ELT terms - defined and referenced!

Welcome to the NILE ELT Glossary


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We hope this is useful for you and your NILE Online course.

(Definitions written by Mary Spratt, edited by Alan Pulverness)

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Guided discovery

Guided discovery is an approach to teaching language in which learners are presented with examples of language (e.g. adjectives starting with the prefixes in- or un- or ir-) and prompted or asked leading questions in order to work out what the rule of use is, or what grammatical patterning underlies the examples. Guided discovery is said to encourage learners to become more autonomous and to be based on the way language is learnt naturally outside the classroom.


"Teacher: Look at these examples on the board, then complete the rule about how to form the present perfect."


The present perfect

I have been to China.

He has travelled all over the world.

They have bought tickets for a boat trip to Cyprus.

The form of the present perfect:

Subject + ………………… + …………………


Further reading

Ellis, R. (2002) Methodological options in grammar teaching materials. In Hinkel, E., & Fotos, S. (eds.) New Perspectives on Grammar Teaching in Second Language Classrooms.  Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Scrivener, J. (2011). Learning Teaching, 3rd edition. Oxford: Macmillan.

Spratt, M., Pulverness, A., Williams, M. (2011). The TKT Course Modules 1, 2 and 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. and Watkins, P. (2007) The CELTA Course. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.





Foot (stress / rhythm)

A foot is a rhythmic unit that forms part of a tone unit. It consists of one or more syllables, one of which is stronger than the other (weak) syllables. In natural English speech there is a tendency for the foot to begin with a strong syllable, i.e. it is stressed. (Thus in terms of its rhythmic structure English is sometimes described as a left-dominant language.) So within a foot we can distinguish between strong and weak syllables, and across feet within a word, between syllables that carry primary or secondary stress, or are weak (unstressed).


If they have studied poetry, students might be familiar with the concept of feet in regular metrical  patterns, like Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter, for example:

If mu¦ sic be¦ the food ¦ of love, ¦ play on

The foot functions in a similar way in natural speech, but with much more variation in the number of syllables per foot:

If you be ¦ lieve that ¦ mu sic is the ¦ food of ¦ love, then ¦ go on playing

Further reading





Chunks are longer stretches of language that frequently occur together. They include collocations, phrasal verbs, social formulae, sentence frames, idioms and discourse markers. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with collocation.


"When students learn fixed expressions such as despite the fact that, in my opinion, to summarise or by the way as chunks, they often find them easier to remember."

Further reading

Lewis, M. (1993). The Lexical Approach. Brighton: Language Teaching Publications.

Lindstromberg, S. and Boers, F. (2008). Teaching Chunks of Language. London: Helbling Languages.

Schmidt, N. (2000). Key concepts in ELT: chunks. ELT Journal 54/4. Oxford University Press.

Ur, P. (1999). A Course in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



Componential analysis

This term refers to a way of classifying vocabulary. The Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics defines it as follows:

An approach to the study of meaning which analyses a word into a set of meaning components or semantic features. For example, the meaning of the English word boy may be shown as:

<+human> <+male> <- adult>

(Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics)


Sometimes you see exercises, like this one, in ELT materials based on componential analysis:






with difficulty


in a military context

in the countryside

in the city / at the seaside









































































































































Further reading

Channel, J. (1981). Applying Semantic Theory to Vocabulary Teaching. ELT Journal /35.

Gairnes, R. and Redman, S. (1986). Working with Words. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Goddard, C. (2011). Semantic Analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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

Rudzka, B.,.Channell, J.,  Putseys Y. and. Ostyn P. (1981). The Words You Need. Oxford:MacMillan.

Rudzka, B.,.Channell, J.,  Putseys Y. and. Ostyn P. (1985). More Words You Need. Oxford:MacMillan.



Connected speech

This refers to the production of speech as a continuous stream rather than as a sequence of separate sounds. In connected speech, individual sounds may be different from their citation pronunciation, as they are affected by processes such as assimilation, elision, liaison (linking) and shortening.


It’s often quite easy to understand words in isolation, but when they’re part of connected speech they can be much more difficult to recognise. A classic example of this is ‘What do you…?’, which becomes /wɒdʒə/ in connected speech.

Further reading

Celce Murcia, M. Brinton, D., Goodwin, J. (1996). Teaching Pronunciation: A Reference for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dalton, C. and Seidlhofer, B. (2004) Pronunciation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Underhill, A. (2005) Sound Foundations. Oxford: MacMillan.



