View table of contents for this book View table of contents for LinguaLinksLibrary Go to LinguaLinks home page

What is an illustrative sentence?



An illustrative sentence will help you

  • clarify the meaning of a lexeme
  • use a word in the correct grammatical context, and
  • gain insight into the culture and literary style of the language.

An illustrative sentence is an example that clarifies the usage of a particular sense of a lexeme.


A good illustrative sentence meets the following criteria:

  • It clarifies the meaning of the lexeme.

    • It illustrates the meaning as defined in the sense.
    • It contains characteristic elements that reinforce and constrain the meaning, such as

      • attribute
      • behavior or action
      • usage
      • position or location, and
      • material composition.

      How to test an illustrative sentence for specificificity

  • It is easy to understand.

    • It is simple in construction (up to about 10 words).
    • It is clear in its references.
  • It is accurate.

    • It is accurate in grammar.
    • It is consistent.
    • It is accurate in its information about the culture.
    • It is true to the value system of the culture.
  • It is practical.

    • It is useable by a language learner in daily life.
Useful sources
  • Literary publications written by respected speakers of the local language that are

    • traditional, but not archaic (unless you are illustrating an archaic word or a specific style), or
    • in the modern vernacular
  • Texts of stories and conversations
  • Elicited material that a language associate has obtained or provided

Bartholomew and Schoenhals 1983 60–62

Context for this page:

Go to SIL home page This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 5.0 published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 2003. [Ordering information.]

Page content last modified: 5 January 2004

© 2004 SIL International