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English Linguistics


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Title: English Linguistics

  • English Linguistics

Course Objective
  • Mastery of some linguistic concepts and theories
    in order to understand how language is
    constructed, how language operates,how language
    is used to do things, how language is acquired or
    learnt, how language varies according to the user
    or the situationetc.
  • Improvement of English proficiency in general and
    enhancement of the awareness of patterns and
    regularities in the English language
  • Preparation for further study and research about

Textbook and Reference books
  • ??? ??? ???????????(?2?)?????????,2010
  • ??? ????????????????,2007
  • ??? ????????????,2001
  • Yule,G The Study of Language, ??????????,2000

Course Outline
  • Chapter 1 Introduction
  • Chapter 2 Phonology
  • Chapter 3 Morphology
  • Chapter 4 Syntax
  • Chapter 5 Semantics
  • Chapter 6 Pragmatics
  • Chapter 7 Language Change
  • Chapter 8 Language and Society
  • Chapter 9 Language and Culture
  • Chapter 10 Language Acquisition
  • Chapter 11 Second Language Acquisition
  • Chapter 12 Language and the Brain

Course Components
  • Lectures
  • Discussions
  • Presentation
  • Assignments
  • Research

Study and Research groups(4-5persons for one
group),each group draws a topic out of the
following(topics for Term 1)
  • For chapter 1
  • The 13 design features proposed by Charles
  • The functions of language
  • Phatic communion in English and Chinese
  • The theories about the origin of language
  • For Chapter 2
  • The relation between the sound and the sense
  • the function of suprasegmental features in daily
    communication in Chinese
  • The effect of phonetic knowledge on language
  • The effective strategies in learning English
    speech sounds

  • For Chapter 3
  • On Word formation in English
  • On the Word formation in Chinese
  • On The role of morphonological knowledge on
    English vocabulary learning
  • On the word-formation in on-line coined words in
  • For Chapter 4
  • on the syntactic theories presented by different
    linguistic schools
  • on the main points of Chomskys Transformational
    Generative Grammar
  • For Chapter 5
  • The relation between sense and reference
  • the majar types of synonyms and antonyms in
  • The implications of lexical sense relations on
    English teaching and learning

Forms of Course Assessment
  • Class attendance
  • Participation(Oral presentation and regular
    participation in Classroom discussion)
  • Fulfillment of the assignment
  • Term paper(A-4,??,4?,3000?,5-10?????,first-hand
  • Examination

Chapter 1. Introduction
  • What is linguistics?
  • What is language?

1. What is linguistics? (P1)
  • ----Linguistics is the scientific study of
    language. (subject, method, principle, procedure)
  • Subject all languages of human societies
  • Method scientific
  • Principle Exhaustiveness,Consistency
  • Procedure collect language facts-analyze and
    find similiarities-make generalization and form
    hypothesis-checked by more language facts
  • ----A person who studies linguistics is known as
    a linguist.

The scope of linguistics
  • major branches
  • Phonetics
  • Phonology
  • Morphology
  • Syntax
  • Semantics / pragmatics
  • Use of linguistics or
  • interdisciplinary branches
  • Applied linguistics
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Psycholinguistics

Theoretical linguistics
  • Phonetics----speech sound (description,
    classification, transcription) articulatory
    phonetics, acoustic phonetics, auditory
  • Phonology----sound patterns of languages
  • Morphology----the form of words
  • Syntax----the rules governing the combination of
    words into sentence.
  • Semantics----the meaning of language (when the
    meaning of language is conducted in the context
    of language use----Pragmatics)

Some important distinctions in linguistics
  1. Descriptive vs. prescriptive
  2. Synchronic vs. diachronic
  3. Speech and writing
  4. Langue and parole
  5. Competence and performance
  6. Traditional grammar and modern linguistics

Descriptive vs. prescriptive
  • Descriptive ---- describe/analyze linguistic
    facts observed or language people actually use
    (modern linguistics)
  • Prescriptive ----lay down rules for correct
    linguistic behavior in using language
    (traditional grammar)

Synchronic vs. diachronic
  • Synchronic study---- description of a language at
    some point of time (modern linguistics)
  • Diachronic study---- description of a language
    through time (historical development of language
    over a period of time)

Speech and writing
  • Speech ---- primary medium of language
  • Writing ---- later developed
  • Question Why is speech regarded as the primary
    medium of language?

