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Chapter 1

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LING 200
Maire Noonan

LING 200 Introduction to the Study of Language Chapter 1 What is Language? “Language” is not a very well defined concept.  We will need precise and new terminology.  Grammar? o Is that well-defined?? o A good way to start thinking about language is to o Differentiate o Knowledge of language from o Use of language Noam Chomsky, the father of modern linguistics termed these:  Linguistic competence versus  Linguistic performance i.e. Sara and Bob expect to like them. Sara and Bob expect to like them. Them ≠ Sara and Bob? Add, “Who do”: Now: them = Sara and Bob We differentiate knowledge of language from use of language. Noam Chomsky:  Linguistic knowledge: COMPETENCE Vs.  Use of language: PERFORMANCE Language is essentially an individual phenomenon: a system of knowledge that is internalized in the mind/brain of each individual  It has various social dimensions: o In order to mature in infants, it relies on social interaction (in great part because social interaction provides input) o It is used for social interactions on various levels It interfaces with society in various ways (language policies/laws, education, etc.) o It has social consequences Tacit Knowledge: Linguistic competence, grammar in our brains' Speakers are not aware or is subconsciously aware ofthe rules/ principles ofa language  Our judgment of how “them” can be interpreted in the two previous sentences is based on a rule  We all share this rule, but we are not aware of what that rule says precisely.  We were not taught that rule  We know this rule intuitively; it is not part of our explicit (conscious) knowledge  Linguists are interested in uncovering and explaining these types of rules/processes  Children learn the language that is spoken (or signed) in the environment they grow up in  Children acquire language at roughly the same time across languages  Language acquisition occurs automatically – innate language faculty OR universal grammar i.e. children do not need to be taught Grammar: the model that we, as linguists, construct to model linguistic knowledge (i.e.I- language) Phonology: knowledge about sound patterns Morphology: knowledge about word structure Syntax: knowledge about sentence patterns Semantics: knowledge about word and sentence meaning All languages are based on a GRAMMAR.  A grammar is a system of rules  A speaker knows these rules subconsciously  A grammar in this sense is a mental entity Two notions of “grammar” 1. Prescriptive Grammar: set of rules that prescribe how people should speak and write “proper English etc” o A type of grammar that tell people what or how they should use language (considered a stigma on social aspects and conventions) 2. Descriptive Grammar: set rules that describe how people actually do speak o To describe how people are using language [how they talk and how they communicate, etc. etc.) Linguistics are interested in the latter: Descriptive grammar  Goal of modern linguistics: a description, and explanation, of human linguistic knowledge i.e. (1) If the light is red, do not cross the street A prescriptive rule: it prescribes something  People need to consciously know/ must be told the rule to obey it  Explicit knowledge  People may choose not to obey it i.e. (2) If retinal molecules are exposed to light, they change configuration and as a result a nerve impulse is generated. A descriptive ‘rule’: it describes something that occurs  A process we can observe, describe and explain  Applies indiscriminately  Humans are not aware of this process; it happens automatically  It’s generally out of the range of control of humans to “disobey” this rule/process Examples of prescriptive grammar rules 1. Don't use double negatives, and don't use ain't. i.e. Say: I am not going anywhere Not: I ain’t goin nowhere Some plausible prescriptive rules for French 1. Use participle agreement in relative clauses. i.e. Say: Les chaises que j’ai peintes. The chairs that I’ve painted-PL.FEM Not: Les chaises que j’ai peint.* 2. Don't use “tu” in questions unless you refer to the 2 person singular (you). Use ‘est-ce que’ instead. i.e. Say: Est-ce que c’est vrai ? Not: C’est-tu vrai ? ‘Is that true?’ Prescriptive grammar rules 1. Speakers must be told/taught these rules. 2. Speakers may choose to disobey them - and do ! 3. Obeying the rules can be inappropriate in certain social contexts: a. Looking at an old photograph and exclaiming: i.e. Gee! Is that really I ?! The person you're looking for is I. This is an outrage up with which I shall not put (Winston Churchill) Standard and non-standard language  The lesser the social prestige of a speech community in a society, the lesser valued will likely be their speech variety  The language of people with most power and privilege speak is generally proclaimed to be the ‘correct way’ From a linguistic point of view  No intrinsic linguistic reason why one way of speaking is superior to another.  Any language or language variety is based on a mental grammar; a system of linguistic knowledge ACCORDING TO PRESCRIPTIVISTS Rules of two varieties of French Descriptive grammar= a model of the I-language. The scientific approach  A scientific hypothesis seeks to describe & explain a phenomenon of nature.  A scientific hypothesis must make predications.  This means: for a hypothesis to be scientific, it must be falsifiable.  The scientific method: make observation > generalize > form hypothesis > test hypothesis (gather more data) > revise hypothesis The innateness Hypothesis: every human being acquires a language. Humans are born with the ability to acquire a language.  Hypothesis (Noam Chomsky): Humans possess an innate language faculty.  This faculty is commonly termed Universal Grammar, short UG How does I-language arise in the mind? Every individual’s mental grammar that are shared in a community (similar understanding—not exactly the same as it is affected by individual experiences and/ or knowledge and their own process of language acquisition] I-language: the set of rules are internalized by speakers of a language, that is, every human being:  I-language = linguistic competence = mental grammar: o Generate: comprehend and produce  Permits speakers to generate infinitely many novel utterances from a finite number of elements – an aspect often referred to as the creative aspect of language Mentalism and Biolinguis
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