Chapter 1: Introduction (Sample)
What is meant by the field of linguistics? This introductory chapter concerns some dimensions of linguistics, which give us a general idea of what linguistics is, including the history of linguistic, grammar, and other disciplines of linguistics study. What does grammar consist of and what are the relationship between one and another? How many languages do human beings have the capacity to acquire? What other studies are made in recent centuries? Each of these aspects are clearly described, and other chapters will go into further details. While in this chapter we will provide some less detailed information on the various aspects of linguistics mentioned so far.
1.1 Defining Linguistics
There is nothing that can be said by mathematical symbols and relations which cannot also be said by words. The converse, however, is false. Much that can be and is said by words cannot successfully be put into equations, because it is nonsense.
Linguistics is a study to describe and explain the human faculty of language. There is no doubt that linguistics has changed through human development.
1.1.1 History of linguistics
The history of linguistics can be divided into three periods: antiquity, middle ages and modern linguistics.
188.8.131.52 Middle Ages
184.108.40.206 Modern Linguistics
1.1.2 An Interesting Comparison
Linguistics is a broad field to study, therefore, a linguist sometimes is only able to deal with one aspect of language at a time, and thus various branches arise: phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, applied linguistics, pragmatics, psycholinguistics, lexicology, lexicography, etymology and so on. Suppose that the study of linguistics can be considered to be a computer, so linguistics is equal to the CPU, which supports all the other parts. Moreover, sound card would stand for phonetics and phonology, and then morphology and semantics are like the memory of the computer. What’s more, syntax plays as an important role to translate single words to a whole sentence which is full of meaning, just like a graphics card, which uses picture to make sense of the idea of memory stick. Finally, everything is ready, it’ s time to use computer and the same goes for language acquisition. Very interestingly, the properties of computer are amazingly similar to human language.
Above all, linguistics is concerned with the study of verbal language– particularly speech and written language. What’s more, language is a system and there is a set of options of which one must be chosen depending on the purpose and context. (Marie E. & John P., 1991, p.64).
1.2 The broad study of language
Language is a highly complex system of communication, so it sometimes will be called a ‘system of systems’. It is used to construct, exchange, express, and record information and ideas. It performs these functions effectively because it is based upon systems that are understood by those using the language. In this chapter, four topics will be concerned. They are phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. In this section, some overall definitions and interactions among the four parts will be talked about.
In order to assist learners at the early stages of literacy, it is very important to understand the relationship between sounds and letters. The sounds of speech are studied in phonetics and phonology. (Marie E. & John P, 1991)
220.127.116.11 Definitions of phonology and phonetics
18.104.22.168 The difference between phonology and phonetics
Plenty of terms are used to describe different patterns of letters and sounds. Some of the common used terms are blend, digraph, schwa, syllable and phonics, which are widely and frequently applied.
Morphology has been regarded as a necessarily “synchronic discipline”. That means the rules focusing on the study of word structure instead of the development of words (Katamba, 1993, p.3). It is the basic element used in a language, and the concept of ‘morphemes’ is one of the main aspects in the study of ‘morphology’ (Yule, 2006, p. 66). Basically, it is the branch of linguistics that studies the internal structure of words. In morphology, morphemes are the minimal units that have semantic meaning. It is “the linguistic term for the most elemental units of grammatical form” (Fromkin, Rodman, & Hyams, 2006, p.77).
22.214.171.124 The classification of morphemes
126.96.36.199 The interaction with other aspects
In the sentence The boy hits the door, we can discover that the words are related to each other in this order that it only has one meaning. If we change the order of the words The door hits the boy, the sentence’s meaning has totally changed and it is nonsense. The reason is that the parts of the sentence are structurally related to each other, and this structure is reflected in the word order. In English, the word order is very necessary and important for the meaning of the sentence according to linguistic rules. In some languages, word order plays a less important role. The meaning of the sentence depends more on the form of the words themselves. In such cases, it is possible for sentences with totally different word order to have the same meaning. English used to be one of these languages. The following examples are taken from Old English:
Although the words are arranged differently, they still mean the same. However, nowadays, the word order is very crucial for meaning. As a consequence, there is a great need for us to explore syntax.
