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Introducing english linguistics_summary_review

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Charles F. Meyers is a professor at Massachusetts University where he teaches Linguistics to students aspiring to teach English as a second language. The book is designed for first year students, per se, so as to give them a strong introductory about Linguistics and therefore serves as a guideline for them and also as a course book for teachers. For beginners, it is a perfect first to-start-with with the author aiming to convey most of the basic notions related to Linguistics that students need to know. The book is also designed as self-study work with the activities that are introduced by the end of each chapter. These activities are instrumental for students to check their understanding and grasp of the topic. The book even goes further by offering further reading at the end of each chapter for those who want to go deeper and find more information; however, I think that the author digressed in offering these suggested extensive reading which will likely to leave the reader, especially the beginner, perplexed on what reading needs more attention. It would have been better if the author has provided some required reading at the beginning including articles, online videos, etc to increase the chance of reading them by students. Having said that, the book won’t be too much beneficial for students who are already familiar with basic terms of Linguistics and they may find the book a bit simplistic in its structure except for some of the activities that they may enjoy while practicing their knowledge.

Introducing english linguistics_summary_review

  1. 1. Review of the book Information about the book AUTHOR: ​Charles F. Meyer - Email: ​meyer@cs.umb.edu TITLE: Introducing English Linguistics SERIES: Cambridge Introductions to Language and Linguistics PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press YEAR: 2009 Pages: 271 page REVIEWER: Mehdi ZOUAOUI, Education Consultant and Strategist Summary I. The Study of Language: The author starts his book by stating that the spread of English is mainly related to geopolitical considerations. That is, British colonization and the rise of US as a political and economic power is a main reason for that. The author then goes on by giving a prolegomena of some notions related to linguistics such as ​Pragmatics ​defined as the study of how context(both social and linguistic) affects language use, ​Grammar ​defined as​ ​the description of how humans form linguistic structures, from the level of sound up to the sentence.Charles also said that Linguistics should approach language “ dispassionately” and without any biasing feeling. Hence, rules of grammar operate at various levels:Phonetics/Phonology with phoneme as its unit, morphology with morpheme as a unit, Syntax with clause as its unit, Semantics with a focus on the meaning of individual words (lexical semantics). The ability of words to refer to points in time or individuals in the external world (deixis). The following figure demonstrates that:
  2. 2. Levels of Grammar According to many linguists, grammar involves the study of linguistic rules that are part of our linguistic competence which is the unconscious knowledge of the rules of a language that any fluent speaker possesses. With that, two terms pop up about the ​rightness​ of language: grammaticality ​that describes what is acceptable in language and ​acceptability ​that describes what is preferred and with this in mind, Charles distinguishes between two types of prescriptivists: reactionary prescriptivists who add nothing useful to the language discussion, and informed prescriptivists. Prescriptivism, simply speaking, tells us how a language should be while descriptivism tells how a language is. Professor Charles moves to the theories of language and touches on some such as universal grammar, promoted by Noam Chomsky, that is the idea that every individual, regardless of the language they ultimately spoke, had within their linguistic competence a language acquisition device containing a set of universal principles. Also, Michael A. K. Halliday posits the theory of systemic/functional grammar that is based on three metafunctions: ideational function,interpersonal function, and textual function.
