LANGUAGE is such an integral part of our life and humanity that too much about it has been taken for granted. For some people，language may not even be considered a worthy subject for academic study. They take it as a tool for access to other fields of knowledge rather than as a subject in and of itself. However，if you pause and think of the following myths about language，it is indeed necessary to reconsider how much we really understand about the nature of language and its role in our life. And you may be surprised to realize that some of our most damaging racial，ethnic，and socio-economic prejudices are based on our linguistic ignorance and wrong ideas about language.
Myth 1. Language is only a means of communication.
Myth 2. Language has a form-meaning correspondence.
Myth 3. The function of language is to exchange information.
Myth 4. English is more difficult to learn than Chinese.
Myth 5. Black English is not standard and should be reformed.
The list of myths may go on and by the end of this course if you look back on them，we hope you may find these wide-spread views not so truthful after all.
The following are some fundamental views about language，which you may instinctively agree without having thought about the reasons，or you may not agree at the moment. Follow this course and you will find they are discussed in more detail in the ensuing chapters.
(1) Children learn their native language swiftly，efficiently and without instruction.
(2) Language operates by rules.
(3) All languages have three major components: a sound system, a system of lexicogrammar and a system of semantics.
(4) Everyone speaks a dialect.
(5) Language slowly changes.
(6) Speakers of all languages employ a range of styles and a set of jargons.
(7) Languages are intimately related to the societies and individuals who use them.
(8) Writing is derivative of speech.
People find the subject of language intriguing and useful for many different reasons. Linguistics can be used as a way of finding out more about how the brain works，or how damage to the brain results in certain kind of language disorders，how children learn language，how people learn and teach different languages，what the relationship between meaning and perception is，what the role of language is in different cultures，why people use different varieties of language，why there are linguistic differences between different groups，and how scientists make the computer work in a more human-like manner. This course book will serve as a starting point from which you may go on exploring in one of the above and other language-related fields.
Let us mention here the broader educational concerns. We can all note that language plays a central role in our lives as individuals and social beings. If we are not fully aware of the nature and mechanism of our language，we will be ignorant of what constitutes our essential humanity. The understanding of language should not be confined to linguists, as it is a vital human resource that all of us share.
Webster's New World Dictionary offers several most frequently used senses of the word “language”，namely，
 (a) human speech; (b) the ability to communicate by this means; (c) a system of vocal sounds and combinations of such sounds to which meaning is attributed，used for the expression or communication of thoughts and feelings; (d) the written representation of such a system;
 (a) any means of expressing or communicating，as gestures，signs，or animal sounds; (b) a special set of symbols，letters，numerals，rules etc. used for the transmission of information，as in a computer; ... (p.759)
Suffice it to say here that though we use the word in its various senses，we focus here on its primary sense: namely，(a)(b)(c)(d).
The study of other senses also receives attention in contemporary linguistics, for instance, the study of multimodal discourse which resorts to such symbolic resources as images and sounds. The term multimodal refers to at least five modes of meaning-making: linguistic, visual, gestural, spatial and audio, working together to create texts.
In this sense, all texts are multimodal as different modes of meaning interact with each other—words and images are organized on a page to create a newspaper article; images, sounds, and gestures are integrated to create a play or television program; words are spoken in a soft voice or typed in a small font to convey a particular meaning; a photograph is tightly framed to create a feeling of confinement.
To give the barest of definition，language is a means of verbal communication. It is instrumental in that communicating by speaking or writing is a purposeful act. It is social and conventional in that language is a social semiotic and communication can only take place effectively if all the users share a broad understanding of human interaction including such associated factors as nonverbal cues，motivation，and socio-cultural roles. Language learning and use are determined by the intervention of biological，cognitive，psychosocial，and environmental factors. In short，language distinguishes us from animals because it is far more sophisticated than any animal communication system.
We would all agree that language is essential to human beings but we may find it hard to specify what makes our language advantageous over animal “languages”. In order to mate，propagate and cooperate in their colonies，species like birds and bees also communicate by singing or dancing，following a very elaborate routine too. Are they using language too? Not really. The well-known philosopher Bertrand Russell once observed something to the effect—“No matter how eloquently a dog may bark，he cannot tell you that his parents were poor but honest.” So what makes human language so complicated and flexible，so unrestrained by the immediate context and so capable of creating new meanings，in a word，so distinctive from languages used by other species? The features that define our human languages can be called DESIGN FEATURES.
