• Share
  • Email
  • Embed
  • Like
  • Save
  • Private Content
Popular ideas language
 

Popular ideas language

on

  • 847 views

 

Statistics

Views

Total Views
847
Views on SlideShare
847
Embed Views
0

Actions

Likes
0
Downloads
5
Comments
0

0 Embeds 0

No embeds

Accessibility

Categories

Upload Details

Uploaded via as Adobe PDF

Usage Rights

© All Rights Reserved

Report content

Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

Cancel
  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
    Are you sure you want to
    Your message goes here
    Processing…
Post Comment
Edit your comment

    Popular ideas language Popular ideas language Presentation Transcript

    • POPULAR IDEAS ABOUT LANGUAGE John Fry San Jos´ State University e Linguistics 101: Introduction to Linguistics, Spring 2005, SJSU
    • Popular ideas about language: five themes1. The prescriptive tradition: It is me or It is I ?2. Language purity and decay3. Primitive languages and languages of excellence4. The function or purpose of language5. Language and thoughtLinguistics 101: Introduction to Linguistics, Spring 2005, SJSU 1
    • The prescriptive tradition• Prescriptivists tell you how to use your language correctly• Examples of prescriptive grammar rules in English: 1. You should say It is I, not It is me, because the verb be should be followed by the nominative case 2. I ain’t got no money is wrong, because ain’t is not a word, and two negatives make a positive• Some countries establish prestigious Academies to protect their language and maintain prescriptive standards – Italy: Accademia della Crusca, 1582 – France: Acad´mie fran¸aise, 1635 e cLinguistics 101: Introduction to Linguistics, Spring 2005, SJSU 2
    • Language deterioration and decay• It is widely held that language is decaying or deteriorating• Once source of decay is failure to obey prescriptive rules Language is today so quickly transformed that it has become decayed and rotten. Ineptitude and sluggishness, bombast, foppery and grammatical errors are increasing. – Gustav Wustmann, Allerhand Sprachdummheiten, 1891• Another cause of decay is pollution from foreign words – In August 2000 the Polish Language Council outlawed commercial use of the words supermarket, club, and plazaLinguistics 101: Introduction to Linguistics, Spring 2005, SJSU 3
    • Complaints about new words in English• In 1867 Edward S. Gould complained about ‘spurious words’ like demean, jeopardize, leniency, and underhanded• In 1710, Jonathan Swift lamented “the continual Corruption of our English Toungue,” including contractions like he’s• William Caxton on the new word ‘eggys’ (1490): Sheffelde, a mercer, cam in to an hows and axed for mete, and specyally he axyd after ‘eggys’. And the good wyf answerede that she coude speke no Frenshe. And the marchaunt was angry, for he also coude speke no Frenshe, but wold have hadde egges, and she understode hym not. And thenne at last a nother sayd that he wolde have ‘eyren’. Then the good wyf sayd that she understod hym wel. . . Certaynly, it is harde to playse every man by cause of dyversite & chaunge of langage.Linguistics 101: Introduction to Linguistics, Spring 2005, SJSU 4
    • Language decay or language change?• When we examine language change objectively, we see that it is inevitable—all languages are slowly but constantly changing, whether we like it or not• English has changed dramatically over the last millennium Year The Lord’s Prayer 1000 Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum; Si þin nama gehalgod 1384 Oure fadir þat art in heuenes halwid be þi name 1559 Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy nameLinguistics 101: Introduction to Linguistics, Spring 2005, SJSU 5
    • Descriptive vs. prescriptive linguistics• In order to study human language objectively, we will adopt a descriptive rather than a prescriptive approach• Descriptive approach: describe and explain the (subconscious) rules that languages obey – This is the domain of phonology, morphology, and syntax• Prescriptive approach: tell people how to speak properly by giving them rules to obey – “Avoid double negatives like ain’t got no” – “Don’t end a sentence with a preposition” – “Don’t split infinitives (e.g. to boldly go)”Linguistics 101: Introduction to Linguistics, Spring 2005, SJSU 6
