A brief treatment of grammar follows. For full treatment, see linguistics.

A common contemporary definition of grammar is the underlying structure of a language that any native speaker of that language knows intuitively. The systematic description of the features of a language is also a grammar. These features are the phonology (sound), morphology (system of word formation), syntax (patterns of word arrangement), and semantics (meaning). Depending on the grammarian’s approach, a grammar can be prescriptive (i.e., provide rules for correct usage), descriptive (i.e., describe how a language is actually used), or generative (i.e., provide instructions for the production of an infinite number of sentences in a language). The traditional focus of inquiry has been on morphology and syntax, and for some contemporary linguists (and many traditional grammarians) this is the only proper domain of the subject. In Europe the Greeks were the first to write grammars. To them, grammar was a tool that could be used in the study of Greek literature; hence their focus on the literary language. The Alexandrians of the 1st century bc further developed Greek grammar in order to preserve the purity of the language. Dionysus Thrax of Alexandria later wrote an influential treatise called The Art of Grammar, in which he analyzed literary texts in terms of letters, syllables, and eight parts of speech. The Romans adopted the grammatical system of the Greeks and applied it to Latin. Except for Varro, of the 1st century bc, who believed that grammarians should discover structures, not dictate them, most Latin grammarians did not attempt to alter the Greek system and also sought to protect their language from decay. Whereas the model for the Greeks and Alexandrians was the language of Homer, the works of Cicero and Virgil set the Latin standard. The works of Donatus (4th century ad) and Priscian (6th century ad), the most important Latin grammarians, were widely used to teach Latin grammar during the European Middle Ages. In medieval Europe, education was conducted in Latin, and Latin grammar became the foundation of the liberal arts curriculum. Many grammars were composed for students during this time. Aelfric, the abbot of Eynsham (11th century), who wrote the first Latin grammar in Anglo-Saxon, proposed that this work serve as an introduction to English grammar as well. Thus began the tradition of analyzing English grammar according to a Latin model. The modistae, grammarians of the mid-13th to mid-14th century who viewed language as a reflection of reality, looked to philosophy for explanations of grammatical rules. The modistae sought one “universal” grammar that would serve as a means of understanding the nature of being. In 17th-century France a group of grammarians

Rules of grammar usually accounted for formal. Historical grammarians did not follow earlier prescriptive approaches but were interested. As a result of the work of historical grammarians. or standardizing language and were put to pedagogical use. Opposition to teaching solely in terms of prescriptive and proscriptive (i. instead. written. These were written primarily for purposes of reforming. grammarians of the second half of the 20th century. They claimed that common elements of thought could be discerned in grammatical categories of all languages. purifying. They collected a large sample of sentences produced by native speakers of a language and classified their material starting with phonology and working their way to syntax. or transformational. Noting their emphasis on linguistic universals. in discovering where the language under study came from. Unlike their Greek and Latin counterparts. The simplification of grammar for classroom use contrasted sharply with the complex studies that scholars of linguistics were conducting about languages. Generative.from Port-Royal were also interested in the idea of universal grammar. literary language only and did not apply to all the varieties of actual. the contemporary linguist Noam Chomsky called the Port-Royal group the first transformational grammarians. The Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure and other descriptive linguists began studying the spoken language. They did not limit their inquiry to literary languages but included dialects and contemporary spoken languages as well.. This prescriptive approach long dominated the schools. studied the knowledge that native speakers possess which . spoken language.e. By 1700 grammars of 61 vernacular languages had been printed. what must not be done) rules grew during the middle decades of the 20th century. During the 19th and early 20th centuries the historical point of view flourished. the Port-Royal grammarians did not study literary language but claimed instead that usage should be dictated by the actual speech of living languages. where the study of grammar came to be associated with “parsing” and sentence diagramming. Scholars who realized that every living language was in a constant state of flux studied all types of written records of modern European languages to determine the courses of their evolution. such as Noam Chomsky. scholars came to see that the study of language can be either diachronic (its development through time) or synchronic (its state at a particular time).

