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Introductory Lecture.docx

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Chandan Narayan

LINA02 Jan 10, 2013 Introductory Lecture – Language, Creole, Pidgin Some common misconceptions about language:  People believe that society is degrading language and grammar is going the same way  Biologically, is an unprecedented event that separates humans from other animals  Language pervades thoughts, makes speakers of different languages view reality in different ways  Children learn to talk to from role models  It is an example of our ability to use symbols  Humanity‟s most important cultural invention The above is all wrong:  Language is biological and complex  Develops naturally  Capacity for language is distinct from other cognitive abilities relating to intelligence  Language is instinct to humans (like flying is for birds)  Language is spoken by speakers, it is not a collection of symbols  Literacy is not an indication of linguistic competence  No language is better than the other in any way In the 1950s, behaviourists like Skinner and Watson believed that language was learned through a process called stimulus-response learning (this grouped together all types of behaviour)  This meant that children learnt through copying whatever is said to them  Children could not learn independently or create new sentences Chomsky disagrees with this (2 main arguments):  Creativity of language: new sentences can be created without ever being heard, with new combinations of word  Poverty of the stimulus: children can learn complex grammar without ever being taught the individual rules. Every child is given different exposure but they all grow up to learn grammar and language, enough to create novel sentence structure. Chomsky: LINA02 Jan 10, 2013 “It is a curious fact about the intellectual history of the past few centuries that physical and mental development has been approached in quite different ways. No one would take seriously the proposal that the
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