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History of Linguistics

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Presentation on theme: "History of Linguistics"— Presentation transcript:

1 History of Linguistics
Jack Hoeksema & Jan Koster

2 History is bunk (Henry Ford)

3 Lecture 1: The early beginnings
Greece, India around 400 AD Linguistics started out in societies with a writing system, like most sciences

4 Importance of writing to convey insights and to allow cumulative development of science to provide food for thought on the relationship between sounds and letters (fonology) the mind seems to have a better grasp on written material than on the fleeting words of spoken language

5 Primacy of Letters over Sounds
Until well into the 19th century, linguists spoke mainly about letters, not sounds

6 Contexts in which linguistics arose
philosophy (Greece) language teaching (Alexandria) philology (study of ancient texts, often of sacred nature) (India, Greece)

7 The Greek world



10 Greece Plato (Platoon) in Kratylos: Are signs (e.g. words, expressions) arbitrary (conventional) or natural ?

11 A natural (iconic) sign
Horseback-riding path

12 A conventional sign Give right of way

13 Cratylus: a Socratic dialogue
Protagonists: Cratylus: words are natural signs some names are ‘correct’, others are not Hermogenes: names are arbitrary/ conventional Socrates: middle position: there is such a thing as a correct name, but names may be corrupted, and yet be used

14 Hermogenes “I believe that any name you give a thing is its correct name. If you change its name and give it another, the new one is as correct as the old.” In its extreme form, this is the Humpty-Dumpty view on meaning

15 Humpty-Dumpty and Alice

16 `I thought it looked a little queer
`I thought it looked a little queer. As I was saying, that seems to be done right -- though I haven't time to look it over thoroughly just now -- and that shows that there are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents --' `Certainly,' said Alice. `And only one for birthday presents, you know. There's glory for you!' `I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said. Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. `Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"' `But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected. `When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.' `The question is,' said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.' `The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master -- that's all.' (Lewis Carroll – Through the Looking Glass)

17 Socrates Names can be ‘correct’ or not They are given by a name-giver
Hector (‘possessor’) is a good name for a ruler Orestes (‘mountain-man’) is a good name for a brutish savage

18 Etymology of theos ‘god’
Socrates: It seems to me that the first inhabitants of Greece believed only in those gods in which many foreigners still believe today – the sun, the moon, earth, stars and sky. And, seeing that these were always moving or running, they gave them the name ‘theoi’ because it was their nature to run (thein).

19 Cratylus The name ‘Hermogenes’ (offspring of Hermes) is not correct.

20 Socrates We see that some names are fit and proper, and some are not. Sometimes, this is because they were wrong in the first place, sometimes because they were corrupted (letters disappeared, others were added for no good purpose) or borrowed from alien languages (and therefore opaque to the Greek ear).

21 Sound Imagery Socrates: r is hard, indicative of motion
l is soft, smooth, passive But note: Latin arbor > Spanish arbol peregrinus > Dutch pelgrim

22 Modern View (F. de Saussure)
words and expressions are basically conventional: arbitrary by agreement in a speech community no Humpty-Dumpty partial motivation of signs possible: when they are complex onomatopoetic words (maybe) sound symbolism

23 i: small a: large ietsiepietsie itsy bitsy teeny weeny grand petit

24 But...not all sounds are symbolic
big small

25 Folk etymology hangmat < hamaca hammock Feminism 1980’s herstory

26 Was macht frau, wenn ein Mann im Zickzack durch ihren Garten läuft?
Emma Was macht frau, wenn ein Mann im Zickzack durch ihren Garten läuft?

27 Weiterschießen.

28 Complex words dogshit: compositional interpretation
i(dogshit) = f(i(dog), i(shit)) dogs: compositional: i(dogs) = f(i(dog), i(s)) = PLUR(i(dog))

29 Up to idiomaticity moonshine egghead dog’s ear ezelsoor

30 also derivations Lively Livelihood Deadly Womanize / Victimize

31 Aristotle Organon: Collection of works on reasoning and logic, brought together posthumously by Aristotles pupils

32 Art of reasoning syllogistic logic
(further systematized in the middle ages)

33 BARBARA (all – all – all) All men are swine All swine are dirty
All men are dirty

34 DARII Some – all – some All soldiers are cruel Some men are soldiers
Some men are cruel

35 CELARENT No – all – no No spirit is a body All humans are a body
No human is a spirit

36 Structure of a syllogism
Two premisses: major and minor Major contains the predicate of the conclusion, the minor the subject of the conclusion Conclusion

37 So the notion of a main division between subject and predicate stems from Aristotles logic still debated in 20th century syntax (is the division of S in NP and VP universal, or just useful for languages like English)

38 Aristotelian logic was the main theory of quantification until the advent of predicate logic in the late 19th century (Frege)

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