Language Structure

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Why study different languages
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To understand how we communicate we need to understand the \”tool\” we most commonly use LANGUAGE IS A UNIVERSAL ABILITY
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How many languages in the world?
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6000-7000
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Language classification – Moribund
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Endangered – Dying out with people that speak it
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Language classification – Dead
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People that speak the language are disappearing
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Language classification – Extinct
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No one speaks it, no one uses it. It is just gone
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Language truths
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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
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Revisit definition of language
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Type of communication that uses socially shared code systems for representing concepts through arbitrary symbols that are rule governed.
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Structure of language
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Phonetics – INPUT/OUTPUT Phonology – FORM Morphology – FORM Syntax – FORM Semantics – MEANING Pragmatics – USE Discourse – USE
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Grammar
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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
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Prescriptive Grammar
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What you would learn from a language textbook
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Descriptive Grammar
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What speakers of a language actually do !
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Relationship between form and meaning ?
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ARBITRARY
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Input/Output – Phonetics
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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
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Phonetic Analysis
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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
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Form – Phonology
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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
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Phonological Analysis
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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
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Does meaning always change when you change the sound ?
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Yes, and no
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Allophones
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Allo – Different phones sounds Literally multiple possible spoken wounds or signs used to pronounce a single phoneme in a particular language
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Phonological inventory
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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
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English Phonemes
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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
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Actual speech – Coarticulation
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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
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Phonology and Paralinguistic Cues
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Phonology includes paralinguistic cues Phonology includes how we vary pitch during speaking Stress – pitch changes in words Intonation – Pitch changes in sentences
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Phonatics – Rules for combining phonemes
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Phonology also includes how phonemes are combined to form syllables There are limits to how we can combine phonemesPhonotactics refers to rules governing how phonemes can be combines to form syllablesImportant cues in learning languages
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Form – Morphology
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Meaning It is the study of how the basic units of meaning are combines in a language to convey ideas
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Morphological analysis
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The smallest unit in morphology is the morphemes To convey meaning you combine these morphemes
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Types of Morphemes
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Root Vs. Affix – Root morphemes carry the primary meaning of the word – Affixes attach to the root to add/modify the meaningFree Vs. Bound – Free can be words by themselves – Bound morphemes only provide meaning when combinedContent Vs. Function – Content morphemes carry meaning – Functional morphemes are used to provide grammatical information, syntactical agreement
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Morphemes and language development
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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
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Form – Syntax
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How to combine phrases and sentences legally
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Sentence
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A string of words that is grammatically complete Contains a subject: topic of sentence Predicate: a comment or assertion made about the topic
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Simple Sentence
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Contain one subject and one predicate
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Compound sentences
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Contain at least two sentences joined by a conjunction
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Complex sentences
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Contain a simple sentence and at least one dependent clause
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Clause
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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
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Syntax
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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
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English sentence structure
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Word order language SVO (Subject – verb – object)
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Syntactic ambiguity
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Even with perfectly acceptable syntax, a sentence can still be ambiguous
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Syntax and meaning
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Syntax may be okay, but sentence may not make sense Form and meaning are distinct
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Meaning – Semantics
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Word meaning Relation between signifiers (words, phrases, signs, and symbols) and what they stand for
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Semantics
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A key feature is that the relationship between sound and meaning is arbitrary
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Semantic ambiguity
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Stiff opposition expected in casketless funeral plan Drunk gets nine months in violin case
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Lexicon
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Our inventory of words
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Use – Pragmatics
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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
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Pragmatics
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Helps resolve semantic ambiguities Language use among speakers How social context affects meaning
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Pragmatic rules
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Organization of conversation – Turn taking, personal space – Opening, establishing, maintaining, and terminating a conversation – Avoid vagueness and ambiguity – Repair of errors (feedback): \”Conversational Repair\”
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Pragmatics – Social Langauge
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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
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Use – Discourse
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Storytelling Style Appropriateness Cohesiveness Rhetorical force Topic/subtopic structure
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Main Ingredients of language
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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
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Language as a creative tool
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Key point: Form a finite set of symbols and a finite set of rules, we can generate an infinite number of sentencesCreativity: combining simple meanings into complex utterancesGenerative: changes over time, not stagnant – Dynamic Language is constantly evolving
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The power of language
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SYNTAX

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