    • Should I say It is me or It is I?• Prescriptivists prefer It is I, claiming the verb be should be followed by nominative, not accusative case• This rule (be+nominative) comes from Latin, a language of great prestige in European education• Descriptivists note the following facts – The Latin rule is not universal ∗ In Arabic, be is followed by the accusative ∗ In French, only moi is possible (c’est moi) – In English, It’s me is the norm; It is I sounds very formal• There is no objective scientific reason to prefer It is I in English (although there are social reasons)Linguistics 101: Introduction to Linguistics, Spring 2005, SJSU 7
    • What about I ain’t got no money?• Prescriptivists say this sentence is incorrect because it violates the principles of logic, where two negatives make a positive• Descriptivists note the following facts – Many languages ‘violate logic’ with double negatives: ∗ Russian: Ya nichevo ne znayu (‘I don’t know nothing’) ∗ Old English: He nevere yet no vileynye ne sayde – Under this phenomenon, called negative concord, two negatives make an emphatic negative, not a positive – Several dialects of English exhibit negative concord• There is no objective scientific reason to disprefer I ain’t got no money (although there are social reasons)Linguistics 101: Introduction to Linguistics, Spring 2005, SJSU 8
    • How descriptive linguists view prescriptivism• To a descriptive linguist, language is not a cultural artifact, but rather a biological (genetic) endowment of homo sapiens – Birds fly, spiders spin webs, humans talk Imagine that you are watching a nature documentary. The video shows the usual gorgeous footage of animals in their natural habitats. But the voiceover reports some troubling facts. Dolphins do not execute their swimming strokes properly. White-crowned sparrows carelessly debase their calls. Chickadees’ nests are incorrectly constructed, pandas hold bamboo in the wrong paw, the song of the humpback whale contains several well-known errors, and monkeys’ cries have been in a state of chaos and degeneration for hundreds of years. (Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct)Linguistics 101: Introduction to Linguistics, Spring 2005, SJSU 9
    • Descriptive vs. prescriptive linguistics: summary• Modern linguistics adopts a descriptive approach: describe and explain the (subconscious) rules that languages obey• Prescriptive rules about language use are not part of linguistics• That doesn’t mean that prescriptive rules aren’t important for other reasons! For example: – Prescriptive standards, especially in writing, help facilitate communication – People who don’t learn prescriptive rules are discriminated against socially (finding jobs, etc.)Linguistics 101: Introduction to Linguistics, Spring 2005, SJSU 10
    • Primitive vs. superior languages• Before the 20th century it was commonly believed that certain primitive cultures spoke primitive languages with no grammar, a few sounds, and a small vocabulary• Sometimes primitive languages were seen as corruptions of these earlier, nobler languages But what does their language on close inspection prove? In every case what they are themselves, the remnant and ruin of a better and nobler past. Fearful indeed is the impress of degradation which is stamped on the language of the savage. – R. Trench, Archbishop of Dublin, 1851• At the other end of the scale, particular languages (usually classical Arabic, Greek, Latin, or Sanskrit) are popularly held up as models of beauty, grace, clarity, or logicLinguistics 101: Introduction to Linguistics, Spring 2005, SJSU 11
    • The linguist’s perspective: no superior languages• No primitive languages have been discovered• All known languages have a complex grammar – Simplicity in one area (e.g. word endings) is always balanced by complexity in another area (e.g. word order)• Cultural or economic development does not seem to correlate with, say, the number of vowel sounds a language has: Vowels Example languages 5 or fewer Hawaiian, Hebrew, Japanese, Navajo, Spanish 12 or more Bambara, English, French, Wolof, !X˜ u• There is no objective measure for evaluating a particular language in aesthetic, philosophical, literary, religious, or cultural terms, so linguists don’t botherLinguistics 101: Introduction to Linguistics, Spring 2005, SJSU 12
