Thinking about language

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  • 1. What is language? Language is a system of vocal signs through which humans communicate. It is a SYSTEM because it consists of patterns, or rules, for putting together elements such as sounds to make words and words to make sentences that when violated result in loss of meaning

2. Language is open-ended and creative Following rules we can make up new words, combine them and create sentences never uttered before Shakespeare created over 1700 words, many of which are still in use DISCONTENT GOSSIP FASHIONABLE GLOOMY EYEBALL LONELY MAJESTIC 3. Language functions through a system of contrasts Linguists call this Duality of Patterning This is the ability of language or a sign system to create distictions between sounds, words, and units of meaning through a system of differences between two elements 4. Language is intentional Humans use it purposefully to communicate facts, ideas and emotions All humans are born with language capability Humans have many ways to communicate Why do we speak to each other? Why are we the only animals that seem to be able to communicate in sucha complex way? 5. Think about the twin babies... Children learn to make sounds that correlate to a desire for something. They learn very quickly to say something to indicate they are thirsty or hungry But researchers have also found children can communicatew something about the world around them that gives them no apparent benefit 6. Language is inherent The ability to communicate through language is part of being human It is a part of being human, not something you learn Noam Chomsky in 1957 based on observation concluded that human beings are born with Universal Grammar or basic language-creating faculty 7. The emergentist perspective Language is the adaptation to the world around us. We learn aspects of language use from those around us. A new machine built of old parts (Bates & McWhinney) Children have a remarkable ability to pick up the complexities of language very quickly 8. Saussure Saussure states that Laguage and Thought cannot be separated. He posited the idea of language as a combination of Langue and Parole Langue refers to the abstract system of signs and rules that make up the structure and nature of language Parole is language in practice, the words, phrases and sentences that are actually used 9. Chomsky Competence & Performance Competence is the set of abilities the speaker of a language would develop over time. The ability a human has at birth, the universal grammar is developed into a more complex set of rules Performance is the way in which the language is actually used (Langue) 10. Language & Culture What is culture? Culture broadly defines a system of meaning for a group of people and it includes language, laws, customs, myths, images, texts and daily practices. But much of culture is arbitrary and its features are meaningful only to a particular group of people 11. Cultural boundaries Culture is like a bricolage within a particular group overtime Moreover, in an increasingly globalized worlds, the boundaries of one culture and another are often blurred 12. Cultural Relativism All elements of our culture are learnt and they are all ARBITRARY. The conclusion is that no culture has the right answers Examples: women's education, corporal punishment, death penalty Universal rights? CR. has its complexities. In order to understand a culture we must truly understand its context 13. Then, how do we describe A Culture? Do we describe its Food? Sports? Laws? Religion? Manners? Language? We must be careful with stereotypes Understanding, or trying to understand, different cultures we intend to understand the world aroud us 14. How to apply this information? One of the goals of this course is to investigate the ways in which language conveys, defines or reflects culture. We study cultural context in order to help us understand the meaning and effect of the words and images around us