There is more to language than sounds. Whereas descriptivists like Saussure examined samples of individual speech to arrive at a description of a language. grammar exists as a field within linguistics but still retains a relationship with these other disciplines. new English curricula have been devised in which grammar is a focus of investigation. . and literary critics over the centuries. avoiding the prescriptivism of former times and using techniques that promote a lively and thoughtful spirit of inquiry. psychologists. such as Australia and the United Kingdom.” However.. For many people. in speech. The study of grammatical theory has been of interest to philosophers. anthropologists. insofar as is known. has gone on in only a small number of societies. words are not separated by pauses. and Arabic learning dealt with grammar. Today. Chinese. from the last quarter of the 20th century a more sophisticated awareness of grammatical issues has taken root. grammar still refers to the body of rules one must know in order to speak or write “correctly. transformationalists first studied the underlying structure of a language. transformational grammar. Assorted References • major reference ( in linguistics (science): Non-Western traditions ) Linguistic speculation and investigation. To the extent that Mesopotamian. In some countries. See generative grammar.enables them to produce and understand an infinite number of sentences. • definition ( in language: Grammar ) The other component is grammar. especially in schools. their treatments were so enmeshed in the particularities of those languages and so little known to the European world until recently that they have had virtually no impact on Western linguistic. The concept of the word is a grammatical concept. Related Articles Aspects of the topic grammar are discussed in the following places at Britannica. and words are not to be regarded as merely sequences of syllables. They attempted to describe the “rules” that define a native speaker’s “competence” (unconscious knowledge of the language) and account for all instances of the speaker’s “performance” (strategies the individual uses in actual sentence production). but they are recognized as recurrent units that make up sentences..

clear that all normal humans bring into the world an innate faculty for language acquisition. Indeed.. Human children are very soon able to construct new. Such classifications give rise to what are called typological classes. and conjunctions) and the “referential words” (those that symbolize entities outside the language system). as conceived in the historical study of languages.. • dictionary information ( in dictionary (reference work): Grammatical information ) Dictionaries are obliged to contain the two basic types of words of a language— the “function words” (those that perform the grammatical functions in a language.. Classes of.Very generally..families. grammatically acceptable sentences.. Each type must be treated in a suitable way. grammar is concerned with the relations between words in sentences.. such as the articles. • language classification ( in language: Language typology ) . any one of which may be captured in. • written and spoken languages ( in language: Written versus spoken languages ) . therefore.. linguists define grammar as a system for mapping—establishing a system of relations between—sound and meaning... • language acquisition ( in language: Language acquisition ) It is.. should not be confused with the quite separate classifications of languages by reference to their sharing certain predominant features of grammatical structure. The last phrase refers to the internalization of the rules of the grammar of one’s first language from a more or less random exposure to utterances in it. pronouns. prepositions. These levels of structure admit of several subdivisions... and grammar construction.linguist André Martinet referred to as the “double articulation” of language: the meaning structures on one hand and the sound patterns on the other.. language use. • writing systems ( in writing: Writing as a system of signs ) .

. • prosody ( in prosody (literature External Web sites Articles from Britannica encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. The rules of grammar explain what different kinds of words do and how they work together. grammar. literary sources • antiquity ( in history of Europe: Language and eloquence ) .which the ancients had communicated their thoughts. which included the reading and careful imitation of ancient authors from a linguistic point of view. Thus...Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up) . grammar .. The two grammars will be very similar. written English) from the grammar of the corresponding spoken language (spoken English). This meant that the languages of antiquity had to be studied as the ancients had used them and not as vehicles for carrying modern thoughts. and they will overlap in most places.. Every language has its own set of rules. was the basis of Petrarch’s entire program.For these reasons one should distinguish the grammar of a written language (e.g.Children's Encyclopedia (Ages 8-11) Grammar is a set of rules that tells how a language works. but the description of spoken English will have to take into account the grammatical. grammar .