    • The many functions of language• What is the function or purpose of language?• The popular view of the function of language: – Communication of information• However, language seems to have many other uses too: – Personal expression (art, feelings, emotion) – Social interaction (hello, bless you) – Rhythmic sounds (chants, songs, games, poetry) – Changing reality (prayer, baptisms) – Recording facts (records, accounts) – Instrument of thought (verbal thinking, inner speech) – Expression of identityLinguistics 101: Introduction to Linguistics, Spring 2005, SJSU 13
    • Language and thought• The relationship between language and thought is a difficult question faced by linguists, psychologists, and philosophers• Many kinds of thinking are nonverbal (e.g., spatial, physical, emotional, musical), so clearly language and thought are not the same thing• Three possible relations between language and thought: 1. Language depends on thought (we translate from thought into language) 2. Thought depends on language (Sapir-Whorf hypothesis) 3. Language and thought are interdependent (both 1 and 2)Linguistics 101: Introduction to Linguistics, Spring 2005, SJSU 14
    • Sapir-Whorf hypothesis• The American linguist Edward Sapir (1884-1939) and his pupil Benjamin Lee Whorf (1897–1941) are associated with the hypothesis that thought depends on language• The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis combines two principles: 1. Linguistic determinism: language determines how we think 2. Linguistic relativity: distinctions encoded in one language are not found in other languages• Whorf wrote: We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native languages. . . We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe significances as we do, largely because we are parties to an agreement to organize it in this way—an agreement that holds throughout our speech community and is codified in the patterns of our language.Linguistics 101: Introduction to Linguistics, Spring 2005, SJSU 15
    • Popular ideas about linguistic determinism• It is often claimed that because a language lacks a word, its speakers cannot grasp the concept – I’ve been told that in the Russian language there isn’t even a word for freedom – Ronald Reagan – There’s not a word in any African language which describes homosexual – Professor Griff, Public Enemy• Other examples – “Hopi has no words for time” – “Eskimo has hundreds of words for snow” – Language L has no word for ∗ compromise ∗ privacy ∗ sportsmanshipLinguistics 101: Introduction to Linguistics, Spring 2005, SJSU 16
    • ‘Language L has no word for W ’• The idea that because a language lacks a word its speakers cannot grasp the concept is clearly false, although one language may take many words to say what another language says in a single word Pintupi English yarla a hole in an object pirti a hole in the ground pirnki a hole formed by a rock shelf kartalpa a small hole in the ground yulpilpa a shallow hole in which ants live mutara a special hole in a spear nyarrkalpa a burrow for small animals pulpa a rabbit burrow makarnpa a goanna burrow katarta the hole left by a goanna when it has broken the surface after hibernationLinguistics 101: Introduction to Linguistics, Spring 2005, SJSU 17
    • Evaluating linguistic relativity and determinism• It is obviously true that languages encode distinctions that are not found in other languages• But the idea that language determines thought (linguistic determinism) is clearly false – Translation between languages is possible, and the distinctions of one language can be described in another• The idea that language influences thought is plausible – This is the subject of ongoing psychological experiments (with conflicting results)• In sum, it appears that language and thought are mutually interdependent, but the exact relationship is unclearLinguistics 101: Introduction to Linguistics, Spring 2005, SJSU 18
    • Popular views of language: summary• We examined popular views of language in five areas 1. The prescriptive tradition 2. Language purity and decay 3. Primitive languages and languages of excellence 4. The function or purpose of language 5. Language and thought• Linguistics tries to approach language objectively and scientifically, rather than simply accepting popular opinions and beliefs about language• Our approach to grammar is descriptive: we try to describe and explain the (subconscious) rules that languages obey – This is the domain of phonology, morphology, and syntaxLinguistics 101: Introduction to Linguistics, Spring 2005, SJSU 19