Langue and parole (F. de Saussure)
  • Langue ---- the abstract linguistic system shared
    by all members of the speech community.
  • Parole ---- the realization of langue in actual
  • Saussure takes a sociological view of language
    and his notion of langue is a matter of social

Competence and performance (Chomsky)
  • Competence ---- the ideal users knowledge of the
    rules of his language
  • Performance ---- the actual realization of this
    knowledge in linguistic communication
  • Chomsky looks at language from a psychological
    point of view and to him competence is a property
    of the mind of each individual.

Traditional grammar vs modern linguistics
  • Traditional grammar ---- prescriptive, written,
    Latin-based framework
  • Modern linguistics ----- descriptive, spoken, not
    necessarily Latin-based framework

2. What is language? (P7)
  • The question What is languageis comparable
    with-and, some would say, hardly less profound
    than What is life? ------John Lyons
  • Question How do you define language?

What does languagemean in each of the contexts?
  • language used in various contexts
  • Chinese is a language.
  • Linguistics is the systematic study of language.
  • Both Jane and John like Shakespeares language.
  • The language of bees

Language can mean
  • what a person says (e.g. bad language,
  • the way of speaking or writing (e.g.
    Shakespeares language, Luxuns language)
  • a particular variety or level of speech or
    writing (e.g. language for special purpose,
    colloquial language)
  • the abstract system underlying the totality of
    the speech/writing behavior of a community (e.g.
    Chinese language, first language)
  • the common features of all human languages (e.g.
    He studies language)
  • a tool for human communication. (social function)
  • a set of rules. (rule-governed)
  • Question Is there any other context in which the
    use of the word means something else?

Sapirs definition (1921)
  • Language is a purely human and non-instinctive
    method of communicating ideas, emotions and
    desires by means of voluntarily produced symbols.

Halls definition (1968)
  • Language is the institution whereby humans
    communicate and interact with each other by means
    of habitually used oral-auditory arbitrary

Chomskys definition (1957)
  • From now on I will consider language to be a set
    of (finite or infinite) sentences, each finite in
    length and constructed out of a finite set of

Language can be generally defined as
  • a system of arbitrary vocal symbols used for
    human communication.

Language is a system
  • Systematic---- rule-governed, elements in it are
    arranged according to certain rules cant be
    combined at will. e.g. bkli, I apple eat.

Language is arbitrary
  • Arbitrary---- no intrinsic connection between the
    word and the thing it denotes, e.g. pen by any
    other name is the thing we use to write with.

Language is symbolic in nature
  • Symbolic---- words are associated with objects,
    actions ideas by convention. A rose by any other
    name would smell as sweet----Shakespeare

Language is primarily vocal
  • Vocal---- the primary medium is sound for all
    languages writing system came much later than
    spoken form.

Language is human-specific
  • Human-specific---- different from the
    communication systems other forms of life
    possess, e.g. bird songs, bee dance, animal cries.

The design/defining features of human language
(Charles Hockett)
  • Arbitrariness
  • Productivity/Creativity
  • Duality
  • Displacement
  • Cultural transmission

  • ----No logical (motivated or intrinsic)
    connection between sounds and meanings.
  • Questions
  • 1. by this property do we mean that a person
    can use the language as freely as we like?
  • 2. How about onomatopoeic words which imitate
    natural sounds such as ( English rumble,
    crackle, bang, . Chinese putong, shasha,
    dingdang )
  • 3. How about some compound words
    liketype-writer, shoe-maker, air-conditioner,
  • 4. How about words like flow, float, flood,
  • other examples
  • J-- joy, jovial, jubilate, joyous, joyful,
  • Gl-- glow, glisten, gleam, glare, glimmer,