all the words that make up a language must work together. and civilization is people living together in society.com . Also includes interactive quizzes. Includes listing of different terms." The topic grammar is discussed at the following external Web sites. or communication fails. More than anything else. synonym. Connecticut.The Grammar Gorillas Guide to Grammar and Writing Comprehensive educational resource for students on basics of writing and grammar. antonym. University of Illinois . homonyms. English Basics: Free Grammar and Writng Worksheets "Collection of worksheets on basic English grammar. FunBrain. verbs. provided by the Capital Community College. and reference material. Covers punctuation marks. Language is the primary means of communication between people. pronouns. and nouns. their descriptions. types of sentences. University College London . paragraph and essay writing. quotations. adverbs. linguistic rules. Cover information on different levels of sentence construction. a database of question and answers. U.Includes interactive exercises. adjectives. The words must be put together so that they make sense.Puts in plain language the intricacies of grammatical topics and terms.S. The word grammar is derived from Greek words that mean "writing" and "letters. grammar reference books.Language belongs to everyone. The study of how words are combined in order to make language work is called grammar. Good Style Pages linguistics science . and forms of communication.The Writers’ Workshop The Good Grammar." Grammar Instructions Interactive English grammar exercises for both students and teachers.The Internet Grammar of English Concise course in grammar for undergraduates as well as beginners. it makes civilization possible. For communication to be possible.

But there is. The philologist is concerned primarily with the historical development of languages as it is manifest in written texts and in the context of the associated literature and culture. though he may be interested in written texts and in the development of languages through time. especially to the elaboration of improved methods of language teaching. anthropological linguistics. in principle. The application of linguistic methods and concepts to language teaching may well involve other disciplines in a way that microlinguistics does not. and they are. The differences were and are largely matters of attitude. . Various areas within macrolinguistics have been given terminological recognition: psycholinguistics. used here purely for convenience. The linguist. mathematical and computational linguistics. to the literary and the aesthetic or communicative function of language. A synchronic description of a language describes the language as it is at a given time. theoretical versus applied. The field of linguistics may be divided in terms of three dichotomies: synchronic versus diachronic. to the manner in which they are acquired by children. The goal of theoretical linguistics is the construction of a general theory of the structure of language or of a general theoretical framework for the description of languages. the aim of applied linguistics is the application of the findings and techniques of the scientific study of language to practical tasks. a theoretical aspect to every part of macrolinguistics. and purpose. macrolinguistics embraces all of these aspects of language. microlinguistics versus macrolinguistics. emphasis. a diachronic description is concerned with the historical development of the language and the structural changes that have taken place in it. to the psychological mechanisms that underlie the production and reception of speech. and so on. The former refers to a narrower and the latter to a much broader view of the scope of linguistics.Main the scientific study of language. The word was first used in the middle of the 19th century to emphasize the difference between a newer approach to the study of language that was then developing and the more traditional approach of philology. languages should be analyzed for their own sake and without reference to their social function. and stylistics. tends to give priority to spoken languages and to the problems of analyzing them as they operate at a given point in time. The terms microlinguistics and macrolinguistics are not yet well established. According to the microlinguistic view. no less than to microlinguistics. Macrolinguistics should not be identified with applied linguistics. dialectology. In contrast. sociolinguistics. in fact.

