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Lecture 3

LING 1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Linguistic Prescription, International Auxiliary Language, Williams Syndrome

Course Code
Sportiche Dominique

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290916 (Lecture 1.2)
Summary: The study of language faculty as a window into human cognition
Prescriptive vs Descriptive
Prescriptive grammar: categorizes certain language uses as acceptable or unacceptable
according to a standard form of the language
This is the grammar that ppl mean when talking about ‘bad grammar’
Descriptive grammar: has as its goal to
what the native speakers of a lang do (verbally)
when they speak their language
This is the grammar that we talk about in linguistics
Examples of prescriptive rules
Don’t split infinitives
Don’t use double negation
o “I didn’t do anything” instead of “I didn’t do nothing”
Don’t end a sentence with a preposition
Don’t use who in place of whom
Prescriptive rules vary from language to language there isn’t really any fixed thing that makes
the ‘rules’ but they are based on judgements about social group membership
Black English Vernacular
In BEV, they usually drop the word ‘be’. It is not sloppy English!
2 hypotheses to be made about the language
1. Be can be freely omitted in BEV
Wrong cos ‘be’ cannot be dropped in ‘don’t be messin’ w my old lady
2. Be is not omitted in BEV but is phonologically reduced (like he is to he’s) the same
occasions as standard english
Correct cos
Its not sloppy because it follows the ‘same’ grammatical rules as standard English
Any (naturally) spoken language is governed by rules and the linguist is interested
rules, not in
There is an infinite no. of sentences hence they cannot be
Evidence for innateness: invention of languages (creoles, sing language)
Evidence of some modularity of mind (language specific mechanisms) double dissociation
(Broca’s aphasia, SLI, Williams Syndrome)
Pidgin: Auxiliary language arising among speakers of mutually unintelligible language
Creoles: Language acquired by children raised in a pidgin-speaking environment. A Creole is
thus a pidgin that has acquired native speakers

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300916 (Discussion 1)
Evidence that language is an instinct
Linguistic Creativity
o Recursion allows the existence of infinite sentences
o Competence vs performance
Poverty of the stimulus
o Stimulus is whatever the child hears spoken growing up
o This basically is saying that whatever they grow up hearing isn’t enough to give
them knowledge on all the rules of grammar
Observational evidence:
o Pidgins and creoles
o Language ability and general intelligence are distinct:
Aphasia (Broca’s)
From brain damage, they can think and do other stuff properly
but cannot speak properly
Specific language impairment
From genetic problems, same as aphasia
William’s syndrome
Can speak very fluently but are severely disabled
Denyse’s syndrome (not an actual syndrome Denyse is a person in the
Can speak very fluently but are severely disabled
Prescriptive and descriptive grammar (not mutually exclusive)
o Which one are linguists interested in? Why?
Descriptive! Cos it says interesting things about our innate language
Prescriptive rules are also kind of arbitrary
o “A language is a dialect with an army and a navy”
an army and a navy means institutional power backing one version of a
language over another. So basically its saying that is the same as any
other dialect

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071016 (Discussion 2)
Left hemisphere is where processing of language happens, includes sign language
o Shows that sign language is the same as language
Can be seen through MRI and aphasia studies
How much of language is innate? Not all, cos no child comes into the world alr speaking
Vocabulary not innate
o Arbitrary
o Not limited in variations
“The boy (subject) kicked (verb) the ball (object)” English but Korean is subject, object,
similarly kids need to be able to understand the difference bet. “vo” or “ov” languages.
The “switch” the knowledge that the difference is innate but the choice of which way to
talk “vo” or “ov” has to be learned
The capacity to learn how to speak is universal and innate
We are predisposed to speak with recursion, therefore is innate
How do we learn language? When is the best time?
When we learn a second language, we will never be able to sound like a native speaker
if it is past the critical period
Often confuse the first language w the second, whereby the mistakes we make
The critical period (0-7) for language
People who have were never exposed to a language (e.g. isolated deaf children) and
only learn after mid-teens will never be able to speak/sign fluently w perfect grammar
Is language and thought the same thing? No
Mental imagery that cannot be explained in language
You write things that you’re not meant to say
o The thought is not thought in language
Refer to handout for the rest.
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