  • ----Peculiar to human languages,users of
    language can understand and produce sentences
    they have never heard before, e.g. we can
    understand sentence like A red-eyed elephant is
    dancing on the hotel bed, though it does not
    describe a common happening in the world.
  • A gibbon call system is not productive for gibbon
    draw all their calls from a fixed repertoire
    which is rapidly exhausted, making any novelty
  • The bee dance does have a limited productivity,
    as it is used to communicate about food sources
    in any direction. But food sources are the only
    kind of messages that can be sent through the bee
    dance bees do not talk about themselves, the
    hives, or wind, let alone about people, animals,
    hopes or desires

Duality (double articulation)
  • Lower level----sounds (meaningless)
  • Higher level----meaning (larger units of meaning)
  • . A small number of sounds can be grouped and
    regrouped into a large number of units of meaning
    (words), and the units of meaning can be arranged
    and rearranged into an infinite number of
  • Questions
  • Why is this property generally assumed as central
    to language? Does animal language have this
  • How is this related to communicative power?

  • ---Language can be used to refer to things, which
    are not present real or imagined matters in the
    past, present or future, or in far-away places.
  • Questions
  • What advantages does this property of language
  • How about the other communication systems?
  • A gibbon never utters a call about something he
    ate last year
  • There is something special about the bee dance
    though. Bees communicate with other bees about
    the food sources they have found when they are no
    longer in the presence of the food. In this
    sense, the bee dance has a component of
    displacement. But this component is very
    insignificant. For the bees must communicate
    about the food immediately on returning to the
    hive. They do not dance about the food they
    discovered last month nor do they speculate about
    future discoveries.

Cultural transmission
  • ----Language is culturally transmitted (through
    teaching and learning rather than by instinct).
  • Animal call systems are genetically transmitted.
    All cats, gibbons and bees have systems which are
    almost identical to those of all other cats,
    gibbons and bees.
  • A Chinese speaker and an English speaker are not
    mutually intelligible. This shows that language
    is culturally transmitted. That is, it is pass on
    from one generation to the next by teaching and
    learning, rather than by instinct.
  • Question Can we deny that human language has a
    genetic basis? What is the implication of the
    story about wolf child? What about those
    patients with aphasia(patial or total loss of
    language due to brain damage)?

Functions of language
  • Language contributes to the success of our
    everyday life and the survival of human beings.
  • Discussion What functions does language serve
    for our life and survival?
  • Humans are said to be language animals. But what
    if we humans lived without language?
  • There are some 6,800 known languages spoken in
    the 200 countries of the world. In 2003, the
    total number of languages in teh world was
    estimated to be 6,809, of which 2,261 have
    writing systems (the other are only spoken), what
    if there were only one language over the world?

The story of Babel
  • ??????????????,??????????,???????????????,???
  • What can we learn from this Bible Story?

Functions of language
  • Three main functions( distinct but overlapping
    to some degree)
  • Descriptive function----to convey factual
  • Expressive function----to supply information
    about users feelings, preferences, prejudices,
    and values.
  • Social function----to establish and maintain
    social relations between people.
  • Roman Jakobson (six functions)
  • Emotive / Conative / Referential
  • Poetic / Phatic communion/ Metalinguistic
  • M.A.K. Halliday( three macrofunction)
  • Ideational / interpersonal / textual

The origin of language
  • The divine-origin theory---- Language is a gift
    of God to mankind.
  • The invention theory---- imitative, cries of
    nature, the grunts of men working together.
  • The evolutionary theory---- the result of
    physical and psychological development.

  • Review the majar points of this chapter.
  • For the various functions of language discussed
    in class, use one example of your own to
    illustrate each.

For further reading
  • Jakobson, R. Closing Statement Linguistics and
    Poetics, in Sebeok, T.a.(ed. ) Style in Language,
    Mass. MIT, 1960
  • Lyons, J. Chapters 3 4, The Design Features of
    Language, in Semantics I. Cambridge Cambridge
    University Press, 1977
  • Widdowson, H. Chapters 1 2, in Linguistics.
    Oxford Oxford University Press, 1966

The End Thank you!
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