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Describing language
Describing language

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2 This week’s words

In some ways nouns are the most basic parts of a language – they’re the ‘labels’ for things. You use them when saying:

  • What there is – There are plenty of carrots.
  • What you can see – Look at that elephant over there!
  • What you want – Could I have the ¾ inch spanner, please?

If you didn’t know the meaning of the bold word in one of these examples (carrots, elephant, spanner), it would be difficult to get the main idea expressed in these sentences across in another way.

Nouns are central to knowing and using a language. When you say someone speaks Greek/Thai/Xhosa/etc., you expect that they will be able (if they also speak English!) to answer questions like:

  • What is the Greek word for banana?
  • What do Thai speakers call a rabbit?
  • How do you say table in Xhosa?

It’s obviously not enough just to know the nouns (in addition to carrot, elephant and spanner there are at least four other types of words in the three example sentences above). But learning about nouns is a good place to start.