Linguistics 110 Class 1 (9/18/02



(1) Linguistics: the scientific study of human language. • Scientific • Scientific study • Language (2) A linguist is someone who: a. speaks many languages (‘polyglot’, ‘multilingual’). b. speaks fluently the languages he or she studies. c. studies the languages he or she speaks fluently. d. study languages in order to teach people how to speak correctly. e. studies natural languages for the purpose of understanding their structure. (3) What does it mean to “know a language”? (a) Sound system • Sound inventory: German: Bach, Süd ‘south’, rot ‘red’. Mandarin Chinese: ma@ ma! ma# ma~ ‘mother’ ‘hemp’ ‘horse’ ‘to curse’

Navajo: ch’ah ‘hat’, k’ai’ ‘willow’. Sindhi: ∫´ni ‘field’, ∂inu ‘festival’. !Xo!o): !oo ‘knife’, ||ahm ‘freckle’. (Indo-European, Pakistan) (Khoisan, southern Africa)

English: this, that—the sound for ‘th’ is not in French. • Sound combination: zl: ok in Polish—zloty ‘a unit of currency’, not ok in English. pt: ok at the beginning of the word in Polish—ptak ‘bird’, not ok in the same position in English.

st: ok in English—stop, rest, not ok in Mandarin Chinese.
(b) Words • The lexical meanings of words.


(i) English: German: Hausa: Korean: Mandarin: Taiwanese: Arabic: Russian:

tree baum bishiya namu shu~ tǸ!u a~ shajara derevo

(ii) /dog/ /soos/ /moon/

English: Hebrew Hebrew: Latin: English: Korean:

‘dog’ ‘fish’ ‘horse’ ‘pig’ ‘moon’ ‘door’

Q: What do these tell you about the relationship between form and meaning? • • How to combine morphemes into words. Morpheme: smallest meaningful unit in a language. Interaction between knowledge of how to combine morphemes and knowledge of sounds—how does the shape of a morpheme change in different contexts? Plural book chair ax mouse sheep Past ask ban pat do hold book[s] chair[z] ax[Iz] mice sheep ask[t] ban[d] pat[Id] did held *book[z] *chair[s] *ax[s] *mouse[Iz] *sheep[s] *ask[d] *ban[t] *pat[t] *do[d] *hold[Id] *bookedistas


(c) Sentences and non-sentences a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h. i. I am going to give you a presentation on language. I am going to give you. John is difficult to love. It is difficult to love John. John is anxious to go. It is anxious to go John. I have seen Maria and Juan. Who have you seen? Who have I seen Maria and?

Q1: How many grammatical sentences are there in English? Q2: How do we make these grammatical judgments? (4) How do we acquire the knowledge of our language? (a) By imitation? • One type of knowledge we discussed in (3) clearly shows that children cannot learn their language by purely imitation the adults. What is it?


Thank you very much for stepping on my toe because I was afraid I had elephantiasis and now that I can feel it hurt I know it isn’t so. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free. Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze. • Children produce ungrammatical sentences to adults’ ear. My nose is crying. Don’t giggle me. I am barefoot all over. What the boy hit? Other one pants. Mommy get it my ladder. Cowboy did fighting me. • Knowledge of words and sound structures cannot be acquired by pure imitation either. (i) Jason breaked my toy. There are many sheeps in the picture. I holded the baby rabbits. (ii) pajamas camera Rebecca here banana pajama Amita → → → → → → → jimamas gemda fibeca heel nana jama Mita

(b) By reinforcement? • Child: Mother: Child: Mother: Child: • Child: Father: Child: Father: Child: Father: Child: Father: Child: Father: Child: Nobody don’t like me. No, say “Nobody likes me”. Nobody don’t like me. (dialogue repeated eight times) Now, listen carefully, say “Nobody likes me”. Oh, nobody don’t likes me. Want other one spoon, Daddy. You mean, you want the other spoon. Yes, I want other one spoon, please, Daddy. Can you say “the other spoon”? Other…one…spoon. Say… “Other”. Other. Spoon. Spoon. Other…spoon. Other…spoon. Now give me other one spoon? 3

(c) By analogy—we can form new, previously unheard sentences because they are like the ones we have heard before? The child hears… I painted a red barn. I painted a barn red. By analogy, the child might produce… I painted a blue barn. I saw a red barn. I painted a barn blue. *I saw a barn red.

