CHAPTER 1: WHAT IS LANGUAGE (and what does it mean to know a language?) PowerPoint originally created by Don L. F. Nilsen Supplemented with material from Bert Vaux
LANGUAGE PLAY & MAPPING The primary function of language is not to communicate, but is rather to think creatively or analogically. Language play allows humans to map an infinite number of real-world details onto a small finite number of sounds, letters and words. (cf. Fromkin Rodman Hyams 3) 40
And the exciting thing is that this mapping happens not only for the infinite details of the real world, but of all possible worlds whether real, discovered, invented, postulated, fictionalized, or imagined. 40
THE CONTINUITY PARADOX Derek Bickerton states it as follows: “Until we cease to regard language as primarily communicative and begin to treat it as primarily representational, we cannot hope to escape from the Continuity Paradox” (Bickerton 689).
can produce a sentence with 2 relative clauses without knowing what a relative clause is We have knowledge of what sounds are in our language
CONTRAST SOUNDS, SPELLINGS AND MEANINGS: Antonyms: tall vs. short Converses: buy vs. sell Cognates: embarrassed vs. embarazada Heteronyms: minute vs. minute Homographs: bank vs. bank Homonyms: Homographs or Homophones Homophones: too vs. two vs. to Hyponyms: metaphor vs. metaphor Synonyms: big vs. large (cf Fromkin Rodman Hyams 7) 40
CONTRAST SOUNDS, SPELLINGS AND MEANINGS: Antonyms: tall vs. short Converses: buy vs. sell Cognates: embarrassed vs. embarazada Heteronyms: minute vs. minute Homographs: bank vs. bank Homonyms: Homographs or Homophones Homophones: too vs. two vs. to Hyponyms: metaphor vs. metaphor Synonyms: big vs. large (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 214) 40
WORD-LEVEL VS. SENTENCE-LEVEL GRAMMAR LEXICAL:
AMBIGUITY: Take your pick!
Call me a taxi!
She wanted a gnepf.
PARAPHRASE: William hit a policeman. vs. Bill slugged a cop.
John me cow a gave.
Bill hit John. vs. John was hit by Bill.
How many F's are there in the following?
FILES ARE THE RESULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTIFIC STUDY COMBINED WITH THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS... 40
WHAT A GRAMMAR MUST DEAL WITH
“Chinar and cuba, Cubar and china” -JFK Christy, *Victy Systematic vs. accidental gaps: “pnick” vs. “plick” What is the plural of freshman advisor? Is it ambiguous? “Which relatives do you wanna visit?” permissive vs. *vomissive 40
FORM VS. MEANING
Linguistics is concerned with the mapping of meaning onto form (decoding) and form onto meaning (encoding).
The form is the surface structure (phonology, graphology, morphology and syntax)
The meaning is the deep structure (semantics, pragmatics, discourse) (cf. Fromkin Rodman Hyams 7) 40
LEVELS OF ADEQUACY
Prescriptive Adequacy: What people should do
Descriptive Adequacy: What people do do
Explanatory Adequacy: Patterns, Trends, and Predictions
Evaluative Adequacy: Based on Elegance Simplicity Completeness Internal Consistency Generative Power (cf. Fromkin Rodman Hyams 13-17)
Which of the following uses of impact do (prescriptive) people bristle at?
My grandparents had a significant impact on me I have an impacted tooth The meteor impacted earth at 3000 mph social pathologies, common to the inner city, that impact heavily on such a community Companies have used disposable techniques that have a potential for impacting our health
use of impact as a verb is first recorded in 1601 use of impact as a noun dates from 1781 40
Prescriptivism gone bad 1.
“Excuse me, where is the library at?” at?” “Here at Hahvahd, Hahvahd, we never end a sentence with a preposition.” preposition.” “O.K. Excuse me, where is the library at, a***ole?” Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, General Prologue, The Knight’ Knight’s Portrait 69-72 And of his port as meeke as is a mayde. mayde. He nevere yet no vileynye ne sayde In al his lyf unto no maner wight. He was a verray, verray, parfit gentil knyght. knyght.