  3. 3. II. The Development of English: In this chapter the author gives an overview of where English comes from based on synchronic studies that basically involve investigating a language in its present form as it is currently spoken and written and diachronic studies that examine the historical development of a language taking into consideration changes it has undergone over time. The following snap gives an an idea about the Proto Indo-European with its families including English. We would notice that English comes from Germanic families along with Dutch, Swedish,Danish, and German. It is important to mention here that proto-languages are the product of linguistic reconstruction and the process of grouping them into families is known as comparative method. This reconstructions uses these methods such as cognate vocabulary., Grimm’s Law, grammatical similarities, and historical/archeological information. This has led scholars to have differing opinions about the origin of Proto Indo-European language (PIE) and the most widely accepted theories are: - Kurgan Hypothesis by Marija Gimbutas who places the original speakers to the Black Sea around 6000 B.C. - Renfrew’s Farming Dispersal Hypothesis that argues that the original speakers of PIE were not warriors but farmers, and that the spread of farming from Anatolia (Turkey) to Greece and eventually Europe was responsible for the spread of PIE that dates back to 10,500 BC. - Monogenesis theory defenders such as Trask (1996: 391) who observes, “that human language evolved only once, and that all languages that have ever been spoken are descended from that single ancestor.” This original language has been called Proto-World. The development of English can be traced back to 400 AD and can be divided to:
  4. 4. - Old English: ​this period starts approximately from 443 till the norman conquest. You can listen to the ​“The Lord’s Prayer” Matthew 6:9–13.​” being recited in Old English ( you can find the text in the appendix) - Middle English: ​ME was marked by the Norman Conquest in 1066 who spoke Anglo-Norman. You can listen to an excerpt of opening stanzas of the ​General Prologue to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales ( the text is in the appendix) - Early Modern English: ​this was marked by a set of factors: - The Great Vowel Shift. - The shift from an oral to a print culture. - The Publication of dictionaries and Grammars. - The colonization of America, its Independence from England, and its Rise as a Superpower. Languages can also be classified based on: - Morphology: - Agglutinative: such as Turkish - Isolating: such as Chinese - Fusional: such as Spanish - Syntax: - SOV ( subject + Verb + Object): such as Turkish - SVO: such as English. - VSO: such as Arabic. - VOS: such as Aneityan. - OVS: such as Arecua. The gist of classifying the order of languages is determined by the notion of markedness which implies the unusual structure of such language and unmarkedness which interpretes the ordinarity of the structure. The author then moves to the causes of language change and death where he divided them into internal causes that are related to the language itself and external causes that are outside the realm of language such as political events.
  5. 5. III. The Social Context of English: In this chapter the author delved into Pragmatics with utterance as its primary unit of study. In fact, when we speak or write we are performing what is termed as acts that are divided into locutionary acts, illocutionary acts, and perlocutionary acts. Also, a speech act can be explicit or implicit, direct or indirect, and literal or nonliteral. To ensure a successful speech act, it needs to satisfy a series of conditions referred to as either felicity conditions. Searle (1969)proposes four of such conditions: propositional content, preparatory, sincerity, and essential. H. Paul Grice has also proposed the cooperative principle where the speaker and listener engage in a cooperative symbiotic effort. He posits four maxims for that: - Quantity: don’t say too much; don’t say too little. - Quality: be truthful. - Relation: stay on topic; don’t digress. - Manner: make sure what you say is clear and unambiguous. Politeness is added to this speech act equation because plays a key role and Brown and Levinson with their master study argue that it is centered around the notion of face, namely the public self-image that every member wants to claim for himself, face-threatening act (FTA). IV. The Structure of English Texts: This chapter mainly deals with the notion of text that discourse analysts consider it as both a linguistic and sociocultural construct. Some psychologists such as Teun van Dijk define a text in purely cognitive terms where it contains micro and macro structures. Halliday endorses that with a functional unit, namely unity of structure and unity of texture. These latter are also related to the concepts of register and genre. A register can be defined by “lexico-grammatical and discoursal-semantic patterns associated with situations (i.e. linguistic patterns),” while a genre consists of texts that can be classified into “culturally-recognisable categories.” Registers can be divided into spoken and written registers; and open and closed registers. In terms of unity of structure, spoken registers can be also in turn into subcategories as it is seen in the following diagram:
  6. 6. ​Source: Introducing English Linguistics Written registers can be also divided into subcategories as it is demonstrated in the following diagram:
  7. 7. Unity of texture deals the constituents within a clause that are ordered in a specific way so that the thematic structure of the clause promotes the easy flow of information from clause to clause, and relationships between clauses are indicated by various markers of cohesion, such as logical connectors like therefore or however. Thematic structure is related to The Functional Sentence Perspective that tries to find the reason for choosing certain words over others and divides a sentence into a theme and rheme instead of subject and predicate. Unity of texture can be achieved by markers of cohesion which are: - Conjunction: words that link constituents together. - Reference: words that refer back or forward to a referent. - Substitution: the same as reference but it is less contextually dependent and involves wider range of words. - Ellipsis: that involves deleting information that can be retrieved from the same prior context. Lexical cohesion can also be used in this regard such as the use of synonyms for example.
