49 terms

Language Structure


Terms in this set (...)

Why study different languages
To understand how we communicate we need to understand the "tool" we most commonly use

How many languages in the world?
Language classification - Moribund
Endangered - Dying out with people that speak it
Language classification - Dead
People that speak the language are disappearing
Language classification - Extinct
No one speaks it, no one uses it. It is just gone
Language truths
1) Wherever humans exist, language exists
2) There are no "primitive" languages - all languages are equally capable of expressing any idea in the universe
3) Languages evolve - all languages change through time
4) The relationships between the sounds and meanings of spoken languages and between the gestures and meanings of signed languages are for the most part arbitrary
5) All human languages utilize a finite set of discrete sounds that are combines to form meaningful elements or words, which themselves form an infinite set of possible sentences
6) All grammars contain rules for the formation of words and sentences of a similar kind
7) Every spoken language includes discrete sound segments like p, n, or a which can be defined by a finite set of sound properties or features
8) Similar grammatical categories are found in all languages
9) There are semantic universals, such as "male" or "female", "animate" or "human" found in every language of the world
10) Every language has a way of referring to past time, negating, forming questions, issuing commands, and so on
11) Speakers of all languages are capable of producing and comprehending an infinite set of sentences. Syntactic universals reveal that every language has a way of forming sentences
12) Any normal child, born anywhere in the world, of any racial, geographical, social, or economic heritage, is capable of learning any language to which she or her is exposed. The differences we find among languages cannot be due to biological reasons
Revisit definition of language
Type of communication that uses socially shared code systems for representing concepts through arbitrary symbols that are rule governed.
Structure of language
Phonetics - INPUT/OUTPUT
Phonology - FORM
Morphology - FORM
Syntax - FORM
Semantics - MEANING
Pragmatics - USE
Discourse - USE
How we combine units of language to provide meaning

The rules that determine the structure of sentences in a language. It's how you take the words and combine them
Prescriptive Grammar
What you would learn from a language textbook
Descriptive Grammar
What speakers of a language actually do !
Relationship between form and meaning ?
Input/Output - Phonetics
The study of speech production and perception

Sometimes seperated from other areas of language

Problems speakers have at phonetic level are typically thus anatomical problems rather than cognitive/linguistic problems
Phonetic Analysis
Basic unit is the PHONE - a speech segment that possesses distinct physical or perceptual properties, and serves as the basic unit of phonetic speech analysis

Phones are usually vowels or consonants

There are arbitrary symbols used to represent sounds = IPA Chart
Form - Phonology
Study of the sound system in a language and how sounds are used to encode meaning in a language

How sounds are formed/organized
How they are combined
How they are said
Phonological Analysis
Basic units of sound in phonology are PHONEMES

Smallest arbitrary unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another
Bat - cat - mat - fat = same ending but different phonemes in the beginning form different meanings

Context is everything - how you combine them gives meaning
Does meaning always change when you change the sound ?
Yes, and no
Allo - Different phones sounds

Literally multiple possible spoken wounds or signs used to pronounce a single phoneme in a particular language
Phonological inventory
Based on the anatomy of the human speech production system, there are only a finite number of sounds that humans can produce

Smallest - Rotokas 11 phonemes

Largest - Xoo 141 phonemes
English Phonemes
Key Point: Arbitrary unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another

English has approximately 44 phonemes, the exact number varies by dialect and person who is counting it
Actual speech - Coarticulation
When we speak we produce about 20 phonemes per second

They all blend together, so that the way any phoneme sounds depends on the sounds that come around it
Phonology and Paralinguistic Cues
Phonology includes paralinguistic cues

Phonology includes how we vary pitch during speaking

Stress - pitch changes in words

Intonation - Pitch changes in sentences
Phonatics - Rules for combining phonemes
Phonology also includes how phonemes are combined to form syllables
There are limits to how we can combine phonemes

Phonotactics refers to rules governing how phonemes can be combines to form syllables

Important cues in learning languages
Form - Morphology

It is the study of how the basic units of meaning are combines in a language to convey ideas
Morphological analysis
The smallest unit in morphology is the morphemes

To convey meaning you combine these morphemes
Types of Morphemes
Root Vs. Affix
- Root morphemes carry the primary meaning of the word
- Affixes attach to the root to add/modify the meaning

Free Vs. Bound
- Free can be words by themselves
- Bound morphemes only provide meaning when combined

Content Vs. Function
- Content morphemes carry meaning
- Functional morphemes are used to provide grammatical information, syntactical agreement
Morphemes and language development
We count morphemes to measure complexity of children's speech over time

Use MLU - Mean Length of Utterance
- Average number of morphemes produced per child utterance
Form - Syntax
How to combine phrases and sentences legally
A string of words that is grammatically complete

Contains a subject: topic of sentence
Predicate: a comment or assertion made about the topic
Simple Sentence
Contain one subject and one predicate
Compound sentences
Contain at least two sentences joined by a conjunction
Complex sentences
Contain a simple sentence and at least one dependent clause
Smallest grammatical unit that can express a complete proposition

Independent: simple sentences

Dependent: Contain a subject and predicate, but cannot stand alone. They depend on the independent clause to make them complete
Specifying the relationships between the components of a sentence

Word order
- Word order languages specify the relationships between words based on the orderings of those words
- S-O-V (Boy girl kiss)
- S-V-O (Boy kiss girl)
- V-S-O (Kiss boy girl)

Case marking
- Case marked languages indicate the relationships between words by morphemes added to root words
English sentence structure
Word order language
SVO (Subject - verb - object)
Syntactic ambiguity
Even with perfectly acceptable syntax, a sentence can still be ambiguous
Syntax and meaning
Syntax may be okay, but sentence may not make sense

Form and meaning are distinct
Meaning - Semantics
Word meaning

Relation between signifiers (words, phrases, signs, and symbols) and what they stand for
A key feature is that the relationship between sound and meaning is arbitrary
Semantic ambiguity
Stiff opposition expected in casketless funeral plan

Drunk gets nine months in violin case
Our inventory of words
Use - Pragmatics
Language use and function

Communication depends on form and meaning, but also on:
a) the context of the sentence
b) knowledge about the people involved
c) what can you infer about the speaker's intent
Helps resolve semantic ambiguities

Language use among speakers

How social context affects meaning
Pragmatic rules
Organization of conversation

- Turn taking, personal space
- Opening, establishing, maintaining, and terminating a conversation
- Avoid vagueness and ambiguity
- Repair of errors (feedback): "Conversational Repair"
Pragmatics - Social Langauge
Using language for different purposes, such as greeting, informing, demanding, promising, requesting

Changing language according to the needs of a listener or situation, such as talking differently to a baby than to an adult

Following rules for conversations and storytelling, such as taking turns in conversation, introducing topics of conversation, staying on topic
Use - Discourse

Rhetorical force
Topic/subtopic structure
Main Ingredients of language
Phonology: Study of the smallest, meaningless units of speech sound (phonemes)

Morphology: study of the smallest, meaningful units of speech (morphemes)

Syntax: Study of how words are ordered or combined to form acceptable phrases and sentence (allows creativity)

Semantics: study of meaning or content in language

Pragmatics: study of use, function, or purpose of language
Language as a creative tool
Key point:
Form a finite set of symbols and a finite set of rules, we can generate an infinite number of sentences

Creativity: combining simple meanings into complex utterances

Generative: changes over time, not stagnant - Dynamic

Language is constantly evolving
The power of language