3. No split infinitives? Misunderstanding of the term ‘infinitive’ (lit. ‘having no ending’) The infinitive does not actually include to; it’s go, not to go. Cf. I made him go. "He learned to quickly read" vs. "He learned quickly to read“ When "quickly" comes at the end, it can refer to either the learning or the reading. 4. “Never use the passive where you can use the active.” active.” (George Orwell, Politics and the English Language) Parsing traces with heavy NPs and relative clauses Reverse the clamp that the stainless steel hex-head bolt extending upward from the seatpost yoke holds [t] in place Reverse the clamp that [t] is held in place by the stainless steel hex-head bolt
extending upward from the seatpost yoke
SURFACE STRUCTURE Syntax
Pragmatics (Context, Deictics, Anaphora, Speech Acts, Conversational Implicatures, Intent, Felicity Conditions)
EVOLUTION During the past five million years, “our forebears became predominantly right-handed, made use of increasingly sophisticated tools, and organized their culture in ever more complex ways.” This evolution resulted in “a puny, almost hairless animal, with a bent windpipe that reduced breathing efficiency to nearly half of its original capacity. The creature’s teeth were practically useless for chewing.” But we had an asymetrical brain with the left hemisphere being efficient at learning language. (Heny 634).
M. A. K. Halliday’s 7 Functions of Language:
Instrumental: To get things done Regulatory: To control other people Interactional: To define groups and relationships Personal: To express feelings and beliefs Heuristic:To test hypotheses or to learn Imaginative: To create a world Representational: To give information (Clark, 52) 40
In terms of language, Who’s in charge? “We
make language more than language makes us” (Clark, 55).
did Humpty Dumpty say about language?
Poem by Maurice Evan Hare There once was a man who said, “Damn!” It is born in upon me I am An engine that moves In predestinate grooves, I’m not even a bus; I’m a tram. --Aitchison 560 40
THE INNATENESS HYPOTHESIS Noam
Chomsky claims that language is innate.
F. Skinner claims that language is learned; it is basically a stimulusresponse mechanism.
Noam Chomsky reviewed B. F. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior in Language, the journal of the Linguistic Society of America and convincingly presented twelve types of evidence that language is basically innate, not learned. 40
1. Language is very complex. Consider the complexity of any complete English grammar book. 2. The model for language learning is imperfect. Mothers use caregiver language; friends use baby talk; children use modified grammar (holophrastic, pivot-open, or telegraphic). 3. All humans learn a spoken language (NOTE: Chomsky does not claim that written language is innate). (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 28-29) 40
4. No animals learn a human-type language. However, some animal languages are impressive: primates (Vikki-Hayes, Koko-Patterson, WarshowGardners, Lana, Nim Chimsky-Terrace, SarahThomas/Church) bees (Von Frisch) dolphins (Lilly) birds, parrots and cockatiels canines equines bovines felines ants (cf. Fromkin Rodman Hyams 21-25, 28-29) 40
ANIMAL MESSAGES: Come. Go. Food. Protection (camouflage, assistance, misleading enemies…). Sex. Territory, Dominance, Mimic, Defiance, Friendship, Attention
ANIMAL LANGUAGE: Calls. Body Coloring and Shape. Tail Slap, Facial Expression. Tail Wagging, Baring Throat, Dancing (Round, Tail-wagging, Sickle), Whistling, Chuttering, Attacking, Singing, Giving Off Pheromones
HUMAN-LANGUAGES AMONG ANIMALS: AMESLAN, Yerkish, Computers, Magnetic Chips, “Sugar Fruit,” “Finger Bracelet” 2nd-Generation Language (Planet of the Apes) 40
WASHOW SIGNING “TICKLE” (KEMP AND SMITH 671) 671)
AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE: CONFIGURATION (Emmorey 82) (cf Fromkin Rodman Hyams 7, 19-21)
AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE: PLACE (Emmorey 82) (cf Fromkin Rodman Hyams 7, 19-21)
AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE: MOVEMENT (Emmorey 82)
(cf Fromkin Rodman Hyams 7, 19-21)
BEES’ ROUND DANCE (Kemp & Smith 663)
BEES’ TAIL-WAGGING DANCE (Kemp and Smith 664)
SARAH’S SYMBOLS (Kemp and Smith 672)
YERKISH LEXIGRAMS (Kemp and Smith 672)
5. There are many human-language universals, and these are only a small subset of semiotic possibilities; computer languages don’t have these same natural-language constraints (embedding, cross-over, A over A, etc.). (cf. Fromkin Rodman Hyams 17-18) 6. There is a critical age for foreign-language acquisition (around puberty). 7. There is a sequence in language acquisition (holophrastic, pivot-open, telegraphic, adult). Note also color acquisition in both phylogeny and ontogeny. (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 28-29) 40
8. Human language is rule-governed (like mathematics). It is not memorized. Also, most language is not learned by rote memorization. Rather it is like mathematics. In language as in mathematics we don’t just remember the answers; rather we know the rules that will allow us to arrive at the right answers. Given a particular situation, it is possible to predict how animals will react; however because of language and thinking, human behavior is not so predictable.
9. Human language is very creative. Except for small-talk, almost all sentences are novel. Language can adjust to new situations (unlike bee-language for unexpected placing of honey source). (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 28-29) 40
10. Human language has duality. A limited number of symbols are reused in many different ways. 11. Human language has displacement in Time, Place, and Truth. 12. Human language is not predictable. Given a particular stimulus, there is a much wider range of responses for humans than for animals. (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 28-29)
The most important of Chomsky’s observations is that “Language is Creative.”
Language should not be prescribed, as that would limit its creativity. Rather, language should be allowed to adapt to social situations. In other word language VARIES in the following ways: 40
Individual (holophrastic vs. adult language) Language (Old English vs. Modern English)
METAPHOR, METONYMY, SYNECDOCHE, IRONY AND LANGUAGE PLAY
most creative aspect of language is its ability to adapt to new situations, and it does this by using the “Master Tropes”: Metaphor, Metonymy, Synecdoche, and Irony.
!HOMO ERECTUS, HOMO SAPIENS, HOMO LOQUENS AND HOMO RIDENS
Humans have been called “homo erectus” because like primates, kangaroos and chickens they stand erect.
They have been called “homo sapiens” because they are the thinking animal.
They have been called “home loquens” because they are the talking animal.
But they have been called “homo ridens” because they are the only animal that laughs appropriately. 40
References # 1: Aitchison, Jean. “Predestinate Grooves: Is There a Preordained Language ‘Program’?” (Clark 560578). Bickerton, Derek. “The Continuity Paradox” (Clark 681-695). Bolton, W. F. “Language: An Introduction” (Clark, 61-73). Clark, Virginia, Paul Eschholz, and Alfred Rosa. Language: Readings in Language and Culture, 6th Edition. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1998. Daniels, Harvey A. “Nine Ideas about Language (Clark, 43-60). 40
References # 2: Emmorey, Karen. “Sign Language” (Clark 78-94). Fromkin, Victoria, Robert Rodman, and Nina Hyams. “What is Language?” An Introduction to Language, 8th Edition. Boston, MA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2007, 3-34. Heny, Jeannine. “Brain and Language (Clark, 634-657). Kemp, William, and Roy Smith. “Signals, Signs, and Words: From Animal Communication to Language” (Clark 658679). Nilsen, Alleen Pace, and Don L. F. Nilsen. “Academic Study of Humor.” Encyclopedia of 20th Century American Humor. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000, 1-6.