The following are the frequently discussed ones:
The widely accepted meaning of this feature which was discussed by Saussure first refers to the fact that the forms of linguistic signs bear no natural relationship to their meaning. For instance，we cannot explain why a book is called a /buk/ and a pen a /pen/. However there seems to be different levels of ARBITRARINESS.
(1) Arbitrary relationship between the sound of a morpheme and its meaning
You may object to this when you think of words with different degrees of onomatopoeia，namely，words that sound like the sounds they describe. e.g. In Chinese 叮咚，轰隆，叽哩咕噜. These linguistic forms seem to have a natural basis. But in English，totally different words are used to describe the sound. For example，the dog barks wow wow in English but 汪汪汪in Chinese.
But there are some misunderstandings about the onomatopoeic effect. As a matter of fact，arbitrary and onomatopoeic effect may work at the same time. For example，Widdowson cites a line from Keats' Ode to a Nightingale to illustrate:
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
If you read it aloud，you may feel the connection between the sounds and the meaning. But the effect does not really result from the whispering sounds themselves，for you will have to know the meanings of the words murmurous，summer，eves before setting up such a connection. To test this，just think of using the similar sounding word murderous to substitute murmurous，and no connection whatsoever will be established between the sounds and the little noises of the flying mosquitoes. “It is only when you know the meaning that you infer that the form is appropriate” (Widdowson，1996: 6). This also applies to many cases of the so-called onomatopoeic words.
(2) Arbitrariness at the syntactic level
According to systemic-functionalists and American functionalists，language is not arbitrary at the syntactic level.
By syntax we refer to the ways that sentences are constructed according to the grammar of arrangement. As we know，the order of elements in a sentence follows certain rules，and there is a certain degree of correspondence between the sequence of clauses and the real happenings. In other words，syntax is less arbitrary than words，especially in so far as this kind of order is concerned. Compare:
(a) He came in and sat down.
(b) He sat down and came in.
(c) He sat down after he came in.
When we say (a) we refer to the sequence of actions; if we say (b) the readers will take it as meaning the opposite sequence of real happenings—perhaps he got into his wheelchair and propelled himself into the room. In (c) with the help of the word “after” we can reverse the order of the clauses. Therefore the functionalists hold that the most strictly arbitrary level of language exists in the distinctive units of sounds by which we distinguish pairs of words like pin and bin，or fish and dish.
(3) Arbitrariness and convention
What then is the link between a linguistic sign and its meaning? It is a matter of CONVENTION. Here we have to look at the other side of the coin of arbitrariness，namely，conventionality. As learners of English we are often told “this is an idiom”—meaning it is conventional to say things this way and you cannot change the expression any other way even if you think it does not look or sound logical. Arbitrariness of language makes it potentially creative，and conventionality of language makes learning a language laborious. For learners of a foreign language，it is the conventionality of a language that is more worth noticing than its arbitrariness. That may be why when we are burying ourselves in memorizing idioms, we feel nothing of the arbitrariness of the language but are somewhat tortured by its conventionality.
“By DUALITY is meant the property of having two levels of structures，such that units of the primary level are composed of elements of the secondary level and each of the two levels has its own principles of organization” (Lyons, 1982: 20).
Roughly speaking，the elements of the spoken language are sounds which do not convey meaning in themselves. The only function of sounds is to combine with one another to form units that have meaning，such as words. We call sounds here secondary units as opposed to such primary units as words，since the secondary units are meaningless and the primary units have distinct and identifiable meaning. The property of duality then only exists in such a system，namely，with both elements and units. Many animals communicate with special calls，which have corresponding meanings. That is，the primary units have meanings but cannot be further divided into elements. So we say animal communication systems do not have this design feature of human language—the property of duality. Consequently，the communicative power of animal language is highly limited, to speak from a human-centered perspective.
To talk about duality we must notice that language is hierarchical. If we listen to a foreign language we do not understand，it may seem that fluent speakers seem to be talking in a continuous stream. However，no language is truly continuous. To convey discrete meanings there have to be discrete units，and the first task in decoding a new language is finding out these discrete units. The lowest level consists of dozens of bits of meaningless sounds which occur in chumps that we call syllables. A syllable is the smallest unit that is normally spoken by itself. Scores of syllables become the carriers of hundreds of meaningful segments of words that are called morphemes，such as the prefix trans- or the suffix -ism. With thousands of words we associate millions of meanings，and on top of these millions—astronomical number of possible sentences/utterances and texts/discourses.
