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Lecture 2

LING 1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Waggle Dance, Reverse Engineering, Universal Grammar


Department
Linguistics
Course Code
LING 1
Professor
Sportiche Dominique
Lecture
2

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270916 (Lecture 1.1)
Homework:
Read lecture notes and finish chapter 2
Watch bee waggle dance video on ccle
Readings on CCLE other than lecture notes are optional
Can visit ANY TA not just mine
Languages are like human faces:
Superficially q diverse
Diversity is socially and psychologically v impt to us
But it may conceal substantial uniformity arising from shared structural features
Language is a system that allows us to communicate or express our thoughts
The language that I speak is a manifestation of a system in my head. It’s a mental object
How to study it?
Big idea #1:
Mentalism: the object of study is a mental capacity
Big idea #2:
Naturalism: the structure of this object can be inferred from an analysis of the linguistic
behaviour of speakers
It is a reverse engineering problem
Input -> black box -> output, where black box is what you cannot see
E.g. input = food and output = poop, the difficult thing is to try and figure out what goes
on in the black box and find out how the input results in the output
E.g. Bee’s waggle dance (video on ccle)
Language poses this same black box problem
o Production (the ‘speaker’): input = meaning/output = physical sound/signal
o Perception (the ‘listener’): input = physical signal/output = meaning
o How does this work? There’s a systematic correlation
Big idea #3: We make explicit hypotheses about what goes on inside the black box
Formalism: hypotheses about the structure of this object are explicit formal models supposed
to predict speakers’ behavior
Terminology:
Competence vs Performance
Basically Knowledge vs Use/structure (static) vs flow (dynamic)
Competence:
The knowledge
The capacity to speak and understand (the language)
The wiring of the brain that allows language
The structure of the relevant parts of brain matter
The internal organization of this black box
Performance:
The use of the language, not just head knowledge basically
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