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LINA01H3 (200)
Lecture 1

LINA01H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Language Module

Course Code
Eri Takahashi

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Goals of the Course
-understand the nature of human language
-identify basic questions that linguists ask
-learn the methodology of the field and develop skills in analyzing data from a language and recognizing
the patterns that underlie that data
-develop a sense of the extent to which languages can differ from one another, but also of the ways in
which they tend to be all alike (diversity and universality among languages)
What is Linguistics? What is a Linguist?
-"how many languages do you speak?"
-why is this a misguided question?
-language vs. languages
-study particular languages to discover the fundamental properties of language
-studying languages vs. speaking languages
-linguistics is the scientific study of human language
-we study language to understand the nature of the human mind
Animal Communication
-Nim Chimpsky (Terrace 1970s)
-not too long ago, it was claimed that apes could learn sign language
-is language not unique to humans?
-able to use simple signs
The Enterprise
-linguist's goal: to build a model of the system that allows speakers to speak and understand their native
-what is it that you know when you know a language?
-studying language module (one system in the human mind) for fundamental properties and universals
What is Language?
-language is systematic; follows a system of rules
-every language has systematic patterns and rules
-do not end a sentence with a preposition
-do not split a sentence with an infinitive
Prescriptive Grammar
-rules of a language that are dictated by society as "correct"
-based on the "prestige dialect"
-assumes there is an ideal/correct version of a language
-assumes that there are language experts who need to explicitly teach the rest of us how to speak
-they are often ways of speaking that are not quite natural to you
-things your parents/grandparents bug you about
Prescriptive vs. Descriptive
-prescriptive rules: how the people should speak
-descriptive rules: describes how people actually speak/characterizes actual usage
-this is what linguists study
-describe patterns that exist in the data
-they do not try to tell people how they ought to speak
Grammar as Used by Linguists
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