As Bolinger and Sears put it，“Stratification—this organization of levels on levels—is the physical manifestation of the ‘infinite use of finite means'，the trait that most distinguishes human communication and that provides its tremendous resourcefulness” (1981: 3-4).
Now we can perceive the advantage of duality，which lies in the great productive power our language is endowed with. A large number of different units can be formed out of a small number of elements—for instance，tens of thousands of words out of a small set of sounds，around 48 in the case of the English language. And out of the huge number of words，there can be endless number of sentences，which in turn can form unlimited number of texts.
By creativity we mean language is resourceful because of its duality and its recursiveness. One of the reasons why language is actually a far more complicated entity than traffic lights is that we can use it to create new meanings. There are numerous examples to illustrate that words can be used in new ways to mean new things，and can be instantly understood by people who have never come across that usage before. This ability is one of the things that sets human language apart from the kind of communication that goes on，for example，between birds，which can only convey a limited range of message (Thomas & Shan, 2004: 7).
If language is defined merely as a system of communication，then language is not unique to humans. As we know，birds，bees，crabs，spiders，and most other creatures communicate in some way，but the information imparted is severely limited and confined to a small set of messages. The creativity of language partly originates from its duality which we just discussed in the above section，because of duality the speaker is able to combine the basic linguistic units to form an infinite set of sentences, most of which are never before produced or heard.
Language is creative in another sense，that is，its potential to create endless sentences. The recursive nature of language provides a theoretical basis for this possibility. For instance，we can write a sentence like the following and go on endlessly:
He bought a book which was written by a teacher who taught in a school which was known for its graduates who ...
DISPLACEMENT means that human languages enable their users to symbolize objects，events and concepts which are not present (in time and space) at the moment of communication. Thus, I can refer to Confucius，or the North Pole，even though the first has been dead for over 2550 years and the second is situated far away from us.
Most animals respond communicatively as soon as they are stimulated by some occurrence of communal interest. For instance，a warning cry of a bird instantly announces danger. Such animals are under “immediate stimulus control”. Human language is，unlike animal communication systems，stimulus-free. What we are talking about need not be triggered by any external stimulus in the world or any internal state. The honeybee's dance exhibits displacement a little bit: he can refer to a source of food, which is remote in time and space when he reports on it. A dog cannot tell people that its master will be home in a few days. Our language enables us to communicate about things that do not exist or do not yet exist.
Displacement benefits human beings by giving them the power to handle generalizations and abstractions. Indeed words are often used not in such immediate physical context when they denote concrete objects. They are often used with a deference for referential application. Once we can talk about physically distant thing，we acquire the ability to understand concepts which denote “non-things”，such as truth and beauty. In a word，the intellectual benefits of displacement to us is that it makes it possible for us to talk and think in abstract terms (Fowler，1974: 8).
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (Gospel，John 1:1)
“And the Lord said，Behold，the people is one，and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them，which they have imagined to do.” (Genesis, 11:6)
These pieces of scripture seem to suggest some mysterious origin of the language. What we know is that today the people of the world use more than 6,000 different languages and the innumerable dialects. The unity is gone. We no longer understand each other. There are some well-known theories about the origin of language though some of them have now been discredited. The following are some of them:
The “bow-wow” theory: In primitive times people imitated the sounds of the animal calls in the wild environment they lived and speech developed from that. Onomatopoeic words seem to be a convenient evidence for this theory. But in our discussion below we can find they are very different in the degree of resemblance they express with the natural sounds. This theory lacks supportive evidence.
The “pooh-pooh” theory: In the hard life of our primitive ancestors，they utter instinctive sounds of pain，anger and joy. As for evidence，we can only cite the universal use of sounds as interjections. What makes the theory problematic is that there is only a limited number of interjections in almost all languages. Besides，interjections such as Oh，Ah，Aiyo bear little relationship with the sound system of a language and therefore are not good evidence.
