/ are absent due to rhoticity. Instead AmE has pure vowels followed by [r].
British and American consonants are the same. Differences are found in the phonetic quality of the phoneme /r/, usually
retroflex and the phoneme /l/, always dark.
AmE is used to be a rhotic variety because orthographic <r> is always pronounced, no matter whether it is prevocalic or
post-. It gives AmE its fullmouth effect.
Yod dropping: it refers to the omission in AmE of the sound [j] after dental and alveolar consonants and followed by the
phoneme /u:/ as in tune [tju:n].
T-tapping: in AmE intervocalic /t/ is tapped and voiced so that the word "latter" rhymes with ladder.
In AmE the post-nasal /t/ as in twenty ['twenti] is elided [tweni].
-Pronunciation differences
Latin-derived words ending in -ile are pronounced differently in the two varieties: missile ['misail] (BrE), ['misl] (AmE).
-Stress placement
For example the words address and cigarette in AmE are stressed in the first syllable, while in BrE they are differently
A characteristic diffeerence between AmE and BrE is the pronunciation of the endings -ary,-ery,-ory which are compressed
in BrE, whereas they keep a full vowel in AmE.
7. Italian and English phonemes in contrast
In many cases, where English has two vowels, italian has one. The Italian speakers will tend to under-differentiate
between long and tense /i:/ and short and lax /i/, and pronounce them as if sounded the same.
Lenght is an important feature in English vowels and this is particularly difficult for Italians because in Italian vowels tend
to be long and tense.
Typical errors involve lack of aspiration of the voiceless consonants /p,t,k/ in syllable initial position and also the lack of
aspiration for the initial /h/.
The dental fricatives /
/ tent to be confused by Italian with dental plosives /d/ and /t/.
Italians tend to voice syllable initial fricatives and therefore make a typical pronunciation mistake consisting in the voicing
of syllable initial [s].
As for the pronunciation of the past/participle forms of regular verbs, the -ed inflection is pronounced differently
according to the phoneme preceding it: if a voiceless consonant, the ending will be [t] as in "asked"; if a voiced consonant
or a vowel it will be [d] as in "lived " and "blowed".

8. The syllable
It is a phonological unit made up of one or more phonemes. A minimum syllable is made up of one vowel only, such as the
verb "are" [:].
Open syllables: a consonal oneset followed by a vowel (tea,zoo..)
Closed syllables: they have a vowel nucleus followed by a consonant (all, arm).
The most common type of syllable in English is that made up of consonant+vowel+consonant (CVC), like did, bag, look.
In italian the most common tipe is the open syllable.
9. Stress in words and multi-word units
Stress is the realtive prominence given to a syllable. The effect of prominence is the result of four acoustic components:
pitch (altezza), loudness (volume), duration and quality.
In phonetic transcription stress is insicated by a vertical line preceding the stressed syllable.
One syllable words are unstressed when they occur in weak position.
There are many types of stress patterns:
- 2 syllable words with primary stress on the first syllable (strong+weak) Type
e.g. money ['mni], seven ['sevn]
- 2syllable words with primary stress on the first syllable and a full vowel on the second (strong+strong) Type
e.g. phoneme ['fnim], pillow ['pil]
- 2syllable words with primary stress on the second syllable (weak+strong) Type
e.g. result [r'zlt], connect [k'nekt]
- 2 syllable words with a full vowel in the first syllable and primary stress on the second (strong+strong) Type
e.g. although [:l'], myself [ma'self].
This words may have secondary stress on the first syllabe, it depends on the speed of the speech.
-3syllable words with primary stress on the first syllable (strong+weak+weak) Type
e.g. manager ['mnd], dangerous ['dendrs]
-3syllable words with primary stress on the first syllable and a full vowel on the third syllable (strong+weak+strong) Type

e.g. telephone ['telfn], educate ['eduket]

-3syllable words with primary stress on the first syllable and a full vowel on the second (strong+strong+weak) Type
e.g. newspaper ('nju:z,pep], grandmother ['grnd,m]
-3syllable words with primary stress on the second syllable (weak+strong+weak) Type
e.g. remember [r'memb], successful [sk'sefl]
-3syllable words with full vowel on the first syllable and primary stress on the second (strong+strong+weak) Type
e.g. sensation [sen'sen], unhealthy [n'heli].
-3syllable words with a full vowel in the first syllable and primary stress on the third (strong+weak+strong) Type
e.g. afternoon [,:ft'nu:n], disappoint [,dis'pnt].
We can find also words of four or more syllable, usually compounds and derivates.
Suffixes that are stressed: -ageous, -agious, -ation, -ee, -ician
Suffixes that are not stressed: -able, -ful, -less, -ness, -ment
Suffixes that assign stress to the penultimate syllable: -ic, -ics, -ion
10. Connected speech
Connected speech impinges our ears as continuum of sound, modulated by intonational contours and rhythmic patterns
and of course pauses for breathing and thinking.

Phonetically, the transition from each sound segment to the next is characterised by articulatory accomodations and
sound variability.
This phonetic variability is caused in connected speech by 3 main factors:
- the influence of the phonetic environment in which each phoneme occurs;
- the speed of utterance
- the rhytmic pattern of the syllable in which each phoneme occurs.
There are 5 types of phonetic variation caused by the influence of the phonemic environment:
It involves accomodation in the articulation of a sound segment to an adjacent segment, so that they become similar in
some of their characteristics. A typical form of similitude is the sequence nasal+plosive or plosive+nasal.
Similitude can also occur between a consonant and a vowel, like in "keep", "cool" or "cup".
It is realised across word boundaries between consonants and vowels, between different consonants, between the same
consonants. Between vowels and semivowels the linking sounds [w] and [j] are added to obtain a smooth transition across
word boundaries.
It occurs in the same cases as similitude, but it is distingued from it because it involves the actual replacement of a sound
with another owing to the influence of an adjacent one. It usually occurs at the boundaries between syllables, between
words and in compounds.
Assimilation can be "contextual", and it occurs when utterances are spoken at normal speed.
It is the dropping of a sound which once existed (historical elision), like castle, know, walk.. or which exists in slow speech
(contextual elision).
Smoothing: reduction of the elements of diphthongs and triphthongs, for example the word fire is usually smoothed to
[fa] or even [f:].
-Vowel reduction and weak forms
Vowel reduction is responsible for remarkable differences between the pronunciation of words in isolation and of the
same words in connected speech.
Generally, the vowel reducted becomes , or the short vowels i, or u,.
Vowel reduction is characteristic of grammatical words such as auxiliaries (are,have), modals (can,must), articles (a,the),
conjunctions (and,but), personal pronouns (you,he) and preposition (to, from).
11.The rhythm of connected speech
We perceive the sens of rhythm which arises out of a feeling of alternation between strong and weak beats. The
assignment of rhythmic prominence is called "tonicity".
The alternation of weak and strong beats in connected speech determines its rhythm.
The time interval between one strong beat and the next is said to be "isochronous", that is, each chunk is given an
approximately equal amount of time.
A typical error is to produce utterances in which all the syllables are prominent, as if each was pronounced in its strong
12. Intonation
Intonation is the variation of voice pitch in connected speech. When we speak our voice changes pitch all the time. Only
machines speak in a monotone. Intonation helps the listener to undestand what the speaker says.
Intonation includes two other features: tonality and tone. Tonality refers to the segmentation of long stretches of
connected speech into shorter meaningful chunks, called intonation phrases. An intonation phrase is an utterance having

its own intonation pattern or tone and containing a nucleus.