  8. 8. V. English Syntax: The author then jumps to Syntax, the study of sentence structure in its simple definition with the notion of constituency as a key element in syntactic studies. Constituency is defined by Charles that syntactic units are not simply arbitrarily grouped and ordered but form identifiable units. The constituency of units can be checked using tests such as: - Insertion ( Eg: adverb). - Substitution. - Movement There some topics that were tackled in this chapter such as the dichotomous relation between form and function, and the difference between formal and notional definitions. VI. English Words: Structure and Meaning: In this chapter, words, their meaning and internal structures is the main the focus here where the author starts by defining the meaning of meaning. He sets forward three distinct versions: descriptive related to grammatical meaning; and social & expressive related to the pragmatic meaning. Words can be analysed at different levels and from different disciplines such as Morphology defined as the study of the internal structure of words. Words, morphologically speaking, can be divided into stand-alone morphemes called free morphemes and others ones that have to be linked to other morphemes and therefore called bound.The latter is divided in turn into morphemes that grammatically affect the morpheme: inflectional ones, and derivational morphemes that change the meaning of the morphemes attached to them. Words can also be analysed by Semantics through a set of analyses such as componential analysis that involves defining words by breaking them down into their component parts and assigning them semantic features. There is also another important concept in that disciplines that is called “semantic relation” that occurs between words. The most famous ones are: - Synonymy: words having the same meaning. - Antonymy: words having opposite meanings. - words whose meanings are included in the meaning of a more general word. Talking about words will lead us to the process of making dictionaries and creating word lists that, as was mentioned before, played a crucial role in the spread and change of language during Middle English period. Creating a monolingual dictionary includes two stages: - determining the meaning of words by studying their uses in context. - crafting definitions of the words that will be appropriate for the readership of the particular dictionary being created. The choice of words to be put in the dictionary can be based on the Zipf’s Law, a formula for calculating word frequency developed by George Kingsley Zipf ( you find the formula in the appendix ). As for creating words, there are many devices that can be used in this purpose such as loanwords, clipping, blends, and so on down the list.
  9. 9. In this chapter, Charles casts light at an important feature that some words posses which is deixis, the ability of some words to have a pointing function. There are basically three types of deixis: - Referential deixis. - Spatial deixis. - Temporal deixis VII. The Sounds of English: The author here moves to the study of speech sounds that can involve either segments or suprasegmentals. On one hand, analysis of speech segments focuses on the individual sounds in a given word. On the other hand, the study of suprasegmentals moves the analysis beyond individual speech sounds to move to syllables within a given word or to intonational patterns across words, phrases, and clauses. Speech segments can include either phonemes or allophones where the former are distinctive speech sounds and create meaningful differences in words. As for allophones, they don’t have phonemic distinctive feature exclusively within the boundary of a given language. In order to represent that, a conceptual phonetic alphabet was created to represent that in which slashes are representative of phonemes and brackets ([]) are representative of allophones. The sounds are divided into consonants and vowels with vowels that are described based on: backness, frontness, closeness and openness. ( you can look at the appendix to see English vowels diagram​4​ ) Consonants can be classified and described based: on the manner of articulation, place of articulation and voicing. The study of suprasegmentals extends the focus of inquiry to units that are larger than individual segments – syllables, words, phrases, and clauses – and to the features of sound that describe these units, specifically stress and intonation. One key factor to both stress and intonation is the notion of the syllable that consists of three parts: an onset, a nucleus, and a coda. The arrangement of these three parts and what kind of element that can be placed is determined by a set of rules called phonotactic constraints. Suprasegmentals also studies stress that varies according to the context. This variability can be the result of the history of the language such as the Norman Conquest (1066) and the french stress pattern they’ve brought with them in the case of English. Evaluation Charles F. Meyers is a professor at Massachusetts University where he teaches Linguistics to students aspiring to teach English as a second language. The book is designed for first year students, per se, so as to give them a strong introductory about Linguistics and therefore serves as a guideline for them and also as a course book for teachers. For beginners, it is a