Some important concepts are included in the study of syntax.
188.8.131.52Complex and compound sentence
184.108.40.206 Syntax Analysis
The football team won the match last year.
220.127.116.11 Basic Syntactic Structure
18.104.22.168 Basic Syntactic Generative Process
Semantics, a subfield of linguistics, is the study of literal meaning. “It is the recent addition to the English language.” (Palmer, 1976, p. 1). According to Matthews (2007), during the early years the study of meaning focused on the lexicon alone. The scope of the study has expended since 1960s to include both semantics and pragmatics (analyzed in 1.3), which come to the main fields of the study of linguistic meaning(Katamba, 2000& Matthews, 1997). Semantic meaning is fixed and abstract. It can be understood by surface. However, it is de-contextualized. In another word, it is easily subverted by different gestures or intonations.
Semnatics interacts with other aspects of linguistics. For example, when synonyms are used, they can be understood, so it fits the rule of syntax. However, synonyms are used to describe something similar. In a sentence, a synonym can be substituted by another synonym. However, the meaning of synonyms speaker or writer determines or predicates have different degrees, which indicates the meaning is actually different (Alan, 2004). Thus, it is the interaction between syntax and semantics. As for the interaction with phonology, the term tonic syllable in phonology has three kinds of functions. The first one is the accentual function, which is to indicate the focus of the information. The second one is the attitudinal function that is to indicate the speaker’s attitude. And the last one is grammatical function. If speakers use these functions, the same sentence will turn out to have various meanings.
To conclude, in this section, linguistics is analyzed from the aspects of sounds, word structure, grammatical rules and meaning. Each of them is in charge of a certain system. Thus linguistics can help people to communicate, to express, and to be understood.
1.3 Other disciplines
Apart from the core subparts of linguistics, which we have demonstrated before, for further reading, we introduce some other exciting aspects in the field of linguistics. There are a lot more to discover than those areas.
People may know something about you through the way you speak, for example, where you come from, where you spend most of your life time, your social identity and so on. Two people growing up in the same geographical area, at the same time, may speak differently owing to a number of social factors (Yule, 2000). Consequently, it’s very important to consider the social aspects of language. It’s because speech is a form of social identity and is used, consciously or unconsciously (Yule, 2000). The study of the social aspect of language is known as sociolinguistic. “Sociolinguistic is concerned with investigation of the relationship between language and society” (Ronald, 2006, p.13). It consists of cultural norms, expectations, and context on the way language is used. The first linguists who studied the social aspect of language are Indian and Japanese in the 1930s. Another person called Gauchat who came from Switzerland had a analysis of this in 1900s as well. However, these three people didn’t receive much attention in the West. Until the late 19th century, the study of social aspects of language laid its foundation. Sociolinguistics gradually appeared in the 1960s in the West. Linguistics such as William Labov in the US and Basil Bernstein in the UK first brought out this concept and explored it.(Wikipedia, 2007, para.1)
Though the neural structures of most animal species are very distant from man, there are still resemblances between human and animal languages (Marler, 1981; Nottebohm, 1970), since neurons work in both. Human brain contains billions of neural cells, and so far, the exact number of those so-called neurons is still to be defined (Fabbro, 1999, p.21). These teeny tiny neurons have close link with the production of language. There can be innate or learnt vocal utterances. Oral language can be the innate property of the human brain, written language, however, is an invention of humankind. Dogs can bark, cats can miaow, and man can cry even after the removal of the midbrain, whereas parrots cannot imitate human sounds, and we cannot produce human language (Fabbro, 1999, p.21). Therefore, the neural center of our brain is playing an irreplaceable role in the production of language. How does the main cerebral structure serve the production of human vocalizations? The study of neurolinguistic rely on the study of neurology and neurophysiology, and in these fields, all parts of the nervous system, each having different functions in generating language, are discovered. Theories are found based on lots of experiments concerning the removals of different sections of the brain. The destruction of different language areas destroys language distinguishingly.