Learning English – I would like to buy a hamburger. Retrieved from



Environmental Print

See Linguistic Landscape



Word cloud

A word cloud is a jumble of words from a text produced by computer by calculating the words’ frequency in the text. Teachers can make their own word clouds by entering texts into a word cloud programme. Word clouds can be used in class to, for example, aid vocabulary learning, revise texts, warm up to reading, listening or discussion lessons, generate ideas for writing lessons etc.


Here is a word cloud created from the above definition of ‘Word Cloud’:

Further reading








Adverbial phrase

See Adverb

Adverb; Adverbial phrase

An adverb is a word which usually qualifies the verb in a sentence showing how, when, where, to what degree, how often, or with what viewpoint etc the event, action or process in the verb is carried out. An adverbial phrase is a set of words fulfilling the same purpose.


Here are examples of different types of adverbs and adverbial phrases:

Of manner: carefully, in a new way

Of time: yesterday, the day after tomorrow

Of place: there, over the back

Of degree: fully, to a certain extent

Of frequency: weekly, every three weeks

Of attitude: honestly, in my opinion

Further reading

Carter, R. and McCarthy, M. (2006). Cambridge Grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press.

Parrott, M. (2010). Grammar for English Language Teachers, 2ndedition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2006). An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.





Bloom's Taxonomy

This is a classification of affective and cognitive skills that is used to provide learning objectives. It was published by a committee of educators in the USA in 1956. Benjamin Bloom was the chair of this committee. The taxonomy of cognitive skills in particular has been very influential in curriculum and examination design. It was revised in 2000.


Bloom’s taxonomy identifies cognitive skills and divides them into two categories, as follows:

Higher order thinking skills (HOTS): creating, evaluating, analysing

Lower order thinking skills (LOTS): applying, understanding, remembering

Further reading

Airasian, P. W.; Cruikshank, K. A.; Mayer, R. E.;Pintrich, P. R.; Raths, J.; Wittrock, M. C. (2000) in Anderson, Lorin W.;Krathwohl, D. R., eds. A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives. Columbus, Ohio: Allyn and Bacon.

Bloom, B. S. et al. (1956) ‘Taxonomy of educational objectives’, Handbook I: Cognitive  domain, New York: Longman.

Coyle, D., Hood P., Marsh, D. (2010). CLIL Content and Language Integrated Learning.            Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Unrau, N. J. (1997). Thoughtful teachers, thoughtful learners. Scarborough, Ontario, Pippin    Publishing.





Citation form/dictionary form

A citation form is the form of a word that is found as a headword in a dictionary. A citation form represents other forms of the same word. Citation forms are pronounced as full forms. These may sound different when said in connected speech.


Take is the citation form for takes, taking, taken, took

Further reading

Carter, R., & McCarthy, M. (1994). Grammar and the spoken language. Applied Linguistics, 16/2.

Nation, Paul & Waring, Robin (1997). Vocabulary size, text coverage and word lists. In

Schmitt, Norbert & McCarthy (eds) Vocabulary: description, acquisition and pedagogy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



CLIL (content and language integrated learning) refers to an educational practice in primary, secondary and tertiary contexts where subject teaching and learning take place in a non-native language. The acronym CLIL was first used in 1994 and by 2006 it was recognized as ‘an innovative methodological approach of far broader scope than language teaching.’ (Eurydice 2006: 7) Content was placed before language in the acronym because subject content determines the choice of language used to teach subject matter as well as the language which learners use in order to communicate their knowledge and ideas about curricular content. What differentiates CLIL from ELT and approaches such as content-based instruction is ‘the planned pedagogic integration of contextualised content, cognition, communication and culture into teaching and learning practice.’ (Coyle 2002 in Coyle et.al. 2010: 6) There are different types of CLIL practice depending on the country, region or sometimes the school where it is being implemented.


Subject and language teachers often work together to deliver CLIL classes to support the two core strands of CLIL, content and language.

Further reading

Bentley, K. (2010). The TKT Course CLIL Module. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Coyle, D., Hood, P. and Marsh, D. (2010) CLIL Content and Language Integrated Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Eurydice (2006) Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) at School in Europe

European Commission






A conjunction is a class of word which joins words, phrases, sentences or paragraphs. There are two types of conjunction: coordinating and subordinating. The former join equal components whereas the latter join a main and a dependent component. Conjunctions, unlike conjuncts, are part of the sentence they appear in.


Here is an example of a coordinating conjunction in a sentence: I went to the shops and bought something to eat. And, but, and or are common coordinating conjunctions.

