Key Words Explanation
Abstract idea An abstract idea or way of thinking is based on general ideas or concepts removed from the material world, such as ‘peace’, ‘kindness’, ‘beauty’, rather than on real things and events.
Accent A manner of pronunciation of a language that marks speakers as belonging to identifiable categories such as a geographical or ethnic origin, social class or generation.
Accuracy Production of structurally correct forms of the target language.
Adjective A word that modifies or describes a noun or pronoun, for example, ‘astonishing’ in ‘an astonishing discovery’.
Adverb A word class that may modify a verb (for example, ‘beautifully’ in ‘She sings beautifully’), an adjective (for example, ‘really’ in ‘He is really interesting’) or another adverb (for example, ‘very’ in ‘She walks very slowly’). In English many adverbs have an ‘–ly’ ending.

A word or group of words that contributes additional but nonessential information to the larger structure of a clause.

An adverbial can contribute circumstantial information to a clause (for example about place, ‘outside’ in ‘I spoke with him outside’; when or how, ‘quickly’ in ‘She responded quickly’). It can also contribute evaluative interpersonal meaning to a clause (for example ‘frankly’ in ‘Frankly, I don’t care’).

Adverbs, adverb groups, prepositional phrases, nouns and noun groups can function as an adverbial in a clause (for example ‘tentatively’ in ‘They opened the letter tentatively’, ‘…on the beach’ in ‘The dog was running on the beach’. An alternative term for ‘adverbial’ is adjunct’.

Agent The person or object who performed the action in a passive verb form, such as ‘John was pushed by Mary.’ In this case ‘Mary’ is the agent.
Agreement (subject–verb) When the form of the verb matches the subject, for example, ‘I go’, ‘She goes’, ‘Gilbert takes care of his mother.’
Antonym A word with the opposite meaning to a given word.
Apposition When one noun group immediately follows another with the same reference, they are said to be in apposition, for example, ‘our neighbour, Mr Grasso …’, ‘Canberra, the capital of Australia, …’
Article (indefinite, definite, zero) An article comes before a noun to show whether it is a general category (‘a’, ‘an’, for example, ‘an egg’, ‘a bridge’) or specific (‘the’, for example, ‘the egg’, ‘the bridge’). In some cases, no (zero) article is used, for example, ‘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.
Audience The intended group of readers, listeners or viewers that the writer, designer, filmmaker or speaker is addressing.
Authentic texts or materials Texts or materials produced for everyday, or ‘real-life’, purposes and contexts, as opposed to being created specifically for learning tasks or language practice.
Author A composer or originator of a work (for example, a novel, film, website, speech, essay, autobiography).
Auxiliary verb A verb that combines with another verb in a verb phrase to form tense, mood, voice or condition, for example, ‘they will go’, ‘I did eat lunch’, ‘she might fail the exam’.
Back channelling In a conversation, when a listener nods or verbally signals their understanding of what is said.
Base verb or word The form of a verb without any endings (such as ‘–ed’ or ‘–ing’), which is listed in a dictionary and follows ‘to’ in the infinitive, for example, ‘walk’. The term ‘base’ can be applied to any word that can be changed by the addition of a prefix or suffix to form new words; for example, the base word ‘act’ can be changed to ‘react’.



An ability to use two or more languages.
Biography A detailed account of an individual’s life, and a text genre that lends itself to different modes of expression and construction. In the context of intercultural language learning, the concept of biography can be considered in relation to identity, to the formation of identity over time, and to the understanding that language is involved in the shaping and expressing of identity.
  1. Graphic symbols used in writing in some languages.
  2. The protagonists in a novel or dramatic performance.
Circumlocution Using a group of words to explain something, when a speaker doesn’t know the right word; for example, using ‘the thing you use to cut paper with’ for the word ‘scissors’.

A clause creates a message through the combination of a subject (the element being identified for comment) and its predicate (the comment about the subject which contains a verb), for example ‘I (subject) shall eat my dinner (predicate).’

There are different kinds of clauses. The clause that is essential to any sentence is an independent (or main) clause.

Compound and complex sentences contain more than one clause.

A clause that provides additional information to the main clause but cannot stand alone is a dependent (or subordinate) clause. For example:

  • ‘When the sun goes down (dependent), I shall eat my dinner (main).’
  • ‘My time is limited (main) because I am reading Shakespeare.’ (dependent)
  • An embedded clause occurs within the structure of another clause often as a qualifier to a noun group, for example: 'The man who came to dinner (embedded) is my brother.’
Code-switching A use of more than one language in a single utterance, for example, ‘Papa, can you pass me the jambon, please?’ Code-switching is a common feature of bilingual and multilingual language use.
Cognates Similar or identical words that have shared origins. For example, ‘father’ (English), ‘Vater’ (German) and ‘pater’ (Latin) have a shared origin; ‘gratitude’ (English) and ‘gratitud’ (Spanish) are both derived from ‘gratitudo’ (Latin); English ‘ship’ and ‘skiff’ share the same Germanic origin.
Cohesion and cohesive devices Grammatical or lexical relationships that bind different parts of a text together and give it unity. Cohesion is achieved through various devices such as connectives, ellipses and word associations. These associations include synonyms, antonyms (for example, ‘study/laze about’, ‘ugly/beautiful’), repetition (for example, ‘work, work, work – that’s all we do!’) and collocation (for example, ‘friend’ and ‘pal’ in, ‘My friend did me a big favour last week. She’s been a real pal.’).
Collocation Words that typically occur in close association and in particular sequence, for example, ‘salt and pepper’ rather than ‘pepper and salt’ and ‘ladies and gentlemen’ rather than ‘gentlemen and ladies’.
Colloquial and idiomatic language Language that does not necessarily follow formal and grammatical conventions. Colloquial language is informal, and often spoken, language that is used in particular social situations, while idiomatic language is where fixed words have a meaning not deducible from the individual words. Idioms are typically informal expressions used by particular social groups and need to be explained as one unit (for example, ‘I am over the moon’, ‘on thin ice’, ‘a fish out of water’, ‘fed up to the back teeth’).
Colon A punctuation convention used to separate a general statement from one or more statements that provide additional information, explanation or illustration. The statements that follow the colon do not have to be complete sentences.
Communication A mutual and reciprocal exchange of meaning.
Communicative competence An acquired capability to understand and interact in context using the target language, defined by the use of appropriate phonological, lexical, grammatical, sociolinguistic and intercultural elements.
Complex sentence Contains an independent (or main) clause and one or more dependent (or subordinate) clauses. The dependent clause is joined to the independent clause through subordinating conjunctions like ‘when’, ‘while’, and ‘before’. A complex sentence will not make sense without an independent clause. In the following example, the dependent clause is underlined and the conjunction is in bold: ‘When the sun came out, we all went outside.’
Complexity A degree to which language use is complex as opposed to simple.
Composing A process of producing written, spoken, graphic, visual or multimodal texts. Composing also includes applying knowledge and control of language forms, features and structures required to complete the task.
Compound sentence A sentence consisting of two or more independent (main) clauses joined by coordinating conjunctions like ‘and’, ‘or’ ‘but’ and ‘so’. Each clause is coordinated or linked so as to give each one equal status as a message. In the following example, the coordinating conjunction is underlined and verbs are highlighted: ‘The sun emerged and we all went outside’.



