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Chapter 1

Chapter 1 Readings- What is language? .docx

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LING 1000
Linda Gerber

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Introduction to Language 1 Chapter 1: What is Language? Knowledge of the Sound system  The unconscious knowledge of language is revealed by the way speakers of one language pronounce words from another language,  Many French Canadians pronounce words such as this and that as if they were spelled dis and dat. The English sound represented by the initial letters th is not part of the French sound system, and the French mispronunciation reveals the speakers’ unconscious knowledge of this fact.  Knowing the sound system of a language includes more than knowing the inventory of sounds: sounds may start a word, end a word, or follow each other. Knowledge of Words  Knowing a language is knowing that certain sound sequences signify certain concepts or meanings. Knowing a language is therefore knowing how to relate sounds and meanings.  If you do not know a language the osunds spoken to you will be mainly incomprehensible, because the relationship between speech sounds and the meanings they represent in the languages of the world is, arbitrary.  Swiss linguist Ferdubabd de Saussure (1916/1969) pointed out the important principle of “the arbitrariness of the sign,” the wholly conventional pairing of a sound (form) with the concept (meaning).  The arbitrary relationship between the form and the meaning of a work in spoken language Is also true in sign language. o A person who knows CSL would find it difficult to understand ASL. o Signs that may have originally been mimetic (similar to miming) or iconic (with a nonarbitrary relationship between form and meaning) change historically as do words, and the iconicity is lost. These signs become conventional  Sound symbolism is found in words whose pronunciation suggests the meaning, as in the word hiss.  A few words in most languages are onomatopoeic—the sounds of the words supposedly imitate the sounds of nature.  Some words have shared sounds because of a historically related ancestor word. The creativity of Linguistic Knowledge  Knowing a language means being able to produce new sentences never spoken before and to understand sentences never heard before.  Creative aspect of linguistic knowledge: Speakers’ ability to combine finite number of linguistic units of their language to produce and understand an infinite range of novel sentences  Knowing a language includes knowing what sentences are appropriate in various situations.  The longer sentences become, the less likely we would hear or say them. Knowledge of Sentences and Non-sentences  Our “intuitive” knowledge of what is or is not an acceptable sentence in English allows us to recognize such ungrammatical sentences with little difficulty.  Knowledge of a language determines which strings of words are sentences and which are not. Therefore, in addition to knowledge of the words of the language, linguistic knowledge includes rules for forming sentences and making judgements.  These rules must be finite in number so that they can be stored in our finite brains; yet they must permit us to form and understand an infinite set of new sentences. Linguistic knowledge and Performance  Speakers’ linguistic knowledge permits them to form longer and longer sentences by joining sentences and phrases together or adding modifiers to a noun.  There is a difference between having the knowledge necessary to produce sentences of a language and applying this knowledge.  It is a difference between what you know, which is your linguistic competence, and how you use the knowledge in actual speech production and comprehension, which is your linguistic performance.  Speakers of all languages have the knowledge to understand or produce sentences of any length.  When they attempt to use that knowledge there are physiological and psychological reasons that limit the number of adjectives, adverbs, clauses, and so on.  Linguistic knowledge is not conscious knowledge  The linguistic system is learned subconsciously with no awarenes
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