Here is an example of a subordinating conjunction in a sentence: After I had gone to the shops I bought something to eat. There are many examples of subordinating conjunctions e.g. after, before, when, although, because, as a result of, due to.

Further reading

Carter, R. and McCarthy, M. (2006). Cambridge Grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press.

Parrott, M. (2010). Grammar for English Language Teachers, 2ndedition. Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2006). An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.



Course of study

This term is used in two different ways. It refers to a set of lessons or workshops making up a whole. In this sense it is synonymous with ‘course’.

It is also used to refer to a programme of study into which different courses are integrated.


In this example course is used in both its meanings, which makes the example potentially a little confusing!

The course I took in Italian at university was made up of lots of different courses e.g. medieval literature, philology, etymology, 19th century history.

Further reading

No further reading is provided for this general word.



Direct method

A method of language teaching popular until the early 1950s. The method advocated the use of only the target language in the classroom, and the use of student-teacher dialogue supported by visuals such as gestures or photos.


When I learnt Russian my teacher used the Direct Method. She would do things round the classroom or talk about objects or pictures she showed us, describing her actions or the pictures and then asking us questions about them. In some ways it was quite similar to the way in which a parent teaches a child language.

Further reading

Howatt, A.P.R. and Widdowson, H. (2004). A History of English Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Richards, J. and Ridgers, T. (2001). Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2006). An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.





Ellipsis refers to leaving out words from sentences where the meaning is sufficiently clear from the situation or the language already used. Usually ellipsis does not lead to a loss of meaning, though students may need training in recognising it and the cohesion it gives to discourse.


There is ellipsis in this sentence Bob often goes on holiday to the sea, and Tom too.  does or goes there has been left out after ‘Tom’  because the speaker thinks it’s not necessary to say these elements.

Further reading

Albery, D. (2012) The TKT Course KAL Module. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Parrott, M. (2010). Grammar for English Language Teachers, 2ndedition. Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2006). An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.




Estuary English

This refers to an accent of English, first noticed and named by David Rosewarne, an EFL teacher, that is found particularly in the South East of Great Britain. It has some similarities with the sounds of Cockney, and has been identified as far north as Yorkshire and as far west as the Welsh border!


It could be useful for teachers to get their students to listen to examples of Estuary English as it’s so commonly heard in many parts of England.

Further reading

Coggle, P. (1993).Do you speak Estuary? The new Standard English – How to spot it and speak it. London: Bloomsbury.

Crystal, D. (1995) Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press.

Rosewarne, David (1984). ''Estuary English''. Times Educational Supplement, 19 (October 1984)". Phon.ucl.ac.uk. 1999-05-21.

1994 Estuary English: tomorrow's RP? English Today 37/10.






This term refers to the words used to express different functions of language. Exponents are one way to begin looking at functional approaches to language teaching.


Here are just some examples of the exponents of suggesting:

What about …..?

How about…..?
What if we …..?
Why don’t we…..?

We could……

Further reading

Harmer, J. (2007). The Practice of English Language Teaching. Harlow: Pearson.

Halliday, M.A.K. 1975.Learning How to Mean. London: Edward Arnold.

Ur, P. (1996) A Course in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wilkins, D.A. (1976) Notional Syllabuses. Oxford: Oxford University Press.





This refers to the beneficial effect of being surrounded by spoken and/or written language. A child growing up in a monolingual environment normally has a large amount of exposure to their native language. Many language learning experts believe that learners must be exposed to adequate amounts of language used naturally and in context for acquisition to take place.


She lived in Russia for a long time but actually learnt very little Russian, as she spent most of her time with people from her own country, so she had very little exposure to Russian.

Further reading

Doughty, C. (2001). Cognitive Underpinnings of Focus on Form. In P. Robinson. (ed.),

Cognition and Second Language Instruction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Doughty, C. & J. Williams (eds) (1998). Focus on Form in Classroom Second Language

Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ellis, R. (1994). The Study of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ellis, R. (ed.) (2001).Form-Focused Instruction and Second Language Learning. Malden, MA:


Gass, S. (1997) Input, interaction and the second language learner. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence


Krashen, S. (1985).The Input Hypothesis: Issues and Implications. Harlow: Longman.

Skehan, P. (1998).A Cognitive Approach to Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford University





Finite verb/non-finite verb

A finite verb is the part(s) of a verb that in English shows time, number or person. A non-finite verb shows none of these. An independent sentence or main clause must contain a finite verb.


Here are some examples of both kinds of verb:



She takes

They take

We took

To take


Having taken


Further reading

Parrott, M. (2010). Grammar for English Language Teachers, 2ndedition. Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2006). An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.



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