Glossary of Grammatical Terms


Revision 1.19 of this page, last updated on 2003/02/18.
(C)opyright 1994-2003 Mark H. Nodine


1: an articulative effort giving prominence to one syllable over adjacent syllables. 2: a mark used in writing or printing to indicate a specific sound value, stress, or pitch, to distinguish words otherwise identically spelled, or to indicate that an ordinarily mute vowel should be pronounced. People with different accents might use an accent mark to indicate they accent a different syllable.

asserting that the person or thing represented by the grammatical subject performs the action represented by the verb. In the last sentence, the subject "person or thing" performs the action "perform", so the sentence is in the active voice. In the last sentence, the subject "subject" performs the action "perform", so the sentence is also in the active voice. (Repeat the last sentence ad infinitum.)

a word that serves as a modifier of a noun to denote a quality of the thing named, to indicate its quantity or extent, or to specify a thing as distinct from something else. It answers the questions "which?", "how many?", and "what kind of?", though probably not all three at once.

a word serving as a modifier of a verb, an adjective, another adverb, a preposition, a phrase, a clause, or a sentence, and expressing some relation of manner or quality, place, time, degree, number, cause, opposition, affirmation, or denial. It answers the questions "where?", "when?", or "how?", even if you didn't ask.

a grammatical construction in which two typically adjacent nouns referring to the same person or thing stand in the same syntactical relation to the rest of a sentence. For example, in "the rally of the opposition Labor Party", "Labor Party" is in apposition with "opposition".

one of a small set of words or affixes (as a, an, and the) used with nouns to limit or give definiteness to the application. English has an indefinite article (a, an) and a definite article (the). Welsh has only a definite article. I'm sure whole articles have been written about articles.

the process of conforming one sound to another to aid in pronunciation. For example, in the phrase "in Colorado", the "n" in "in" becomes palatalized because of the following "C". It may take you a while to assimilate this concept.


an inflectional form of a noun, pronoun, or adjective indicating its grammatical relation to other words. Neither English nor Welsh has cases for nouns or adjectives. English has cases for pronouns: I/me/my, he/him/his, she/her/her, you/you/your and they/them/their are the subjective, objective, and possessive cases, respectively.

a group of words containing a subject and predicate and functioning as a member of a complex or compound sentence. It is not related to Santa.

denoting a number of persons or things considered as one group or whole. For example, "flock" is a collective noun. Now that you understand this concept, we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief.

the degree of comparison in a language that denotes increase in the quality, quantity, or relation expressed by an adjective or adverb. Some of my definitions may be "silly", but comparative is "sillier".

an added word or expression by which a predicate is made complete. For example, "president" and "beautiful" are complements in "they elected him president" and "he thought her beautiful". The latter also happens to be a compliment.

compound subject
a subject joined together with a conjunction. "Or" or "and" can join together the nouns or clauses. The preceding sentence has a compound subject. Or I suppose a "compound subject" could be one of the king's men living in a walled-in enclosure.

to give in prescribed order the various inflectional forms of something. It is used especially of a verb, in which case it means to give the forms for every person, number, mood, and tense. A preposition can also be conjugated in Welsh.

a word that joins together sentences, clauses, phrases, or words. There are two kinds of conjunctions: coordinating conjunctions (such as "and" and "or") and subordinating conjunctions (such as "but"). There is a conjunction between "Jupiter" and "Mars" (namely, "and").

one of a class of speech sounds characterized by constriction or closure at one or more points in the breath channel. It contrasts with a vowel. Welsh has a couple of consonants that are not consonant with English, such as "ch", "rh" and "ll".


lacking one or more of the usual forms of grammatical inflection. A defective word is nearly always a verb. However, even though the word is defective, you can't get your money back.

two dots placed side-by-side over a vowel. The two dots can have one of two meanings: (1) the vowel is considered a separate vowel, even though it would normally be considered part of a diphthong, or (2) you need to have the paten of your laser printer cleaned. A diaeresis is indicated by a percent sign (%) in these lessons.

a series of two letters that constitute a single sound not predicted by combining the two letters. The phinal two letters of "digraph" phorm a digraph.

a gliding monosyllabic speech item that starts at or near the articulatory position for one vowel and moves to or toward the position for another (as the vowel combination that forms the last part of toy).

direct object
a noun or noun phrase representing the primary goal or the result of the action of its verb. For example, "direct objects" is the direct object of the sentence "I explained direct objects to you".


the degree of comparison in a language that denotes the same quality, quantity, or relation expressed by an adjective or adverb. Many of my definitions are "silly", and "equative" is "as silly". English does not have a separate equative form for adjectives.

added to aid in pronunciation. It is common in spoken Welsh for an epenthetic vowel to be added between the last two consonants. See Section 1.6 and Section E.2 for details.


a quality attached to a noun or pronoun that indicates an abstract category of the individuals are being referred to. Most English nouns are neuter, and English has singular pronouns that are masculine, feminine, and neuter ("he", "she", and "it", respectively). All Welsh nouns are either masculine or feminine.


grammatical mood of a verb that expresses the will to influence the behavior of another, expressive of a command, entreaty, or exhortation. Be imperative, and this sentence will be, too!

a set of verb forms that represents the denoted act or state as an objective fact. Most of our speech is in the indicative mood, like this sentence.

indirect object
a grammatical object representing the secondary goal of the action of its verb. For example, "me" is the indirect object of the sentence "He gave me an example of indirect objects".