• There are certain mistakes that children never make: • A unicorn is in the garden. Is a unicorn in the garden? A unicorn that is eating a flower is in the garden. Is a unicorn that is eating a flower in the garden? * Is a unicorn that eating a flower is in the garden. Children never make mistakes like the last sentence. No language moves the first auxiliary verb to the front to form questions. No language reverses the order of the words to form questions. These things are not hard to do! • Jim ate ice-cream and cookies. Jim ate what? What did Jim eat? Jim ate ice-cream and what? *What did Jim eat ice-cream and?

Children never make mistakes like the last sentence. No language does what the last sentence does. • The poverty of the stimulus: children learn aspects of the grammar for which they never receive information! “How come it that human beings, whose contacts with the world are brief and personal and limited, are nevertheless able to know as much as we do know? Is the belief in our knowledge partly illusory? And if not, what must we know otherwise than through the sense?” —Bertrand Russell • These facts point to the possibility of the following: • • • Our language ability is biologically innate. Some grammatical structures are already hard-wired in our brain when we are born. These form the Universal Grammar (UG), as termed by Chomsky. Our ability to use language is an instinct, like the instinct to walk and see. In this sense, we can say that humans have specialized “organs of language” in the same way they have “organs of walking” or “organs of vision”.


Children’s task in language-learning is to fill in the part of the grammar not specified by UG. They acquire language the same way they acquire the ability to walk.

(5) Modularity • The claim: the brain is divided into distinct anatomical faculties that are directly responsible for specific cognitive functions, including language. • Q1: Given the claim, where will the crucial evidence come from? Q2: If there is really a language module in the brain, what will we expect from patients with brain damage? How many types of patients do you expect to see? Q3: If there is no language module, and language is simply a consequence of general human intelligence, how many types of patients with brain damage do you expect to see with respect to their language ability? (6) Mr. Ford • Stroke victim, damage to lower parts of the frontal lobe in the left hemisphere. • Language severely impaired. Interview with Howard Gardner, where Gardner asked about his work as a Coast Guard radio operator. “I’m a sig … no … man … uh, well, … again.” These words were emitted slowly, and with great effort. The sounds were not clearly articulated; each syllable was uttered harshly, explosively, in a throaty voice… …… “Were you in the Coast Guard?” “No, er, yes, yes, … ship… Massachu … chusetts … Coast guard … years.” He raised his hands twice, indicating the number “nineteen.” “Oh, you were in the Coast Guard for nineteen years.” “Oh … boy … right … right,” he replied. “Why are you in the hospital, Mr. Ford?” “Arm no good. Speech … can’t say … talk, you see.” …… “Can you tell me, Mr. Ford, what you’ve been doing in the hospital?” “Yes, sure. Me go, er, uh, P.T. nine o’ cot, speech … two times … read … wr … ripe, er, rike, er, write … practice … get-ting better.” • • • • • Omits endings like -ed, -s and grammatical function words like or, be, and the. Ok with content words, like oar, bee. Can name objects well. Understands “does a stone float on water?”—can deduce meaning from the content words. Cannot answer questions like “The lion was killed by the tiger. Which one is dead?”—requires grammatical analysis.


• Other cognitive abilities not affected. • Nonverbal IQ in high average region. • Fully aware of where he was and why he was there. • Can calculate, read maps, set clocks, make constructions, carry out command. • Can we claim the modularity of language solely by observing cases like Mr. Ford? (7) Denyse • Born with “split spine”—leaves spinal cord unprotected, causes brain damage. • Severely retarded: • never learned reading or writing; • cannot handle money or other daily functioning. • Has unimpaired language development. “I like opening cards. I had a pile of post this morning and not one of them was a Christmas card. A bank statement I got this morning!” “My mum works over at the, over on the ward and she said ‘not another bank statement.’ I said ‘it’s the second one in two days.’ And she said ‘Do you want me to go to the bank for you at lunchtime?’ and I went ‘No, I’ll go this time and explain it myself.’ I tell you what, my bank are awful. They’ve lost my bank book, you see, and I can’t find it anywhere. I belong to the TSB Bank and I’m thinking of changing my bank ’cause they’re so awful.” • With cases like Mr. Ford and Denyse, can we claim the modularity of language?