The “yo-he-ho” theory: As primitive people worked together，they produced some rhythmic grunts which gradually developed into chants and then into language. We do have prosodic use of rhythms in languages，but rhythmic grunts are far different from language in its present sense. The theory is again at most a speculation.
We may go on with all sorts of fanciful speculations，but suffice it to say here that the by-now fruitless search for the origin of languages reflects people's concern with the origin of humanity and may come up with enlightening findings in future. And one thing we can say for certain is that language evolves within specific historical，social and cultural contexts.
Linguists talk about the FUNCTIONS of language in an abstract sense，that is，not in terms of using language to chat，to think，to buy and sell，to read and write，to greet, praise and condemn people，etc. They summarize these practical functions and attempt some broad classifications of the basic functions of language like the following:
For Jakobson，language is above all，as any semiotic system，for communication. While for many people，the purpose of communication is referential，for Jakobson (and the Prague school structuralists), reference is not the only，not even the primary goal of communication. In his famous article，Linguistics and Poetics，Jakobson defined the six primary factors of any speech event，namely: speaker，addressee，context，message，code，contact. In conjunction with these，Jakobson established a well-known framework of language functions based on the six key elements of communication，namely: referential (to convey message and information)，poetic (to indulge in language for its own sake)，emotive (to express attitudes，feelings and emotions)，conative (to persuade and influence others through commands and requests), phatic (to establish communion with others) and metalingual function (to clear up intentions and meanings). They correspond to such communication elements as context，message，addresser，addressee，contact and code respectively. Jakobson's (1960) views of the functions of language are still of great importance; see the following figure.
(e.g. intonation showing anger)message
(e.g. imperatives and vocatives)
(e.g. Good morning!)
(e.g. Hello, do you hear me?)
Halliday proposes a theory of metafunctions of language，that is，language has IDEATIONAL，INTERPERSONAL and TEXTUAL functions. Ideational function constructs a model of experience as well as logical relations, interpersonal function enacts social relationships and textual function creates relevance to context (Halliday, 1994).
In his earlier works, Halliday proposed seven categories of language functions by observing child language development, that is, instrumental, regulatory, representational, interactional, personal, heuristic and imaginative. Still other classifications employ different categories and use different terms，but all share a lot in common about the basic functions of language. Our list below is a summary for the convenience of presentation. The categories can still be somewhat overlapping.
For most people the informative function is predominantly the major role of language. Language is the instrument of thought and people often feel need to speak their thoughts aloud，for instance，when they are working on a math problem. The use of language to record the facts is a prerequisite of social development. This is indeed a crucial function of language.
It is also called ideational function in the framework of functional grammar. Halliday notes that “Language serves for the expression of ‘content': that is，of the speaker's experience of the real world，including the inner world of his own consciousness. ... In serving this function, language also gives structure to experience，and helps to determine our way of looking at things，so that it requires some intellectual effort to see them in any other way than that which our language suggests to us” (in Lyons, 1970: 143).
By far the most important sociological use of language is the interpersonal function，by which people establish and maintain their status in a society. In the framework of functional grammar，this function is concerned with interaction between the addresser and addressee in the discourse situation and the addresser's attitude toward what he speaks or writes about. For example，the ways in which people address others and refer to themselves (e.g. Dear Sir，Dear Professor，Johnny，yours，your obedient servant) indicate the various grades of interpersonal relations.
“Language serves to establish and maintain social rules，which include the communication roles created by language itself—for example the roles of questioner and respondent，which we take on by asking or answering a question; ... Through this function, ... social groups are delimited，and the individual is identified and reinforced，since by enabling him to interact with others language also serves in the expression and development of his own personality ...” (Halliday, in Lyons, 1970: 143).
Attached to the interpersonal function of language is its function of expressing identity. For example，the chanting of a crowd at a football match，the shouting of names or slogans at public meetings，the stage-managed audience reactions to TV game shows all signal who we are and where we belong. Language marks our identity，physically in terms of age，sex，and voiceprints; psychologically in terms of language, personality and intelligence; geographically in terms of accents and dialects; ethnically and socially in terms of social stratification，class，status，role，solidarity and distance (David Crystal, 1992: 17).
The interpersonal function is such a broad category that it is often discussed under various other terms as in the following performative，emotive，expressive and phatic function of language. They seem to emphasize different aspects of the interpersonal function.