1.3.3 Historical linguistics
Historical linguistics definitely is not concerned with the history of linguistics, though historical linguistics has played an important role in the development of linguistics. It is the main kind of linguistics practiced in the 19th century (Campbell, 1998, p.5). Historical linguistics concerns the investigation and description of how languages change or maintain their structure in the course of time. Language change can be easily proved by documents written in the same language but at different periods of history. The differences of wording and structure of sentences can reflect the historical development of language. From series of datable documents, Lord’s Prayer widely recorded the history of mankind, and different versions help us analyze the language of each period (Bynon, 1978, p.7). Meanwhile we can also discover that certain structure rules are still used in current language. There are some constructs and rule that link the grammars of two different but related languages, which descend from a single original language, sharing a common ancestor. More accurately, historical linguistics deals with the kinds of changes, and the techniques and methods we have use to discover history, rather than the origin of words themselves (Campbell, 1998, p.5).
1.3.4 Anthropological linguistics
Anthropological linguistic is the study of relations between language and culture. It is related to human biology, cognition and language. It belongs to the field of linguistic anthropology, which is a branch of anthropology that studies human-beings through the language they use(Wikipedia, 2007, para.1). Some Linguists who explore theanthropological linguistics consider these topics such as chimpanzee communication, pidgins and creoles, structural linguistics,total languages, whorf hypothesis, etc.
According to Kate (2000), pragmatics is one of the two main fields in the study of linguistic meaning. Pragmatics deals with natural language, while language is always used in context for an intended purpose. The listeners must try to grasp the meaning implied, enrich the ideas, and finally make out the opinion that what the speakers meant when talking about a particular expression (Kate, 2000). According to Yule (1996), ‘pragmatics studies the context in which the utterance is produced as well as the intention of language user.’ That means pragmatic meaning depends on context or situation. Without context, meanings can be vague and may be misunderstood by people. Two of the branches are: speech acts that cover ‘requesting’, ‘commanding’, ‘questioning’ and ‘informing’, and politeness that shows the awareness of another person’s face.
In short, sociolinguistics is the analysis of interrelationship of language and society. Neurolinguistics is the study of the brain and how it functions in language. Historical linguistics is the consideration of language change and how different languages are related to each other. Anthropological linguistics is the study of language and culture. There are some other disciplines in linguistics. Pragmatics deals with the speakers’ meaning. The five mentioned above are some main disciplines in linguistics. Different disciplines of linguistics enrich the content of linguistic. The study of linguistics tends to be more and more detailed and completed.
1.4 Language Acquisition
This chapter began with a general introduction to language study. It ends with a consideration of the acquisition of language, containing first, second and foreign language, which is affected by the relationship between teacher and learner. Some experienced educators advise that it is only through learning to speak a language that you can fully analyze it (Everett 2001). ‘Acquisition’ is described as occurring in spontaneous language contexts (Krashen, 1982), is subconscious, and leads to conversational fluency.
1.4.1 First language acquisition
For a child, learning first language is automatic, not after starting school, not in specific circumstance and not by great efforts (Yule, 2006). It requires only basic physical capability of sending and receiving sounds directly or indirectly, and interaction with others using this language. Children are brought up in particular environments, being affected by different surroundings, especially by those people whom they spend most of their time interacting with. Infants start express themselves through some simple utterance, such as some vowel-like sounds. Children gain increasing abilities at different development stages, from producing single-unit utterance to producing speech by communicating through expressions (Yule, 2006), since they are able to understand what others said. This a big step forward, like quitting toddling and being capable of walking steadily, forwards, or backwards. As children are being increasingly exposed to communication and interaction, their language skills are developing rapidly because of the expansion of vocabulary. They are never forced to speak first language and seldom be corrected by others, but they correct themselves through interactions every day. Then children learn to use verbs in different sentences, and how to use different words to form a sentence (Yule, 2006). They gradually learn to ask questions correctly and how to use the word no in their speeches to express negative meanings. The last stage of first language acquisition is the ability of making meaningful sentence (Yule, 2006). There is massive variation in the rate at which features of one’s first language are acquired.