Drat! What is an interjection? Oh yeah, it's an ejaculatory utterance usually lacking grammatical connection.

intransitive verb
a verb that does not act on an object. For example, "lobby" is intransitive in the sentence "I lobby for intransitive verbs".


a particular set of inflectional forms of a verb to express whether the action or state it denotes is conceived as fact or in some other manner (as command, possibility, or wish). English and Welsh both have four moods: indicative, imperative, subjunctive, and good.


a quality attached to a noun or pronoun that indicates a category of how many individuals are being referred to. Both English and Welsh have two numbers: singular (one individual) and plural (more than one individual).

a word that is the name of something (as a person, animal, place, thing, quality, idea, or action). All of the nouns in this definition are emphasized.


a noun or noun equivalent either in a prepositional phrase or in a verb construction with the action of a verb directed on or toward it. Objects can be one of two kinds in English: a direct object or an indirect object. There's no reason to object to objects.


a unit of speech expressing some general aspect of meaning or some connective or limiting relation. It can be an article, a preposition or conjunction, or possibly an interjection or adverb. Particles are not dangerous unless they have been accelerated.

asserting that the person or thing represented by the grammatical subject is subjected to or affected by the action represented by the verb. In the last sentence, the subject "person or thing" is acted upon by the verbs "subject" and "affect", so the sentence is in the passive voice. In the last sentence, the subject "subject" is acted upon by the verb "act", so the sentence is also in the passive voice. (Repeat last sentence ad infinitum.)

the next-to-last syllable of a word. Every time I use a "pen", it is the penult of "penult".

a tense of a verb that indicates an action has been completed in the past. "I have been perfected" is in the perfect tense.

formed by the use of function words or auxiliaries instead of by inflection. In other words, stated in other words.

a segment of discourse that pertains to the speaker (first person), to the one spoken to (second person), or the one spoken of (third person). The singular prounouns in English that are first person, second person, and third person are respectively "I", "you", and any of "he", "she", or "it" -- although it may seem weird for "it" to have a person associated with it (namely, third) .

personal pronoun
any pronoun that refers to a noun by person and number.

a group of two or more grammatically related words that form a sense unit expressing a thought. The phrase has the force of a single part of speech, such as a noun or adverb. For example, "two or more grammatically related words" is a phrase representing a noun.

a class of grammatical forms used to denote more than one of some noun or pronoun. Just because you use plurals doesn't mean you believe in pluralism.

a grammatical case that denotes ownership or a relation analogous to ownership. For example, in "owner's manual", the owner is possessive.

the part of a sentence or clause that expresses what is said of the subject and that usually consists of a verb with or without objects, complements, or adverbial modifiers. The predicate excludes the subject itself, which gives it something in common with answers given by politicians.

a word that combines with a noun, pronoun, or noun equivalent to form a phrase that typically has an adverbial, adjectival, or substantival relation to some other word. In English, a preposition is generally considered a bad thing to end a sentence with.

prepositional phrase
a phrase that starts with a preposition, silly! "With a preposition" is a prepositional phrase.

a tense of a verb that indicates an ongoing action. "I am present" is in the present tense.

a word that is used as a substitute for a noun or noun equivalent, takes noun constructions, and refers to persons or things named or understood in the context. For example, "he" is a pronoun. The process of turning a noun into a pronoun is not called "pronounciation".

proper noun
a name belonging to an individual or place. For example, "Amy" and "Cardiff" are proper nouns. Regrettably, so is "Prince Andrew".


relative clause
a dependent clause in apposition with a substantive for the purpose of specifying it. For example, "who works for my father" is the relative clause in the sentence "The man who works for my father goofed." The fact that my father is my relative has nothing to do with it.


a grammatically self-contained speech unit consisting of a word or a syntactically related group of words that expresses an assertion, a question, a command, a wish, or an exclamation. Each sentence must a complete thought.

the form of a pronoun or noun used to reference an object that occurs singly, alone, one-at-a-time, or without any others of its kind around it. For example, "hermit" only occurs in the singular.

the part of a sentence that indicates what acts upon the verb. It is always a noun, pronoun, or noun clause. For example, "explaining grammar" is the subject of the sentence "Explaining grammar is one of my favorite activities". In both English and Welsh, it must agree in person and number with the main verb of the sentence. Other than that, it can be as disagreeable as it wants.

a set of verb forms that would represent a denoted act or state not as fact but as contingent or possible or viewed emotionally (as with doubt or desire). The "would" in the last sentence makes its mood subjunctive.

the degree of grammatical comparison that denotes an extreme or unsurpassed level or extent. Some of my definitions may be "silly", but superlative is "silliest".

a unit of spoken language that is next bigger than a speech sound. It consists of one or more vowel sounds alone or of a syllabic consonant alone or of either with one or more consonant sounds preceding or following. It should not be confused with a syllabus, which always precedes the course.


a distinction of form in a verb to express distinctions of time. Just because a verb has tenses does not mean it is up tight.

transitive verb
a verb that can act upon an object. One might say that a transitive verb is one that is object-oriented.


the last syllable of a word. "Ma" is the ultima of "ultima" (thanks, Mom!).


a word that expresses an act, occurrence, or mode of being. It is the grammatical center of a predicate. For example, "verb" is a verb in the sentence "It is possible to verb any noun".

a form of a Welsh verb that can be used as a noun. It is also used with "bod" as a helping verb to express action (see Section 3.2). It is the form you look up in a dictionary.

a system of inflections of a verb to indicate the relation of the subject of the verb to the action which the verb expresses. English has two voices: active and passive. Welsh may have laryngitis, because it seems to have lost its voice.

one of a class of speech sounds in the articulation of which the oral part of the breath channel is not blocked and is not constricted enough to cause audible friction; it the one most prominent sound in a syllable. In English, the vowels are a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y. Welsh adds the letter w to this list, which explains why so many English speakers think of Welsh as a vowel-less language.

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14 June 2003 at 23:33:53