Intonation is much more than just decoration of the speech. The term tone refers to the way pitch is modulated in
language. A tone may be rising or falling or a combination of these two tones.
The rising tone is felt to convey a sense of non-finality and is generally associated with questions or incomplete clauses.
The falling tone is felt to convey a sense of finality and is generally associated with statements.
The fall-rise tone is felt to convey a sense of uncertainty and doubt.
The rise-fall tone is felt to convey surprise and admiration, or strong emotional feelings.
The main functions of intonation in spoken English are:
-Attitudinal, is that of conveying the different attitudes and feelings that can be expressed
when we speak, such as enthusiasm,scepticism..
-Grammatical, it is related to the segmentation of speech into meaningful units. If we move
the boundaries of intonation phrases, the meaning of utterance can change
-Accentual: it involves the placement of stress on the nucleus, thus indicating where the
focus of the information is centred.
-Discoursal: the nucleus is normally found at the end of an intonation phrase. This happens
because speakers tend to place new information at the end of utterances.
13. Pronunciation in dictionaries
Many English dictionaries for native speakers do not use IPA notation but employ a modified form of ortography, called
"respelling". The reason is that native speakers do not normally learn the phonetic notation in a systematic way as foreign
people do.
Pronunciation dictionaries are exclusively devoted to pronunciation and therefore offer more complete information than a
general dictionary.
14. The pronunciation of English as a Lingua Franca
In the 20th century English achieved a primacy as a global language and today it is used as a lingua franca by millions of
non-native speakers.
On this point, some linguists have raised a debate arguing in favour of a new model of English as a lingua franca. This
model is base don a core of nuclear forms, drawing on British and American standards, which is intended to guarantee the
preservation of mutual intelligibility for international communication.
the goal of teaching English as a lingua franca should no longer be the fine details of native speaker norms, but those
pronunciation features.
The lingua franca Core includes the phonetic features which have proved to be essential for intelligibility: the correct use
of most consonants sounds, including the aspiration of the voiceless consonants.
1-Definitions of grammar
The word 'grammar' refers to a set of rules which allow the production of wellformed sentences or utterances.
There is a distinction between descriptive and theoretical grammar. The former describes how the language works,
drawing eclectically from the long tradition of grammatical descriptions and using both traditional and new terminology.
Theoretical grammars are analytical models elaborated by linguists.
These models introduce new metalanguage, i.e. terms and concepts proper to these new theories.
Morphology is the study of the internal structure of words. It can be divided into derivational and inflectional morphology.
Syntax is the study of the way in which words combine to form larger units such as phrases, clauses and sentences. A
central feature of English syntax is word order.

-The units of grammar

Grammatical units can be ordered according to a hierarchy of units, or a rank scale, and can be analysed from the largest
to the smallest (text,sentence,clause,phrase,word,morpheme).
A text consists of one or more sentences, which consists of one or more clauses, which consists of one or more phrases,
which consist of one or more words, which consist of one or more morphemes.
A morpheme is the smallest linguistic unit of meaning or grammatical function. A word is a linguistic unit phonologically
preceded and followed by pauses,ortographically preceded and followed by spaces or puntuation marks.
A phrase is a linguistic unit made up of one or more words. Phrases can be noun phrases (NP), verb phrases (VP), adjective
phrases (AdjP), adverb phrases (AdvP) and prepositional phrases (PP). E.g. The boy (NP) has given (VP) extremely
interisting (AdjP), very fast (AdvP), in front of the cinema (PP).
A clause is a linguistic unit which is made up of one or more phrases and which tipically contains at least one verb phrase.
A main clause is emantically indipendent and it can stand alone.
A sentence is the largest linguistic unit and can consist of one or more clauses.
A text can be defined as a written or spoken stretch of language, a sequence of sentences which is coherent and cohesive.
-Word, word-form and lexeme
An ortographic word is a linguistic unit which in the written form is preceded by a space and followed by a space or a
puntuation mark. The word can be defined using phonological criteria, as the linguistic unit sorrounded by pauses, and
having only one main stress.
Internal integrity: a word is an indivisible unit which cannot be interrumpted by inserring other material in it. In fact,
insertions can only be made between words.
A word can be also defined in terms of meaning: a word can express only a single cocnept.
An important sense of the term 'word' refers to the words we find in dictionaries, which are called lexemes. A lexeme is an
abstract unit of vocabulary which underlies different variants known as word-forms.
Lexemes are represented in linguistics by using capital letters, while words or word-forms that realise lexemes are written
using italics.
In lexicography the technical terms used to refer to the abstract dictionary unit are 'entry', 'headword' and 'lemma'. A
dictionary entry is an independent lexical unit which is listed in a dictionary in alphabetical order. It consist of the head
word tipically followed by information on its spelling,pronunciation,word class,inflections,meaning and examples of use.
This 'canonical' form is also called 'lemma'.
-Word classes
Words are traditionally grouped into different categories called word classes or parts of speech according to their
meaning, their structure and position in a sentence.
Nouns, verbs,adjectives and adverbs constitute open classes of words because they can admit new members, as new
words are often created. They are called lexical or content words, because they are the main carriers of meaning in a text.
Closed classes contain a smaller number of items and new words are rarely added. They are also called function or
grammatical words, and they are conjunctions, preposition, determiners, pronouns and auxiliary verbs.
"All" can behave as a determiner (all the students), as a pronoun (that's all I have), or as an adverb (she got all wet).
"Inserts" are more frequently used in the spoken language and are considered as more marginal since they carry
interactonal and emotional meaning. (hey,yeah,right,well).
Nouns (N) are lexical words which commonly refer to concrete objects or entities. They can be common or proper nouns.
Common nouns can be countable or uncountable.
Verbs (V) are words which express actions, events, states, processes and show the relationship between the participants
in what is referred by the verb. Verbs can be lexical, also called main verbs, or auxiliary.
Adjectives (Adj) are lexical words which describe qualities and properties of thing or people, and state of affairs. They

provide information about nouns or pronouns. Adjectives can be gradable, that is their meaning can be modified in terms
of scale, or non-gradable, they cannot be modified.
Adverbs (adv) are lexical words which can carry out several functions. They can comment on an adjective by expressing
degree, accompany another adverb or give information about the circumstances of an action, event, process or state.
They are called 'circumstance adverbs'. 'Stance adverbs' are adverbs which can express the speaker attitude, feelings or
point of view. 'Linking adverbs' are adverbs that link sentences or clauses.
Conjunctions (Conj) are function words which link linguistic items such as words, phrases, clauses and sentences. We can
identify two types of them: coordinating conjunctions and subordinating conjunctions, that join clauses where one is
subordinated to the other.
The main subordinating conjunctions express time (since),place (where), condition (if), concession (although), purpose (so
that), reason (since).
Prepositions (Prep) are function words that link words or syntactic elements and express the relationship between them.
They can show a relation in time,space or of another kind between two events or people or things. Most common
prepositions consist of one single word and are therefore called simple prepositions, but there are also complex
prepositions which are made up of two or more words.
Determiners (Det) are function words that are used before a noun to indicate the type of reference the noun has.
Determiners can indicate definiteness or indefiniteness, quantity, possession. The main determiners in English are: articles
(a,the,an), demonstrative determiners (this,that,those,these), possessive determiners (my,your,his,her,its,our,their),
quantifiers (some,many,enough,more,few,a little,all).
Pronouns (Pron) are function words that are used to replace nouns when we want to refer to a person, an object, a
situation, an event or a place which has been mentioned before or whose referent can be deduced from the context of
the situation or the sorrounding text.
Auxiliary verbs (Aux) are a small class of verbs which accompany a lexical verb and cannot usually occur alone. We
distinguish two types of auxiliaries: primary (be,have,do) and modal (must,should,may,can,need..)
Wh-words are function words which begin with wh- and introduce clauses. They do not form an indipendent word class
since they belong to different word classes according to their use.
These words are mainly used in two ways: to introduce interrogative clauses, to introduce relative clauses or exclamation
Numerals are a set of words referring to number or quantity which are used as determiners or as heads in noun phrases.
-Grammatical functions
A word can have the function of subject (S), verb (V), object (O), complement (C) and adverbial (A).
The Subject is what the sentence is about, its topic. It usually precedes the verb and determines whether the verb is
singular or plural.
The verb is what is said about the subject.
The object can be direct (Od) or indirect (Oi).
The complement can be a subject complement (Cs) or an object complement (Co).
Adverbials are elements which are usually, but not always, optional in a sentence and which express a wide range of
meanings. They can be circumstances, stance or linking adverbials.
Morphology is the area of linguistics which deals with the structure or form of words. It describes the ways in which small,
meaningful elements called morphemes can combine to make up words and contribute to the construction of meaning
and the creation of new words.
Inflectional morphology deals with changes in the form of words according to the grammatical context in which they
occur; Derivational morphology deals with the process of word formation through affixations.
Polymorphemic : words composed of more than one morpheme (fortunately)

Monomorphemic : words composed by only one morpheme (play,the,girl...)