An active process of making, constructing or deciphering meaning of language input through listening, reading, viewing, touching (as in braille) and combinations of these modes. It involves different elements: decoding, working out meaning, evaluating and imagining. The process draws upon the learner’s existing knowledge and understanding, and their text- processing strategies and capabilities; for example, making inferences or applying knowledge of text types and social and cultural resources.
Comprehension strategies

Strategies and processes used by listeners, readers and viewers of text to understand and make meaning. These include:

  • making hypotheses based on illustrations or text layout
  • drawing on language knowledge and experience (for example, gender forms)
  • listening for intonation or expression cues
  • interpreting grapho-phonic, semantic and syntactic clues.
Concepts about print Concepts about how English print works. They include information about where to start reading and how the print travels from left to right across the page. Concepts about print are essential for beginning reading.
Concrete language A language used to refer to the perceptible and material world and to particular persons, places and objects, for example, ‘school’, ‘girl’.
Conditional A sentence in which one event depends on the other happening, for example, ‘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’s or writer’s degree of certainty about the event actually occurring.

A word that joins other words, phrases or clauses together in logical relationships such as addition, time, cause or comparison. There are two major types of conjunctions for linking messages: coordinating conjunctions and subordinating conjunctions.

  • coordinating conjunctions are words that link words, phrases and clauses in such a way that the elements have equal status in meaning. They include conjunctions like ‘and’, ‘or’, ‘but’:
    • ‘Mum and dad are here’ (joining words)
    • ‘We visited some of our friends but not all of them’ (joining noun groups)
    • ‘Did I fall asleep and miss my dinner?’ (joining clauses)
  • subordinating conjunctions introduce certain kinds of dependent clauses;
    • ‘that’ simply marks declaratives, for example ‘I know that he is ill’
    • ‘whether’ (or ‘if’ in the sense in which it is equivalent to whether) marks interrogatives, ‘I wonder whether/if she’s right’
    • ‘while’, ‘after’, ‘when’, ‘because’, ‘if’ (in the conditional sense) serve to mark the kind of dependent clause it introduces: for example, one of time, reason, condition, ‘We went home after/when the meeting ended’, ‘They stayed in because it was raining’, ‘I’ll do it if you pay me.’

Words that link paragraphs and sentences in logical relationships of time, cause and effect, comparison or addition. Connectives relate ideas to one another and help to show the logic of the information. Connectives are important resources for creating cohesion in texts. The logical relationships can be grouped as follows:

  • temporal – to indicate time or sequence ideas (for example ‘first’, ‘second’, ‘next’)
  • causal – to show cause and effect (for example ‘because’, ‘for’, ‘so’)
  • additive – to add information (for example ‘also’, ‘besides’, ‘furthermore’)
  • comparative – for example ‘rather’, ‘alternatively’
    • conditional/concessive – to make conditions or concession (for example ‘yet’, ‘although’)
  • clarifying – for example ‘in fact’, ‘for example.’


(Initial, medial and final)

  1. In speaking, sounds that are made by blocking the flow of air with some part of the mouth (such as lips, teeth, tongue, hard palate, soft palate). Sometimes the voice is used, for example, /b/ as in ‘bin’ (voiced), /p/ as in ‘pin’ (voiceless). Consonants can be at the beginning of a syllable or word (for example, /k/ as in ‘cat’) or at the end of a syllable or word (for example, /k/ as in ‘back’). They can also be in the middle of a word (for example, /n/ as in ‘final’). They are contrasted with vowels in
  2. In writing, all letters except ‘a’, ‘e’, ‘i’, ‘o’, ‘u’ (in certain situations).
Content A subject matter used as a vehicle for language learning.
Context The environment in which a text is responded to or created. Context can include the general social, historical and cultural conditions in which a text is responded to and created (the context of culture) or the specific features of its immediate environment (context of situation). The term is also used to refer to the wording surrounding an unfamiliar word that a reader or listener uses to understand its meaning.
Convention An accepted language or communicative practice that has developed and become established over time, for example, use of punctuation or directionality.
Conversational partner The person or people one is speaking to or with. Also referred to as ‘interlocutor’.
Coordinating conjunctions Words that link phrases and clauses in such a way that the elements have equal status in meaning. They include conjunctions like ‘and’, ‘or’, ‘either’, ‘neither’, ‘but’, ‘so’ and ‘then’.
Create Develop and/or produce spoken, written or multimodal texts in print or digital forms.
Creating Creating refers to the development and/or production of spoken, written or multimodal texts in print or digital forms.
Cues Sources of information used to facilitate comprehension of language, which may be visual, grammatical, gestural or contextual.
Cultural conventions Relationship between language factors and sociocultural context of use; appropriateness of language used for the context in which it is used.
Cultural fluency The ease with which someone interacts in a given cultural context. This ease of interaction follows the expected patterns of behaviour and uses language appropriate to the context in which communication is taking place.

In earlier models of language teaching and learning, ‘culture’ was represented as a combination of literary and historical resources, and visible, functional aspects of a community’s or group’s way of life, such as food, celebrations and folklore. While these elements of culture are parts of cultural experience and organisation, current orientations to language teaching and learning employ a less static model of culture. Culture is understood as a framework in which things come to be seen as having meaning. It involves the lens through which:

  • people see, think, interpret the world and experience
  • make assumptions about self and others
  • understand and represent individual and community

Culture involves understandings about ‘norms’ and expectations, which shape perspectives and attitudes. It can be defined as social practices, patterns of behaviour, and organisational processes and perspectives associated with the values, beliefs and understandings shared by members of a community or cultural group. Language, culture and identity are understood to be closely interrelated and involved in the shaping and expression of each other. The intercultural orientation to language teaching and learning is informed by this understanding.

Decode A process of working out the meaning of a text. Decoding strategies involve readers, listeners or viewers drawing on contextual, lexical, alphabetic, grammatical and phonic knowledge to decipher meaning. Readers who decode effectively combine these forms of knowledge fluently and automatically, using meaning to recognise when they make an error and to self-correct.
Dependent clause A clause that cannot make complete sense on its own. It needs to be combined with an independent clause to form a complete sentence. The dependent clause can be introduced by a finite verb like ‘goes’ in the following sentence: ‘When the sun goes down, I shall eat my dinner.’ But it can also be introduced by non-finite verbs, as in ‘going’ in the following sentence: ‘From 1966 to 2001 the total population decreased, going from 11,800 down to 11,077.’
Design The way particular elements are selected and used in the process of text construction for particular purposes. These elements might be linguistic (words); visual (images); audio (sounds); gestural (body language); spatial (arrangement on the page, screen or 3D), and multimodal (a combination of more than one).
Dialect A variant of a language that is characteristic of a region or social group.
Digital media Various platforms via which people communicate electronically.
Digital texts Audio, visual or multimodal texts produced through digital or electronic technology. They may be interactive and include animations or hyperlinks. Examples of digital texts include DVDs, websites and e-literature.
Digraph Two letters that represent a single sound. Vowel digraphs have two vowels (for example, ‘oo’ and ‘ea’). Consonant digraphs have two consonants (for example, ‘sh’ and ‘th’).
Diphthongs A vowel that begins in the position of one vowel, and moves towards the position of another vowel. For example, /eɪ/ as in ‘paid’ starts as /e/ as in ‘end’, and finishes by moving up towards /ɪ/ as in ‘it’.
Direct speech The actual words spoken by a speaker, written using appropriate punctuation; for example, ‘He said, “I didn’t do it!” This can be compared to reported speech; for example, ‘He said he didn’t do it.’
Directionality A direction in which writing or script occurs, such as from left to right, or right to left.
Discourse Language produced and used in communication, described in terms that are broader than those used to describe grammar; for example, conversations and types of texts.
Dominant language The language used most often and in which a person is most proficient.


