Studying grammar through
                                                                     explanation
                ...
Components of Grammar                                                   Syntax

• Phonetics (sound systems of languages)  ...
Universality                                        Species-specificity
• Almanacs publish ‘literacy rates’ for different
...
Language Birth                                      Brain Impairments

                                                   ...
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What is grammar

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What is grammar

  1. 1. Studying grammar through explanation • No memorization, drills, or fears What is Grammar? • Approaching grammar from a linguistically informed explanatory perspective: – trying to understand how language works and why it works the way it does (focusing on sentence structure) – language/grammar as a state of mind of a language speaker 1 2 Knowledge of grammar The ‘Wug’ Test • We form sentences without consciously thinking • This is a wug. about them. We do this fluently at a very early age. • Yet, we naturally cannot analyze our own sentence structure. • These are two … 3 4 More unconscious grammar What do we know when we know a knowledge language? • Another novel word: flub • Sounds • How sounds are combined to form larger – [fl] is an acceptable consonant cluster in units English • Words (lexicon, idiosyncratic info) – Flubs eat chocolate. • Word order (in phrases and sentences) – John flubbed. • Meaning • How language is used 5 6 1
  2. 2. Components of Grammar Syntax • Phonetics (sound systems of languages) • Question formation: • Phonology (how sounds are combined with one another) – The presidential candidate will give an expensive • Morphology (lexicon: words idiosyncratic info) words, dinner in Lee’s honor. Lee s honor • Syntax (how words are combined to form larger – Will the presidential candidate give an expensive units: phrases and sentences) dinner in Lee’s honor? • Semantics (meaning) – *Will give the presidential candidate an • Pragmatics (language use in specific contexts) expensive dinner in Lee’s honor? 7 8 3 Questions about Knowledge of Semantics Grammar • Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. [anomaly] • What does this knowledge consist of? Meaningless boring ideas disappear quickly. • How is it acquired? • How is it used? • The fertilizer killed the plant but it didn’t die. [contradiction] 9 10 Universal Grammar Hypothesis Arguments for the Universal Grammar Chomsky (1955): • Universality • Species-specificity • Human languages share many important properties. • Complexity Hypothesis: The universal properties of language • Productivity are part of the human make up (part of our biological endowment). • Translation • Acquisition • Language Birth (Nicaraguan Sign Language) • Brain Impairments 11 12 2
  3. 3. Universality Species-specificity • Almanacs publish ‘literacy rates’ for different countries. No other species • Why don’t they publish ‘speaking rates’? speak anything that (percent of people who learn t speak their ( t f l h l to k th i resembles h bl human native language) language. • No cultures, societies or people are known that do not speak any language. 13 14 Complexity Productivity • There are no primitive languages. • The ‘wug’ test • Never heard sentences: • All languages exhibit complexities of some sort, though the ki d th t can vary from t th h th kind that f – The frog jumped off the golden dome dome. language to language. • Never ending sentences (recursion): – I met a man that was walking with a woman that was holding a baby that was eating a banana that… 15 16 Translation Acquisition • Every child acquires language with the same • Every human language can be translated speed and proficiency, no matter what his/her into any other. educational, cultural, and socio-economic bac g ou d s background is. (e.g., English and N ( E li h d Navajo). j ) • No need for special instruction. 17 18 3
  4. 4. Language Birth Brain Impairments • POOR language; GOOD other cognitive skills: • Nicaraguan Sign Language – Broca’s Aphasia – Specific Language Impairment (SLI) • Children, when placed in a group, produce • GREAT language; POOR other cognitive skills: l h ii kill language even without any linguistic input. – William’s Syndrome 19 20 Arguments for the Universal Grammar (UG) • Universality • What about language variation? • Species-specificity • Complexity • Productivity • Translation • Acquisition • Language Birth (Nicaraguan Sign Language) • Brain Impairments 21 22 Particular Grammars & Universal Grammar (UG) • Particular Grammar (e.g., grammar of English) UG + input 23 4

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