but the interest of those scholars was concentrated largely on phonetics. of the 5th century bc. for this. Nineteenth-century workers. A study of Indian logic in relation to Pāṇinian grammar alongside Aristotelian and Western logic in relation to Greek grammar and its successors could bring illuminating insights. Thirdly. in ancient India a sophisticated version of this discipline developed early alongside the other sciences. History of linguistics » Earlier history » Non-Western traditions Linguistic speculation and investigation. there is in the rules or definitions (sutras) of Pāṇini a remarkably subtle and penetrating account of Sanskrit grammar. synchronic microlinguistics. insofar as is known. To the extent that Mesopotamian. and Arabic learning dealt with grammar. But. As might be imagined. this perceptive Indian grammatical work has held great fascination for 20th-century theoretical linguists. The construction of sentences. Indian grammatical learning played almost no direct part. recognized that the native tradition of phonetics in ancient India was vastly superior to Western knowledge. and the like is explained through ordered rules operating on underlying structures in a manner strikingly similar in part to modes of contemporary theory. compound nouns. however. and lexicography. writing. has gone on in only a small number of societies. which is generally acknowledged as the central part of the subject. Whereas in ancient Chinese learning a separate field of study that might be called grammar scarcely took root. Sanskrit was simply a part of the data. As soon as Sanskrit became known to the Western learned world the unravelling of comparative Indo-European grammar ensued and the foundations were laid for the whole 19th-century edifice of comparative philology and historical linguistics.A large portion of this article is devoted to theoretical. it will be abbreviated henceforth as theoretical linguistics. their treatments were so enmeshed in the particularities of those languages and so little known to the European world until recently that they have had virtually no impact on Western linguistic tradition. Certainly the most interesting non-Western grammatical tradition—and the most original and independent—is that of India. There are three major ways in which the Sanskrit tradition has had an impact on modern linguistic scholarship. Chinese. Even though the study of Sanskrit . Chinese linguistic and philological scholarship stretches back for more than two millennia. their consideration of grammatical problems was bound up closely with the study of logic. and this had important consequences for the growth of the science of phonetics in the West. which dates back at least two and one-half millennia and which culminates with the grammar of Pāṇini.

The situation was more complex. This side of what was to become “grammatical” learning was distinctly applied. was an abstract intellectual discipline. and the subject is more complex than is often supposed. and less exalted by comparison with other pursuits. in this sense.e. completed the development of the classical Greek grammatical tradition. It meant the study of the values of the letters and of accentuation and prosody and.” So in language it was natural to account for words and forms as ordained by nature (by onomatopoeia—i. The term hē grammatikē technē (“the art of letters”) had two senses.” who pointed to language’s lack of regularity as one facet of the inescapable irregularities of nature. Most of the developments associated with theoretical grammar grew out of philosophy and criticism. in modern theory. History of linguistics » Earlier history » Greek and Roman antiquity The emergence of grammatical learning in Greece is less clearly known than is sometimes implied. For example. and in these developments a repeated duality of themes crosses and intertwines. This led to the distinction that. In any event.” who looked on language as possessing an essential regularity as a result of the symmetries that convention can provide. and it laid the groundwork of modern theories of inflection. The Alexandrians. the study of grammar in India in the 1st millennium bc had already become an intellectual end in itself. however. is made with the terms signifiant (“what signifies”) and signifié (“what is signified”) or. than this statement would suggest..grammar may originally have had the practical aim of keeping the sacred Vedic texts and their commentaries pure and intact. This dispute regarding the origin of language and meanings paved the way for the development of divergences between the views of the “analogists. it seems that the anomalists among the Stoics credited the irrational quality of language precisely to the claim that language did not exactly mirror nature. Much of Greek philosophy was occupied with the distinction between that which exists “by nature” and that which exists “by convention. and the views of the “anomalists. by imitation of natural sounds) or as arrived at arbitrarily by a social convention. who were analogists working largely on literary criticism and text philology. with “expression” and “content”. and it also meant the skill of literacy and thus embraced applied pedagogy. though by no means with the exhaustiveness and fine-grained analysis reached by the Sanskrit grammarians. somewhat differently and more elaborately. here only the main strands can be sampled. . particular. the anomalist tradition in the hands of the Stoics brought grammar the benefit of their work in logic and rhetoric.

