Lec 1: Intro Assignments are due at the beginning of tutorial
7:00 PM Lecture 1
LIN204H1S - English Grammar
Professor Safieh Moghaddam
Course Textbook: "English Grammar - Language as Human Behavior" by Anita K. Barry
What is Language?
What is Linguistics?
Prescriptive vs Descriptive grammar
Standard and Non-standard dialects
Register (formality & informality)
What is this course about?
- An introduction to the structure of language
- The purpose:
Provide basic linguistic research tools that could explain in a scientific way why some constructions are correct/ incorrect
in a given language(s)
- It is clear that when people use human language, they follow certain principles (rules)
e.g. a Sentence like:
- The man has seen the dog. (correct in English)
- *Seen man the has dog the. (incorrect)
(* = sentence is not grammatically correct)
What does it mean to know a language?
- Knowing a language = being able to speak and be understood by others who know that language
- The capacity to produce some sounds (or signs for deaf and mute) that have a certain meaning
And to understand and interpret the signs produced by others
- The capacity to understand what linguistic constructions (sounds or signs, words, sentences) are possible in a specific
And what constructions are not
- Linguist knowledge = unconscious knowledge:
- People speaking a specific language are able to explain what constructions are correct / incorrect in that language,
but they are not able to explain why
- To 'identify' the language
When someone speaks - you can easily tell what language that is
Test of linguistic competence
- Chomsky made a distinction between - Competence and performance
Unconscious knowledge = your competence
Production of actual utterances (e.g. speaking) = performance
- Which of the following are possible words of English?
Trood (why? Because 'tr' = a possible cluster in English) - clusters = combinations of
Pfam (pf = not a possible cluster)
Larbfd (too many consonants clusters)
- Which of the following are possible sentences of English?
Jason's mother left himself with nothing to eat. (no)
Who did you give the book to? (possible)
Is the dog sleeping the bone again? (no)
Max picked up the phone. (possible)
Max walked up the stairs. (possible)
Max picked the phone up.(possible)
Max walked the stairs up. (no)
What is Language?
- Knowledge of sounds
(sounds = phonetics, phonology)
When you know a language you know which sounds are part of the language
- English speakers know that b is a sound in their language but not q (a voiceless stop)
- Japanese speakers know that is tart of their language but not th
- When you know a language you know which combinations of sounds are possible:
English speakers know that words in English can start with (sound combos = clusters)
Str-, spl-, sk-, but not *lps-, or *ks-
In contrast - Spanish, words cannot start with
Lectures Page 1 In contrast - Spanish, words cannot start with
*st- or *sp-
- e.g. estrella "star" estado "state, especial, 'special'
- Knowledge of how sounds can and cannot combine goes into deciding names for new products and inventions: e.g. blog,
- Knowledge of word structure
(word structure = morphology )
When you know a language, you know which words are possible and which words are not:
- e.g. un-system-atic ….. But not *atic-system-un
- e.g. un-speak-ab-ly …… But not *speak-ly
Root = main component of the word
- e.g. "unsystematic" -> root = system
- We have rules for made-up words in our first language
e.g. one plirk -> two plirks
e.g. Tomorrow he'll fubble -> Yesterday he fubbled.
- We use these rules of word structure to create new words:
e.g. google-able, podcast-ing, pluto-ed, truthiness, faux-tography, nicotini, etc
"app" was named Word of the Year in January by the American Dialect Society
- e.g. commit - - commitment - - commitments
- Knowledge of Sentence structure
(Sentence structure = syntax )
Speakers of a language also know which combinations of words are possible and which combinations are not
- Bill is difficult to love. -> It is difficult to love Bill.
- Bill is anxious to go. -> *It is anxious to go Bill.
- Jane wrote a book -> A book was written by Jane.
- J became a doctor. -> *A doctor was become by J.
We use our knowledge of sentence structure every time we speak, creating sentences that have never been uttered or
- Knowledge of meaning and real-world usage
(meaning = semantics, real-world usage= pragmatics )
Speakers can recognize ambiguities in meaning:
- e.g. I saw the man with the telescope.
□ MEANING 1 = using the telescope, I saw the man.
□ MEANING 2 = I saw the man who had the telescope.
- e.g. Everyone loves someone.
□ MEANING 1 = There is a certain person who everyone loves.
□ MEANING 2 = each person loves someone (although not necessarily the same someone)
Usage (pragmatics): Speakers are aware of diff levels of formality in their first language and know when to use them:
- Got a pen? - - would you happen to have a pen? (Informal vs Formal)
- Take this - could you (please) take this (for me)? (Informal vs. Formal)
- Language is a complex cognitive system
What is linguistics?
What is grammar?
Prescriptive vs Descriptive Grammar
Major areas of Linguistic Theory (components of grammar)
What is Linguistics?
- Linguistics = scientific study of human languages and (generally) the human capacity for language
Linguistics describe language as it is actuallyspoken by people
- If native speakers accept a form (e.g. a word, a sentence..etc) then that form is grammatical in their dialect.
- Linguists are interested in all natural language (and all their dialects) not just "standard dialects'
Something may be grammatical in one dialect but can be ungrammatical in another
Linguists examine speech at varying levels of formality. Formal speech, casual speech, polite speech, and impolite
speech are equally worthy of study
Both formal and informal speech are grammatical
What is grammar?
"the art of speaking and writing any language with propriety" (p.8, 18thc)
- The writer defines art as "a system of rules", with propriety = appropriately.
- Reworded: "the system of rules for speaking and writing a language appropriately"
- Canadian Oxford Dictionary: defines grammar include: "the means of showing the relationship between words"
- Free Online Dictionary: "The study of how words and their component parts combine to form sentences"
Approaches to Grammar
- There are 2 approaches to grammar ( a system of rules ):
- "prescribes" It tells you what to do (shoulds and shouldn'ts)
- As long as people can communicate and understand each o