This concept originates from the philosophical study of language represented by Austin and Searle，whose theory now forms the back-bone of pragmatics. (see section 8.1)
The performative function of language is primarily to change the social status of persons，as in marriage ceremonies，the sentencing of criminals，the blessing of children，the naming of a ship at a launching ceremony，and the cursing of enemies. The kind of language employed in performative verbal acts is usually quite formal and even ritualized.
The performative function can extend to the control of reality as on some magical or religious occasions. For example，in Chinese when someone breaks a bowl or a plate the host or the people present are likely to say sui sui ping an (every year be safe and happy) as a means of controlling the invisible forces which the believers feel might affect their lives adversely.
According to some investigations，though the conveying of information occurs in most uses of language，it probably represents not more than 20 percent of what takes place in verbal communication (Nida, 1998: 17). The emotive function of language is one of the most powerful uses of language because it is crucial in changing the emotional status of an audience for or against someone or something. According to Crystal (1992: 17)，it is a means of getting rid of our nervous energy when we are under stress，e.g. swear words，obscenities，involuntary verbal reactions to a piece of art or scenery; conventional words/phrases，e.g. God，My，Damn it，What a sight, Wow，Ugh，Oh.
It is also discussed under the term expressive function. The expressive function can often be entirely personal and totally without any implication of communication to others. For example，a man may say ouch! after striking a fingernail with a hammer，or he may mutter damn when realizing that he has forgotten an appointment. Exclamations such as Man! Oh boy! and hurrah! are usually uttered without any purpose of communicating to others，but as essentially a verbal response to a person's own feelings. Such expressive utterances can also be a communal response of a group of people who reinforce one another's expressive use of language to show their solidarity (Nida, 1998: 21).
The term PHATIC COMMUNION originates from Malinowski's study of the functions of language performed by Trobriand Islanders. It refers to the social interaction of language.
Mrs.P sneezes violently.
Mrs.Q: Bless you.
Mrs.P: Thank you.
We all use such small，seemingly meaningless expressions to maintain a comfortable relationship between people without involving any factual content. Ritual exchanges about health or weather such as Good morning，God bless you，Nice day often state the obvious. Yet they indicate that a channel of communication is open if it should be needed. And different cultures have different topics of phatic communion. According to Crystal，the weather is not a universal conversation filler as the English might like to think. Rundi women (in Burundi, Central Africa)，upon taking leave，routinely and politely say “I must go home now，or my husband will beat me.” Broadly speaking，this function refers to expressions that help define and maintain interpersonal relations，such as slangs，jokes，jargons，ritualistic exchanges，switches to social and regional dialects. We have to learn a large repertoire of such usages if we are to interact comfortably with different people.
The recreational function of a language is often overlooked because it seems so restrictive in purpose and supposedly so limited in usefulness. However，no one will deny the use of language for the sheer joy of using it，such as a baby's babbling or a chanter's chanting. In the Latin and Islamic worlds as well as in some areas of China，there is widespread use of verbal dueling，in which one singer begins a song of usually few lines and challenges his opponent to continue the content or provide a rejoinder in a similar rhythm and rhyme scheme. Such verbal duels may last for a few hours and is performed for the sheer joy of playing on language. To take one example, the well-known movie Liu San Jie features a scene of “dui ge” (song dueling) mostly for the sheer joy of playing on language.
If you observe a children's play，you will find the power of sound. Sometimes even nonsensical lyrics perform a recreational function in the game: the repetitive rhythms help to control the game，and the children plainly take great delight in it. Adults also have their way to appreciate language for its own sake. For instance，poetry writing gives them the pleasure of using language for its sheer beauty. We are getting very close here to Jakobson's poetic function.
Our language can be used to talk about itself. For example，I can use the word book to talk about a book，and I can also use the expression “the word book” to talk about the sign “book” itself. To organize any written text into a coherent whole，writers employ certain expressions to keep their readers informed about where they are and where they are going. For instance, instead of saying [a] The lion chased the unicorn all round the town，they say [b] All around the town the lion chased the unicorn. The change in linear order changes our perspective about the concerns of the clause—[a] answers the concern about “what did the lion do”, while [b] is concerned with “where or in what scope did the lion chase the unicorn”. This is the METALINGUAL function of language and meshes with the thematic function of language in functional grammar.
