Explanation of technical terms used in the TEAL assessment tasks and annotations

A Agreement (subject-verb) Form of the verb matches the subject. e.g. I go/ She goes; Gilbert takes care of his mother.
Article (indefinite/definite/zero) Comes before a noun to refer to something general or specific.

  • Indefinite articles (a/an) refer to general categories. e.g. a bridge, an egg. 
  • The definite article (the) refers to something specific. e.g. the bridge.
  • In some cases no article is used. (Zero article). e.g. Eggs are nutritious.
Articulation of sounds The way phonemes, or sounds of spoken language, are produced. For example, /p/ as in ‘pin’ is made by suddenly releasing a flow of air from between the lips, without using the voice.
 Auxiliary verb  A verb (usually to be, to have or a modal verb) which is marked for agreement and tense, used in conjunction with a lexical verb in certain types of structures eg It is running, It was dropped, He must go.
B Back channelling When a listener nods or verbally signals their understanding of what is said in a conversation.
C Clause A meaningful group of words that includes a finite verb (a verb that shows tense) e.g. She cried, or He quickly ran away. He’s feeling sad.
Circumlocution Using a group of words to explain something, when a speaker doesn’t know the right word e.g. The thing you use to cut paper with (for a guillotine).
Colloquial language Informal language. e.g. barbie for barbecue.
Comparative Words or phrases used to compare e.g. bigger, happier, more expensive than, less (exciting).
Complex sentence A sentence in which two or more clauses are joined by coordination ( e.g. ‘They were lied to by the government and sent away to Australia’) or subordination (e.g. A Nottingham social worker, whose name was Margaret Humhreys, helped innocent victims.)
Compound sentence A sentence in which different clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). e.g. These forgotten children were promised ‘oranges and sunshine’ but they experienced hard labour and life in institutions.
Conditional A sentence with two clauses, in which one event depends on the other happening. e.g. If it rains, we’ll get wet. If I won a million dollars, I would buy a new house for my family. Different types of conditionals reflect the speaker/writer’s degree of certainty about the event actually occurring.
Conjunction A word or phrase that joins parts of a sentence, e.g. and, but, although, so long as.
Connective A word that connects other words, phrases and clauses.
Consonant (Initial, final)

Phonology: Sounds that are made by blocking the flow of air with some part of the mouth (lips, teeth, tongue, hard palate, soft palate etc). Sometimes the voice is used e.g. /b/ as in ‘bin voiced, /p/ as in pin (voiceless). Consonants can be at the beginning of a syllable or word (e.g. initial consonant /k/ as in ‘cat’) or final in a syllable or word e.g. /k/ as in ‘back’. They can also be in the middle of a word e.g. /n/ as in ‘final’. They are contrasted with vowels in pronunciation.

Writing: All letters except a, e, i, o, u (and y in certain situations, such as in my).