Key Words Explanation



The omission of words that repeat what has gone before; these terms are simply understood (for example ‘The project will be innovative. To be involved will be exciting.’ ‒ ‘in the project’ is ellipsed in the second sentence).

Through a related resource called substitution, a word like ‘one’ is substituted for a noun or noun group, as in ‘There are lots of apples in the bowl. Can I have one?’ (‘of them’).

A cohesive resource that binds text together and is commonly used in dialogue for speed of response and economy of effort, for example (do you) ‘Want a drink?’ / ‘Thanks, I would.’ (like a drink).

The use of three dots. This form of punctuation (also known as points of ellipsis) can be used to indicate such things as surprise or suspense in a narrative text or that there is more to come in an onscreen menu.

Encode A process of changing spoken language into symbols of written or digital language.
Enunciation A clear and distinct pronunciation of language.
Error When a second language learner consistently produces an incorrect form (such as an incorrect word, grammatical structure or sound). Contrast with Mistake.
Evaluative language Positive or negative language that judges the worth of something. It includes language to express feelings and opinions, to make judgments about aspects of people such as their behaviour, and to assess the quality of objects such as literary works. Evaluations can be made explicit (for example, through the use of adjectives as in: ‘She’s a lovely girl’, ‘He’s an awful man’ or ‘How wonderful!’); however, they can be left implicit (for example, ‘He dropped the ball when he was tackled’ or ‘Mary put her arm round the child while she wept.’)
Face A ‘socio-dynamic’ term that concerns self-delineated worth that comes from knowing one’s status. Relates to concepts such as reputation, self-respect, honour and prestige. A key element of social relations in Chinese, Japanese and many other cultures.
Figurative language Words or phrases used in a way that differs from the expected or everyday usage. They are used in a nonliteral way for particular effect (for example, simile, metaphor, personification).
Filler A sound or word used in spoken conversation to signal a pause, hesitation or unfinished contribution. For example, ‘I went to the station … er … then I caught a train …’ Frequent use of fillers characterises early stages of second language development, but proficient speakers and first language speakers also use them as an opportunity to reflect or recast.
Fluency An ability to produce spoken or written language with appropriate phrasing, rhythm and pace. It involves the smooth flow of language, and lack of hesitation and undue pausing, and it characterises the largely accurate use and automatisation of the target language.
Form (of a word) The form a word takes when it is used as different parts of speech (for example, ‘music’, ‘musician’, ‘musical’, ‘musically’).
Formulaic language Words or expressions that are commonly used in fixed patterns and learnt 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. For example, ‘Once upon a time’ (story-starter); ‘G’day. How are you going?’ (greeting in Australian English).
Framing A way in which elements of text are arranged to create a specific interpretation of the whole.
Genre A category used to classify text types and language use, characterised by distinguishing features such as subject matter, form, function and intended audience. Examples of genres typically used in early language learning include greetings, classroom instructions and apologies. More advanced language proficiency includes the ability to use genres such as narrative or persuasive text, creative performance and debates.
Gerund The bare form of the verb with an ‘–ing’ ending, such as ‘going’. Gerunds can often work as nouns or other parts of speech, such as, ‘I like dancing’.
Grammar The language we use and the description of language as a system. In describing language, attention is paid to both structure (form) and meaning (function) at the level of the word, the sentence and the text.
Grapho-phonic knowledge The knowledge of how letters in printed language relate to the sounds of the language, and the knowledge of how symbols (letters, characters) represent spoken language.
Handwriting The production of legible, correctly formed letters by hand or with the assistance of writing tools, such as pencil grip or assistive technology.
High-frequency sight words The most common words used in written English text. They are sometimes called ‘irregular words’ or ‘sight words’. Many common or ‘high-frequency’ words in English are not able to be decoded using sound–letter correspondence because they do not use regular or common letter patterns. These words need to be learnt by sight; for example, ‘come’, ‘was’, ‘were’, ‘one’, ‘they’, ‘watch’, ‘many’.
Homophone A word identical in pronunciation with another but different in meaning (for example, ‘bare’ and ‘bear’, ‘air’ and ‘heir’).
Honorific A grammatical form, typically a word or an affix (an element that can be added to a stem or base), that has at least part of its meaning to do with the relative social status of the speaker in relation to the addressee, other participant or context; for example, when a student refers to their teachers as ‘Miss’ or ‘Sir’. Honorifics are parts of speech that signify respect, politeness and emphasise social distance or status.
Hybrid texts Composite texts resulting from a mixing of elements from different sources or genres (for example, email, which combines the immediacy of talk and the expectation of a reply with the permanence of print).
Hypermedia A multimedia system in which related items and forms of information, such as data, texts, graphics, video and audio, are linked and can be presented together by a hypertext program.
Hypertext A text that contains links to other texts.


Key Words Explanation
Identity A person’s conception and expression of individuality or group affiliation, self-concept and self-representation. Identity is closely connected to both culture and language. Thinking and talking about the self is influenced by cultural frames, which are offered by different languages and cultural systems. Identity is not fixed. Second language learners’ experience with different linguistic and cultural systems introduces them to alternative ways of considering the nature and the possibilities associated with identity.
Ideograph A graphic character that indicates meanings without reference to the sounds used to pronounce the word (for example, some Chinese characters).



A group of (more or less) fixed words having a meaning not deducible from the individual words. Idioms are typically informal expressions used by particular social groups and need to be explained as one unit (for example, ‘I am over the moon’, ‘on thin ice’, ‘a fish out of water’, ‘fed up to the back teeth’).



A clause that makes sense on its own (whereas a dependent clause needs an independent clause for the sentence to make sense).
Infinitive A base form of a verb (for example, ‘to go’ or ‘go’).
Input Direct contact with and experience of the target language, and the stimulus required for language acquisition and learning. Input can take multiple forms and be received through different modes.