-Morphemes,morphs and allomorphs
Morphemes are abstract entities, while morphs are their concrete realisation.
Morphemes are usually written between curly braces { }. The lexeme is written in capital letters whereas the abstract
features specified by the morphemes are written in normal letters. An allomorph is one of the different phonetic or
graphic realisations of a morpheme.
. The morph that indicates {past tense} in English is -ed.
. The plural morpheme in English nouns is realised ortographically by adding the morph -s, which however has three
different phonetic realisations, [s] (cups,lamps...), [z] (hands, days), [z] (beaches, judges...).
. The morphs in-, im-, il-, -ir are graphic allomorphs of the same morpheme meaning {not} or oppositeness of meaning.
. An example of graphic allomorphs is given by the English indefinite article which has two ortographic shapes, a/an,
depending on the word that follows it.
-Types of morphemes
Not all the morphemes have the same charachteristics, functions and status. For example, in "cheerfulness", -ful and -ness
are not simply joined together; cheer carries the core meaning and can stand alone as a word, -ful is attached to it and
cannot stand on its own as a word, and the same can be said for -ness.
There are two types of morphemes:
. Free morphemes can stand alone as words. "The" and "a" are morphemes that function as determiners, "in" is a free
morpheme that belongs to the class of prepositions,etc.
Free morphemes that belong to lexical words and carry the semantic core meaning of the word are called "free roots". In
the sentence "The books were printed last year by a local publisher", free lexical morphemes are book, print, last, year,
local, publish.
A root is the core of a word, he morpheme which determines the meaning of a word, with no affixes attached to it.
Free functional morphemes are morphemes belonging to the class of lexical words, which do not carry semantic content.
In the example above, free functional morphemes are the, be, by, a.
. Bound morphemes are morphemes which cannot occur on their own as separate words, but need to be attached to
another morpheme. There are two main types of bound morphemes: affixed and bound roots.
a. Affixed morphemes are morphemes attached to the beginning or end of another
morpheme, for example -s, -ed, -ing, -ful, -ness, un-, dis-, mis-, -ly. All afixes in English
are bound morphemes and they can precede (called prefixes) or follow (called suffixes)
the other morpheme. Affixes can be further divided into two functional categories,
derivational morphemes and inflectional morphemes.
- Derivational morphemes are affixes (prefixes and suffixes) used for derivating new
words when attached to other morphemes, for example in "sadness" -ness turns
an adjective to a noun, un- implies oppositeness of meaning, -able added to a verb
creates an adjective meaning 'that can be done'.
- Inflectional morphemes, which are always suffixes in English, are used to express
grammatical relations or functions, e.g. -s in "books" implies the plural, -ed
expresses past tense, -er comparative...
b. Bound roots are roots (core of the meaning) which cannot occur on their own as
independent words, but need to be attached to another morpheme. An example of
bound root is the morpheme -ceive which can be found in words such as receive,
conceive, perceive, deceive. The words liberal, liberalise, liberating, liberty contain the
bound root liber-, which is combined with other morphemes and which carries a core
meaning related to freedom and derived from Latin.

The word "unhelpful" consists of three morphemes (un+help+ful) = {negative} + {HELP} + {adjective}. These morphemes
are represented by three morphs: the bound morph prefix un-, followed by the free morph 'help', to which another bound
morph, the suffix -ful, is attached.
-Inflectional morphology
Morphology is traditionally divided into two branches: derivational and inflectional morphology.
Inflectional morphology deals with changes in the form of the words according to the grammatical context. It is concerned
with inflections that carry grammatical meaning and thus allow us to form plurals, past tenses or the comparative degree.
Words change their form if they need to express specific grammatical categories such as gender, number, tense,
Moden English has a more limited presence of inflectional morphology compared to Old English. In present day English
syntax and word order play a grater role in signalling grammatical relations in sentences.
Present day English has regular inflectional suffixes and also some irregular inflections for the members of the word
classes of nouns, verbs, adjectives and few adverbs.
The grammatical categories that apply to nouns are gender, number and case (when indicating possession).
The gender is not expressed in English, singular carries no inflection since it is unmarked, whereas the plural is inflected.
Regular plurals countable nouns are formed by adding -s at the end of the lexeme. Non countable nouns or proper nouns
do not have a plural form.
Irregular plural forms include nouns such as child-children, sheep-sheep, foot-feet, mouse-mice.
Let's analyse some word:
. Cars: consists of the two morphs car+s, which realise the morpheme {CAR}+{plural}.
. Singers: inflected form of the lexeme SINGER which is made up of three morphs sing+er+s,
morpheme {SING}+ {-ER}+{plural}.
. Teeth: inflected form of the lexeme TOOTH, one morph teeth and two morphemes
. Sheep: inflected form of the lexeme SHEEP, one morph, two morphemes {SHEEP}+ {plural}.
. Oxen: inflected form of the lexeme OX, made up of two morphs: ox+en, two morphemes
{OX}+ {plural}.
. Women's: inflected form of the lexeme WOMAN, who morphs: women+'s, three
morphemes {WOMAN}+{plural}+{possessive}.
Regular English lexical verbs have five word-forms:
. -s inflection 3rd person singular, simple present tense.
. -ed inflection, simple past tense.
. -ed inflection, past participle.
. -ing inflection, present participle and gerund.
Irregular verb form the past tense and past participle in different ways and can be grouped according to the type of
process or pattern they show:
. Zero morph: hurt-hurt-hurt, put-put-put, let-let-let, cut-cut-cut. The two forms have no
inflectional suffix.
. Vowel mutation: swim-swam-swum, come-came-come, sing-sang-sung, ring-rang-rung.
Change of the base vowel.
. Vowel mutation and irregular inflection -en: speak-spoke-spoken, take-took-taken, shakeshooke,shaken...

.Replacive morphs: lose-lost-lost, keep-kept-kept, make-made-made...The past tense and

past participle forms are identical and they are formed irregularly
through the replacement of one ore more phonemes with other
Suppletion: go-went-gone, be-was-been. Two or more forms of a lexeme are phonetically
different and seem unrelated.
Modal verbs do not inflect for person and number, and only have two forms: can-could, may-might, shall-should,
. Cooking: COOK, two morphs cook+ing, two morphemes {COOK}+{present participle}
. Taken: TAKE, one morph, two morphemes: {TAKE}+ {past pasticiple}.
. Cut: CUT, one morph, different combination of two morphemes: {CUT}+{present}, {CUT}+
{past},{CUT}+{past participle}.
. Went: GO, one morph, two morphemes {GO}+{past}.
. Runs: RUN, two morphs, two morphemes {RUN}+{3rd person singular present}.
Most adjectives and some adverbs can be graded.
Gradable: I'm a bit nervous, very nervous, extrmely nervous, not nervous at all.
Ungradable: dead or married.
Gradable adjectives and adverbs can be graded to express comprative and superaltive degree.
of short adjectives is formed by adding the suffix -er, the superlative by adding the suffix -est.
Two or more syllable adjectives adopt periphrastic forms with more and most.
Irregular: good,well-better-best
They are suppletive forms.
. Colder: COLD, two morphs cold+er, two morphemes {COLD}+{comparative degree}.
. Worst: BAD, one morph, two morphemes {BAD}+{superlative degree}.

The comparative degree

Some determiners and pronouns are affected by inflection, as they have more than one form depending on the
grammatical context in which they occur.
Determiners such as demonstratives like 'this' and 'that' must express the category of number, we cand fin them in
singular (this,that) or plural (these,those).
Pronouns express the grammatical category of number, but also those of gender and case, since some of them show the
contrast between singular-plural, masculine-feminine, subject-object, possession. We could also add the genitive case
which is expressed by some pronouns and some possessive adjectives (mine,yours,his,her(s),its,our(s),their(s)).
.Him: lexeme HE, one morph, 5 morphemes {HE}+{3rd person}+{singular}+{masculine}+
.His: lexeme HE, one morph, 5 morphemes: {HE}+{3rd person}+{singular}+{masculine}+
3. Syntax
It deals with the structur of larger linguistic units such as phrases, clauses and sentences and with the rules which allow
speakers to combine words into a larger meaningful units.
- Word order
The grammatical function of subject in English is not expressed by case, but by the position of the word or phrase in the

clause and its relation with other constituents.