logic. . in order to understand their true value and place. of the 2nd century ad. and Priscian. so that not even their true extent could be classified with confidence. with mild adaptations to their highly similar language. produced the first systematic grammar of Western tradition. Aelius Donatus. are important not as originators but as transmitters. especially the learning of the schools of philosophy then current. And the philological analogists with their regularizing surface segmentation show striking kinship of spirit with the modern school of structural (or taxonomic or glossematic) grammatical theorists. In the early 1970s the majority of the known grammatical treatises had not yet been made available in full to modern scholarship.Dionysius Thrax. true and inner meanings of words. poetic figurative language. but it is difficult to be sure of his precise meaning. and literary criticism. It is difficult to relate this period coherently to other periods and to modern concerns because surprisingly little is accessible and certain. drawn from the work and interests of literacy. The Romans.” using a word meaning a less general form of knowledge than what might be called “science. rhetoric. difficult words. the total work of the Greeks. literary criticism. Yet modern specialists in the field still share their concerns and interests. History of linguistics » Earlier history » The European Middle Ages It is possible that developments in grammar during the Middle Ages constitute one of the most misunderstood areas of the field of linguistics. epistemology. let alone analyzed with sophistication. in the 2nd century bc. scribeship. both theoretical and practical.” His typically Alexandrian literary goal is suggested by the headings in his work: pronunciation. an African of the 6th century. who largely took over. These works must be analyzed and studied in the light of medieval learning. exposition of form-classes. it dealt only with word morphology. The anomalists. Dionysius called grammar “the acquaintance with [or observation of] what is uttered by poets and writers. of the 4th century ad. Up to this point a field that was at times called ars grammatica was a congeries of investigations. and their colleagues were slightly more systematic than their Greek models but were essentially retrospective rather than original. poetics. The study of sentence syntax was to wait for Apollonius Dyscolus. Dionysius defined a sentence as a unit of sense or thought. who concentrated on surface irregularity and who looked then for regularities deeper down (as the Stoics sought them in logic) bear a resemblance to contemporary scholars of the transformationalist school. textual philosophy.

The scholastic philosophers were occupied with relating words and things—i. Since a word cannot signify the nature of reality directly. though not their native tongue. Many linguists have found uncongenial the combination of medieval Latin learning and premodern philosophy. they accepted those that had come down from the Greeks through Donatus and Priscian. Yet medieval scholars might reasonably be expected to have bequeathed to modern scholarship the fruits of more than ordinarily refined perceptions of a certain order. and studied Latin.. Some of the medieval treatises continue the tradition of grammars of late antiquity. often with less incorporation of the classical poets and writers. Certainly the most obviously interesting theorizing to be found in this period is contained in the “speculative grammar” of the modistae. who flourished between the mid-13th and mid-14th century. it must stand for the thing signified in one of its modes or properties. wrote in. such scholars in groups must often have represented a highly varied linguistic background. the structure of sentences with the nature of the real world—hence their preoccupation with signification. so there are versions based on Donatus and Priscian. who were so called because the titles of their works were often phrased De modis significandi tractatus (“Treatise Concerning the Modes of Signifying”). Thus the study of sentences should lead one to the nature of reality by way of the modes of signifying. For the development of the Western grammatical tradition. and.The field of linguistics has almost completely neglected the achievements of this period. The aim of the grammarians was to explore how a word (an element of language) matched things apprehended by the mind and how it signified reality.e. was their insistence on a grammar to explicate the distinctions found . the contemporary flowering of theoretical study (men usually find their own age important and fascinating). the astonishing monument of Pāṇini. Students of grammar have tended to see as high points in their field the achievements of the Greeks. The great contribution of these grammarians. modern linguists are probably inadequately trained to deal with these writings. it is this discrimination of modes that the study of categories and parts of speech is all about. a language that. The modistae did not innovate in discriminating categories and parts of speech. work of this genre was the second great milestone after the crystallization of Greek thought with the Stoics and Alexandrians. was one in which they were very much at home. These scholars used. the Renaissance growth and “rediscovery” of learning (which led directly to modern school traditions). Another genre of writing involves simultaneous consideration of grammatical distinctions and scholastic logic. in recent decades.