The degree to which what someone is saying can be understood.
Intensifiers Words that are usually used with adjectives to emphasise their meaning and are expressed by means of an adverb (for example, ‘very interesting’, ‘awfully boring’).
Intercultural capability An ability to understand and to engage in the relationship between language, culture and people from diverse backgrounds and experience. This involves understanding the dynamic and interdependent nature of both language and culture, that communicating and interacting in different languages involves interacting with values, beliefs and experiences as well as with words and grammars. An intercultural capability involves being open to different perspectives, being flexible and curious, responsive and reflective; being able to decentre, to look objectively at one’s own cultural ways of thinking and behaving, and at how these affect attitudes to others, shade assumptions and shape behaviours. Characteristics of an intercultural capability include cognitive and communicative flexibility and an orientation and ability to act in ways that are inclusive and ethical in relation to diversity and difference.
Intercultural language teaching and learning An orientation to language teaching and learning that informs current curriculum design, framed by the understanding that language and culture are dynamic, interconnected systems of meaning-making, and that proficiency in an additional language involves cultural and intercultural as well as linguistic capabilities. The focus is on developing communicative proficiency and on moving between language–culture systems. It includes the reflexive and reciprocal dimension of attention to learners’ own language(s) and cultural frame(s).

In the context of language learning, ‘interpret’ refers to two distinct processes:

  • the act of translation from one language to another
  • the process of understanding and explaining, and the ability to conceive significance and construct meaning, and to explain to self or others
Intonation A key component of communication, involving patterns of pitch and melody of spoken language that can be used like punctuation; for example, to express surprise or suggest a question, to shade, accentuate or diminish emphasis or meaning, and to regulate turn-taking in conversations. Rising, falling and flat intonation can convey meaning (for example, a question, such as ‘Is that true?’, or a statement of certainty, ‘It is.’) or convey or 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).
Imperative The basic form of a verb used for giving instructions or orders, such as ‘Go and tell her’.



Verbs that do not use ‘–ed’ to make their simple past tense form, such as ‘run’ (‘ran’) or ‘cut’ (‘cut’).
L1 A person’s first language, home language or mother tongue.

A human cognitive and communicative capability that makes it possible to communicate, to create and comprehend meaning, to build and sustain relationships, to represent and shape knowledge, and to imagine, analyse, express and evaluate. Language is described and employed:

  • as code – comprising systems, rules, a fixed body of knowledge; for example, grammar and vocabulary, sound and writing systems
  • as social practice – used to do things, create relationships, interact with others, represent the world and the self; to organise social systems and practices in dynamic, variable and changing ways
  • as cultural and intercultural practice – means by which communities construct and express their experience, values, beliefs and aspirations
  • as cognitive process – means by which ideas are shaped, knowledge is constructed, and analysis and reflection are structured.
Language comprehension A process of interpreting meaning from spoken, written, tactile and multimodal representations of language.
Language features Features of language that support meaning; for example, sentence structure, noun group/phrase, vocabulary, punctuation, figurative language. Choices in language features and text structures together define a type of text and shape its meaning. These choices vary according to the purpose of a text, and its subject matter, audience and mode or medium of production.
Language functions Varied ways in which language is used to achieve particular purposes; for example, to persuade, to entertain, to apologise, to argue and/or to compliment.
Language patterns Identifiable repeated or corresponding elements in a text. These include patterns of repetition or similarity, such as the repetition of imperative verb forms at the beginning of each step in a recipe, or the repetition of a chorus after each verse in a song. Patterns may alternate, as in the call-and-response pattern of some games, or the to and fro of a dialogue. Patterns may also contrast, as in opposing viewpoints in a discussion or contrasting patterns of imagery in a poem.
Language specificity

Distinguishing features of a particular language. These include lexico-grammatical and textual features, writing system(s), phonetic systems, and cultural elements that influence language use such as:

  • politeness or kinship protocols
  • the nature of language communities that use the language
  • the historical and/or current relationship of a language with education in Australia
  • features of its ‘learnability’ in terms of teaching and learning in the context of Australian schooling.
Language systems Elements that organise how a language works, including the systems of signs and rules (phonological, syntactic, semantic and pragmatic) that underpin language use. These systems have to be internalised for effective communication and comprehension.
Layout The spatial arrangement of print and graphics on a page or screen, including size of font, positioning of illustrations, and inclusion of captions, labels, headings, bullet points, borders and text boxes.
Learning trajectory A conceptualised developmental sequence of learning, including learning goals, learning activities, knowledge and skills to be developed at progressive levels.



A use of word associations to create links in texts. Links can be made through the use of repetition of words, synonyms, antonyms and words that are related, such as by class and subclass.
Lexical set A group of words that are related in some way. They may be relevant to a particular topic, have a similar function (such as adjectives) or have a common sound or spelling.
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.


(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/ sound (‘y’ as in ‘you’) is sometimes inserted between a vowel sound at the end of a word and the beginning of the next word, so ‘the arts’ sounds like ‘the yarts’. If this is not done, speech does not sound fluent.
Listening The use of the sense of hearing as well as a range of active behaviours to comprehend information received through gesture, body language and other sensory systems.
Literacy resources Individual resources and capabilities that students bring to their learning experience. These include text knowledge, grammatical and vocabulary knowledge, and knowledge of phonetic and writing systems.
Logical connectives A conjunction that describes the relationship between parts of a sentence or text; for example, ‘The Australian soldiers were gallant and brave, however, the German defenders were better armed and ready for the attack.’ See also Connective.


Key Words Explanation
Macro skills The four major language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing
Main clause In a sentence with more than one clause, the main clause conveys the central idea of the sentence. The main clause could form a sentence itself, without the other clauses; for example, ‘Because she was scared, the dog ran away.’
Media texts Spoken, print, graphic or electronic communications created for a public audience. They often involve multiple creators and are usually shaped by the technology used in their production. Media texts studied in different languages can be found in newspapers, magazines and on television, film, radio, computer software and the internet.

To move between different linguistic and cultural systems, referencing own first language(s) or culture(s) while learning to use and to understand those of the target language. This movement involves:

  • noticing, interpreting, responding sensitively and flexibly
  • conveying culturally shaped ideas, values, experience to others
  • exploring how ideas and experiences are represented and conveyed in different languages and cultures
  • considering similarities, overlaps, collisions and adjustments
  • developing the capacity to communicate and represent different perspectives and interpretations.

Mediating operates in two distinctive ways:

