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Intro slides Intro slides Presentation Transcript

  • Introduction to Language
    LCD 101: Intro to Language
    Fall 2011
  • Overview/Objectives
    • What is linguistics?
    • What is language?
    • What is it to know a language?
    • Prescriptive Grammar vs. Descriptive
    • Universal Grammar
  • Linguistics
    • It is a science dedicated to the study of human language
    • It is an exact science, similar to chemistry, physics, biology, etc.
    • It is a very recent science. There are many things about language that linguists don’t know – yet!
  • Linguistics is NOT…
    • a study of individual languages
    • a study of foreign languages
    • about how to write grammar books
    • a study of how to teach English to
    non-native English speakers
    • the Grammar Police!
  • Linguists Ask...
    • What is language?
    • How does the human brain process and produce language?
    • How come we are the only creatures on this planet that are capable of knowing and using a language? Or are we?
    • When we say that we know a language, what exactly is it that we know?
  • Language
    Definition from Oxford English Dictionary: language, noun
    a.The system of spoken or written communication used by a particular country, people, community, etc., typically consisting of words used within a regular grammatical and syntactic structure.  e.g.: ‘English language’, ‘French language’
    b. The vocal sounds by which mammals and birds communicate; any other signals used by animals to communicate. e.g.: ape, horse language, etc
    c.A means of communicating other than by the use of words, as gesture, facial expression, etc.; non-verbal communication. e.g. body, code, finger, picture, sign language
  • Language
    • The ability to speak and understand a
    language comes naturally to humans -
    just like blinking or breathing – it is
    • Language processing is subconscious.
    We never think about the rules of
    • As a result, most people take language
    for granted.
  • Language
    • The ability to use language makes humans,
    different from the rest of the animal
    • We use language to think.
    • We use language to communicate.
    • We even use language to talk about
    language itself!
    • Language is not just a random collection of
    • It is an incredibly sophisticated structure: a
    strictly organized system of units and rules.
  • Language Units
  • Language Units
    Units of language (sounds, syllables, words, etc.) don’t just combine randomly. They are arranged in a hierarchical system.
    On every level, there are rules that govern which units can exist in this particular language and how they can combine with each other.
  • Language Rules: Examples
    Are these English words?
  • Language Rules: Examples
    What about these words? Could they be English words?
  • Answer: Sure. Even if they aren’t found in the dictionary, we can imagine them as being English words.
    Some new-ish words which once would have sounded strange: quark, google, email
  • Language Rules: Examples
    What about these words? Could they be English words?
    How do you know that this set of words is not possible in English?
  • Answer: You have a set of rules in your head, like a computer, that tells you which sounds can be combined to make possible English words and which sounds can’t. These rules are called phonotactic constraints.
  • Language Rules: Examples
    A speaker of another language has a different “computer”, a different set of rules that compute sound combinations differently
    ngayon“now” Tagalog
    gdje “where” Croatian
    mgla “darkness” Russian
    mbwa “dog” Bantu
  • Language Rules: Examples
    Is this sentence?
    The cow jumped over the fence.
    Or this?
    Unhappiness my of friend’s apparent is.
    Or this?
    Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.
  • Some Language Myths
    You have to be really smart to learn a language.
    “between you and I”
    British English is better than American English.
    Slang is not “real” language.
    You have an accent – I don’t.
  • Homework
    Find someone who speaks English with an accent different from yours. Objectively observe and record those differences.
    Describe some of those differences – does he or she use different sounds, words, expressions, etc? Be as specific as possible. Give examples.
    One to two pages, double-spaced, no larger than 12 font size.
  • References:
    The Study of Language. 2010. Yule, George. 4th Edition.
    Language Files. 2007. 10thEdition. Bergmann, A.; Hall, K.C.; Ross, S.M.
    American Tongues. 1988. PBS.