In English declarative clauses the subject is generally before the verb, while the object goes after it. One difference
between English and Italian is that in present day English the order of constituents is quite fixed, whereas in Italian it can
vary to a certain extent.
- Types of phrases
Words combine with other words and are arranged into larger constituents or phrases.
A phrase is a meaningful syntactic unit which is made up of one or more words. Its minimal form consists of a single word,
but it can also be much longer. A phrase is constructed around a head word, called the head of the phrase.
Accompanying words, which are called modifiers as they define and modify the head, are divided into pre-modifiers (when
they precede the head) and post-modifiers (when they follow the head).
Phrases can be of 5 types:
.noun phrases (NP) : a phrase which has a noun as its head;
.verb phrases (VP) : a phrase which has a verb as its head;
. adjective phrases (AdjP): a phrase which has an adjective as its head;
. adverb phrases (AdvP): a phrase which has an adverb as its head;
. prepositional phrases (PP) : a phrase which has a preposition as its head, but it is always
followed by another element, which is
usually a NP.
- The noun phrase
It consist of a noun head (H) either alone or accompanied by other words before or after it (determiners, premodifiers and
Determiners indicate the specific reference of the noun and they occupy the first position in the NP; modifiers usually
express some charachteristics of the head noun, and some post modifiers complete the menaing od the head noun.
NP phrase can be a pronoun phrase: 'My brother' can be replaced with 'He'.
The role of determiner (Det) can be filled by articles, demonstratives, possessives, quantifiers and numerals.
The role of premodifier (Pre-Mod) can be filled by an adjective or adjective phrase (a new car, an old house..) or by nouns
or NPs (summer clother, a newspaper article...)
The role of post modifier (Post-Mod) can be filled by:
. a PP (an apartment in the heart of Oxford, the old man with a hat...)
. a relative clause (a young girl who was using the pedestrian crossing)
. non-finite clauses (a solitay man walking with his dog, the dress for you to try, many thing to do before Christmas)
. some types of AdjPs (something similar)
. some AdvPs (your holiday abroad, the car outside)
. a that clause (the belief that our children are likely to be spending...)
. appositive NPs, they add information about the head noun by being placed next to it (the President of the United States,
Barack Obama).
The internal structure of phrases can be illustrated by using tree diagrams.
The NP following the preposition is called prepositional complement or complement of the preposition (C).
When one of the constituents elements of a phrase is a clause, it can be considered as a whole unit and not broken down
further into its constituents.
If a PP, an AdjP or a AdvP occur within a NP as pre or post modifiers, we can say that they are embedded in the NP or they
are subordinate to the NP. We can talk about subordination within phrases, as the phrase which acts as a modifier is
subordinate to the other one.
We can also talk about coordination of phrases.

NPS may become more difficult to interpret when there is more than one noun in pre-modifying position.
Post-modification is frequently adopted in academic prose. In particular, PPs are the most common post modifiers.
- The verb phrase
A verb phrase (VP) consist of a head verb, either alone or accompanied by one or more other verbs. The structure of the
English VP is never exceedingly long since it can only consist of a lexical verb accompanied by its auxiliaries. If the VP
contains only one verb, than it is a lexical verb, whereas if there are more verbs there is a lexical verb pre-modified by one
or more auxiliary verbs.
Auxiliary verbs have a specific function in the VP. They are used to express grammatical categories such as aspect, voice
and modality and to signal negation and clause type.
The primary auxiliary BE is used to form the passive voice and the progressive aspect; the primary auxiliary HAVE is used to
form the perfective aspect, while DO is adopted to create the negative and interrogative forms. Modal auxiliaries combine
with the lexical verb to express modality (obligation/necessity), permission/ability, possibility, prediction/volition.
VPs can be finite or non-finite.
A finite VP contains a verb in its finite or tensed form, which means that the verb indicates tense.
A non- finite VP contains a verb in its non-finite or non-tensed form, which means that the verb does not show tense
(e.g. Having been told, to bring, accompanied).
The English VP can give different kinds of information, it can express:
. tense (present or past);
. aspect (unmarked, perfect, progressive or perfect progressive);
. voice (active or passive);
. modality (unmarked or expressing nuances of meaning with modal verbs);
. mood (indicative, subjunctive or imperative);
. negation (positive or negative);
. finiteness (finite or non-finite);
. clause structure type (declarative or interrogative).
Tense is a grammatical category which in English is marked through verb inflections. VPs which signal tense are called
finite VPs. English has only two tenses: present and past. The present tense can also be used to refer to future time. The
simple past can be used also to refer to the present time when the speaker wants to be polite and indirect.
The most common forms to express future time are:
. will/shall+verb: used to predict events based on the present evidence which is not so
obvious, when the future reference is based on a decision taken at the
moment of speaking, to make a promise, to offer to do something, to
make an offer, to talk about plans and intentions.
. be+going+to+infinitive
. the present progressive form: used to talk about something that has already been
arranged and organised
. the present simple: used to make references to fixed events in the future that cannot be
. be to+infinitive: used when we want to refer to immediate future events which are seen as
obligations or parts fixed of a plan.
. be about to +infinitive: used to talk about future events which are considered as occuring
in the immediate future.
Aspect is another grammatical category which is also related to time, since it shows the speaker's attitude towards the

time of an event/process/state. There are two aspects in English: the perfect aspect (refers to completed actions) and the
progressive aspect (ongoing, incomplete action or state).
The progressive aspect indicates that the action is in progress at the time of utterance.
Aspect is not signalles by inflections but through syntactic means: it is constructed using the auxiliary verb BE followed by
the -ing form of the lexical verb.
English uses the present perfect if the situation started in the past and continues to exist in the present time, or has a
relation with the present, while the simple past must be used when the situation took place in a specific moment in the
past and is over.
Voice is another grammatical category which can be expressed by some English verbs. Transitive verbs can occur in the
active or in the passive voice. In the active voice the S is the agent and performs the action expressed by the VP, while in
the passive voice the S is actually the recipient of the action. Passive VPs can also be constructed using the verb GET and it
is used when one doestn't know or doent's want to specify the agent, or if one wants to highlight the receiver or affected
entity of the action. The passive voice is also frequently adopted in academic journal articles or essays.
The VP can also express a distinction in terms of shades of meaning through the use of modal verbs. There are nine central
modal auxiliary verbs in English: can,could, may, might, shall, should, will, would, must. English has some semi-modals,
which are multi-word verbs which behave like modal verbs. These are need, have to, have got to, ought to, had better,
used to, be supposed to, be going to.
Modal verbs are considered unmarked for tense, although some of them can be used to make time distinctions
(shall/will), while other seem to refer to the past (could, might, would..). Modal auxiliaries express point of view or stance,
they can be divided into three main groups according to their meaning:
. permission/possibility/ability;
. obligation/logical necessity;
. volition/prediction.
Modality can be of two main kinds:
a. Deontic or intrinsic modality. It refers to actions or events that can be controlled by
humans. This type of modality involves permission and ability, obligation and advice,
volition or intention. Modal verbs that can express deontic or intrinsic modality are can,
could, may, might, must, should, have got to, had better, ought to, need to, be supposed
to, will, would, shall, be going to.
b.Epistemic or extrinsic modality refers to different levels of likelihood or certainty of a
specific event or state. It is related to human judgement of whether an event or state is
possible, probable or certain. This type of modality involves possibility, necessity and
prediction. Verbs: may, might, can could, must, have to, have got to, be supposed to,
ought to, will, would, shall, be going to.
-The adjective phrase
It is a phrase which has an adjective as its head. It can consist of a single adjective or of an adjective with pre- and/or
A head adjective is usually pre-modified by an adverb.
Pre-modifiers in AdjPs can be:
. adverbs (extremely important)
. occasionally, a NP (he's fourteen years old)
Post-modifiers in AdjPs can be:
. adverbs (that's not good enough)
. a PP made up of Prep+NP (I'm unhappy with your decision)

. a preposition followed by a VP (I'm bad at cooking)

. a that-clause (I'm pretty sure that I locked the door last night)
. a to-infinitive clause (she seemed to be happy to see me)
. an -ing clause introduced by a preposition (he was unhappy about being sacked)
- The adverb phrase
It is a phrase which has an adverb as its head. Modifiers are similar to the ones found in AdjPs. An AdvP conveys
information related to circumstances such as manner, frequency, time, modality, place, degree and point of view, or it
links clauses.
As regards their syntactic role, AdvPs can modify:
. an AdjP (I'm really angry),
. a VP (she arrived extremely late)
. a clause, if they express modality, point of view (perhaps you should invite her)
- The prepositional phrase
It is a phrase which has a preposition as its head, which i sfollowed by another element, usually a NP. The element that
follows the preposition is called the complement of the preposition (C). The C of the preposition may sometimes be a
clause. PPs can post-modify head nouns as in the following examples: a flat in the city centre, a man with a gun, a bottle of
- Clause elements
Each clause element has a specific gramamtical fucntion in relation to the linguistic system. There are five major clause
elements: subject (S), object (O), verb (V), complement (C) and adverbial (A).
The subject (S) element in a clause is its topic. The S is obligatory in English, and its position is typically before the verb,
except in itnerrogative clauses, where it is placed after the auxiliary verb. In terms of form, the S element is most tipically a
NP or a pronoun.
There are also clauses which contain a dummy S, which do not carry semantic content. The dummy S 'it' or 'there' fills the
S slot before the verb element, but it is semantically empty, while a second S follows the verb and is called extrasposed S.
The construction with 'there' as a dummy S is called 'existential there' structure.
The lexical verb in the VP dictates what type of clause element, if any, can follow the verb. This close relationship between
the lexical verb and the other elements preceding or following the verb in the clause is called 'verb complementation'.
Verbs can be one-place verbs (they combine only with a S), two-place verbs (they combine with a S and another element),
three-place verbs (with an S and other two elements). Depending on the verb complementation or valency pattern they
allow, lexical verbs can be classified as follows:
. intransitive: clause pattern S+V, the verb requires no complementation, it only requires a S.
. monotransitive: clause pattern S+V+Od, the verb requires a direct object.
. ditransitive: clause pattern S+V+Oi+Od, the verb requires two objects, an indirect and a
direct object.
. complex transitive: two clause patterns: 1. S+V+Od+Co or 2. S+V+Od+A. The verb requires
a direct object followed byeither an object complement or an
obligatory adverbial.
. copular: two clause patterns: 1. S+V+Cs or 2. S+V+A. The verb requires a subject
complement or an obligatory adverbial.
The verb 'make' can take both monotransitive and complex transitive patterns.
A clause can be divided into two parts: the subject and the predicate. The predicate consists of the verb element and its

