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Language And Prescriptive Grammar
 

Language And Prescriptive Grammar

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    Language And Prescriptive Grammar Language And Prescriptive Grammar Presentation Transcript

    • Language and Prescriptive Grammar A different way to think about language
    • For many people, talking about traditional grammar can be stressful. Yikes!
    • Why so Stressful?
      • Many of us have been told that we don’t know how to talk or write.
      • Yet, we seem to be able to make ourselves understood…
      It’s making me crazy!
    • What is Language?
      • Language is a very special code that humans use to communicate thoughts between individuals--
        • Speech
        • Sign
    • Language is Used for Exchanging Ideas Idea Message decoded Message Transmitted Message received
    • Talking about the Water
      • Talking about language is like talking to the fish about the water:
      • It is so ubiquitous that most of the time we don’t even know that there is something to talk about.
    • It Takes a Smart Person…
      • … to ask why the apple falls down and not up.
      • If we just accept the things that seem obvious, we never get to science.
    • News Flash!
      • Dolphins don’t swim properly!
      • Pandas hold bamboo in wrong paw!
      • Monkey’s cries in state of chaos!
      • Bird’s nests incorrectly constructed!
      • Songs of humpback whale known to contain several errors!
    • Say What?
      • How can something that animals do naturally have “errors?”
      • What does it mean to say that an instinctual behavior is “in a state of chaos?”
      • How can there be a “wrong” way if there is no “right” way?
      • Who made up these rules, anyway?
    • Examples of Prescriptive Grammar
      • Pick your favorite rule!
      • Don’t use a double negative.
        • “ I didn’t go nowhere.”
      • Don’t end a sentence in a preposition.
        • “ Who did you give the candy bar to?”
      • Don’t split infinitives.
        • “… to boldly go where no one has gone before.”
    • Where did These Rules Come From?
      • People thought Latin was the most elegant, logical, well-structured language.
      • They tried to make English behave like Latin.
    • Rules for Latin don’t Work Well for English.
      • English and Latin are very different kinds of languages.
      • Latin is a language that relies on case endings (inflections).
        • Latin has case ending, not prepositions.
        • You can’t split infinitive in Latin because they are a single word.
      • English is a language that relies on word order to express roles that words play.
    • Language is an Instinct
      • Scientists think about language the same way that they think about:
        • Bats using echolocation.
        • Spiders building webs.
        • Geese using stars to navigate.
        • Salmon returning to spawning beds.
        • Songs of the humpback whale.
    • Echolocation
      • Not invented (by humans) until WWII.
      • Involves very specialized equipment.
      • Does a very specific job.
      • Locates food (bugs) that is flying around.
    • What does a Theory of Echolocation Look Like?
    • What does a Theory of Language Look Like?
      • Descriptive Grammar.
      • It’s not what you learned in school.
      • Let’s call that prescriptive grammar.
    • Research on Language
      • Think about language as if we were aliens from another planet.
      • What would we notice about this interesting behavior?
    • When Scientists Study How Language Works…
      • They find:
        • Everyone knows her own language perfectly and speaks it fluently.
        • The knowledge of language is not accessible.
        • What you know about your language is largely unconscious.
    • Research on Language
      • Language appears to be unique to the human species.
      • Babies are specially “tuned” to learn language.
    • All Children Learn Language
      • Just like:
        • All birds learn to fly.
        • All spiders learn to spin webs.
        • All fish learn to swim.
      • All children learn to talk.
    • Language Timetable
      • There is a “critical period” for language.
      • If children don’t learn language by puberty, evidence shows that they never will.
    • Research on Language
      • Special parts of the brain are involved.
      • Stroke affects particular part of brain.
      • Patient loses ability to use language.
      • Intelligence is usually unaffected.
    • Speech (or Sign) is Primary
      • Speech (or Sign) is the primary channel that carries language.
      • Writing is derived from speech.
      • Writing is encoded speech.
      • Speech is crucial.
      Speech
    • Other Animals don’t Seem to Have Language
      • How do other animals communicate?
        • No system close to human language in complexity.
        • Fixed set of communications that usually concern social hierarchy.
    • We’ve Tried Teaching it to Apes
      • Animals have been raised with human children.
      • They have been taught to use signs.
      • Despite much effort, apes aren’t able to acquire human language.
