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Marcel Danesi

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ANT253 Language and Society Lecture Notes Lecture 1 Course: ANT253 - Language & Society Professor M. Danesi Tuesdays 6pm-8pm OISE auditorium Chapter 1: Defining Language Language: a series of organized sounds that allow us to understand All languages have five basic things in common: 1. A system of distinctive sounds i.e. The German "ich" 2. Units known as words 3. A certain grammatical structure 4. Strategies for using language in various personal and social ways 5. Resources for making new words and, thus, new meanings Language structure a. Phonology: The study of sounds of a language. e.g. The "p" in pin b. Morphology: the study of how sounds are put together, in words c. Syntax: how words are put together and organized, such as in sentences d. Each language also has strategies for using language in various personal and social ways e.g. My name is Mr. John e. Each language has resources for making new words and thus, new meanings. Below are English meanings that are now encoded by the English vocabulary. Distinctions Language and Speech Speech is the delivery of language Lowering of the larynx Larynx not designed for speech Learning to speak and the theory of Universal Grammar LAD: Language Acquisition Device Holophrases (first words of babies), imitation, creativity, overgeneralization Lecture 2 Textbook available for purchase at Victoria College Bookstore Website: on Blackboard Chapter 2 - Studying Language Relationship between language (the mind) and society (the situation of the mind) The relationship between the two is crucial Language shapes our social systems/gender/lifestyle etc. The words we use are evaluating tokens of who we are Semantics: the study of meaning The Scientific Approach to Language We need science to back up language, we need terminology and standards relating to language Panini Indian scholar who studied and interpreted ancient Vedic scriptures and texts Viewed language as a code, a system Dionysius Thrax Greek scholar Identified that there were parts to the Greek language i.e. name (noun), verb, adjective He coined the original names of these parts in 500 BCE Language as a science Most of our language is comprised of nouns Relationship between frequency and words Zipfs Law George Zipfs, Harvard Law Professor, a linguist Counted words in his newspaper to notice word frequency The frequency of occurrence of a word varies (i.e. One letter words vs. Two letter words have different frequencies of occurrence) Organizing characteristic of language Changing or shortening words is making use of resources in an efficient way, how we abbreviate words to save time and be able to "say more" in one breath In fact, the rate at which we speak has actually sped up by 3 times When measured, the average WPM has increased significantly since the 1960s *We get the message across, but not necessarily the meaning* The Enlightenment Science began to arise alongside the mythic belief system which had always existed First introduced idea of language as being a system Port Royal Circle: They saw the sentence "An all-knowing God created the visible world" as made up of smaller (more basic) sentences as follows: 1. God is all-knowing 2. God created the world 3. The world is visible Port Royal Circle proves Zipfs law that we try condense as much as possible into short and sweet sentences (like above) Wilhem von Humboldt The particular structure of the language spoken conditions how people came to view reality i.e. When on the phone a white Canadian raised in China only speaking fluent Chinese sounds and is Chinese when talking to a stranger Idea that you are where you were raised Today his view is called the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis (LRH) Details of who we become due in large part to symbols language & the culture we are raised in Learning new languages changes your world view Neogrammarians People who use the comparative approach to compare 2 or more different languages Latin English Pater Father Pedem Foot P-->F P turning into F becomes a "sound law" - a law of language Proto-Indian-European (PIE) and the concept of language families Greek is older than Latin, Latin older than English Saussure Language vs. Parole Taught the first course of "linguistiques" (linguistics) He established the concept of langue Langue: not just spoken language, but language of things like chess Parole: formal aspects of language, how it is uttered Opposition Theory: we think of something by comparing it to its opposition i.e. Night and day Phoenic principle Opposition theory Minimal pairs - change of one sound i.e. Cat to bat to hat Structuralism: emerges in America, gains popularity there Franz Boas Founded first department of Anthropology at Columbia University Ethnography - living among those you want to understand Edward Sapir Canadian at Columbia and student of Franz Boas Whorf Renewal of LRH - Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis Becomes the Whorfian Hypothesis Lenoard Bloomfield 'langauge' textbook Noam Chomsky Went back to Saussure Instead of langue --> linguistic competence Parole --> communicative competence None of us were taught language, we were simply exposed to it from a young age We are programmed to learn language - therefore we have linguistic competence Its easier to have linguistic competence than to have communicative competence Lecture 3 4 levels or areas of study Study of sounds: phonology Study of words: morphology Humans have the ability to form larger units, sentences that make sense(unique to humans): syntax Extract meaning from sentences: semantics Saussure divided language analysis into 2 areas: langue and parole o Langue: language used in certain ways - for artistic/aesthetic ways (poetry, painting), cognitively, a classificatory device, humour, for learning to pass on knowledge and to create a sense of history and continuity o Parole: speech Chapter 3: The Origins of Language How did language 'start'? Biology of speech Bipedalism needed to occur for humans to speak naturally - we wouldn't speak if we were on all fours Human culture is not possible without language and communicating of ideas, thoughts, feelings Theories Otto Jespersen (1922): o Bow-Wow Theory: This suggests that speech originated as a result of attempts to imitate the sounds made by animals: bow-wow, meow etc. o Pooh-Pooh Theory: This claims that speech developed out of the instinctive sounds and grunts in response to pain, and other affective states: Pooh! Ah! Yikes! Wow! o Ding-Dong Theory: This postulates that speech resulted from vocal imitation or stimulation: ding-dong, bing-bang, flip-flop. o Yo-He-Ho Theory: This suggests that language arose from the chants made by early peoples as they worked and played together: i.e. Snow white's dwarfs chanted together..hi-ho-hi-ho-its-off-to-work-we-go o La-La Theory: This claims that language emerged as a consequence of the sounds our humans ancestors made in response to lovemaking, play, and other social activities.
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