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Lecture 3

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CMNS 110
Jean Hebert

CMNS 110 – Week 3 Language Evolution & Acquisition Language & Culture: - Language origins - Language acquisition - “Magical” words - Two theories of language origins - Charles Hockett’s Design Features of Language St. Augustine’s Intuitive Account: - “I saw it and realized that the ting they wished to indicate was called by the name they then uttered. And what they meant was made plain by the gestures of their bodies… so it was that by frequently hearing words, in different phrases, I gradually identified the objects which the words stood for and, having formed my mouth to repeat these signs, I was thereby able to express my will.” “Magical words” - Politeness: “please” and “thank-you” - Expletives (cursing, swearing) - Hate speech - Euphemisms (for death, excrement, etc.) Language acquisition, particularly oral, still plagues us even though we are masters of us (eg. pronunciation) Two Theories of Origins: - The Call of Nature Hypothesis: o Out of the inarticulate calls, cries and grunts of our Hominid ancestors, speech gradually emerged. Now language is thought of as socially created (and not bestowed upon each individual) - The Gestural Origins Hypothesis: o Gestures arose first, with uttered language coming later (eg. babies) Hockett’s Design features of Language: - Vocal/auditory channel - Rapid fading - Interchangeability - Intrapersonal feedback - Semanticity - Arbitrariness - Displacement - Productivity - Tradition - Prevarication - Reflectivity (meta-communication) - Concatenation (duality of patterning) - Medium Transferability Primary Orality: - Walter Ong o Our thoughts are governed by our media – in oral communication we have more reciprocal communication o Literacy introduces linearity of thought and a bias towards one way, hierarchical communication - Marshall McLuhan o Literacy introduces linear thinking, linear rationality o Electronic culture retrieves orality/aurality o How does the medium itself order thought? Polychronic and Monochronic Time: o Monochronic (M) time: linear, scheduled, quantified (saved/spent/wasted), task oriented (roughly – business/gendered as male) o Polychronic (P) time: nonlinear, unscheduled, unquantified, people-oriented (roughly – family/ gendered as female in the West) - The linear character of post-alphabet/literate era is directly related to the increased schedule-obsessed, task-orientation of modern capitalism with effects on the gendered division of labour, spatial organization of citites by urban planners, organization of TV schedules and programs, etc. Imagining Primary Orality: - Describing a horse using an automobile Secondary Orality: - “voices heard against a background of ubiquitous print” - Imagine “looking things up” before print/google/internet Contemporary understandings of how language works: - What are words? o 1. Following substance, form, & Form – what are words?  Words = symbolic representations/stand-ins of reality o 2. Where is the meaning made?  Meanings are socially constructed; can also be made at the point of conversation  Made by the words and the interaction o Words (spoken) = fundamental units in our primary medium (or technology) for representing thought/reality  Eg. words representing a dog has no relation to reality but are instead symbolic stand-ins.  Some languages do somewhat approximate reality. • English is a “symbolic” language – uses “symbols” to represent phonetic sounds • Chinese/Japanese uses “iconic/character-based” languages where individual symbols relate visually to the real world object/concept  If the English language is symbolic & the symbols we use bear really no relation to the “reality out there”, how do we make sense of them? Language: Structure or Dialogic? - Langue and Parole (Ferdinand de Saussure) o Langue: refers to the shared codes and rules that form the basic structure of language (e.g. grammar, structure, emphasis, etc.)  Saussure believed that we should use this really understand meaning- making in communication o Parole: speech or the individual act of using language  Michael Bakhtin believed we should study this to really understand
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