Conversational partner The person or people one is speaking to or with. Also referred to as interlocutor.
Coordinating conjunction Words that join two grammatically equal parts of a sentence. e.g. She ran well and won the race. I tried my best but I didn’t succeed. Other coordinating conjunctions are for, nor, or, yet and so. 
Cultural conventions Relationship between language and the sociocultural context of use; appropriateness of language used for the context in which it is used.
Cultural fluency Ease with which someone interacts in a given cultural context. Ease of interaction following the expected patterns of behaviour and use of language appropriate to the context in which communication is taking place.
D Dependent clause A clause (a group of words including a verb), which does not make sense in itself. It needs a main clause to relate to, and cannot form a sentence on its own. e.g. Because he was scared, the dog ran away.
Determiner A word placed in front of a noun to identify or specify the noun being referred to. e.g. ‘their families’, ‘the sunlight’, ‘thousands of families’.  There are many different types of determiners, including articles (a, the), quantity words (all, some, etc.), possessives (my, her etc.) and pronouns (what, which etc.).
Diphthong A vowel sound that begins in the position of one vowel, and moves towards the position of another vowel. e.g. /e ɪ / as in ‘paid’ – starts as /e/ as in ‘end’, and finishes moving up towards / ɪ /as in ‘it’.
Direct speech The actual words spoken by a speaker, written using appropriate punctuation. e.g. He said, I didn’t do it!’, compared to reported speech, eg He said he didn’t do it.
Discourse Language produced and used in communication, described in terms that are broader than those used to describe grammar. e.g. conversations, types of texts, the way topics are discussed by particular people.
Dominant language The language used most often and in which a person is most proficient, compared to other languages they speak.
E Error When a second language learner consistently produces an incorrect form (word, grammatical structure or sound). Compare with Mistake.
F Fluency/Fluent When speech or writing flows smoothly and easily.
Form (of a word) The form a word takes when it is used as different parts of speech, eg music, musician, musical, musically etc.
Formulaic Language learned and produced as routine, without the speaker necessarily understanding the meaning and nature of the parts (words or grammatical structures) that make up the phrase or expression.
H High frequency words (HFW) Words that are commonly or often used in writing or talking about a particular topic.
Imperative mood  Refers to an action such as an order or a command. e.g. Clean your room! Add three eggs. Walk slowly.
Incomplete sentence Also sometimes called a sentence fragment. An example might be a dependent clause, which can’t stand alone as every sentence needs an independent clause. e.g. Because I like soccer. 
Independent clause A clause that can stand alone. e.g. I like teaching. No other clauses need to be added to it for to make sense.
Intelligible/ intelligibility The degree to which what someone is saying can be understood.
Intonation The rising and fall of the pitch of a voice in speaking. Rises, falls and flat intonation can convey meaning (for example, a question (such as ‘Is that true?’ or a statement of certainty ‘It is.)’. Intonation also conveys or can be interpreted as indicating attitudes of speakers, such as interest (rises and falls in pitch) or boredom (a flat intonation with little variation in pitch).
Irregular verb  A verb that cannot be conjugated according to a set pattern. e.g. I went, He ate (not eated)
L L1 A person’s first language or mother tongue, usually (but not always) their strongest or dominant language.
Linguistic structures and features Parts of the linguistic system of English related to text structure, ordering of words and elements in sentences and phrases, vocabulary, elements of pronunciation and phonology, non verbal aspects of communication, and elements of print such as letters,  punctuation and paragraphs.
Linking (or connecting) sounds In spoken speech, some sounds are added, or changed, in order to assist the flow of sounds. For example in British or Australian English a /j/ (‘y’ as in ‘you’) sound is sometimes inserted between a vowel sound at the end of a word, and the beginning of the next one, so ‘the arts’ sounds like ‘the yarts’. If this is not done, speech does not sound fluent.
Logical connective Conjunction that describes the relationship between parts of a sentence or text. e.g. The Australian soldiers were gallant and brave, however, the German defenders were better armed and ready for the attack.

Main clause


In a sentence with more than one clause, the clause that conveys the central idea of the sentence. It could form a sentence itself, without the other clauses. e.g.  Because he was scared, the dog ran away.
Mistake When a second language learner produces an incorrect form (word, grammatical structure or sound) that he or she usually produces accurately. It may caused by fatigue or some distraction. Compare with Error.

Expressing different degrees of possibility or uncertainty about an action or situation. e.g. I might go to see him. (Not ‘I will go to see him.’)

Modality is usually expressed by certain auxiliary verbs, e.g. I could go.., I can’t go.., but can also be expressed through some adverbs e.g. I’ll probably go to see him.

Modifier A word (or group of words) that gives further information about another word or group of words. ‘The brown dog’, ‘the blue car was driving quickly and erratically’.
N Noun group or noun phrase  A group of words associated with a noun. They combine to give the full information about the noun. e.g. ‘These forgotten children.’ Words such as articles, determiners, adjectives and even other nouns may form part of a noun group.
P Parts of speech Terms used to classify words according to their place in a sentence. e.g. nouns adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, verbs, prepositions, conjunctions.
Passive voice

Used to focus on the person or thing affected by an action. It is constructed using a form of ‘to be’ (is/are/was/were/has been etc.) and a past participle.

e.g. The school gate is locked at 5pm. Thousands of trees were destroyed in the storm.

Past Tense Forms of a verb which indicate an action or state happened in the past. e.g. I ran to her, I was sad. He was running. He jumped.
Personal pronoun Words that refer back to something or someone that has been mentioned previously. e.g. He rang Mary and invited her to dinner. 

  • The subject pronouns are I, he, she, it, we, you and they.
  • The object pronouns are me, you, him, her, it, us, you and them.
Phoneme (or sound) The smallest unit of sound which can be distinguished as having a meaning e.g. /t/ as in ‘to’, and /d/ as in  ‘do’.
Phonology The sound system of a language.