  • in practices such as interpreting and translating, with attention to what can happen in these processes in terms of ‘losing’ or ‘gaining’ meaning
  • as the element of the learning experience, which involves noticing, responding, comparing and explaining differences in expression and perspective.
Medium Resources used in the production and transmission of texts, including tools and materials used (for example, digital text and the computer; writing and the pen or the keyboard).
Metalanguage A vocabulary used to discuss language conventions and use (for example, language used to talk about grammatical terms such as ‘sentence’, ‘clause’, ‘conjunction’; or about the social and cultural nature of language, such as ‘face’, ‘reciprocating’, ‘register’).
Mistake When a second language learner produces an incorrect form (such as an incorrect word, grammatical structure or sound) that they usually produce accurately. A mistake may be caused by fatigue or some distraction. Compare with Error.
Mnemonic An aid used to memorise information, such as a pattern, rhyme, acronym or visual image.
Modal verb A verb attached to another verb to express a degree of probability (for example, ‘I might come home’) or a degree of obligation (for example, ‘You must give it to me’, ‘You are to leave now’).
Modality Aspects of language that suggest a particular angle on events, or a speaker’s or writer’s assessment of possibility, probability, obligation and conditionality. Modality is expressed linguistically in choices of modal verbs (for example, ‘can’, ‘may’, ‘must’, ‘should’), modal adverbs (for example, ‘possibly’, ‘probably’, ‘certainly’) and modal nouns (for example, ‘possibility’, ‘probability’, ‘certainty’).
Mode Various processes of communication: listening, speaking, reading/viewing, signing and writing/creating. Modes are also used to refer to the semiotic (meaning-making) resources associated with these communicative processes, such as sound, print, image and gesture.
Modifier A word (or group of words) that gives further information about another word or group of words; for example, ‘The brown dog’, ‘the car that was driving quickly and erratically’.
Morpheme The smallest meaningful unit in the grammar of a language. Morphemes are not necessarily the same as either words or syllables. The word ‘cat’ has one morpheme while the word ‘cats’ has two morphemes: ‘cat’ for the animal and ‘s’ to indicate that there is more than one. Similarly, ‘like’ has one morpheme while ‘dislike’ has two: ‘like’ to describe appreciation and ‘dis’ to indicate the opposite. The process of identifying morphemes assists comprehension, vocabulary building and spelling.
Morphemic knowledge Knowledge of morphemes, morphemic processes and the different forms and combinations of morphemes (for example, the word ‘unfriendly’ is formed from the stem ‘friend’, the adjective-forming suffix ‘ly’ and the negative prefix ‘un’).
Morphology Principles of word formation and inflection, especially with respect to constituent morphemes.
Multimodal text A text that involves two or more communication modes; for example, the combining of print, image and spoken text in film or computer presentations.
Narrative A story of events or experiences, real or imagined.
Narrative devices Techniques used to help in the narrating of a story or reported event; for example, imagery, metaphor, allusion.
Neologism A new word that has been created (for example, ‘smartphone’, ‘modem’, ‘AIDS’) or an existing word that is used in a new way (for example, ‘deadly’ or ‘epic’).

A process for forming nouns from verbs (for example, ‘reaction’ from ‘react’, or ‘departure’ from ‘depart’) or adjectives (for example, ‘length’ from ‘long’, or ‘eagerness’ from ‘eager’).

A process for forming noun phrases from clauses (for example, ‘their destruction of the city’ from ‘they destroyed the city’).

Nominalisation is a way of making a text more compact and is often a feature of texts that contain abstract ideas and concepts.


A word class used to represent places, people, ideas and things. Nouns can be made plural (for example, ‘dog’, ‘dogs’) and can be marked for possession (for example, ‘dog’, ‘dog’s’). There are different types of nouns, including:

  • abstract noun, which refers to an idea, state or quality (for example ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’, ‘courage’, ‘doubt’, ‘success’, ‘love’)
  • concrete noun, which refers to something that has a physical reality and that may be seen, touched, tasted
  • pronoun, which refers to words like ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘them’ and ‘hers’ that are used in place of a noun.
Noun groups A group of words building on a noun. Noun groups usually consist of an article (‘the’, ‘a’, ‘an’) plus one or more adjectives. They can also include demonstratives (for example, ‘this’, ‘those’), possessives (for example, ‘my’, ‘Ann’s’), quantifiers (for example, ‘two’, ‘several’) or classifiers (for example, ‘wooden’) before the head noun. When these come before the noun they are called pre-modifiers. Phrases and clauses can act as post-modifiers following the head noun (for example ‘the girl with the red shirt who was playing soccer’).
Oracy An ability to express oneself in and to understand spoken language; it includes oral and aural proficiency.
Orthography Writing words with correct letters or characters according to common usage.
Paralanguage Additional elements of spoken communication that are integrated with vocal (voice) and verbal (words) elements, and contribute significantly to communication and meaning-making. For example, voice quality, volume and pacing, facial expressions, gestures, posture and body movement.
Paralinguistics A study of paralanguage elements of expression.
Parts of speech Terms used to classify words according to their place in a sentence; for example, nouns adjectives, verbs, prepositions.
Past tense Forms of a verb that indicate an action or state happened in the past. For example, ‘I ran to her’, ‘I was sad’, ‘He was running.’
Pedagogy A combination of conceptual knowledge, practical skills and reflective capabilities that constitute the ‘art and science’ of teaching.
Performance A use of the language in real situations, putting language knowledge into practice; it involves accuracy, fluency and complexity.
Phoneme The smallest meaningful unit in the sound system of a language. For example, the word ‘is’ has two phonemes: /i/ and /s/; ‘ship’ has three phonemes: /sh/, /i/, /p/. A phoneme usually has several manifestations dependent on varying phonological contexts. For example, the ‘p’ in ‘pin’ and ‘spin’ differs slightly in pronunciation but is regarded as being the same phoneme – that is, as having the same functional meaning within each word.
Phonics A relationship between letters or characters and the sounds they make when pronounced.
Phonological awareness Understanding that every spoken word is composed of small units of sound, identifying relationships between letters and sounds when listening, reading and spelling. It includes understandings about words, rhyme and syllables.
Phonology The sound system of a language.

A group of words that has meaning and can form a grammatical unit, such as the subject of a sentence, but which does not contain a verb; for example, ‘The big black dog’.

A unit intermediate between clause and word consisting of a head word alone or accompanied by one or more dependents. The class of a phrase is determined by the head: a phrase with a noun as head is a noun phrase (for example, ‘men’ or ‘the men who died’), and one with a verb as head is a verb phrase (for example, ‘went’ or ‘had gone’) and so on.

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 sound more animated or interesting. See also Intonation.
Plurilingualism The ability to use several different languages for communication, including switching between languages when necessary to help communication and learning. It involves an interconnected knowledge of multiple languages, even if a person has different levels of skills in each language.
Point of view

Refers to the viewpoint of an author, audience or characters in a text.

Narrative point of view refers to the ways a narrator may be related to the story. The narrator, for example, might take the role of first or third person, omniscient or restricted in knowledge of events, and reliable or unreliable in interpretation of what happens.

Polysyllabic words Words of two or more syllables.

Ways of indicating ownership, including:

  • noun + apostrophe + ‘s’; for example, ‘Maria’s book’
  • possessive adjective (sometimes referred to as ‘possessive determiner’); for example, ‘her book’
  • possessive pronoun; for example, ‘the book is hers’.
Pragmatics A study of how context affects communication, for example, in relation to the status of participants, the situation in which the communication is happening, or the intention of the speaker.
Predictable text Texts that are easily navigated and read by beginner readers because they contain highly regular features such as familiar subject matter, a high degree of repetition, consistent placement of text and illustrations, simple sentences, familiar vocabulary and a small number of sight words.
Prediction An informed presumption about something that might happen. Predicting at text level can include working out what a text might contain by looking at the book cover, or working out what might happen next in a narrative. Predicting at sentence level includes identifying what word is likely to come next in a sentence.
Prefix A meaningful element (morpheme) added before the main part of a word to change its meaning; for example, ‘unhappy’.

