Introduction to Linguistics -

Introduction to Linguistics
Fakry Hamdani
• Linguistics (n.) The scientific study of language;
also called linguistic science. (David
• Linguistics is a comparatively new science, or
new, at least, in the form it has taken in recent
years. The science seeks to answer the
following questions: (a) what exactly do we
know when we know a language (b) how is this
knowledge acquired and (c) how is such
knowledge used? (Petra)
Langage, Langue & Parole
• langage /lFìapè/ (n.) A French term introduced by
Ferdinand de Saussure to refer to the human
biological faculty of speech. (David Crystal:2008)
• It is distinguished in his approach from langue,
the language system of a speech community.
• langue denotes a system of internalised, shared
rules governing a national language’s vocabulary,
grammar, and sound system;
• Parole designates actual oral and written
communication by a member or members of a
particular speech community.
Contexts in which linguistics arose
• philosophy (Greece)
• language teaching (Alexandria)
• philology (study of ancient texts,
often of sacred nature) (India,
Cratylus: a Socratic dialogue
• Cratylus: words are natural signs, some names
are ‘correct’ others are not
• Hermogenes: names are arbitrary/
• Socrates: middle position: there is such a
thing as a correct name, but names may be
corrupted, and yet be used
Etymology of theos ‘god’
Socrates: It seems to me that the first
inhabitants of Greece believed only in
those gods in which many foreigners still
believe today – the sun, the moon, earth,
stars and sky. And, seeing that these were
always moving or running, they gave them
the name ‘theoi’ because it was their
nature to run (thein).
Modern View (F. de Saussure)
words and expressions are basically
conventional: arbitrary by agreement in a
speech community
• no Humpty-Dumpty
• partial motivation of signs possible:
1. when they are complex
2. onomatopoetic words
3. (maybe) sound symbolism
Study of human language
The interdisciplinary nature of modern Linguistics
Determining Sincerity
• In an essay that looks at media
coverage in the aftermath of
the death of Princess Diana on
31 August 1997, Martin
Montgomery discusses ways in
which audiences constructed
their own ideas about the
sincerity of what they saw and
heard on radio and television.
• The essay examines ways in
which members of the British
public reacted to the three
broadcast by the BBC in the
days following Diana’s death.
• The first of these was a television
interview given by Tony Blair.
Standing in the open air, Blair spoke
without notes direct to camera, his
voice trembling and hesitant with
• On 5 September came the second
major broadcast, a speech to the
nation by the Queen. She expressed
her sadness at the death of her
daughter-in-law and declared that
she was speaking as ‘your Queen and
as a grandmother’.
• This broadcast was made live, using a
teleprompter and showed the Queen
composed and speaking clearly and
• The
Spencer, at her funeral
service in Westminster
Abbey, when he pledged
that her ‘blood family’
would do all they could
to raise her sons as she
would have wished and
appeared to be on the
verge of breaking down
in tears towards the end
of his oration.
What is language?
• A system of symbols with standard meanings.
• Allows humans to communicate and is the
main vehicle of transmission of culture.
• Language provides context for symbolic
Other Communication
• Human:
– Direct
• Body language (kinesics), tone of voice, personal space
(proxemics), gesture
– Indirect
• Writing, mathematics, music, painting, signs
• Nonhuman:
– Sounds, odors, body movements
– Call systems, ethologists
– ASL – American Sign Language
Nonhuman Communication - ASL
• American Sign Language taught to chimps and
– Physiologically and developmentally similar to
– Chimps taught: Lana, Nim, Kanzi, Washoe
– Gorillas taught: Koko
Nonhuman Communication - Washoe
• Born 1965
• Taught ASL 1966
• Mastered 100s of
• First nonhuman to
learn language
Nonhuman Communication - Lana
• Taught with keyboard,
• Able to use and
combine signs
Nonhuman Communication - Koko
• 1970s, first gorilla
taught ASL
• IQ of 85 at 4 years old
• Koko learning ASL
• Koko on AOL
Nonhuman Communication –
Nim Chimpsky
• 1980s taught ASL
• Wouldn’t initiate
• Never signed to other
Nim Chimpsky and his
namesake, the famed
linguist Noam Chomsky
Nonhuman Communication - Kanzi
• 1980s, communicates
with lexigrams
• Vocabulary of 90
• Could understand
• Command of syntax
Nonhuman Communication –
Jane Goodall
• Gombe Game Reserve
• Chimps need stimulus
to make sounds
• Since 1960s
Animal v. Human Communication
• Four differences:
Productivity (infinite expressions)
Displacement (past, present, future)
Arbitrariness (no link between word and sound)
Combining sounds (phonemes)
• Dime versus dine or lock versus rock in English
• English has 45 phonemes; Italian 27; Hawaiian 13
• Nonhuman animals cannot combine sounds (1:1 correspondence
of sounds)
Anatomy of Language
• Brain
Wernicke’s area
Broca’s area
Motor cortex
Motor cortex
Anatomy of Language
• Respiratory System
Larger lung capacity
Larynx, pharynx
Tongue, lips, nose
Structure of Language
Phonology (sounds)
Morphology (words)
Syntax (sentence structure)
Semantics (meaning)
Pragmatics or grammar (rules)
Structure of Language - Phonology
• The study of sounds of a language.
• No human language uses all the sounds humans can
• IPA – International Phonetic Alphabet
• Phonemes and phones
– /l/ and /r/ = phonemes (English has 40)
– /p/ and /ph/ = phones
– Ghoti = fish (tough, women, position)
• Other sounds
– Tones, nasals, clicks (Genesis in the !Kung language)
Structure of Language - Morphology
• Morphemes are the smallest units of language.