verb complementation.
The object element follows the verb and it is affected by it. Objects only occur after transitive verbs. There are two types
of objects: direct (Od) and indirect (Oi).
The direct object refers to the entity which is directly affected by the process or action denoted by the verb.
Note that when the direct object is a pronoun, it needs to be in its accusative case.
The indirect object is the entity which receives something or benefits from the action or process expressed by the verb.
The indirect object is found only with ditransitive verbs (give, tell, buy, bring, show...). The indirect object is usually placed
between the verb and the direct object and immediately follows the verb element.
It is typically a NP, but it can also be a prepositional clause. The indirect object can be paraphrased using the prepositions
'to' or 'for'.
The complement (C) is an obligatory clause element which characterises or describes the S or the O, providing information
about them. There are two types of complement: subject complement (Cs) and object complement (Co).
The subject complement follows a copular verb such as be, feel, seem, appear, look, remain, stay, become, turn, sound,
taste. The Cs corresponds to the Italian 'complemento predicativo del soggetto'.
The object complement follows the direct object it characterises, and occurs with complex transitive verbs such as make,
elect, consider, name, find, regard, call, see, get.
Adverbials (A), also called adjuncts, are usually optional elements added to the main, obligatory elements of a sentence.
They can be of different types:
. Circumstance adverbials: they add information about the circumstances of the event,
situation or state described by the clause. They
answer the
questions Where? When? How? How much? Why?
long? They can be adverbials of place, time,
manner, process,
reason, purpose, condition, degree.
. Stance adverbials: they add extra information about the speaker's feelings, attitude and
opinion towards what is being said by the clause. Examples are 'to be
honest, frankly, luckily,definitely, perhaps,surprisingly'.
. Linking adverbials: they connect clauses or parts of clauses, therefore they do not add
information as to what the clause is about. Instead they have a
linking function. (however, in conclusion...)
The syntactic or grammatic role of adverbial can be filled by:
. adverbs and AdvP
. PPs
. NPs
. subordinate clauses
Adverbials are usually optional. However, some verbs require As to complete their meaning. In such cases we refer to an
obligatory adverbial, since the clause would be incomplete if we omitted it. Obligatory adverbials typically express place or
direction, but they can also add information regarding manner or time. The difference between a Complement and an
Obligatory Adverbial may be difficult to understand. Cs are those obligatory elements which provide information about,
describe and characterise the S or the O. Obligatory adverbials are those clause elements which provide information about
the circumstances of an event, whose presence is needed in order to complete the meaning of specific verbs.
- Types of clauses

Phrases combine to form clauses. A clause is a larger grammatical unit which consist of one or more phrases and which
typically contains a VP around which other elements may be added. We can distinguish between:
. finite vs. non-finite clauses: whether the VP is finite, i.e. it shows tense, or non-finite, i.e. it does not signal tense and can
thus be an infinitive, gerund or participle.
. main clauses vs. subordinate clauses: whether the clause can stand on its own or whether it cannot stand alone. Main
clauses tend to be in finite form, while subordinate can be finite or non-finite.
. declarative, interrogative, imperative, exclamative clauses
. simple clauses, compund clauses, complex clauses: according to their structure, clauses can be classified as simple clauses
if they consist of a main clause only, compound clauses if they are made up of coordinate clauses, or complex clauses if
they consist of a main and a dependent clause.
- Main clauses
Main clauses are classified into four major clause types:
. Declarative clauses typically have a SV structure, in which the S element is followed by the V element. They usually
express statements and convey information. In declarative clauses the S is typically in initial position; thefore this structure
is unmarked for such clauses.
However, other less typical structure are also possible, they are called marked structure. The S may follow an A or another
element. A change of structure also implies emphasis.
. Interrogative clauses have a VS structure, with or without a Wh- word, and are characterised by the use of an auxiliary in
initial position. They can also be used to make request, suggestions, offers or to give orders. They are more frequent in
A particular kind of interrogative clauses is the 'question tag', which is a typical English feature used only in covnersation.
A question tag consists of an auxiliary verb followed by a personal pronoun and it is a yes/no question which is added to a
statement made by the speaker. If the clause is positive the queston tag is negative and vice versa.
Question tag are used when the speaker is not sre of what they're saying.
There are also less frequent cases in which the main clause and the tag have the same polarity, i.e. they are both
affirmative or negative. These are called 'constant polarity tags', and they express disapproval, sarcasm or surprise.
. Imperative clauses do not contain an overt S but have a V structure. The typical function of imperative clauses is to
express directives. However, they can also be used to make invitations or requests.
. Exclamative clauses can have various structures, but they typically consist of 'what' or 'how' followed by SV structure.
The verb may be omitted.
The 7 basic clause patterns are:
. S + V : She is running
. S + V + A : She lives in Milan
. S + V + Cs : He's Spanish, you look wonderful
. S + V+ Od : She is reading a book
. S + V + Oi + Od : I've brought you some coffee, I've sent a letter (Od) to my friend (Oi PP)
. S + V + Od + Co : His friends call him Jimmy, They elected Obama President
. S + V + Od + A : I've put the plates on the table, she drove him to the airport
The above patterns are the unmarked, there can also be more complex patterns. Other variations which create more
complex patterns involve changing the order of constituents. One example is 'clefting', which divides a clause into two
parts, each with a verb, and has the function of placing focus on a specific element.
There are two types of clefting, ' it-clefts ' and 'wh-clefts'.
It clefts are made up of the pronoun 'it' followed by the verb 'be' , which is in turn followed by the element that needs to
be brought into focus, and a relative clause.
The unmarked declarrative clause 'This man hit the boy' can be turned into the marked cleft structure 'It was this man that

hit the boy'.

Wh-cleft structure consist of a clause introduced by a wh- word, usually what, contaning the V, followed by the verb be
and the element which is to be brought into focus.
The unmarked clause 'I want a book for Christmas' can be turned into the marked wh-cleft structure ' What i want for
Christmas is a book'.
- Coordination and subordination
Coordination is the linking of a main clause with another main clause, through coordinators (and, but, or). Subordination is
the joining of a main clause with a subordinate clause, through subordinators (if, when, although, because, who, which,
Coordinate clauses form a compound sentence. When two clauses are linked to each other through a subordinating
junction we have a complex sentence.
- Subordinate clauses
They are usually joined to a main clause either as a clause element or embedded as a modifier in a phrase which functions
as a clause element.
. Finite subordinate clauses
They contain a Vp which is marked for tense. They can be divided into four categories according to the meaning or
function and their relationship with the main clause:
a. Nominal clauses
Their function is similar to that of a NP. They are usually introduced by 'that' or by a 'wh-word'.
That clauses: That this was Parliament's intention is clear from the beginning. (S)
We believe that young students are the future of the country. (Od)
The important is that you feel better. (Cs)
I am glad that you come with us. (Post-mod of AdjP)
Wh- clauses: What I can't understand is why you lied to me. (S)
I don't understand how they could do this to me. (Od)
I wonder whether I should apologise. (Od)
b. Relative clauses
It tipycally functions as Post-Mod in a NP. Its role is to expand tha meaning of the head noun by defining or adding
information about it.
Relative clauses can be defining or non-defining.
Defining relative clauses define the head noun, as in 'The man who i scrossing the road is my French teacher'.
Non-defining relative clauses provide extra information about the head noun, they describe it, as in 'Benigni,who won
1999's Best Foreing Film Oscar for Life is Beautiful, has long been an outspoken critic of Mr Berlusconi'.
c. Adverbial clauses
They function as adverbial clause elements in a main clause. They usually describe circumstances such as manner, place,
time, condition, degree, frequency. The most common types of adverbial clauses are of time, place (introduced by 'where'
or 'wherever'), concession (introduced by although, evene if, however, while), reason (because, since, as, for, in that,
seeing that), purpose (in order that, so as to, so that), result (so, so that), condition (introduced by if, unless, in case, as
long as, on condition that, provided that).
Conditional clause + main clause = conditional sentence (periodo ipotetico). 3 Types:
Type 1: the action in the subordinate clause is quite probable or certain.
'If you do this, i won't speak to you ever again'.
Type 2: the action in the subordinate clause is improbable, or the supposition contrasts with
known fact. ' If we lived closer, we would spend more time together'.

