Sept 9 – Introduction and Studying Language
Linguists are interested in the structure of language. What formal constraints are there for how sounds
come out? What are the formal constraints of the order of words in sentences? How is it that people are
able to comprehend sounds and words?
Linguistic Competence: what people can do
Linguistic Performance: what people actually do
**analogy: knowledge (competence) vs. grade (performance)**
How do we study linguistic competence?
The only way to study competence is by looking at the performance. There is no way to measure
internally of a person.
• Prescriptive language: what a teacher teaches in a classroom concerning order of words,
prepositions, etc. ie: with whom did you have dinner?
• Descriptive language: how people actually speak in general. ie: who did you have dinner with?
◦ Linguists are interested in studying how people normally speak, the descriptive language, not
◦ ie: do you wanna go to the store? vs. do you want to go to the store? (pronouncing the t's
purposefully at the end of the want and in front of the to)
What does it mean to know a language? (to be fluent)
• Can correctly understand everything that one hears that is part of that language.
• One is able to say what they want to say.
• Say the things that are part of the language (grammatical sentences).
• Having unconscious knowledge about what is and what isn't part of the language (metalinguistic
Metalinguistics of Phonology (speech)
• Knowledge of phonemes, which are consonants and vowels.
• Different combinations allowed. ie: ng combination occurs at the end of english words but not at
• Accents are detectable to native speakers of a language.
• What are the 'melodies' (prosody)? ie: saying is she pretty? with different sounds and intonations
to represent different meanings. (use to detect sarcasm)
◦ record and record are two different words because the stress pattern on the syllables are
Metalinguistics of Lexicon (words)
• Fast mapping: learning after exposure to the concept. ie: a strange animal comes running in the
room, someone says it is a 'blim' and we assume that that is what the animal is c