– Words (dog, cat) = free morphemes
– Prefixes (un-, sub-)
– Syllables (-s, -ly )
• Declining and conjugating
= bound morphemes
– Verbs are conjugated (am, are, is)
– Nouns are declined in some languages
• Latin, Greek, German, Russian, etc.
• Word form changes based on position in sentence.
Structure of Language - Syntax
• Rules for how to put together sentences and phrases.
• Six possible arrangements, based on Subject, Verb,
– English is SVO = The girl will hit the boy.
– Forming questions: English = V1SV2O?
Structure of Language - Syntax
• Example of syntax
• Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky:
‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe.
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Structure of Language - Semantics
• The meaning of symbols, words, phrases, and
sentences of a language.
• Ethnosemantics and kinship terms
– Aunt/uncle versus non-gendered cousin
Evolution of Language
• Old Theories:
– “bowwow” and “ding-dong”
– Locke, B.F. Skinner, Descartes
• New Theories:
– Noam Chomsky
• Universal and generative grammar
• Principles and parameters
– Creoles, pidgins, and Ebonics
– Sapir-Whorf
Historical Linguistics
• Focuses on how language changes over time and
how languages relate to one another.
• Anthropologists are interested in cultural features
that correlate with language families.
• Reconstruction of languages:
– Proto-Indo-European
– Sino-Tibetan
• Linguistic divergence
– Gradual or by force
Historical Linguistics – Old English
• Compare Old, Middle, and Modern English
• Beowulf (Old English):
Hwæt! We Gardena in geardagum,
þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.
Oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum,
monegum mægþum, meodosetla ofteah,
egsode eorlas.
Lo, praise of the prowess of peoplekings of spear-armed Danes, in days
long sped, we have heard, and what
honor the athelings won! Oft Scyld
the Scefing tore the mead-bench
from squadroned foes, from many a
tribe awing the earls.
Historical Linguistics –
Middle English
• The Canterbury Tales (Middle English):
This worthy lymytour, this noble Frere,
He made alwey a maner louryng chiere
Upon the Somonour, but for honestee
No vileyns word as yet to hym spak he.
This worthy limiter, this noble friar,
He turned always a lowering face, and dire,
Upon the summoner, but for courtesy
No rude and insolent word as yet spoke he.
Descriptive Linguistics
• Also called structural linguistics
• Tries to discover the rules of phonology,
morphology, and syntax of another language,
especially those with no written dictionary or
• Seeks to discover language rules that are not
written down but are discoverable in actual
• Like descriptive linguistics in a way, in that
sociolinguists are concerned with the ethnography of
speaking—cultural and subcultural patterns of
speech variation in different social contexts.
• Examples:
Pronunciation and dialects
Honorifics and social status
Gender differences
Fun Stuff
• Language as art
– Calligraphy
– Illumination
Left to Right:
Some Points of Reference
• ‘Science of signs’
• Signification: systematic, structural aspects of
signs; meaning-bearing potential
• Communication: transactional aspects of signs;
cf. Jakobson’s codes and messages, source and
destination, channel and context
The Sign [N]
• Saussure: signifier-signified; arbitrary and
conventional signs; (mentalistic)
• Peirce:
– Representatum (perceptible object) – ‘stands to
somebody, for something
– Object in some respect’
– To create an interpretant [itself a sign]’
– Categories of Firstness, Secondness and Thirdness
Saussure’s Theory of the Sign
• Sign = Linguistic form + Meaning
• ‘The word cat’ = [kh æ t] +
• ‘The word cat’ = [kh æ t] +
Signs are Arbitrary
•“lit” in French =
•Question marker in
“side sheltered from
the wind,” or
“proper name Lee”
in English
– [kakodudldu]
– [kikiRiki] German
– [kokoRiko] French
– [kukuku] Spanish
– [miauw]
– [miauw] German
– [meauw] Chinese
– [niauw] Japanese
Linguistic Relativity
• English has 11 basic color terms.
• Russian has 12 – siniy (dark blue),goluboy
(light blue).
• Shona (a language of Zimbabwe) has 3: citema
(black), cicena (white),cipswuka (red).
• Bassa (a language of Liberia) has 2: hui and
• Saussure  Hjelmslev  Greimas, Metz and Eco –
structuralism; content-expression (signified-signifier); linguistic bias;
paradigms and syntagms
• Peirce  Morris – rich typologies of signs; emphasis on process of
semiosis (syntactic, semantic, pragmatic dimensions); semiotic typology of
• Eco – ‘toward a logic of culture’; a theory of codes and a theory of sign
• Sebeok – ‘how the body interacts with the mind to produce signs,
messages, thought and ultimately cultural behaviour’
Summary: Five Notions of Semiotics [ENC]
• The syntactic, semantic and pragmatic properties of
the sign
• A theory or discipline studying these properties
• Theories about how to study these properties
• Methods: “method of formalization; method of
language analysis; method of interpretation”
• Application: “use semiotics to analyze some
fragment of reality, e.g. arts, architecture, film…
fashion, folk customs, etc.”
‘Summary’ [ENC]
• “Semiotics, depending on whether it is defined as a
type of research or as a doctrine, as a theory or as a
set of methods, can use the tools of several sciences
or doctrines, from logic and metamathematics to
linguistics, aesthetics, and all the ‘social sciences.’”
• But, “it must refer constantly and consistently to any
of its possible objects through sign and sign
functioning, using methods implying a theory of
signs and sign function”

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