Type 3: the action in the subordinate clause is impossible, since it refers to a past time and
the condition did not come about and can no longer take place.
'If I had known that you were coming, I would have picked you up at the airport'.
d. Comparative clauses
They are introduced by 'as' or 'than' and they post-modify an adjective or an AdvP where there is a gradable adjective or
adverb in its comparative form.
. Non-finite subordinate clauses
They are not marked for tense or modality. All non-finite clauses must be subordinate, since they cannot stan on their
own. They also usually do not have a S. There are three main types of non- finite clauses: infinitive clauses, -ing clauses
and -ed clauses.
a. Infinitive clauses can play various syntactic roles, since they can function as:
S: To deny this is to abandon all hope for liberal education
Cs: My only aim now is to find a job
Co: The interviewers considered the candidate to be unsuitable for the job
Oi: I want you to go away
A: To win a match you'll have to improve your backhand
Mod in a NP: It is a stupid thing to do
Mod in an AdjP: He still felt too weak to stand for long.
b. -Ing clauses can also have different syntactic roles since they can function as
S: Helping people with learning disabilities is often a very gradual process
Cs : The main problem is finding a well paid job
O : She can't stop thinking about him
c. -Ed clauses can function as
Od: I need to have my car repaired as soon as possible
A: Seen from outside, it is a symbol of the housewives' enslavement
Mod in a NP: The subjects chosen are wide ranging.
There are also verbless clauses, which are subordinate clauses that do not contain a verb element, such as 'Although not a
tall man, he had considerable stature'.
1. The study of words
Lexicography covers the principles and the practices which are applied to the writing of different types of dictionaries and
vocabulary reference works.
-The dynamic nature of lexis
Lexis is the most dynamic level of language, the most easily and deeply affected by social and cultural change. The lexicon
of a language can form and develop through three different processes of lexical innovation:
. Coinages: the creation of completely new words. They are very rare and are often used in a
creative way in trademarks or in advertising.
. Loanwords: the borrowing of words from other languages. The number of loanwords varies in different languages and at
different times depending on the political strenght and culturale prestige of te donor language.
. Word-formation processes: various ways of modifying already existing words. In the Anglo Saxon tradition, this area is
referred to as 'derivational morphology', i.e. that area of morphology that covers the processes of forming new words
from already existing ones.It has been classified and labelled by linguists in different ways:
a. affixation: the addition of prefixes, suffixes to a base, e.g. moral-->moral-ity

b. the addition of neoclassical combining forms of Greek or Latin origin in initial position
such as mini or maxi or in final position such as -crat or -phile.
c. compounding: the combination of two or more existing lexemes to form a new one
d. various types of shortening (flu for influence)
e. blending: the fusion of two words into one
f. semantic shift: the change of meaning of an existing lexeme
g. functional shift: the change of grammatical function without any formal change
Word formation processes can still be detected in words that have undergone a process of lexicalisation. Word formation
processes are at the basis of the concept of word families.
A word family consists of a headword accompanied by its inflected and derived forms. The family around the headword
'nation' has several members such as 'nations,national, nationality, nationalism, nationalist...'
- The complexity of meaning
The term 'meaning' is often used in a general way to refer to semantics. Semantic is the scientific study of the meaning of
words and it is a very complex and challenging area, where several competing theories have been developed.
An important and natural concept to start from is that of 'reference'. A 'referent' is the entity in the real world that a word
refers to, or denotes.
The concept of reference is less straightforward than expected also when we refer to abstract nouns or non existing
entities or when we talk about a whole category, e.g. birds. In the last case no specific real bird is referred to. Rather we
conceive a general image in our minds, the concept of 'bird' based on our experience and containing a sufficient number
of distintive characteristics, such as animal/ feathers/ wings/ lays eggs. These socalled 'prototypes' will embody all the
costituents features and will be sorrounded by a fuzzy area of less central examples.
An important semantic distinction is between words that have only one referent (monoreferential terms) and words that
express several meanings (polysemous words). Monoreferential terms are used to refer to specific objects and concepts.
Polysemous words may acquire a specialised meaning and become monoreferential in a specific context.
Most general and common words have several meanings. Researchers distinguish between cases where the meaning are
related (polysemy) and cases where they are totally unrelated (homonymy).
Polysemous words are usually covered in the same entry whereas homonyms may be given two different entries.
Finally, there are words that are pronounced in the same way, but have totally unrelated meanings (HOMOPHONES).
One way of looking at lexical meaning is that of trying to define a word in terms of its smaller components. The words
'cow', 'bull', 'calf' can be defined through positive and negative sematinc features:
cow= + animal + female
+gives milk
bull= + animal -female
-gives milk
calf= + animal +male/female -adult
-gives milk
Words do not exist in isolation. Their meanings are also identified through a network of sense relations they establish with
other words in the language.
Words are related to one another through 3 main types of sense relation, also called choice, or paradigmatic, relations:
. Similarity: words can be synonyms when they have the same referent and meaning. It is
rarely the case that two words are complete synonyms.
. Opposition: words are antonyms when they express opposite or complementary meanings.
. Hyperonymy: Hypernonyms or superordinates, are a category of words that are more
general in meaning and subsume others that are subordinate to them, or
hyponyms. For example, tulips, roses and violets are contained in the
superordinate category of flowers.
- Words keep company with other words

Words do not only realte to one another through the network of sense relations mentioned above. They also keep
company with other words and attract one another in ways that cannot be explained only through grammatical rules.
The field of phraseology has traditionally studied the well-known expressions of folk culture such as proverbs,
commonplaces, quotations ans slogans. However, it has recently extended to include a vast range of multi word lexical
patterns, e.g. mobile phone, African-American, good afternoon...
Phraseological phenomena are described through a plethora of different labels which highlight their communciative,
semantic and formal properties:
. pragmatic idioms, such as fixed or semi-fixed social formulae,
. discourse organisers, multiword units that are used to structure discourse, e.g. to sum up
. lexical collocations, the preferred co-occurrence of two lexemes that belong to different
word classes and retain their indipendent meanings,
. idioms, expression longer than a word and shorter than a sentence whose meaning cannot
be derived from the sum of the meanings of its components,
e.g. to spill the beans = spifferare segreti
. binomials: patterns made up of two or more fixed elements, e.g. to and fro
. similes, that is stereotypical comparisons
. proverbs, commonplaces, famous quotations and slogans: usually long self-contained
statements that express popular wisdom.
- What does knowing a word mean?
A first rather simplified distinction should be made between words that we recognise when we hear or read them, and
words that we currently use. Socalled receptive or 'passive' lexical competence is always broader than 'productive, active'
lexical competence.
Knowledge that is required to define the concept of lesxical competence:
. to pronounce it and spell it correctly,
. to identify the parts it may be composed of, and their grammatical functions,
. to understand the referents or conceptual meanings it refers to,
. to be aware of the network of sense relations it is part of,
. to know what grammatical patterns it occurs in and what other words it can or must
collocate with,
. to be aware of where, when and how often it is used in communication.
- Where are words stored?
The answer that some people would give is that words are stored in dictionaries.
Dictionaries vary in relation to a number of features. The msot imporant ones are:
. the number of languages they cover
. the number of lemmas they include
. whether the approach is diachronic (providing information on the history of words) or
synchronic (focusing mainly on the language of a specific period)
. the areas of language covered, such as general language, specialised areas of knowledge or
specific linguistic areas
. the addressees, that is either native speakers or foreign learners of a particular language
. the more or less tolerant attitude towards new words, foreign words, slang expressions
. the focus on 'words' rather than on 'things'
. the organisation according to either alphabetical order or semantic fields
. the type of pubblication, from the traditional paper format to the electronic one.
We should remember that no dictionaries, not even the unabridged ones, can be exhaustive because new lexemes are