1.4.2 Second language acquisition
Being able to speak first language is one of the basic skills of second language acquisition. Except for the minority of people who are bilingual speakers, most of the learners have no access to a second language until our late childhood. Actually most of the Chinese learners are now learning English as a foreign language, because it is immediately back to Chinese speaking time out of the classroom. But later on they may have the chance of learning it as a foreign language in a native speaking environment, during immersion semesters, when they will acquire this second language in circumstances similar to those of Chinese acquisition. There are obviously differences in foreign language achievement, sometimes related to differences in aptitude (Carroll, 1982), sometimes to affective factors (Gardner & Lambert, 1972), sometimes to learner strategies (Naiman, Frohlicn, Stern & Tedesco, 1978), sometimes to environmental factors such as opportunities for language use or instructional conditions (Long, 1982), and sometimes simply to time (Carroll, 1975). Human beings have the ability to learn more than one language all through one’s live. Farwell (1963) (cited in Taylor, 1976) reports that a British explorer in the 19th century claimed to have spoken more than 40 languages and dialects. Usually, however, after the age of 10, the acquisition of second language is very different from the way one acquired his first language, which is relatively slower and cannot achieve native-like proficiency.
1.4.3 Educational factors
Most of us begin learning second language in teenage years, spending only few hours on it every day and for most of the daily activities we use our mother tongue. Accordingly, we will encounter lots of difficulties in learning second language without enough exposure to it. Therefore, the largely distinguished part of acquiring first and second language should be language teachers. In order to learn a second language, we must learn from a teacher, or at least follow their guidance. The classroom is a very powerful instrument of instruction and it can control language learning in a very direct way (Richard, T. & Roger,H.).
As language teachers, we should focus on students’ requirements and follow learner-centered approaches. We should impart knowledge in a more practical way so the students can receive easily. Keep the class disciplined and orderly so that students can learn most effectively from the lessons. There are often the situations that the students seldom volunteer answers, and the teacher sometimes has to call on someone and wait for a long time before a response is forthcoming. Why not try breaking away from typical Hong Kong classroom practices in class? Like, students do not have to stand up to greet teachers, and they do not have to raise their hands or stand up when they answer questions. In a relaxed classroom atmosphere, students will feel free to interact. They will not fall silent when the teacher enters the room, then stand up and chant a choral greeting. If the pupils are put in this position in the classroom, they can be more effectively kept in their place in social life. During the class, we teachers should never say like this: I am your teacher. By the authority vested in me I have the right to ask you to behave in a certain way, whether you like it or not. And you, in your role have the obligation to obey (Widdowson, H. G.). Whereas, we should say that in another way: Do this because I am the teacher and I know what’s best for you, but not ‘Do this because I am telling you and I am the teacher.’ This difference has the advantage of largely increasing participation in the use and practice of language.
Approaches to the acquisition of language account for different backgrounds of learns’ first language, and different conditions of exposure. In acquiring language, learners often go through transitional stages of development, which is at distinguished rates.
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Comprehension questions (Chapter 1)
Please answer the following 10 multiple choice questions.
2.Phonetics is the science which studies the characteristics of human sound-making. Learners could notice________ during studying.
3.Please analyze the following sentence: The belief that the musicians of an earlier age were necessarily better than those of one’s own is an essentially modern attitude and figure out how many lexical morphemes are there.
4.There are four basic syntactic generative processes listed as follows. Which syntactic generative process is about news elements are added to the basic syntactic structure?
5.Which one is the semantic meaning?
6.Sociolinguistic is one discipline in linguistics, which one can define sociolinguistics most accurately?
7.Historical linguistics, the main kind of linguistics practiced in the 19th century, mainly deals with:
8.When a lady goes shopping with her boyfriend. The lady gazes at a bridal veil. What is the least suitable meaning implied.
9.There are variations in the rate at which children acquire first language, because:
10.The acquisition of written language is less perceived as an obligation than the learning of oral language because: