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Linguistics and Language

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1 Linguistics and Language
Lecture One Linguistics and Language

2 Definition of linguistics
Definitions Linguistics is generally defined as the scientific study of language. (Dai & He, p. 1) Linguistics, as the name suggests, is the science of language and thus is usually defined as the systematic study of language or, a discipline that describes all aspects of language and formulate theories as to how language works. (Yang, 2005, p. 27) Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching & Applied Linguistics defines linguistics as the study of language as a system of human communication.

3 General linguistics vs
General linguistics vs. descriptive linguistics (termed by John Lyon, in Wen, p. 1) General linguistics provides descriptive linguistics with a general framework in which a particular language can be analyzed and described. General linguistics and descriptive linguistics are complementary to each other. English linguistics is a kind of descriptive linguistics.

4 Scope of linguistics Micro linguistics Phonetics: the study of sounds used in linguistics communication Phonology: how sounds are put together and used to convey meaning in communication Morphology: the study of the way in which the linguistics symbols are arranged and combined to form words Syntax: the study of the rules governing how words are combined to form grammatically permissible sentences Semantics: the study of meaning Pragmatics: the study of language use

5 Macro linguistics Sociolinguistics: the study of different social aspects of language and its relation with society Psycholinguistics: relates the study of language to psychology Applied linguistics: application of linguistic theories and principles to language teaching, especially the teaching of foreign and second languages Neurolinguistics: the study of the relationship between brain and language

6 Some distinctions in linguistics
Prescriptive and descriptive Prescriptive: lay down rules for correct and standard behavior in using language Descriptive: aims to describe and analyze the language people actually use

7 Synchronic and diachronic (共时与历时)
Synchronic: description of a language at some point of time in history Diachronic: the description of a language as it changes through time. Modern linguistics enjoys employing synchronic approach

8 Speech and writing Speech is prior to writing The writing system is invented when needed Today there are languages which can only be spoken but not written Speech plays a greater role than writing in daily communication Each human being first acquires speech and then learns writing Modern linguistics tends to pay more attention to authentic speech

9 Langue and parole (by Swiss linguist F de Saussure)
Langue: Refers to the abstract linguistic system shared by all the members of a speech community. Langue is the set of conventions and rules which language users all have to abide by. Langue is abstract; it is not the language people actually use. What linguists should do is to abstract langue from parole which is too varied and confusing for systematic investigation. Parole: Refers to the realization of langue in actual use. It is the concrete use of the conventions and the application of the rules. Parole is concrete; it refers to the naturally occurring language events.

10 Competence and performance (by American linguist N. Chomsky)
Competence: the ideal user’s knowledge of the rules of his language, a speaker has internalized a set of rules about his language which enables him to use the language Performance: the actual realization of the knowledge in linguistic communication, a speaker’s performance in using his language can be imperfect These two distinctions are quite similar to each other. Langue lays more emphasis on social conventions while competence is more concerned in psychology or the property of mind of each individual.

11 Traditional grammar and modern linguistics
Modern linguistics is descriptive while traditional grammar is prescriptive. Modern linguistics regards the spoken language as primary, not the written while traditional grammar over-emphasize the importance of the written form of language. Modern linguistics differs from traditional grammar also in that it does not force languages into a Latin-based framework.

12 Definitions of language
“Language is a purely human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of voluntarily produced symbols.” (Sapir, 1921) Language is “the institution whereby humans communicate and interact with each other by means of habitually used oral auditory arbitrary symbols.” (Hall, 1968) “From now on I will consider language to be a set (finite or infinite) of sentences, each finite in length and constructed out of a finite set of elements.” (Chomsky, 1957) Generally accepted definition: Language is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols used for human communication.

13 The nature of language Arbitrariness: Generally there is no logical connection between meanings and sounds. Exceptions are onomatopoeic words compound words. This nature makes language have an unlimited source of expressions. Productivity or creativity: Much of what we say and hear we are saying or hearing for the first time. This makes human language totally different from any animal language.

14 Duality: Or double-structured
Duality: Or double-structured. Language consists of two sets of structures, or two levels. Lower level: sounds which are meaningless. Higher level: units of meaning by grouping or regrouping sounds. Units of meaning can be arranged into infinite number of sentences. Displacement: Language can be used to refer to contexts removed from the immediate situations of the speaker. Cultural transmission: Language is culturally transmitted. A language is taught and learned within a particular cultural background.

15 References Chomsky, N. (1957). Syntactic structures. The Hague: Mouton. Dai, W. D & He, Z. X. (2002). A new concise course on linguistics for students of English. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press. Sapir, E. (1921). Language. New York: Harcourt Brace. Wen, Q. F. (?). An introduction to English linguistics. Nanjing: ? Yang, X. Z. (2005). An introduction to linguistics. Beijing: Higher Education Press.

16 Task Work in groups and discuss the following questions: What are the major branches of linguistics? What does each of them study? In what basic ways does modern linguistics differ from traditional grammar? Is modern linguistics mainly synchronic or diachronic? Why? For what reasons does modern linguistics give priority to speech rather than to writing? How is Saussure’s distinction between language and parole similar to Chomsky’s distinction between competence and performance? What are the main features of human language that have been specified by C. Hockett to show that it is essentially different from animal communication system?

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