Thursday, March 12, 2015
Chapter 9: Language
Morphemes and Words
-for each word, the speaker typically has several bits of information. ﬁrst, the speaker
knows the words sounds, they know the words orthography, they know how to use
the word in various phrases with the rules of syntax and they need to know the
meaning of a word by having semantic representation for the word to go with the
phonological representation - thus, connecting meaning to the sound.
-most words are used to name objects or events in the world around us.
-what a word refers to is called the words “referent” with this context one might
propose that the meaning of a word of phrase is linked to the words referent ex: bird.
-there is certainly an element of truth here. even so there are key differences between
a words reference and its meaning. on addition sometimes a word’s reference is
temporary or a matter of coincidence. thus, for these and other reasons word
meanings must have mire than the reference. for present purposes lets just say that a
large part of knowing a word is by knowing the relevant concept.
Building New Words
-we mentioned estimates of vocabulary for typical persons (45,000) but the size of
someones vocabulary and is quite ﬂuid. one reason is that new words are created all
the time. this happens for instance whenever a new style of music or clothing
demands a corresponding new vocabulary.
-there new words don't arrive in the language as isolated entries. however because
language users immediately how to create variations on each word by adding the
-once again therefore lets highlight the generatively of language - this is the capacity
to create an endless series of re combinations all built from the same set of
for ex: someone who knows english knows how to create new forms within the
language. they know how to combine morphemes to create new words, they know how
adjust them when they are put together into novel combinations etc. this knowledge is
-the generatively of language is even more salient when we consider the upper levels
in the hierarchy (ﬁgure 9.1) the levels of phrases and sentences. most sentences
Thursday, March 12, 2015
though contain 20 words or fewer. with this length limit there is 100,000,000,000,000
possible sentences. but, there are limits on which combinations are acceptable and
which are not.
-speakers somehow respect the rules of syntax - those that govern the sequence of
words in a phrase or sentence. one might think that the rules of syntax depend on
meaning so that meaningful sentences are accepted as “sentences” while the
meaningless ones are rejected as non sentences but this suggestion is wrong.
-nonetheless, speakers after a moment’s reﬂection regard these sequences as
grammatically acceptable in a way. thus it seems that we need principles of syntax
that are separate from considerations of semantics or sensibility.
-phrase structure rules are the stipulations that list the elements that must appear in a
phrase as well as the sequence of those elements. the rules that specify the overall
organization of a sentence.
*noun phrase (NP) and verb phrase (VP) - view the tree structure on page 339.
Prescriptive rules and Descriptive rules
-injections like these are the result of prescriptive rules - those that describe how
language is supposed to be. language that does not follow these rules is claimed as
improper and wrong. we should be skeptical because language changes with the
passage of time and whats proper in one period is often different from what seems
right at another time. the pattern of chain makes it difﬁcult to justify prescriptive rules.
thus the selection of these rules may simply reﬂect the preferences of a particular
group - and in most settings, the group that deﬁnes these rules will of course be the
group with the most prestige.
-phrase structure rules in contrast are not all prescriptive they are instead descriptive -
they are rules that characterize the language as it is ordinarily used by ﬂuent
speakers and listening. - what we should say english is.
The Function of Phrase Structure
-lets be clear that no one is claiming english speaking are conciously aware of their
languages phrase structure rules or that speakers of other languages are are of their
languages rules. in some fashion we have all internalized these rules as most
aspects are reliably in line with them. consistently people accept sequences that
follow the rules and balk at sequences that do not. we have clear intuitions about how
the words in a sentence should be grouped.
seems to break up in naturally two parts: the boy (NP) and loves his dog (VP).
-the groupings that are provided by the phrase structure therefore organize a
sentence and this shapes our intuition about a sentences parts. it can also inﬂuence
memory. one might think that the strings of the second type (longer) would be harder
Thursday, March 12, 2015
to memorize but because they are organized they are easier to recall. phrase
structure also helps us understand the stances we hear or read because syntax in
general speciﬁes the relationship among the words in each sentence.
-likewise the V + NP sequence usually indicates the action described by the sentence
and then the recipient of that action. in this way, the phrase structure of a sentence
provides an initial road map that is useful for understanding.
-this role of phrase structure in guiding understanding can be conﬁrmed in a fashion
that is informative and often funny: sometimes two different phrase structures can
lead to the same sequence of words and if you encounter those words you may not
know which phrase structure was intended. thus, phrase structures guide
interpretation then with multiple phrase structures available there should be more
ways to interpret - this is true.
-we’ve seen how linguistic elements can be combined to create larger and more
sophisticated units. we have seen how a small number can create a large number of
combinations as well. the rules determine which units can be combined and in what
order. the rules also specify a structure within the larger units and the rules are similar
-although they differ in some ways, these regularities constitute or linguistic universals
- that is the principles that are applicable to every human in language. the proposed
universals are some to identify the inventory of constituents, others are in terms of
probabilities while some come and go together.
*the ambiguity can take many forms: phrase organization, a word, more evident in
spoken and not written.
*the existence of these linguistic universals opens an intriguing possibility.
-consider the fact that every human child learns how to speak, and the process is
quite rapid. even though what is learned is complex, how is it done?
the child begins the process with an enormous head start: a biological heritage that
somehow stipulates the board outline of human language. in other words, the child
begins language learning already knowing the universal rules; the tasks for the child is
to ﬁgure out exactly how the rules are realized whiten the language community that they
are raised in.
-we have discussed that a sentence phrase structure conveys crucial information
about did what to who and so on. once you know the phrase structure you’re on your
way to understanding the phrase structure.
-how do you parse (ﬁgure out each words syntax role) a sentence? one possibility is
that you wait until the sentences end and only then go to work on ﬁguring the