“mirror” of reality) inquired into the fundamentals underlying language and grammar. The term acquisition is preferred to “learning. 2009.. They wondered whether grammarians or philosophers discovered grammar.” because “learning” .britannica. the Roman view was largely technical. Those questions sound remarkably like current issues of linguistics. Linguistics and other disciplines » Psycholinguistics » Language acquisition by children One of the topics most central to psycholinguistic research is the acquisition of language by children. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved August 01. In Encyclopædia Britannica. metaphysics. Signification was reached by imposition of words on things. what the fundamental topic of grammar was. The speculative medieval grammarians (who dealt with language as a speculum. Whether they made the best choice in selecting logic. grammar had not been viewed as a separate discipline but had been considered in conjunction with other studies or skills (such as criticism. which serves to illustrate how slow and repetitious progress in the field is.com/EBchecked/topic/342418/linguistics For a definition of "linguistics (science)". the acumen and sweep they brought to their task resulted in numerous subtle and fresh syntactic observations.by their forerunners in the languages known to them. 01 Aug.britannica. from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www. Before the modistae. i. 2009 <http://www. whether grammar was the same for all languages.com/EBchecked/topic/342418/linguistics>. While the modistae accepted. visit Merriam-Webster." Encyclopædia Britannica. and what the basic and irreducible grammatical primes are. APA Style: linguistics. preservation of valued texts. by modern standards. foreign-language learning). The Greek view of grammar was rather narrow and fragmented. Citations MLA Style: "linguistics. (2009). and epistemology (as they knew them) as the fields to be included with grammar as a basis for the grand account of universal knowledge is less important than the breadth of their conception of the place of grammar. 2009.e. A thorough study of the medieval period would greatly enrich the discussion of current questions. the sign was arbitrary. a restrictive set of categories.

that children are born with a knowledge of the formal principles that determine the grammatical structure of all languages. . Others have argued that it is not grammatical competence as such that is innate but more general cognitive principles and that the application of these to language utterances in particular situations ultimately yields grammatical competence. are generally recognized to have important implications for the investigation of shortterm and long-term memory and perceptual strategies. and the formal properties of language. and most psycholinguists are now more cautious about using grammars produced by linguists as models of language processing. and the main problem to which it has addressed itself has been how it is possible for young children to infer the grammatical rules underlying the speech they hear and then to use these rules for the construction of utterances that they have never heard before. discovered or more adequately discussed by generative grammarians than they have been by others. More recent work has cast doubt on these findings. generative grammar continues to be a valuable source of psycholinguistic experimentation. even more interestingly. come to achieve a fluent control of their native language.tends to be used by psychologists in a narrowly technical sense. shared by a number of psycholinguists. and many psycholinguists believe that no psychological theory of learning. It has also been asserted that the same basic semantic categories and grammatical functions can be found in the earliest speech of children in a number of different languages operating in quite different cultures in various parts of the world. and that it is this innate knowledge that explains the success and speed of language acquisition. in a relatively short time. is capable of accounting for the process whereby children. that the processing time increased proportionately with the number of optional transformations involved. there has been a good deal of psycholinguistic research directed toward validating the psychological reality of the units and processes postulated by generative grammarians in their descriptions of languages. Experimental work in the early 1960s appeared to show that nonkernel sentences took longer to process than kernel sentences and. Although Chomsky was careful to stress in his earliest writings that generative grammar does not provide a model for the production or reception of language utterances. Many recent works have stressed that all children go through the same stages of language development regardless of the language they are acquiring. Nevertheless. Since the beginning of the 1960s. It is Chomsky’s conviction. research on language acquisition has been strongly influenced by Chomsky’s theory of generative grammar. as currently formulated.