continuously being produced and specialised terminologies are too numerous to be included in genral dictionaries.
Corpus linguistics is a fairly recent and flourishing trend in the study of language which has moved rapidly from
avant-garde groups to mainstream linguistics thanks to the development of computational tools.
A corpus is a collection of naturally-occurring texts available in machine-readable form and assumed to be representative
of a given language, or a particular register of it.
Lexicology and lexicography are the areas that first and most benefited from a corpus approach.
The socalled 'mental lexicon' is a fascinating research topic. Such a large number of words must be organised. Our mental
stock is organised through complex networks of a different nature, which include meaning and syntactic combination,
form and sound.
What can be said is that the human mental lexicon is very dynamic, moving from the babbling and the few first words of
babies to the fast-expanding vocabulary of children.
In conclusion, words have both a mental and a linguistic dimension and can be observed and described by
psycholinguistics, linguists and lexicographers.
- Major trends in lexical research
According to the Bible, God gave Adam the 'naming power', that is the power to give names to all what was in the Garden
of Eden, but nothing else is said about the nature of the words chosen. Do words mirror reality by providing 'natural'
albels to things, or are they linked to their referents in a conventional way? Some words and expressions that we use still
reflect their iconic nature, like onomatopoeic words. Most words in modern languages, however, have only arbitrary
connections with their referents.
Languages are made of words belonging to different historical layers which both reflect and express major historical
events. Many things allowed linguists to retrace a common language, called Indoeuropean, as the source of most
European languages. Many interesting studies have been carried out on etimology, that is the origin and the history of
words through centuries.
In the second half of the 20th century, a reaction took place againts the marginalisation of the study of lexis. A scholar,
Halliday, coined the label of 'lexico-grammar' to say that lexis and grammar are not considered as two separate
components of language.
Language is seen as following two different types of principle. The open choice principle refers to that part of language
that functions according to predictable rules. The idiom principle, instead, adknowledges the importance in language of a
high number of fixed or semi-fixed expressions that are made up of several words but constitute semantic units.

2. The lexicon of present-day English

- The size of the English lexicon: dictionaries, corpora and lexical competence
Measuring the size of the lexicon of a language is not a easy task. Three approaches can help provide some answers:
reference to the number of entries in dictionaries, counting the different lexemes in corpora and evaluating the lexica
competence of native speakers.
The most authoritative unabridged dictionary of English, the Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles (OED),
consists of 20 volumes + 4 volumes of Additions and contains about 616.500 main headwords and related derived words
and phrases.
Some of the words contained are no longer used, and are labelled as archaic or literary.
In 2000 an online version of the OED was released, which has made seraching faster and more effective. The decision to
include a new word or a new meaning in a dictionary is not an easy one. A word must have been used for some time
before being recorded in a dictionary. For this reason there is always a mismatch between dictionaries and actual usage.
All the most important varieties of English such as those of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India and South Africa have
developed national dictionaries to account for the peculiarities of their lexicon.
Monolingual general learner's dictionaries are addressed to EFL learners. They provide various types of information that
are relevant to EFL learners rather than to native speakers. A typical entry will contain the following:
. spelling variants
. phonological transcription
. grammatical and syntactic information
. definitions of the different senses
. examples of usage
. pictures
. sense relations
. register labels
. frequent lexical collocations and phraseological phenomena such as idioms or proverbs
. usage notes and typical learner errors.
High frequency words are the 2.000 most frequent words and are likely to cover a vast proportion of any type of text in
English. Next to high-frequency words there are three other groups of words:
. academic words
. technical words
. low-frequency words
Since the 1960s there has been a growing use of the electronic databases known as 'corpora' to gather quantitative
information about the lexicon of English. There are several corporra available for English and several software
programmes which provide different types of word count such as:
. a frequency list of individual word-forms
. a frequency list of lemmas
. an alphabetic list where each word-form is accompanied by frequency information
. a frequency list of the members of the various grammatical classes.
The 20 most frequent words in the BNC:
The, of, and, a, in, to, it, is, to, was, I, for, that, you, he, be, with, on ,at, by
The most frequently used words are grammatical words including some forms of the auxiliary 'be'. The first lexical words
appear after the number 50 in the list.
The 20 most frequent words in the spoken subcorpora in BNC:
The, I, you, and, it, a, 's (verb), to (infinitive), of, that, -n't, in, we, is, do, they, er, was, yeah
The 20 most frequent words in the written subcorpora in BNC:
The, of, end, in, to (inf), is, to (prep), was, it, for, that, with, he, be, on, I, by, 's (gen), at.

While most grammatical words are present in both lists, the interactive and more informal nature of spoken discourse is
signalled by the higher frequency of the first and second person singular and plural pronouns, interjections and contracted
verb forms. It should be noted that the " 's " form in the written subcorpus does not stand for the contracted third person
singular of the verb to be, but for the 's genitive.
The 10 most frequent nouns are: time, year, people, way, man, day, thing, child, Mr, government.
The most commonly mentioned animals are: horse, dog, cat, sheep, mouse, cow.
The most frequent 10 adjectives are: other, good, new, old, great, high, small, different, large, local.
The top ten frequency adverbs are: never, always, often, ever, sometimes, usually, once, generally, hardly, no longer.
Not even native speakers know all the words of their language. Besides, native lexical competence varies considerably
according to age and education.
To sum up, it is impossible to define the size of English lexis in a precise way.
- The mixed nature of the English lexicon
Present-day English is the result of many centuries of historical, social and cultural events. Its various historical layers are
more immediately reflected in lexis than in grammar or phonology. English belongs to the Germanic branch of
Indoeuropean family of languages and has a core of words of Anglo Saxon origin. We can recognise them because they are
usually monosyllabic or short words that refer to events, concepts and objects of everyday life: house, food, time, year,
way, man, day, thing...
However, present-day English also contains a very important lexical component from calsssical and romance languages,
which has entered the language at different times in history and appeears to constitute almost 60% of the lexicon. These
words of Latin, Greek and Romance origin are usually polysillabic words such as parliament, reluctance, aluminium,
government, memorandum, contemporary, biography...
The names of many academic disciplines or scientific terms are of classical origin.
In today's English it's easy to find doublets, ore even triplets, of near-synonyms of germanic and Romance respectively.
One example is that of phrsal verbs, that is, verbs composed of a usually monosyllabic verb and a particle.
Phrasal verbs are more frequently used in colloquial English. They may have a Romace near-synonym:
to find out --> discover
to give in --> surrender
to put up with --> tolerate
to go on --> continue
to blow up --> explode
Kingly (Anglo saxon)
regal (Latin)
royal (French)
in a kingly manner, regal powers, the royal family
Italians may be helped by some words that are similar in form and meaning and constitute 'good friends'. On the other
hand, 'false friends' may prove misleading at all stages of learning: actually, agenda (ordine del giorno), argument, attitude
(atteggiamento), brave, commodity (merce), consistent (coerente), delude (illudere), director, disgrace (vergogna),
dramatic (teatrale), editor (redattore), educated (istruito), eventually, facility (struttura), factory, gymnasium, ingenuity
(ingegnosit), lecture (lezione), library, magazine, major (importante), morbid (morboso), pretend (fingere), relevant
(attinente), sympathetic (comprensivo), traduce (diffamare).
The phenomenon of borrowing words from other languages, which was particularly strong from the Norman Conquest in
the 12th Century to the 18th century, has been gradually reducing in favour of internal processes of word formation and
semantic change.
Owing to its role as a powerful world language, English has become a 'donor' language which influences many other
languages in the world, from French to Japanese. In Italy che popularity of Anglicism has evolved from the educated
Anglomania of the 18th century to the widespread present day usage both in everyday communication and specialised
fields such as computing and economics.