A part of speech that precedes a noun, noun phrase, phrase or pronoun, thereby describing relationships in a sentence in respect to:

  • space or direction (‘below’, ‘in’, ‘on’, ‘to’, ‘under’ ‒ for example, ‘she sat on the table’)
  • time (‘after’, ‘before’, ‘since’ ‒ for example, ‘I will go to the beach after lunch’)
  • things that do not relate to space or time (‘of’, ‘besides’, ‘except’, ‘despite’ ‒ for example, ‘he ate all the beans except the purple ones’).
  • Prepositions usually combine with a noun group or phrase to form a prepositional phrase; for example, ‘in the office’, ‘besides these two articles’.
Present tense Form of a verb that indicates the action or state is at the present moment of time.
Productive language use One of the two aspects of communication through language (see Receptive language) involving the ability to express, articulate and produce utterances or texts in the target language.
Pronoun A part of speech that refers to nouns, or substituting for them, within and across sentences. For example, ‘Ahmad chose a chocolate cake. He ate it that evening’ (where ‘he’ and ‘it’ are personal pronouns, and ‘that’ is a demonstrative pronoun).
Pronunciation The way sounds are produced so a listener can perceive and identify them.
Prosody Patterns of rhythm, tempo, stress, pitch and intonation used in language; for example, in poetry or public speaking.
Proxemics A use of space, posture and touch as elements of non-verbal communication.
Purposeful learning Learning that results from authentic, everyday language experiences that involve real purpose and achievable outcomes.


Key Words Explanation
Qualifier A word that comes before an adjective or adverb to increase or decrease the quality described by the adjective or adverb, such as ‘very’ or ‘a little’ in ‘He was very tired’ and ‘She was a little angry’.

A commonly employed prompt to elicit language use. A key element of scaffolding to support learners’ use of language and to encourage further contributions. Different types of questions provide different prompts:

  • closed questions are questions for which there are predictable answers. For example, ‘What time is it?’ These are typically used as prompts for short answers, as a framework for testing comprehension or reviewing facts, and for routine interactions. They are frequently used to scaffold early language development.
  • open questions are questions with unknown and unpredictable answers that invite and support more elaborated and extended contributions from learners. For example, ‘How do you feel about that?’, ‘What do you think might happen next?’. They are used as stimulus to discussion, reflection and investigation.

Questions are an important element of intercultural language teaching and learning. The quality of questions determines the quality and substance of the learning experience.

Effective questions relating to the nature of language, culture and identity and the processes involved in language learning and intercultural experience guide the processes of investigating, interpreting and reflecting, which support new understanding and knowledge development.

Read The act of processing words, symbols or actions to derive and/or construct meaning. Reading includes interpreting, critically analysing and reflecting upon the meaning of a wide range of written and visual, print and non-print texts.



One of the two components of communication through language (see Productive language): the ‘receiving’ aspect of language input, and the gathering of information and making of meaning via listening, reading, viewing processes.

An integrating element of intercultural communication that involves movement and relationship, interpreting and creating meaning, and understanding the process of doing so. It involves not only the exchange of words but also an exchange of understanding between the people involved. It comes into play when the learner ‘self’ encounters and interacts with the ‘other’ (the target language speaker, the target language itself as text or experience); when the existing language code and cultural frame encounters a different code and frame. This experience impacts on the learner’s perspective and sense of identity and on their usual ways of communicating. Reciprocating involves conscious attention to the process: attention to the self (intraculturality) and to the likely impact of the self on the other person involved (interculturality). Things previously taken for granted are noticed in reference to new or different ways. Key elements of reciprocating include conscious attention, comparison, reflection and analysis:

  • recognition that both partners in an exchange are involved in the ‘effort of meaning’
  • willingness to work out what the other person means, the cultural and social context they are speaking from and the perspectives, which frame what they are saying
  • making necessary adjustments to own and each other’s input, orientation and stance that will help the exchange to be successful.
Register A variety of language used for a particular purpose or in a particular situation, the variation being defined by use as well as user; for example, informal register or academic register.
Relative clause A clause that adds information about one of the nouns in a main clause; for example, ‘the house that Jack built’.
Return sweep The way English print travels from left to right and then returns to the left of the page for the next and each subsequent line.



A question that is asked to provoke thought rather than require an answer.
Rhythm The timing of stressed syllables in a language. In English the time between stressed syllables is equal.
Rime and onset The separate sounds in a syllable or in a one-syllable word. For example, in ‘cat’, the onset is /c/and the rime is /at/; in ‘shop’, the onset is /sh/ and the rime is /op/. Word families can be constructed using common onsets (such as /t/ in ‘top’, ‘town’, ‘tar’, ‘tap’) or common rimes (such as /at/ in ‘cat’, ‘pat’, ‘sat’, ‘rat’). These are very useful for teaching spelling.
Romanisation A transcription from a differently scripted language, such as Chinese or Japanese, into the Latin alphabet.
Root of a word A word or word element that cannot be reduced to a smaller unit and from which other words are formed; for example, ‘plant’ in ‘replanting’.
Salience A strategy of emphasis, highlighting what is important in a text. In images, salience is created through strategies like placement of an item in the foreground, size, and contrast in tone or colour. In writing, salience can occur through placing what is important at the beginning or at the end of a sentence or paragraph or through devices such as underlining or italics.
Scaffolding Support provided to assist the learning process or to complete a learning task. Scaffolded language support involves using the target language at a level slightly beyond learners’ current level of performance, and involves incremental increasing and decreasing of assistance. Task support provides assistance to perform just beyond what learners can currently do unassisted, to progress to being able to do it independently. Scaffolding includes modelling and structuring input in ways that provide additional cues or interactive questioning to activate existing knowledge, probe existing conceptions or cue noticing and reflecting.
Scanning A text processing strategy adopted to search for specific words, ideas or information in a text without reading every word; for example, looking for a word in the dictionary or a name in a phone directory. Scanning involves moving the eyes quickly down the text looking for specific words and phrases to gain a quick overall impression of the main meaning.
Script A writing system in which characters or symbols represent components of language (letters, syllables, words).
Semantic and syntactic cues Cues are things a reader uses to help them make sense of what they are reading. Semantic cues are related to meaning, what would make sense given the words that are recognised, and knowledge of the topic of the text. Syntactic cues are aspects of the grammar that help a reader make sense of a text, such as realising an event is in the past because of the use of past tense verbs.
Semantic knowledge Knowledge gained at a meaning level rather than a decoding level. This involves understanding the relationship between signifiers (words, phrases, symbols, signs) and the meanings they represent. Semantic information is supported through reference to prior knowledge, cultural connotations and contextual considerations.
Semicolon A semicolon can join clauses that could stand alone as sentences. In this way clauses that have a close relationship with one another may be linked together in a single sentence.

