I really didn't know how to name this thread so I apologize about it. My question is: what is the linguistic term that refers globally to the words "vocabulary", "words", "phrases", "collocations", "expressions", "jargon", "idioms", "lexicon" etc?

I am doing an article on this and in the process of writing my paper when I put the word "vocabulary" I feel like I am referring only to single-words (e.g.: coincidence) opposite to when I write "phrase" which refers to more than one word without a verb/subject (e.g.: many thanks) or when I write "expression/idiom" it refers, generally speaking, to more words with a verb/subject (e.g: She is pulling my leg). The problem is I need to refer to these in one word, what is that word? I was thinking of "lexicon" but I am not sure. Is there something like "linguistic inventory"? I really need this word.

Thank you a lot. I hope that wasn´t so confusing.

closed as too broad by Ellie Kesselman, Misti, Drew, Chenmunka, ermanen Mar 4 '15 at 3:40

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Related. – tchrist Mar 2 '15 at 1:27
  • You are writing your paper in English? – Blessed Geek Mar 2 '15 at 2:06
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    'lexicon' is the term used in linguistics. – Mitch Mar 2 '15 at 2:19
  • The English language? – Mazura Mar 2 '15 at 3:09
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    This question isn't very clear. Are you talking about the words known by a particular person, or all the words used by a whole speech community? – curiousdannii Mar 2 '15 at 5:10

Please accept my apologies for not having the appropriate and sufficient language skills to understand your style of English. Therefore, I may have misunderstood your question.

The words you could use are

  • vocabulary
  • repertoire

For examples,

  • She has a limited vocabulary of Arabic words.
  • She has an accumulated repertoire of curse words in Tamil.

vocabulary (vəˈkæbjʊlərɪ)

n, pl -laries
  1. (Linguistics) a listing, either selective or exhaustive, containing the words and phrases of a language, with meanings or translations into another language; glossary
  2. (Linguistics) the aggregate of words in the use or comprehension of a specified person, class, profession, etc
  3. (Linguistics) all the words contained in a language
  4. a range or system of symbols, qualities, or techniques constituting a means of communication or expression, as any of the arts or crafts: a wide vocabulary of textures and colours.

[from Medieval Latin vocābulārium, from vocābulārius concerning words, from Latin vocābulumvocable]

repertoire (ˈrɛpəˌtwɑː)

  1. all the plays, songs, operas, or other works collectively that a company, actor, singer, dancer, etc, has prepared and is competent to perform
  2. the entire stock of things available in a field or of a kind: the comedian's repertoire of jokes was becoming stale.
  3. (Theatre) in repertoire denoting the performance of two or more plays, ballets, etc, by the same company in the same venue on different evenings over a period of time: Nutcracker returns to Covent Garden over Christmas in repertoire with Giselle.

[from French, from Late Latin repertōrium inventory; see repertory]

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

  • Blessed Geek, thanks a lot for answering. I was waiting for a notification in my email but it never showed up; I have just realized my question had already some answers. The first definition you cited "(Linguistics) a listing, either selective or exhaustive, containing the words and phrases of a language, with meanings or translations into another language; glossary" is very useful although it would not embrace "idioms" for example, which are another variation of the "repertoire" an individual might have. I think I found the answer but I will post it in a complete answer below. – Franco Teves Mar 2 '15 at 12:12

Here are the words and phrases for discussing the words and phrases in language study.

  • a word - a single standalone unbroken unit of expression e.g. 'dog'.

  • a term - one or more words together, usually a noun phrase (this is an inclusive word meaning that a single word is a term). e,g, 'dog' or 'lap dog' (a smaller dog that can sit comfortably in your lap)

  • phrase - the sequence of words in a single constituent. In "The man saw the lap dog in the house", the sequence 'saw the' is not a phrase, but 'in the house' is.

  • the lexicon - the collection of words (and possibly terms and sayings) that used in a language

To some of your points, the lexicon can be for a single person "That word is not in this three-year olds' lexicon" or for the community "'innit' is specific to the lexicon of informal British English".

For terms, the word 'expression' or 'phrase' are common synonyms. 'Idiom' is related but has more connotations to it, so not usually an easily substitutable item.

  • Lexicon is undoubtedly the technical term for the corpus of words within a language. The study of words and the creation of dictionaries is lexicography. A practitioner is a lexicographer, not a "vocabularier" or "language-ist". See lexical "from Greek lexikos 'pertaining to words.'" All from Greek lexis "word," from legein "say." – hunterhogan Mar 2 '15 at 14:20

The term that is closest to what I was looking for is "lexical item" as it is broader than "vocabulary" and not as much as "language" (as was suggested previously):

"A lexical item (or lexical unit, lexical entry) is a single word, a part of a word, or a chain of words (=catena) that forms the basic elements of a language's lexicon (≈vocabulary). Examples are cat, traffic light, take care of, by the way, and it's raining cats and dogs. Lexical items can be generally understood to convey a single meaning, much as a lexeme, but are not limited to single words. " http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexical_item

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    Are you sure this is what you are asking for, the word for a single term? The collection is called the 'lexicon' which I really think is the answer to your question. The term you have given 'lexical item' is for a single member of that set. 'vocabulary' and 'language' are both possibilities for synonyms for 'lexicon', but not for 'lexical item'. If you say 'lexical items', that might work, but 'lexicon' or even 'vocabulary' is more appropriate. – Mitch Mar 2 '15 at 12:51

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