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The Properties of Language

Lecture #2 LING 2301 Fall 2008

Do you remember?
What is Language (“big-L”)? What is a language (“little-L”)?

grammar

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The systematic “rules” and patterns that govern linguistic behavior The body of knowledge that allows one to produce a particular language
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LING 2301 Fall 2008

Grammar
A Body of Linguistic Knowledge
–How to:
Combine sounds Create words Build sentences Construct texts Participate in conversations
“Language is so built into the way people live that it has become an axiom of being human.” --Bolton
LING 2301 Fall 2008 3

is thisLooking at Stepping Back: LANGUAGE??? Communication LING 2301 Fall 2008 4 .But.

Core Properties of all Communication •Form (various modalities) •Meaning •Function (purpose) sign LING 2301 Fall 2008 5 .

Analyze this Non-Linguistic Sign LING 2301 Fall 2008 6 .

How About This Sign? ??? LING 2301 Fall 2008 7 .

Three Types of Signs Iconic – Signifier (form) resembles signified (meaning) Indexical – Signifier gives directional information Arbitrary – No inherent relationship between form and meaning Q: If words are signs – and they are – what kind of sign are they? LING 2301 Fall 2008 8 .

7 Design Features of Human Language Arbitrariness Discreteness Duality Productivity Displacement Cultural Transmission Interchangeability LING 2301 Fall 2008 9 .

a matter of convention (consensus) even interjections and onomatopoetic signs are arbitrary – ouaoua ~ bow-wow ~ mŏng-mŏng ~ signified wan-wan moon signifier 10 – aïe! ~ ouch! ~ aigo! ~ aiya! LING 2301 Fall 2008 .e. i.Arbitrariness the connection between the signifier (form) and the signified (meaning) is arbitrary these arbitrary relationships are agreed upon by speakers.

Arbitrariness 달 moon mahina kuu 月 lua LING 2301 Fall 2008 lune 11 .

book “shu” Arbitrariness moo “muu” silent “muu” daikon “muu” LING 2301 Fall 2008 shoe “shu” cabbage “shu” additional “muu” 12 .

7 Design Features of Human Language Arbitrariness Discreteness Duality Productivity Displacement Cultural Transmission Interchangeability LING 2301 Fall 2008 13 .

“continuous”? Discrete entities have clear boundaries. utterances can sound like continuous streams of sound. categorical. without discernible units. Language is… DISCRETE Language is made up structured units if… –… you have knowledge of the system! –Otherwise. they’re units.What is “discrete” vs. LING 2301 Fall 2008 14 Discreteness . Continuous entities don’t have clear boundaries.

Color Test: How many do you see? Which set of colors is DISCRETE? color chart 1 vs. color chart 2 LING 2301 Fall 2008 15 .

7 Design Features of Human Language Arbitrariness Discreteness Duality Productivity Displacement Cultural Transmission Interchangeability LING 2301 Fall 2008 16 .

7 Design Features of Human Language Arbitrariness Discreteness Duality Productivity Displacement Cultural Transmission Interchangeability LING 2301 Fall 2008 17 .

Duality Linguistic units have a dual nature: 1.They are more than simple physical events They are produced in order to communicate meaning LING 2301 Fall 2008 18 .They are observable physical events “noise” or “image” 2.

7 Design Features of Human Language Arbitrariness Discreteness Duality Productivity Displacement Cultural Transmission Interchangeability LING 2301 Fall 2008 19 .

a. LING 2301 Fall 2008 20 . “Creativity”) How many utterances are there in a language? Humans are capable of unlimited expression. “Rule Governed Creativity” – An infinite number of utterances can be created by a limited number of rules / patterns. We routinely create and comprehend novel utterances.k.Productivity (a.

7 Design Features of Human Language Arbitrariness Discreteness Duality Productivity Displacement Cultural Transmission Interchangeability LING 2301 Fall 2008 21 .

The Last Three Design Features Displacement Cultural Transmission – We can communicate beyond the here and now – We are not “stimulus bound” – Grammars are transmitted from one generation to the next – Acquiring “a language” requires involvement in a culture – COMPARE Genetic Transmission of big-L “Language” Each human is born with Language. Interchangeability – All members of the community are physically capable of transmitting and receiving messages LING 2301 Fall 2008 22 . it’s a biological instinct.

*A a a baby cat dog the the.Focus on Sentences Consider the following finite lexicon: – – – – – – – – – – – hugged saw laughed dog cat the a cute big baby we *The we laughed a cute. Create two different sentences using only these words LING 2301 Fall 2008 23 . *Cat the hugged baby the.

Portuguese • Falar-ei LING 2301 Fall 2008 24 . Tomorrow her to speaking do shall. Korean • Naeil * d. Dutch * b. I shall speak to her tomorrow I shall her tomorrow speak. spreken. • Ik zal haar morgen * c. Speak shall I with her tomorrow. com ela amanhã. ke-ege mal-ha-gessumnida.Which of the Following Strings are Grammatical? a.

editors Descriptive Grammar (Descriptively Grammatical) – The set of rules (or patterns) that characterize observed language behavior – Determined by observing language users and extracting relevant generalizations LING 2301 Fall 2008 25 .What do we Mean by “Grammatical”? Prescriptive Grammar (Prescriptively Grammatical) – The set of rules (or patterns) that are deemed to be the “correct” or “proper” way to use a language – Set by members of the community that possess the power to enforce the rules: teachers.

Determine the Grammaticality of… Prescriptively Grammatical Descriptively Grammatical The student said that our dog saw A a cat. LING 2301 Fall 2008 . E I shall her tomorrow speak. The brave little toaster jumped into D the lake to save the drowning duck. Yes No No Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No 26 B What are you talking about? They want to boldly go where C nobody has gone before.

and dedicated to the proposition that each men created equal. conceived in Liberty. The industrious bunnies baked a delicious cake for Mimi’s birthday. The red roses are yellow.Grammaticality vs. LING 2301 Fall 2008 27 √ ! . Semantically Odd * Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation.

Relationship between Prescription and Description Universe of all word combinations in language X Combinations that speakers actually produce Combinations that are officially sanctioned by the authorities Descriptively grammatical but prescriptively ungrammatical LING 2301 Fall 2008 Descriptively ungrammatical but prescriptively grammatical 28 .

Judging what is “Good” in Language According to Algeo. “Good” Language: – Communicates something successfully – Meets literary standards – Is scholarly – makes the language police happy – Is logical Who gets to judge what is good? LING 2301 Fall 2008 29 .

what makes language X better than language Y? Nothing! As Bolton says. “Language is very fertile ground for ethnocentricity.Comparing Languages: Who’s is Better? Do you have the right to say that somebody else’s language is too hard or backwards or illogical or ugly? Yes! From a linguistic perspective.” Who gets to judge what is good? LING 2301 Fall 2008 30 .

tell me what one point in today’s lecture was the least clear? What concept do you find the hardest to “get”? LING 2301 Fall 2008 31 .Muddiest Point Before you leave class today.