A unit of written language consisting of one or more clauses that are grammatically linked. A written sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a full stop, question mark or exclamation mark. There are different types of sentences:

  • simple sentence – has the form of a single independent clause (for example, ‘Mary is beautiful.’ ‘The ground shook.’ ‘Take a seat. ’)
  • compound sentence – contains two or more clauses that are coordinated or linked in such a way as to give each clause equal status. In the following example, ‘and’ is the coordinating conjunction: ‘We went to the movies and bought an ice cream ’
  • complex sentence – contains an independent (or main) clause and one or more dependent (or subordinate) clauses. The dependent clause is joined to the independent clause through subordinating conjunctions like ‘when’, ‘while’ and ‘before’ as in the following examples: ‘We all went outside when the sun came out.’ and ‘Because I am reading Shakespeare, my time is limited.’
Simple past tense Most basic form of a verb that shows the action or state occurred in the past, without an auxiliary verb; for example, ‘She jumped’, ‘I ran’ (not ‘I was running’).


present tense

Most basic form of a verb that shows the action or state is occurring now, without an auxiliary verb; for example, ‘She jumps’, ‘I run’ (not ‘I am running’).
Simple sentence Contains one clause and expresses a complete thought. It has a subject and a verb and may also have an object or complement.
Skimming A text processing strategy aimed at gaining information quickly without focusing on every word.
Sound–symbol (sound–letter and letter–sound) relationship The connection between a written letter and the sound it represents. This can be quite irregular in English, partly because there are more sounds than letters, and so many letters can represent more than one sound; for example, different spellings representing the same sound, as in ‘bed’ and ‘thread’, or the same spelling can represent different sounds, as in ‘read’ (present tense) and ‘read’ (past tense). Some combinations of letters are also used to represent a single sound. When EAL students are reading and viewing, they often work from letter to sound, but when writing they often work from sound to letter.
Speak                 Convey meaning and communicate with purpose. Some students participate in speaking activities using communication systems and assistive technologies to communicate wants, and needs, and to comment about the world.


Australian English

The variety of spoken and written English language in Australia used in more formal settings, such as for official or public purposes, and recorded in dictionaries, style guides and grammars. While it is always dynamic and evolving, it is recognised as the ‘common language’ of Australians.
Stereotype A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.
Strategy Ways of reaching a goal. Communication strategies help to convey a meaning, for example, asking a conversational partner for help (as in ‘What is the word?’). Learning strategies help learners to learner, for example, repeating new words several times.
Stress (word and sentence) Articulation of a syllable or word with more force than the surrounding syllables or words, so it sounds louder and longer; for example, ‘She will conduct the orchestra; her conduct is exemplary.’ In polysyllabic words, certain syllables are stressed; for example, ‘economy’, ‘economics’. In sentences, the words that carry the main parts of the speaker’s intended meaning are stressed; for example, ‘I’ll see you as the station at nine.’
Stylistic features The ways aspects of texts (such as words, sentences, images) are arranged and how they affect meaning. Style can distinguish the work of individual authors (for example, Brontes’ novels, Lawson’s poems) as well as the work of a particular period (for example, Elizabethan drama, nineteenth-century novels). Examples of stylistic features are narrative viewpoint, structure of stanzas and juxtaposition.

An element in the structure of a clause, usually filled by a noun group that is enacting the verb; for example, ‘the dog (subject) was barking’. The normal position of the subject is before the verb group, but in most kinds of interrogative it follows the first auxiliary verb; for example, ‘Was the dog barking?’, ‘Why was the dog barking?’.

In independent clauses the subject is an obligatory element except in imperative clauses and casual style; for example, ‘There will be no milk left.’

Most personal pronouns have a different form when the subject of a finite clause (such as ‘I’, ‘he’, ‘she’) than when the object (‘me’, ‘him’, ‘her’); for example, ‘She won the race’, not ‘Her won the race’. In the present tense and the past tense with the verb ‘be’, the verb agrees with the subject in person and number; for example, ‘Her son lives with her’ and ‘Her sons live with her.’

Subject matter The topic or theme under consideration.
Subordinating conjunction Links a dependent clause to an independent (main) clause in a sentence. Examples include conjunctions like ‘when’ in the sentence: ‘When I went to Sydney, I met my aunt’; ‘while’ in ‘While waiting for my dinner, I fell asleep’; and ‘although’ in ‘Although I left my coat behind in the car, I continued on my way.’
Subject–verb–object (SVO) sequence In English grammar, sentence structure is the arrangement of words, phrases and clauses in a sentence. The most frequent word orders in sentences contain the sequence of subject – verb – object. This provides the reader with the expectation that the first noun in a sentence is the subject and the second noun is the object. The subject is the person or thing doing something, and the object is having something done to it. For example, ‘He (S) loves (V) football (O).’
Suffix A meaningful element added after the root of a word to change its meaning (for example, to show its tense, as in ‘–ed’ in ‘passed’). Common suffixes in English include ‘–ing’, ‘–ed’, ‘– ness’, ‘–less’, ‘–able’.
Syllabification The process of dividing words into syllables.
Syllable A single unit of pronunciation.
Synchronous Occurring or existing at the same time.
Synonym Words that have a similar meaning; for example, ‘healthy’ and ‘well.’
Syntax/syntactic An ordering of sentence elements such as words, phrases and clauses. In some education settings, the terms ‘syntax’ and ‘grammar’ are used interchangeably. Syntactic is the adjective, meaning ‘things to do with syntax’.
Tag ending When a question is added to the end of a sentence; for example, ‘That’s right, isn’t it?’
Talk Convey meaning and communicate with purpose. Some students participate in speaking activities using communication systems and assistive technologies to communicate wants and needs, and to comment about the world.
Target language A foreign language that someone is learning, or a language into which a text has to be translated.
Task An integrated experience and use of language, set in a context, accomplishing a purpose, focused on meaning. A task provides an organising structure and context for meaning- focused language learning. Unlike form-focused language activities and exercises, task-based learning involves the achievement of a goal or authentic outcome. Learners draw from existing language resources and seek out unfamiliar resources as needed to complete the task. Scaffolding is provided by the teacher via the task cycle, which includes form-focused teaching. Examples of tasks include researching an issue, sharing ideas and then categorising and presenting results; planning and having a picnic; designing and publishing an online newsletter.
Telegraphic speech Abbreviated expression using only the most important words to convey the meaning.

A verb form that locates the event described by the verb in time. The basic tenses in English are:

  • simple present: ‘Sarah laughs’
  • present continuous: ‘Sarah is laughing’
  • simple past: ‘Sarah laughed’
  • past continuous: ‘Sarah was laughing’
  • present perfect: ‘Sarah has laughed’
  • past perfect: ‘Sarah had laughed’
  • present perfect continuous: ‘Sarah has been laughing’
  • past perfect continuous: ‘Sarah had been laughing’
  • future: ‘Sarah will laugh’
  • future continuous: ‘Sarah will be laughing’.
Text The means for communication. Their forms and conventions have developed to help us communicate effectively with a variety of audiences for a range of purposes. Texts can be written, spoken or multimodal and in print or digital forms. Multimodal texts combine language with other systems for communication, such as print text, visual images, soundtrack and spoken word, as in films or computer presentation media.
Text navigation The way readers move through text. Readers generally read novels in a linear fashion from the beginning to the end; readers of nonfiction books often use the contents page and index and move between chapters according to the information sought. Readers often read digital texts more flexibly, according to interest and purpose, using hyperlinks to move between pages and digital objects, such as videos or animations, making quick judgements about relevance of material.


processing strategies

Strategies readers use to decode a text. These involve drawing on contextual, semantic, grammatical and phonic knowledge in systematic ways to work out what a text says. They include predicting, recognising words and working out unknown words, monitoring the reading, identifying and correcting errors, reading on and re-reading.
Text structure

The ways information is organised in different types of texts; for example, chapter headings, subheadings, tables of content, indexes and glossaries, overviews, introductory and concluding paragraphs, sequencing, topic sentences, taxonomies, cause and effect. Choices in text structures and language features together define a text type and shape its meaning.