  10. 10. perfect first to-start-with with the author aiming to convey most of the basic notions related to Linguistics that students need to know. The book is also designed as self-study work with the activities that are introduced by the end of each chapter. These activities are instrumental for students to check their understanding and grasp of the topic. The book even goes further by offering further reading at the end of each chapter for those who want to go deeper and find more information; however, I think that the author digressed in offering these suggested extensive reading which will likely to leave the reader, especially the beginner, perplexed on what reading needs more attention. It would have been better if the author has provided some required reading at the beginning including articles, online videos, etc to increase the chance of reading them by students. Having said that, the book won’t be too much beneficial for students who are already familiar with basic terms of Linguistics and they may find the book a bit simplistic in its structure except for some of the activities that they may enjoy while practising their knowledge. The book is organized in top-bottom approach by going from the largest unit of language to the smallest units one. In other words, the book started by giving an overview of the history and development of English, then moved the social context which is more or less related to Pragmatics, then moved to the topic of text in English. After that, the book delved into the syntax of English, and he went down the road to the words by looking at them with the lenses of morphology and ended it by looking at the smallest sound unit in the language, namely phoneme. The book is not intended to raise questions that are discussed in the realm of Linguistics but only gives an account of what was or is being said in Linguistics and therefore, it is hardly to describe it as an attempt to ask new questions be it theoretically or empirically. About the Reviewer: Mehdi ZOUAOUI is an Education and E-learning Consultant with an ELT background and passion for Linguistics as well as Literature. He’s an evangelist for Non Formal Education and alternative approaches to schooling and deschooling. He has completed more than 40 Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) from prestigious universities and the counter is still going on. He has co-authored two books related to Turkish and Arabic language learning. Appendix 1. “The Lord’s Prayers” Mathiew 06:09-- 13: 1 Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum;// Father our thou that art in heavens 2 Si þin nama gehalgod// be thy name hallowed 3 to becume þin rice //come thy kingdom 4 gewurþe ðin willa //be-done thy will 5 on eorðan swa swa on heofonum // on earth as in heavens 6 urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us todæg // our daily bread give us today 7 and forgyf us ure gyltas // and forgive us our sins 8 swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendum // as we forgive those-who-have-sinned-against-us 9 and ne gelæd þ u us on costnunge // and not lead thou us into temptation 10 ac alys us of yfele so þ lice // but deliver us from evil. Truly.
  11. 11. 2. Opening stanzas of the General Prologue to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: PROLOGUE Here bygynneth the Book of the tales of Canterbury. Whan that Aprille, with hise shoures soote, The droghte of March hath perced to the roote And bathed every veyne in swich licour, Of which vertu engendred is the flour; Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth Inspired hath in every holt and heeth The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne, And smale foweles maken melodye, That slepen al the nyght with open eye 3. Zipf’s Law: 4. English vowel diagram ( screenshot from the book):
  • iskendergne

    Nov. 28, 2016

Charles F. Meyers is a professor at Massachusetts University where he teaches Linguistics to students aspiring to teach English as a second language. The book is designed for first year students, per se, so as to give them a strong introductory about Linguistics and therefore serves as a guideline for them and also as a course book for teachers. For beginners, it is a perfect first to-start-with with the author aiming to convey most of the basic notions related to Linguistics that students need to know. The book is also designed as self-study work with the activities that are introduced by the end of each chapter. These activities are instrumental for students to check their understanding and grasp of the topic. The book even goes further by offering further reading at the end of each chapter for those who want to go deeper and find more information; however, I think that the author digressed in offering these suggested extensive reading which will likely to leave the reader, especially the beginner, perplexed on what reading needs more attention. It would have been better if the author has provided some required reading at the beginning including articles, online videos, etc to increase the chance of reading them by students. Having said that, the book won’t be too much beneficial for students who are already familiar with basic terms of Linguistics and they may find the book a bit simplistic in its structure except for some of the activities that they may enjoy while practicing their knowledge.

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