Two kinds of aphasia are commonly distinguished. to particular kinds of brain injury and. the source of sensory aphasia was localized in lesions . The term aphasia is used to refer to various kinds of language disorders. and more recent research has shown that in speech perception the cues provided by the acoustic input are interpreted. according to which the occurrence of each sound in a word and each word in an utterance is statistically determined by the preceding sounds and words. by the development of generative grammar is speech perception. to psychological theories of the storage and processing of different kinds of linguistic information. more especially. In sensory aphasia the patient’s fluency may be unaffected. Shortly after the connection had been established between motor aphasia and damage to this area (known as Broca’s area). but his comprehension will be impaired and his utterances will often be incoherent. Neurolinguistics should perhaps be regarded as an independent field of research rather than as part of psycholinguistics. the appropriate phonological and grammatical system. recent work has sought to relate these. on the other. It has long been realized that the identification of speech sounds and of the word forms composed of them depends upon the context in which they occur and upon the hearer’s having mastered. with reference not only to the phonological structure of the language but also to the more abstract levels of grammatical organization.Linguistics and other disciplines » Psycholinguistics » Speech perception Another important area of psycholinguistic research that has been strongly influenced by recent theoretical advances in linguistics and. In 1864 it was shown that motor aphasia is produced by lesions in the third frontal convolution of the left hemisphere of the brain. usually as a child. unconsciously and very rapidly. This. on the one hand. One linguist has put forward the theory that the most basic distinctions in language are those that are acquired first by children and are subsequently most resistant to disruption and loss in aphasia. but his comprehension is not affected. though not disproved. Information theory is no longer as generally accepted as it was a few years ago. work on speech perception was dominated (as was psycholinguistics in general) by information theory. In motor aphasia the patient manifests difficulty in the articulation of speech or in writing and may produce utterances with a simplified grammatical structure. Linguistics and other disciplines » Psycholinguistics » Other areas of research Other areas of psycholinguistics that should be briefly mentioned are the study of aphasia and neurolinguistics. is still regarded as controversial. Throughout the 1950s.

each with its own particular function.) Linguistics and other disciplines » Sociolinguistics » Delineation of the field Just as it is difficult to draw the boundary between linguistics and psycholinguistics and between psychology and psycholinguistics. and the ability to use one’s native language correctly in the numerous socially prescribed situations of daily life is as characteristic a feature of linguistic competence. Chomsky has described linguistics as a branch of cognitive psychology. many modern schools of linguistics that have been very much concerned with the role of language in society would tend to relate linguistics more closely to sociology and anthropology than to any other discipline. Some of the most recent work in sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics has sought to widen the notion of linguistic competence in this way. because the boundary between sociology and anthropology is also unclear. The acquisition of language. speech. and the anterior part is concerned with the articulation of speech and with writing. It is frequently suggested that there is a conflict between the sociolinguistic and the psycholinguistic approach to the study of language. is in part dependent upon and in part itself determines the process of socialization. and neither he nor most of his followers have yet shown much interest in the relationship between language and its social and cultural matrix. The posterior part of this area is involved more in the comprehension of speech and the construction of grammatically and semantically coherent utterances. and it is certainly the case that two distinct points of view are discernible in the literature at the present time. There is the further difficulty that. Little is yet known about the operation of the neurological mechanisms underlying the storage and processing of language. The technique of electrically stimulating the cortex in conscious patients has enabled brain surgeons to induce temporary aphasia and so to identify a “speech area” in the brain. so it is difficult to distinguish sharply between linguistics and sociolinguistics and between sociolinguistics and sociology. (See also the articles entitled perception. a topic of central concern to psycholinguists. as is the ability to produce grammatical utterances. but the existence of such a speech area in the dominant hemisphere of the brain (which for most people is the left hemisphere) seems to be well established. It would seem that the opposition between the psycholinguistic and the sociolinguistic viewpoint must ultimately be transcended. in the broad sense of this term. More recent work has confirmed these findings. sociolinguistics merges with anthropological linguistics (see below). . It is no longer generally believed that there are highly specialized “centres” within the speech area.of the posterior part of the left temporal lobe. On the other hand.