See also Language features. Text types

Classifications according to the particular purposes they are designed to achieve. These

purposes influence the characteristic features the texts employ. In general, texts can be classified as belonging to one of three types – imaginative, informative or persuasive – although it is acknowledged that these distinctions are neither static nor watertight and particular texts can belong to more than one category.

  • Imaginative texts – texts whose primary purpose is to entertain through their imaginative use of literary elements. They are recognised for their form, style and artistic or aesthetic value. These texts include novels, traditional tales, poetry, stories, plays, fiction for young adults and children, including picture books and multimodal texts such as film.
  • Informative texts – texts whose primary purpose is to provide information. They include texts that are culturally important in society and are valued for their informative content, as a store of knowledge and for their value as part of everyday life. These texts include explanations and descriptions of natural phenomena, recounts of events, instructions and directions, rules and laws and news bulletins.
  • Persuasive texts – whose primary purpose is to put forward a point of view and persuade a reader, viewer or listener. They form a significant part of modern communication in both print and digital environments. They include advertising, debates, arguments, discussions, polemics and influential essays and articles.

Textual features/


Structural components and elements that combine to construct meaning and achieve purpose, and are recognisable as characterising particular text types. See also Language features.
Theme The main idea or message of a text, or a grammatical theme that indicates importance both within a clause and across a text. In a clause, the theme comes in first position and indicates what the sentence is about. Theme is important at different levels of text organisation. The topic sentence serves as the theme for the points raised in a paragraph. A pattern of themes contributes to the method of development for the text as a whole.
Tone A use of pitch and contour in spoken language to nuance words and, in some languages, to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning. In Chinese, for example, the tones are distinguished by their pitch range (register), duration and contour (shape). All Chinese syllables have a set tone, which distinguishes it and its meaning from another syllable. However, in certain environments tones can change or be modified, while in rapid spoken Chinese a great many unstressed syllables carry no tone at all.
Translanguaging This refers to the natural and flexible ways that bilingual and multilingual people use their languages across multilingual contexts. This can involve innovative ways of using and integrating elements of different languages.
Translation A process of translating words or text from one language into another, recognising that the process involves movement of meanings and attention to cultural context as well as the transposition of individual words.
Transliteration Writing a letter or word using the closest corresponding letter or word from a different language or alphabet.


turn-taking (long and short turn)

In conversation, as roles change, a speaker becomes a listener, and a listener becomes a speaker. Each speaker takes their turn to speak. The length of a turn can vary; for example, ‘yes’ in reply to a question is a short turn, and a lengthy set of instructions could be a long turn.


Key Words Explanation

 A part of speech that expresses existence, action, state or occurrence; for example, ‘they watch football’, ‘she is exhausted’, ‘the day finally came’. Verbs often need other elements to locate the situation in time, and to indicate polarity (positive or negative), aspect (whether the situation is completed or not) or modality (the assessment of the speaker about the situation):

  • doing – for example, ‘She climbed the ladder’
  • being – for example, ‘The koala is an Australian mammal’
  • having – for example, ‘the house has several rooms’
  • thinking – for example, ‘She believes in her work’
  • saying – for example, ‘The prime minister spoke to the media’.

Verbs are essential to clause structure and change their form according to tense (present tense or past tense), to person (first, second or third) and number (singular or plural).

Verb groups Groups of words that are centred on a verb and consist of one or more verbs. The main verb in a verb group often needs auxiliary (or helping) verbs to indicate features like time (past or present), polarity (positive or negative), aspect (whether the action is completed or not) and modality (the assessment of the speaker about the action). All the following verbs contribute to the meaning of the verb group as a whole: ‘the girl played soccer’, ‘the girl was playing/had been playing soccer’, ‘the girl was not playing soccer’, ‘the girl could have been playing soccer’.
View Observe with purpose, understanding and critical awareness. Some students use oral, written or multimodal forms to respond to a range of text types. Other students participate in viewing activities by listening to an adult or peer describing the visual features of text, diagrams, pictures and multimedia.
Visual features Visual components of a text such as placement, salience, framing, representation of action or reaction, shot size, social distance and camera angle.
Visual language choices      Choices that contribute to the meaning of an image or the visual components of a multimodal text and are selected from a range of visual features like placement, salience, framing, representation of action or reaction, shot size, social distance and camera angle.
Vocabulary The body or collection of familiar words used in a person’s language interactions.
Vocative The use of a noun to name or identify the person being addressed. For example, in ‘I don’t know, John’ the name ‘John’ is a vocative, indicating that John is being addressed. (This is not to be confused with ‘I don’t know John’, where John is not used as a vocative and is the direct object of ‘know’ – that is, the person who is not known to the speaker.)

In English grammar voice is used to describe the contrast between such pairs of clauses as ‘The dog bit me’ (active voice) and ‘I was bitten by the dog’ (passive voice). Active and passive clauses differ in the way participant roles are associated with grammatical functions.

In clauses expressing actions, like the above examples, the subject (‘the dog’) has the role of actor and the object (‘me’) has the role of patient; whereas in the passive clause, the subject (‘I’) has the role of patient and the object of the preposition ‘by’ (‘the dog’) has the role of actor.

In clauses that describe situations other than actions, such as ‘Everyone admired the minister’ and ‘The minister was admired by everyone’, the same grammatical difference is found, so that the object of the active (‘the minister’) corresponds to the subject of the passive, and the subject of the active (‘everyone’) corresponds to the object of the preposition ‘by’.

In the literary sense, ‘voice’ can be used to refer to the nature of the voice projected in a text by an author (for example, ‘authorial voice’ in a literary text or ‘expert voice’ in an exposition).

Volume The degree of loudness of a sound.

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

Reading or writing: The letters ‘a’, ‘e’, ‘i’, ‘o’, ‘u’. Note, ‘y’ can also represent a vowel sound in some situations (for example, ‘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 (for example, ‘umbrella’), or a combined consonant and vowel sound that sounds like ‘you’ (for example, ‘union’ and ‘university’).

Word attack skills Strategies and skills learners use to identify unfamiliar words as they read. They include sounding out the word from the spelling, looking for recognisable sequences of letters, and using pictures or contextual clues to predict a word that would be make sense in the situation.
Write The act of planning, composing, creating, editing and publishing texts in print or digital forms. Writing usually involves activities using pencils, pens or word-processing software, and/or using drawings, models, photos to represent text, and/or using a scribe to record responses or produce recorded responses.


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