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Intro to Linguistics Class # 2 Chapter 1: What is Language?

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Presentation on theme: "Intro to Linguistics Class # 2 Chapter 1: What is Language?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Intro to Linguistics Class # 2 Chapter 1: What is Language?

2 Review: Basic Concepts What is Linguistics?What is Linguistics? What is Language?What is Language? What is Grammar?What is Grammar?

3 Grammar Adapted, in part, from Dr. Weigle’s classes PRESCRIPTIVE GRAMMARPRESCRIPTIVE GRAMMAR Purists, who believe that grammar changes corrupt the language, wish to prescribe certain forms for everyone to use in speaking and writing. (distinction between GOOD and BAD language) Prescriptivists think that they are saving the pure language from destruction, but fail to see that language is constantly changing.

4 Example The case of the disappearing endingsThe case of the disappearing endings Newer (reduced) FormOlder (full) Form skim milkskimmed milk ice creamiced cream Popcornpopped corn roast beefroasted beef wax paperwaxed paper ice teaiced tea whip creamwhipped cream cream corncreamed corn

5 GRAMMAR DESCRIPTIVE GRAMMARDESCRIPTIVE GRAMMAR  Descriptive grammar does not tell you how you should speak  No grammar (dialect) is superior to any other. All dialects are capable of expressing any thought  Similarly, no language is superior or inferior to any other language  I don’t have none and I don’t have any are equally grammatical

6 What does it mean to know a language? Linguistic KnowledgeLinguistic Knowledge  Knowledge of the Sound System (Phonetics and Phonology) You unconsciously know what sounds are in your language and what sounds are not (and what positions they can occur) Example: can you start a word in English with MB?

7 What does it mean to know a language? Knowledge of words (Morphology and Lexicon)Knowledge of words (Morphology and Lexicon)  Relationship between form and meaning is arbitrary.  Relationship between words and signs (sign language) is also arbitrary  Even onomatopoeic words are sometimes arbitrary (http://www.georgetown.edu/faculty/ballc/animals/a nimals.html) nimals.htmlhttp://www.georgetown.edu/faculty/ballc/animals/a nimals.html  Even if people know all the words listed in the dictionary, it doesn’t mean that they know the language

8 What does it mean to know a language? Knowledge of syntaxKnowledge of syntax  Knowing a language also means knowing the rules of putting words together to form sentences  Linguistic creativity means that every speaker of a language is able to produce sentences that were never said and understand sentences that were never heard Theoretically, there is no limit to the length of a sentence, therefore there is no limit to the number of sentences in a language (The old, old, old,…man came)Theoretically, there is no limit to the length of a sentence, therefore there is no limit to the number of sentences in a language (The old, old, old,…man came) Even though we have the competence to produce infinitely long sentences, there are limitations on our performance.Even though we have the competence to produce infinitely long sentences, there are limitations on our performance.  Open access principle (Chomsky) VS. Idiom Principle (John Sinclair)

9 What does it mean to know a language? Knowledge of semanticsKnowledge of semantics  You know different sentences with the same meaning  you know how to determine the meaning of sentences

10 What does it mean to know a language? WHAT ELSE??

11 Different ways of looking at language “Of course, you’re unlikely to be attracted to nursing because of the money.”“Of course, you’re unlikely to be attracted to nursing because of the money.” FORM (subject, verb, prepositional phrase, etc.) FUCTION (who is “you”; why is the author so confident?; ways of soften the possible arrogance)

12 Different ways of looking at language (a) Language is a group of rules that are prescribed by the “authorities”(a) Language is a group of rules that are prescribed by the “authorities” (b) Language is based on intuitive data and isolated and invented sentences. The study of language in use is not interesting.(b) Language is based on intuitive data and isolated and invented sentences. The study of language in use is not interesting. (c) Language is what speakers actually use in different contexts. Meaning is socially constructed.(c) Language is what speakers actually use in different contexts. Meaning is socially constructed.

13 FORM – CHOMSKY Generative Grammar Go beyond describing syntactic rules and explain why language is structured the way it isGo beyond describing syntactic rules and explain why language is structured the way it is Eg. S  NP + VPEg. S  NP + VP Find general rules (that are universal)Find general rules (that are universal) Each sentence is analyzed in complete isolation.Each sentence is analyzed in complete isolation. It gives us insights about how our brain worksIt gives us insights about how our brain works

14 Chomsky (Generative Grammar) Distinction between competence (knowledge/no errors) and performance (language in use)Distinction between competence (knowledge/no errors) and performance (language in use)

15 Language Universals Some parts of a grammar pertain to the particular language described. Other parts belong to all languages. These are called universals.Some parts of a grammar pertain to the particular language described. Other parts belong to all languages. These are called universals. Linguists are interested in finding the laws of particular languages. There is greater interest in finding the Universal Grammar (UG).Linguists are interested in finding the laws of particular languages. There is greater interest in finding the Universal Grammar (UG). Chomsky believes that UG is a part of biological faculty endowed to human beings that facilitates their acquisition of language. This faculty is known as Language Acquisition Device (LAD)Chomsky believes that UG is a part of biological faculty endowed to human beings that facilitates their acquisition of language. This faculty is known as Language Acquisition Device (LAD)

16 Evidence for Universal Grammar Children acquire at least one language even though they hardly get explicit instructionChildren acquire at least one language even though they hardly get explicit instruction Children acquiring different languages in different parts of the world go through the same stagesChildren acquiring different languages in different parts of the world go through the same stages Socioeconomic factors do not seem to have a significant impact on this acquisition.Socioeconomic factors do not seem to have a significant impact on this acquisition. Chomsky’s explanation is that children do not have to figure out the universal linguistic laws because it is a part of the LAD.Chomsky’s explanation is that children do not have to figure out the universal linguistic laws because it is a part of the LAD.

17 Halliday – Functional Grammar Looks at the context; look for meanings and ways of expressing meanings in different contextsLooks at the context; look for meanings and ways of expressing meanings in different contexts Tries to answer questions about the way our social context is structuredTries to answer questions about the way our social context is structured


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