    • Language is not Intelligence
      • Consider the case of Homer Simpson.
      • Having language doesn’t make you smart.
    • Language is not Intelligence
      • Children with William’s Syndrome are often hyperfluent (have higher than normal language skills), but accompanied by profound cognitive delays.
      • Even typically developing toddlers can’t tie their own shoes, add, subtract, multiply, drive a car, or vote.
    • Intelligence doesn’t Get You Language
      • Apes are smart, social, and good at solving problems…
      • … but they don’t have the equipment to learn language the way that humans do.
    • Language is not Intelligence
      • Language depends on such specialized, unconscious knowledge, e.g., grammar, it doesn’t play that big a role in determining intelligence.
    • Language does not Equal Thought
      • Do Eskimos really have 100 different words for snow?
      • Not exactly.
      • They have about as many words for snow as we have.
    • Research Shows that Language is Complex
      • SEMANTICS
      S y n t a x Phonetics Morphology pHOnoLoGy Pragmatics
    • Try building a Computer that Understands Language
      • No machine has yet been able to understand speech produced in a natural context. (But not for lack of trying.)
    • The Acquisition of Language
      • Language is learned very fast by most children.
      • Children learn language with what seems to be almost no effort.
    • Writing is Secondary
      • No humans have ever existed without speech.
      • Lots of languages have never had a writing system.
      • Learning language (speaking) occurs long before learning to write.
    • Writing is Learned
      • Unlike language, writing and reading are laboriously and painfully learned behaviors.
      • Whereas language comes as a part of our original design, literacy is an additional part that must be bolted on after we leave the factory.
    • Grammar is Innate
      • Some significant part of our knowledge of language is in our genes.
      • This innate knowledge has evolved over millions of years.
      • This pre-existing knowledge is what allows babies to acquire language with such ease.
    • From a Linguist’s Perspective
      • The word “English” itself has at least two separate meanings:
        • It may refer to a dialect that is dominant within a country.
          • “ English is the language of the U.S.”
        • It may also refer to a group of related dialects, none of which has the status as the standard “language”.
          • “ English is spoken in many parts of the world.”
    • “ Language” is a Fuzzy Concept
      • This is not an unusual situation in science:
        • Is Greenland a large island or a small continent?
        • Is light a particle or a wave?
        • Is Pluto a planet with a large orbit or an asteroid with a small orbit?
    • Language vs. Dialect
      • In China, there are many dialects.
      • Some dialects are not mutually intelligible.
        • Mandarin-Cantonese:
          • 46.5% mutual intelligibility
          • ( www. glossika .com )
      • Yet, we still call it all the “Chinese” Language.
    • Language vs. Dialect
      • When we compare German and Dutch, the boundaries between languages are not so clear.
      • Eastern Dutch and Low German have dialects that have very high mutually intelligibility.
      • Yet, we call them separate languages.
    • Dialects in the U.S.
    • From a Linguist’s Perspective
      • The distinction between “dialect” and “language” is largely not scientific.
      • Linguists don’t spend their time establishing which dialects get to be called “a language”.
      • Such distinctions are essentially a political decision.
    • Linguistic vs. Political
      • Linguists answer this problem by assuming that everyone speaks a dialect.
      • A dialect may also happen to be “language”.
      • “ Language” is label that usually gets associated which the dialect that has the most power.
    • How Does a Dialect Become a Language?
      • They become the most important dialect for certain activities:
        • Business
        • Education
        • Government
        • Religion
      • Some dialects acquire high status for cultural reasons.
    • Standard American English (SAE)
      • Is a dialect.
      • Is the dominant dialect in the U.S.
      • SAE is a dialect with the full backing of the state.
      • Thus, we call it a “language.”
      • A “language” is a dialect with an army and a navy.
    • What does it mean when someone tells you…
      • … you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition?
      • It usually means someone who speaks a different dialect is telling you to stop using your own dialect.
    • But…
      • People can master different dialects.
      • And there may be good reasons for doing so.
        • Participation in business.
        • Academic work.
        • To be perceived as in the mainstream.
    • Conventions are Important
      • It makes sense to have some kinds of standards.
      • American Psychological Association
      • Modern Language Association
      • Chicago Style Manual