A group of words that has meaning but does not contain a verb. It can form a grammatical unit such as the subject of a sentence. e.g. The big black dog…
Pitch range The extent to which the pitch (or musical tone) of speech varies. A small pitch range sounds like a speaker is unanimated, or not interested. A larger pitch range generally makes speech seem more animated or interesting.
Possessive pronoun A word that is used to refer back to a person or thing, whilst also indicating who it belongs to. The possessive pronouns are mine, yours, his, hers, ours and theirs. e.g. Is that coin yours or mine?
Preposition A word that usually comes before a noun or pronoun eg on top of the hill, before he goes, but also a long time ago. Prepositions often convey information about time or place/position of the noun or noun phrase they precede, but they can also add additional information, e.g. The girl with the dragon tattoo.
Present tense Form of a verb that indicates the action or state is happening at the present moment of time. Also see Simple present.
Pronoun A word that takes the place of a noun. See personal pronoun, possessive pronoun, relative pronoun.
Pronunciation The way sounds are produced so a listener can perceive and identify them.
Q Question – rhetorical A question in form, but an answer from an audience is not expected. e.g. Is it fair that she was treated this way?
 R Regular verb Verbs that can be conjugated using the same pattern, with past tense forms ending in ‘ed’. e.g. I played, he played, you played.
Relative clause  A clause that tells us which person or thing the speaker or writer is referring to. e.g. The lady who lives near me is in hospital. I know a lot of people who live in Melbourne. Where is the book that I left in the staffroom?
Relative pronoun These pronouns usually introduce relative clauses. (See examples above.) e.g. who, that, which.
Return sweep The reading or writing of text, moving from left to right, starting a new line on the left of the page, and repeating this process.
Rhythm The timing of stressed syllables in a language. In English the time between stressed syllables is equal.
Run-on sentence A sentence in which two independent clauses are joined, but without the use of an appropriate conjunction.
S Schema  A term used to refer to what we already know; existing knowledge structures in the mind.
Semantic choice (right), also word choice Choice of a word that has a meaning that makes sense, but which may not have the correct form, or be the right word to use in the context. e.g. ‘I am boring’ (for ‘I am bored’) or ‘It is not real.’ meaning ‘It is not true.’
Simple past tense Also known as past simple tense. Most basic form of a verb which shows the action or state occurred in the past. There is no auxiliary verb. e.g. I jumped, I ran (not I was running), which is past continuous tense.
Simple present tense Also known as present simple tense. Most basic form of a verb which shows the action or state occurs in the present. There is no auxiliary verb. e.g. I jump, I run (not I am running, which is present continuous tense.)
Simple sentence A sentence with just one clause. e.g. People should watch this film. I like icecream. 
Strategy Ways of reaching a goal; so communication strategies help to convey a meaning e.g. asking a conversational partner for help, as in ‘What is the word?’ Learning strategies help learners to learn, e.g. repeating new words several times.
Stress (word and sentence) Articulation of a syllable or word with more force than surrounding syllables or words, so it sounds louder and longer. In polysyllabic words, certain syllables are stressed e.g. economy, economics; in sentences the words that carry the main parts of the speaker’s intended meaning are stressed. e.g. I’ll see you as the station at nine.
Subordinating conjunction Word that joins a subordinate or dependent clause to a main clause in a sentence. e.g. You can do it if you try. You can go wherever you like. We went to Fiji because flights were on special. 
SVO (subject-verb) agreement Using the correct form of the verb for the subject. e.g. I go, she goes; I like, he likes.
Superlative When making comparisons, the extremes of a category e.g. the biggest, the most, the best, the least.
T Tense Connection between the form of a verb and time it refers to, such as present, past or the future.
Text structure The way a text is organised.
Timeless present tense The use of simple present tense for facts or ideas that are universally true e.g. The Earth is round.
Turn and Turn-taking (Long and short turn) In conversation as roles change and speakers take their turns to speak, a speaker becomes a listener, and a listener becomes a speaker. Length of turns is relative; e.g. ‘Yes’ in reply to a question is a short turn, a lengthy set of directions would be long turn.
V Vocabulary A set of words.

Phonology: A free flow of sound in which the air which is not obstructed, but in which the lips and position of the tongue in the mouth combine to shape the sound made e.g. /i/ as in ‘see’ is produced with the arch of the tongue high and forward in the mouth, and tight, stretched lips; /a / as in cup is produced low central position with open, rounded lips.

Writing: The letters, a, e, i, o, u. Note: ‘y’ can also represent a vowel sound in some situations, e.g. ‘quickly’ or ‘by’, although it is usually considered a consonant. Depending on the word, ‘u’ at the beginning of a word may represent a vowel sound, e.g. ‘umbrella’, or a combined consonant and vowel sound that sounds like ‘you’, e.g. ‘union’ and ‘university’.



The following references have been consulted in compiling this glossary.

Harmer, J.  (2007). How to Teach English, New Edition, Harlow, England, Pearson Education.

Leech, G., Cruickshank, B. & Ivanic, R.  (2001). An A-Z of English Grammar and Usage. 2nd edition. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Richards, J. & Schmidt J. (2010). Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics. 4th edition. Harlow, England: Longman.

Roach, J. (1983). English Phonetics and Phonology: A practical course. Cambridge,  England: Cambridge University Press.

The Macquarie Concise Dictionary. 3rd edition. Sydney: The Macquarie Library.

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