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Lecture 3

ANTH 210 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: William Labov, Phoneme, Linguistic System


Department
Anthropology
Course Code
ANTH 210
Professor
Gursky Sharon
Lecture
3

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LINGUISTICS CONTINUED 11-8
Descriptive linguistics:
- study grammar and syntax of languages
The scientific study of a spoken language involves several interrelated areas of analysis: phonology, morphology, lexicon,
and syntax
1) Phonology: the study of speech sounds and considers which sounds are present and significant in a language
2) Morphology: studies the forms in which sounds combine to form morphemes- words and their meaningful parts
- Ex. cats contain two morphemes, the word cat and s indicating plurality
3) Lexicon: is a dictionary containing all its morphemes and their meaning
4) Syntax: refers to the arrangement and order of words in phrases and sentences
Phonemes are the basic units of speech perception, the smallest bits of sound that we recognize as a meaningful
element of language
- Ex. English speakers hear the difference between l and r sounds while Swahili and Japanese speakers lump them
together in a single phoneme
- In linguistics we say that the difference between r and l is phonemic in English and French, but not in Japanese
- A phoneme is a sound contrast that makes a difference, that differentiates meaning
- We find phonemes in a language by comparing minimal pairs, words that resemble each other in all but one
sound
- These words have totally different meanings but they differ in just one sound
- The contrasting sounds are therefore phonemes in that language
a) Ex pit/bit - Thus p and b are phonemes in English
- We also have no trouble understanding normal speech at the rate of about 10 phonemes per second and if we
concentrate we can understand people who bombard us with25 phonemes per second
- The advantage of rapid communication can be easily imagined and early human who could decode the hurried
shout  look out the lio is ehid ou
- Would have a substantial edge oer the poor fello ho ould ol sa  speak ore slol, I a’t… gasp
- We perceive language the same way we write it down- as a sequence of discrete words that are separate by
brief silences
- However this is an auditory illusion
- There are no periods of silence in ordinary speech
a) If ou liste to aother laguage, ou a’t hear a silee etee ords
b) Sound level does not drop to zero between spoken words
- By making different to combinations of words, people can generate an endless variety of meaningful signals
- Other primates use particular specific contexts as if each vocalization communicates a separate thought
- Vertvet monkeys have a number of different alarm calls such a system is very limited
- Modern humans can remember between 45000 and 90000 words
- If we used a system similar to the vervet monkeys we could communicate something like 100000 thoughts
- This sounds like a lot but it is still greatly limited
- Just keepig trak of ho’s sleepig ith ho i a ad of huter gatherers or ho is sleeping with who on only
one floor of a college dorm could easily use up all the available vocalizations
- Instead we recombine all of the words to produce and endless number of thoughts
- Basing communication on words that can be recombined solves one problem but creates another: a collection of
words by themselves does not communicate meaning
- Consider the sentences:
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