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2. Linguistic Principles.pdf

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York University
PSYC 3290
Raluca Barac

2. Linguistic Principles Thursday, January 17, 208:30 AM For Exam: Chapter 2 pp. 18-26 only Main points • Linguists have attempted to identify those grammatical features that appear in all languages. Four pervasive properties areduality of patterning, morphology, phrase structure, and linguistic productivity • American Sign Language shares these linguistic properties with spoken languages. Sign language differs from spoken languagesin its iconicity and simultaneous structure • A language consists of an infinite set of sentences. A person who knows a language knows its grammar, which consists of a finite set of rules • Transformational grammar distinguishes between two levels of sentence structure: deep structure and surface structure. Phrase-structure rules generate deep structures, and transformational rules operate on deep structures to produce surface structures • Several controversies exist within grammatical theory, including whether grammatical rules are psychologically real, the roleof syntax in grammar, and whether knowledge of language is innate Introduction • To understand how we comprehend and produce spoken and written language-- and how these skills are acquired-- we must understand the major properties of language as well as the processing characteristics of the individuals who use it • Fluently speaking a language does not guarantee that one has any explicit knowledge of the language • When we learn how languages are organized, we realize how truly complex they are Basic grammatical concepts • In English, word order is relative strict and follows a subject-verb-object (SVO) pattern • Other languages use word order in different ways (Japanese-- subject-object-verb SOV) • Other languages, such as Russian, convey meaning less by word order than by affixes (suffixes and prefixes) • Not only do languages differ in their general tendency to emphasize word order versus affixes, they also differ in the particular affixes they employ ○ In Mandarin Chinese, verb tense is optional ○ In Turkish, speakers must specify whether an event was witnessed or just hearsay • Although languages differ in a number of ways, the differences are not random, and there are impressive underlying similarities ○ Every language contains declarative sentences that express subject, verb, and object ○ All languages have a preferred word order, even though some languages allow more flexibility than others • Dualityof patterning ○ Duality of patterning-- a feature of a communication system in which a small number of meaningless units can be combined into a large number of meaningful units ○ At one level, there is a large number of meaningful elements, or words; At another level, there is a relatively small numberof meaningless elements that are combined to form the words (individual speech sounds in spoken languages)  This form of duality does not appear to exist in animal communication ○ Phones and phonemes  Phones are speech sounds  Aspiration-- an exhaled puff of air as you pronounce a sound  Phonemes are differences in sound that make a contribution to meaning □ Phonemes may be thought of as categories of phones; each phone is a physically distinct version of the phoneme, but note of the differences between phones makes a difference to meaning ○ Distinctive features  Phonemes are combinations of discrete features  A distinctive feature is a characteristic of a speech sound whose presence or absence distinguishes the sound from other sounds □ E.g., voicing-- the vibration of the vocal cords during the production of a sound □ E.g., bilabial-- the sound is articulated at the lips □ E.g., stop-- the airflow from the lungs is completely stopped during production  Distinctive feature theory claims that these are independent units that are combined to form phonemes  The sequence of phonemes that may occur in a given language is constrained  Distinctive features are useful in identifying how to formulate linguistic rules ○ Duality of patterning appears to be a universal property of language ○ Languages differ in their phonemes and in the rules by which the phonemes may be combined to from words, however all languages have duality: a level at which there is a relatively small number of basic, meaningless elements and another level at which there is a large number of meaningful elements  All languages have a systematic set of rules for combining the former into the latter • Morphology ○ Morphology-- the system of word-forming elements and processes in a language ○ The way in which we use different forms of the same word to convey different shades of meaning ○ Morpheme-- the smallest meaningful unit in a language  Free morphemes-- morphemes that have meaning on their own  Bound morphemes-- morphemes that contribute to word meaning but are not words themselves ○ Although all languages have a morphological system, languages differ in the grammatical distinctions they make and in the wayin which they make them • Phrasestructure ○ Phrase structure-- the hierarchal organization of sentences into phrases ○ Sentences can be divided into groups of words, or constituents  A constituent is a grammatical unit such as a Noun Phrase (NP) or a Verb Phrase (VP) □ E.g., (The young swimmer) (accepted [the silver medal]) ○ Phrase structure rules-- syntactic rules that specify the permissible sequences of constituents in a language  PS 1 S --> NP + VP □ Phrase Structure rule 1: Sentence = Noun Phrase + Verb Phrase  PS 2 NP --> det (determiner) + (adj) + N  PS 3 VP --> V + NP  Lexical insertion rules put words into the structure that has been built Derivation-- the entire sequence of rules that produces the sentence Textbook Notes Page 1 ○ Derivation-- the entire sequence of rules that produces the sentence ○ Phrase structure ambiguity-- a form of ambiguity in which a sentence has multiple meanings that may be revealed by regrouping the sentence constituents  A situation in which more than one tree diagram could be made for the sentence • Linguisticproductivity ○ There is no limit to the number of sentences in a language ○ Linguistic productivity (or linguistic creativity)-- our ability to create and comprehend novel utterances (the vast majority of things we say-- things that have not been said before using those exact words in that exact order) ○ Given that the human brain is finite, the problem of explaining how we can master a language with an infinite set of sentences remains a vexing problem for psycholinguists  Instead of storing sentences in our minds, we store rules for creating sentences (the number of rules needed is finite) ○ (PS 8) VP --> V + S : A sentence can be embedded into another  E.g., The child thinks the man left ○ (PS 9) S --> NP + V + S  E.g., The woman knows the child thinks the man left  A rule such as this, which refers to itself (S is on both sides of the arrow), is said to be arecursive rule ○ There is no limit to the number of times we can embed one sentence into another ○ Linguistic productivity distinguishes human language from animal communication systems, which consist of a small number of discrete signals  In contrast, all human languages are open communication systems in which new words are coined as they are needed ○ Not all aspects of language are productive; some are not rule-governed and must be memorized (i.e., the past tense ofgo is went) • Summary ○ Four basic grammatical concepts are duality of patterning, morphology, phrase structure, and linguistic productivity ○ Words are composed of phonemes, which, in turn, have distinctive features ○ In each instance, the small units are combined in a rule-governed manner to produce the larger units ○ Words consist of one or more units of meaning, or morphemes ○ The system of grammatical morphemes in a language provides speakers with a way of signaling subtle differences in meaning ○ Phrase-structure rules codify our intuitions about the groupings of words in a sentence ○ Some sentences are ambiguous and may be grouped in more than one way ○ Linguistic productivity refers to the fact that there is no limit to the number of sentences in a language ○ One type of phrase-structure rule, that of recursion, is responsible for some of this productivity Insights fromsign language • American Sign Language (ASL)-- The form of sign language used in the United States. It is a complete language distinct from oral languages ○ ASL is different from manual forms of English that translate English sounds into signs (i.e., fingerspelling) ○ ASL is independent from English and was derived from French Sign Language • Differencesbetweensignedandspokenlanguages ○ Iconicity and arbitrariness  Arbitrariness-- A feature of language in which there is no direct resemblance between words and the object to which the word refers; a universal feature of human language  In contrast, ASL possesses a high degree of iconicity-- many of the signs resemble the objects or activities to which they refer  Even though all sign languages have iconic signs, the signs differ from language to language in the actual details  Iconic signs are not necessarily transparent in meaning
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