Intro to course: Language O’Grady, 2011 Chapter 1
What is language?• How would you define language?
When do we use language? • Talking • Thinking • Reading • Writing • Listening
What is linguistics?• The study of languageWHAT DO WE STUDY ABOUTLANGUAGE? o How it is used o How it is acquired o How it changes over time o How it is represented in the brain
Language is creative• What does this mean? o For example: use nouns as verbs • Pull the boat on to a beach – beach the boat • Clean the floor with a mop – mop the floor • Put the wine in bottles – bottle the wineHOWEVER, o There are systematic constraints that determine the boundaries of this “innovation”. For example: a verb is rarely coined if a word with its intended meaning already exists to put the milk in the fridge – to fridge the milk (refrigerate already exists to express this meaning)
So what about creativity in language?• It is systematic and rule – governed• Can you explain?
All native speakers can:• Produce and understand an unlimited number of utterances (including novel ones)• Recognize utterances and patterns that are not acceptable in their language.LINGUISTIC COMPETENCE
How do we investigate linguistic competence?• Focus on the mental system – GRAMMARWHAT IS GRAMMAR?• Intricate system of knowledge that encompasses sound and meaning, form and structure
GENERALITY• All languages have grammar: o If a language is spoken it must have a phonetic and phonological system o If it has words and sentences, it has morphology and syntax o If it has meaning, it also has semantic principles
PARITY• All grammars are equal• “Primitive language”?• Good grammar vs. bad grammar?FOR LINGUISTS:• The analysis of language reflects the way it is actually used and not an idealized vision of how it should be used.
UNIVERSALITY• Grammars are alike in fundamental waysFor example: o All languages have a set of contrastive sounds that help distinguish words from each other (minimal pairs). In English “t” and “d” help us recognize “to” and “do” as two different words. o All languages have more consonant sounds than vowels. o All languages have a “b” and a “p” sound. o All languages have a vowel that sounds like “ah” in that.
UNIVERSALITY• There are universal constraints on how words can be put together in a sentence. 1. Ned lost his wallet. 2. He lost Ned’s wallet. (in no language could “he” in 2 be referring to Ned)• There are also constraints on how much variation is possible in each language. o Some languages move their question words at the beginning of a sentence (English, Spanish etc.) and some don’t make this move (Mandarin) o No language however, places question words at the end of a sentence in its basic word order.
MUTABILITY• The features of language that are not universal and fixed are subject to change over time.For example: • Minor changes can occur very quickly (lexicon) • A more drastic change such as the placement of the negation in English for example could take a long time: Before 1200: Ic ne seye not. (I don’t say) / He ne speketh nawt. (He does not speak). By 1400: “ne” was used infrequently and “not” typically occurred by itself. (I seye not the wordes. / We saw nawt the knyghtes.
INACCESSIBILITY• Grammatical knowledge is (for the majority of native speakers) subconscious.For example:• Speakers of a language know what sounds right and what doesn’t in their language, but they are not sure how they know it.• Beyond the most obvious grammatical concepts (articles go before nouns), native speakers can’t really explain how their language works.Try to explain:I went to school. / *I went to supermarket.The use of “or”: Mary drank tea or coffee. / Mary didn’t drink teaor coffee.