however formal or informal the situation and regardless of whether their listeners speak the same dialect or not. Linguistics and other disciplines » Sociolinguistics » Social dimensions Language is probably the most important instrument of socialization that exists in all human societies and cultures. what one says and how one says it depends upon the nature of that situation. As a social force. regional or social. one’s status vis-à-vis that of the person addressed. This is notable in England. people will almost always use the same dialect. be made: an Englishman speaking to an American may employ the word “elevator” rather than “lift” and so on. (Relatively minor adjustments of vocabulary may. This is commonly referred to as code-switching. the social role being played at the time.So far. It is largely by means of language that one generation passes on to the next its myths. Spanish and English among Puerto Ricans in New York) as well as between two dialects of the same language.) In many communities throughout the world. In every situation. and it is largely by means of language that the child comes to appreciate the structure of the society into which he is born and his own place in that society. and so on. Language interacts with nonverbal behaviour in social situations and serves to clarify and reinforce the various .. The term diglossia (rather than bilingualism) is frequently used by sociolinguists to refer to this by no means uncommon phenomenon. In some instances social dialects can transcend regional dialects. where standard English in the so-called Received Pronunciation (RP) can be heard from members of the upper class and upper middle class in all parts of the country. so that it is possible to tell from a person’s speech not only where he comes from but what class he belongs to. customs. one’s attitude towards him. The example of England is but an extreme manifestation of a tendency that is found in all countries: there is less regional variation in the speech of the higher than in that of the lower socioeconomic classes. In Britain and the United States and in most of the other English-speaking countries. Code-switching may operate between two distinct languages (e.g. laws. sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics tend to be regarded as relatively independent areas of research. it is common for members to speak two or more different dialects and to use one dialect rather than another in particular social situations. and beliefs. language serves both to strengthen the links that bind the members of the same group and to differentiate the members of one group from those of another. however. In many countries there are social dialects as well as regional dialects. however.

socioeconomic class. (For further treatment of sociolinguistics. German. grammatical. differences of sex. power and solidarity relationships between the participants. and lexical variation within one language. and many other languages— distinguishes lexically between monkeys and apes. To what extent the structure of a particular language is determined by or determines the form and content of the culture with which it is associated remains a controversial question. Terms such as style and register (as well as a variety of others) are employed by many linguists to refer to the socially relevant dimensions of phonological. but one that has not so far produced any very substantial results. is the application of notions derived from generative grammar to the analysis of ritual and other kinds of culturally prescribed behaviour. Sociolinguistics is far from having satisfactorily analyzed or even identified all the factors involved in the selection of one language feature rather than another in particular situations. Anthropologists continue to draw upon linguistics for the assistance it can give them in the analysis of such topics as the structure of kinship. and personal or transactional situations. the distinction between an animate and an inanimate gender).) Linguistics and other disciplines » Other relationships » Anthropological linguistics The fundamental concern of anthropological linguistics is to investigate the relationship between language and culture.roles and relationships important in a particular culture. But they seem to endure independently of any continuing cultural significance.g. is no longer debated as vigorously as it was a few years ago. age.. For example. from the fact that English—unlike French. see dialect. and educational background. Russian. but even here the interdependence of language and culture is not so strong that one can argue from the presence or absence of a corresponding cultural difference. Some of the major grammatical distinctions in certain languages may have originated in culturally important categories (e. . Among those that have been discussed in relation to various languages are: the formality or informality of the situation. So far there is very little agreement as to the precise application of such terms. in its strong form at least. occupation. A more recent development. The “Whorfian hypothesis” (the thesis that one’s thought and even perception are determined by the language one happens to speak). one cannot conclude that there is an associated difference in the cultural significance attached to these animals by English-speaking societies. Vocabulary differences between languages correlate obviously enough with cultural differences.

Theoretically more interesting. computers are employed to scan texts and to produce. France. more rapidly and more reliably than was possible in the past. Great Britain. and concordances. frequency counts. Whether automatic syntactic analysis and fully automatic high-quality machine translation are even feasible in principle remains a controversial question.Linguistics and other disciplines » Other relationships » Computational linguistics By computational linguistics is meant no more than the use of electronic digital computers in linguistic research. such valuable aids to linguistic and stylistic research as word lists. the Soviet Union. At a theoretically trivial level. Considerable progress was made in this area by research groups working on machine translation and information retrieval in the United States. is the automatic grammatical analysis of texts by computer. . in part because of the realization that the theoretical problems involved in machine translation are much more difficult than they were at first thought to be and in part as a consequence of a loss of interest among linguists in the development of discovery procedures. for a time at least. though much more difficult. But much of the original impetus for this work disappeared. and a few other countries in the decade between the mid-1950s and the mid-1960s.