Some people approve of the widespread use of English words in the name of language freedom and efficiency in
international communication. Others see the phenomenon as a sign of Anglo-American imperialism and would favour the
more mother tongue oriented policies which have been adopted by other European countries like France and Spain.
- Variation in the use of English lexis
Several approches have been developed by linguists who are interested in looking at language as a social phenomenon. A
useful distinction is between user-related and use-related variation. Variation. of course, affects all levels of language but
here the focus will be on lexical variation.
Lexical usage varies according to users, that is, as a consequence of some permanent or personal characteristics, such as
where people are born and spend their lives.
British English
American English
car park
parking lot
ground floor
first floor
public school
private school
state school
public school

secondary school
high school
hall of residence
1st year universary student
2nd year university student
Other dimendions of variation have to do with the use language users make of language, that is what they are talking
about (field or topic), who they are addressing (personal tenor) and whether they are speaking or writing (medium). The
interaction of these dimensions is known as the 'register model'.
The type of relationship between participants will also affect the choice of words in communication. Relationships may be
symmetrical or asymmetrical, frienly or distant.
Moreover, speech can count on paralinguistic features such as prosody and gestures and the choice of vocabulary is
greatly affected by the degree of dependence on the context and the interactive nature of the exchange.
Different types of texts, or genres, can be identified according to the function of the text or communicative event,
whether it is inform, to persuade, to instruct. Some examples of different genres may be a handbook which provides
non-experts with guidelines for the use of a software programme, an advertisement for expensive make of car, a brochure
advertising a holiday destination to prospective tourists.
- Word formation processes
Processes of word formation internal to the language have played a predominant role in the development of lexis from
the 20th century onwards.
Semantic change: change of meaning of existing lexemes. Most English words tend to be
polysemous and new senses are aesily added to existing ones to meet new practical and expressive needs.
Compounding: combination of two or more free morphemes to form a lexeme with a new meaning. Compounding has
been used frequently since the Old English period and remains one of the most widespread ways of extending lexis in
present-day English. The most frequent combination is that of noun+noun (Countryhouse), then we can also find
adjective+adjective (blue-green), adjective+noun (green tea), noun+adjective (user-friendly), verb+noun (checklist),
verb+verb (stir-fry), verb+ particle (handout).
In the compound 'bedroom', 'bed' modifies the central element 'room', which is referred to as the 'head'. In 'paperback',
the reference is external, this type of compound is exocentric. In some compounds the elements are on the same level,
such as African-American.
Compounds are sometimes not easily distinguishable from noun phrases.
There are also more complex compounds like mother-in-law, lead-free petrol, made in Italy, over the top. The tendency of
English is to create compact and semantically rich compounds by modifying their central element , or head, to the left.
In Italian, we modify them to the right.
Affixation: combination of a free morpheme with at least one bound morpheme which is
not inflectional. The number of prefixes and especially suffixes is very high in
English. Prefixes do not change the class of the word they modify: for example
'rewrite' remains a verb (class-maintening).
The main meanings expressed by prefixes are:
. pejorative: maltreat, miscalculate, pseudoscientific
. degree or size: overconfident, miniskirt, supernatural, hypercritical

. attitude: pro Obama, antiwar, counter-revolution

. spatial, both concrete and abstract, relations: intercultural, subnormal
. time and order, postmodern, ex-president, preschool, recycle
. numerical values: bilingual, polyglot, multilingual, unisex.
One of the most productive processes is that of deriving nouns from verbs by adding the suffix -er. The highest number of
suffixes form nouns, like -ation, -dom, -ee, -ery, -ess, -ette, -hood, -ism, -ity, -let, -ness, -ment, -ship.
Some of the suffixes that signals adjectives are the following: -alible, -al/ial, -ar, -ary, -ed, -esque, -ful, -ic, -ish, -ive, -less,
-like, -ly, -ous, -some, -y.
The are few verb suffixes, like -ate, -en, -ify, -isel-ize (spacialise UK/ specialize USA).
Many prefixes or suffixes are of neoclassical, either Greek or Latin, origin; for example micro-, macro-, bio-, eco-, immuno-,
multi-, photo-, neuron- and -ology, -crat are very productive in the fields of science and learning. Some of them may
combine with each other even though they are not free but bound morphemes.
Some new suffixes have appeared that are linked to recent events and social trends, like -sscape, -aholic, -thon. The suffix
-gate has been derived from the name Watergate, which is a public building in Washington DC where in the 1970s two
journalists uncovered a scandal concerning the then President of USA Richard Nixon. -Gate has become a suffix of
exposure of a scandal.
Post- is used to refer to cultural and historical phenomena as in postmodernism.
The process of changing the class of a word without any change of form has moved from marginal to central after Early
Modern English due to the reduction of inflectional morphology in the language. The most common types are:
. noun to verb, e.g. from 'bottle' to 'to bottle'
. verb to noun, e.g. from 'to dump' to 'dump' as the place where there's rubbish
. adjective to verb, e.g. from 'dry' to 'to dry'
. adverb to verb, e.g. from 'out' to 'to out'
A minor related process is that of backformation, which derives the verb 'to edit' from the noun 'editor'.
Other very productive processes in present-day English are based on reduction. Acronyms are composed of the initial
letters of the components of a complex expression.
Clipping: cut the beginning or end of a long word. E.g. flu, blog...
Blends: merging of two often longer words to form a new one with a corresponding fusion of their meanings. E.g. smog
from smoke+fog, brunch from breakfast+lunch.
- Phraseological phenomena
In English, as in many languages, most everyday spoken and written communciation is based on prefabricated social
routines. Opening greetings, leave-talkings, politeness formulae, refusing an offer, apologizing and expressing sympathy,
transactional formulae.
Multi-word lexical patterns also play an important role as discourse organisers.
Starting a lecture: let me start with, what I want to talk about is...
Explaining: in other words, what I means is, that is...
Exemplifying: for example, for instance, to give an example...
Concluding: to conclude, in conclusion, to sum up.
Lexical collocations are a very pervasive feature of English. They affect the way in which the major word classes, that is
nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, co-occur with one another in a natural and appropriate way.
This are of study is a fairly recent development of research, which has been enhanced by corpus linguistics methodology.
Some lexemes co-occur rather freely with other lexemes, while others appear to be more limited or totally restricted in
their combinability. One example of the latter is the verb 'to shrug' in the meaning of 'alzare le spalle' showing that you
are not interested in, or do not care about, something. Shrug can either stand by itself or co-occur with 'shoulders'.
The selection of acceptable collocations proves especially difficult when several options are possible but the choice is not
completely free.

At the end of the analysis one can draw some conclusions and decide which word is the best. Other phraseological
phenomena are less frequently used in English than lexical collocations but constitute a fascinating are of study for their
creative and culture-specific nature. One such category is that of 'idioms'.
To give someone the green light: to give someone permission to do something
To give someone a piece of one's mind: to tell someone exactly what you think, angry
White lie: a lie told to avoid making someone upset
To beat about the bush: menare il can per l'aia
To go Dutch: fare alla romana
It's not cricket: it's not fair
A particular type of idiom is the binomial, which is made up of two parts usually connected by 'and':
. ups and downs. su e gi
. to and fro: avanti e indietro
. pros and cons: pro e contro
. sick and tired: stufo marcio
. home and dry: sano e salvo
. bags and baggage: armi e bagagli
Another interesting phraseological phenomena is that of 'similes'. In English the fixed pattern 'as...as...' can be filled either
with established expression or with humorous and personal options.
Idioms are meant to express traditional wisdom even though they are often contradictory in what they say.
Sometimes proverbs are announced by fixed expression such as 'As they say...' They are often used as fragments in texts
and exploited in headlines and advertising.
- Words, culture and society
The language we speak contains our world view (universalistic approach), others think that reality influences the language
and viceversa.
What is shared by many language users is the experience that new words regularly appear in a language to answer the
need to name new, or until the unnamed, realities or replace overused expressions that no longer match people's
sensibilities and communicative needs.
In 1950s new terms for the culture appeared, as 'beat generation, hippies,hi-fi, transistor, video tape'. In 1960s new types
of music and some drugs became fashionable (twist, acid).
In the 1970s the environment became an importnt issue, and new words like 'green, global warming' were born. In the
1980s the financial boom and the following crisis brought about 'white knight', to refer to a company which invests in
another company in order to prevent it being sold to a larger one. In 1990s many Internet terms developed.
Unfortunately, the 20th century witnessed two World War. Wars introduced new names for old and new weapons and
combat stretegies (war language).
The area of Computing and Information Technology have developed at great speed since the mid 20th century anda have
acquired a role of paramount importance in the modern world. The terminology in this area can be divided into three
. words borrowed from the general language, which have acquired a specialised meaning
also through metaphorical transformation. E.g. program, hardware, software, disk,
address, window...Colloquial expression are often found sich as 'bug', with the meaning of
a fault in the system, and 'spam', the unwanted sending of email.
. words derived from existing words through word formation processes such as
compounding (floppy disk, hard disk), blends (blog from web+log, bit from binary+digit) or
derivation (cyber-->cybernetics).
. Acronyms and abbreviations of very long technical expressions, eg. CD-ROM= compact disk

read only memory, FAQ).

An important topic has been that of race. Significant changes have taken place in the way black people have been labelled
through time: from the 19th century 'negro, nigger', to the proud adoption of 'black' on the part of the black community
itself during the '70s, to the current expression African-American.
The change sees the moving away from the focus on physical differences to the pride of belonging to an ethnic and
cultural community.
A similar controversy has been going on around the so-called linguistic sexism of English. This can be seen in the still
prevailing of male-oriented expression such as 'postman, businessman' and in the negative overtone of some
female-oriented expression such as witch-wizard, spinster-bachelor.
Besides, when the sex distinction is not made explicit in the language, these words appear to create strong masculine