Linguistics Introduction 9/11/2013 8:32:00 AM
What is linguistics?
Scientific study of language
The study of how language is organized and used
Descriptive vs. prescriptive grammar
o Prescriptive – what someone should or shouldn’t say
What is language?
Ability to communicate feelings, ideas, thoughts, information is possible because of
Language is a “modular system”
o Speakers understand and product language using several subsystems or modules at
the same time
What is language?
Key subsystems (English language has 14 vowel sounds)
o Production & interpretation of sounds
o Patterning of sounds
o Words (the structure of units that form words)
o Sentences (the structure of larger units)
o Organization of language beyond the sentence
Language is … very creative, and productive. Speakers produce new words, expressions, sentences out
of existing units (that other speakers of that language will understand).
o Language used governed by rules and constraints (what’s possible and what’s not
o Production and interpretation of new forms is not arbitrary (saying ‘that doesn’t
sound right’ even if you don’t know why)
Creativity in language
Creating verbs from expressions of time
o She summered in Muskoka.
o He wintered in Florida. o They honeymooned in Hawaii.
o *They midnighted in New Orleans.
o *He nooned at the bistro.
o *She two o’clocked at the office.
Rule-governed creativity: sound combinations
Non-existent English terms; possible
Non-existent; not possible
o Knowledge that enables speakers to create and understand words, phrases,
sentences (the units)
o Knowledge that speakers have about the appropriate use of words, phrases,
sentences (context, purpose)
Grammar in linguistics
Core areas of grammar*****************************
1. Only some languages have grammars
all languages have a system of sounds and rules governing how sounds pattern (phonetics &