The underlying structure is the same for that person to speak English that it is for you to speak English.
100 different languages spoken in the GTA over 15 different language families
Language is organized in Language families ; English is a sister to Dutch and related to German…
911 in Toronto is equipped to respond to calls in 150 languages
o Toronto is unique in its linguistic diversity
Language is uniquely human, the thing that makes us human
The study of language provides us with a window into which we can investigate what it means
to be human
Understanding the fundamentals of linguistic diversity gives us a better understanding of the
diverse cultures around us and makes us more thoughtful citizens.
What is ‘linguistics’?
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language and language use.
What does scientific mean in the context of language study?
o You do not learn a language by imitation
o The human brain can break it down
o What humans must know in order to use language
o How languages are structured
o How humans acquire language
What this course is not!
A language instruction course!
o You won’t learn how to speak a language
Consider the following statements about language:
1. Writing is generally more perfect than speech
2. Women generally speak better than men
3. The more words you know in a language, the better you know the language
Are these statements verifiable?
o Can you demonstrate whether they are true or not?
o You can’t prove it.
o It is possible to verify the truth of facts, not of judgment, which expresses an opinion;
linguists do not investigate opinions about language There are myths about language & there are verifiable facts about language structure, language
acquisition, language change & language usage
What do linguists investigate?
‘Every language distinguishes singular nouns from plural nouns by adding an ending in
‘Kids need to study for years in school to learn to speak their language.’
‘The word chef in English is borrowed from French.”
- Something that we can verify, when it entered the English dictionary.
‘The syllable structure of Hawai’ian is less complex than in English.’
Hawai’ian structure is constant-vowel-constant-vowl ; wikiki
‘The vowels of Canadian English are different from the vowels of American English.”
This course is…
“Phonetics”: the articulation & perception of speech sounds
Speech sounds & combinations : “Phonology”
Words : “Morphology” (morph meaning words)
Word combinations (sentences) : “Syntax”
“Semantics”: the interpretation of words & sentences
Learn to recognize surface differences & similarities between languages & talk about them in a
You will not learn ‘proper’ English, but rather how to analyses & describe human languages
Human vs. Non-Human Communication Systems
Human language is different than animal communications
Some animals have extremely complex communication systems
o Bees communicate by dancing, the dance tells other bees the approx distance from the
food source & its quality
Some animals appear to learn human language
o Talking parrots, recognizes colours, shapes & numbers of objects
Answers questions about these things in English
Does not learn from passively listening ; requires human interaction
Qualitative difference between how humans use language & how other animals use their
o Human languages are:
And they’re rule-governed in their productivity
Humans do not simply memorize & repeat the words they’ve heard
Rules Governed Creativity
U-Shaped development of English past tense formation in children’s English
o You start learning it and you’re really good at it, but then you get bad at it, but it
improves and you get good at it again
Stage 1: walked, played, came, went