This makes the language infinitely self-reflexive: We human beings can talk about talk and think about thinking，and thus only humans can ask what it means to communicate，to think，to be human.
Having discussed about the design features and functions of language，the object of linguistics，we now come to the business itself—a brief discussion of what is linguistics and its status as a science. Linguistics is usually defined as the science of language or，alternatively，as the scientific study of language. Linguistics is a rich and exciting field.
However，there have been arguments about whether linguistics is a science，especially when it was just coming into being. But now the arguments die away and linguistics has firmly established its place as a major branch of humanities and social sciences as well. As a recognized academic subject，it is an area with immense research potential，and a scholarly “industry” which produces a large amount of books，dissertations and papers every year; its preoccupations are expressed in such specialized journals as Language，Journal of Linguistics，Lingua，Applied Linguistics etc.，and at regular conferences.
The justification for all these booming ventures should be obvious from our previous discussion. Language is so valuable to the individual，so critical to the efficient functioning of human societies，and in itself so impressively intricate and profound in structure，that it is bound to attract a great amount of intellectual attention. And since this attention must produce studies which have practical importance (e.g. in speech therapy，education，techniques of translation and many more “applied” concerns)，linguistics is bound to be an academically and economically favored pursuit. It is also a subject of theoretical importance，for one thing，structuralism originating from Saussure's views has influenced many other related social sciences such as literary studies and social studies. In China the study of language has a long history but contemporary linguistics still has a long way to go to enjoy a “boom”.
As a science，linguistics now has a set of established theories，methods and sub-branches. As for its data，now the argument over intuition or corpus also fades as people realize the advantages of both and as corpus linguistics develops rapidly with the advent of computer technology. Lyons predicted in the seventies by pointing out that linguistics is empirical, rather than speculative or intuitive: it operates with publicly variable data obtained by means of observation or experiment (Lyons, 1982: 38). Nowadays we are expecting the qualitative and quantitative research approaches to take an even divide and be more complementary in linguistic studies.
It is generally agreed that linguistics should include at least five parameters，namely，phonological，morphological，syntactic，semantic and pragmatic. The following are these main branches of linguistics.
PHONETICS studies speech sounds，including the production of speech，that is how speech sounds are actually made, transmitted and received, the description and classification of speech sounds, words and connected speech, etc.
Once we decide to begin an analysis of speech，we can approach it on various levels. At one level，speech is a matter of anatomy and physiology. We can study organs such as tongue and larynx and their functions in the production of speech. At another level，we can focus on the speech sounds produced by these organs by identifying and classifying the individual sounds. This is the domain of articulatory phonetics. We can also investigate the properties of the sound waves—acoustic phonetics. As speech is intended to be heard or perceived，it is therefore possible to focus on the way in which a listener analyses or processes a sound wave—auditory phonetics.
The four levels can be integrated though in this course book we will focus on articulatory phonetics. A solid knowledge of phonetics can serve as a good foundation for phonology. Without it, the study of phonology would be clueless.
PHONOLOGY studies the rules governing the structure, distribution, and sequencing of speech sounds and the shape of syllables. It deals with the sound system of a language by treating phoneme as the point of departure. A phoneme is the smallest linguistic unit of sound that can signal a difference in meaning. English has approximately forty-five phonemes. If you repeat the /p/ sound ten times，each production will vary slightly for some physiological reasons. In addition，the /p/ sound differs from that in poor or soup because each is influenced by the surrounding sounds. Even so，each /p/ sound is similar enough so as not to be confused with phonemes such as /b/ or /m/.
Phonetics is the study of speech sounds that the human voice is capable of creating whereas phonology is the study of a subset of those sounds that constitute language and meaning. The first focuses on chaos while the second focuses on order.
MORPHOLOGY is concerned with the internal organization of words. It studies the minimal units of meaning—morphemes and word-formation processes. Although many people think of words as the basic meaningful elements of a language，many words can be broken down into still smaller units，called morphemes. Morphemes serve different purposes. Some derive new words by changing the meaning or the part of speech, others only refine and give extra grammatical information about the already existing meaning of a word. As morphemes are pairings of sounds with meanings, there are many complexities involved, forming a new field by the name morphophonology.
Languages differ in their degrees of dependence on the morphological components. In Latin，for example，meaning is changed through the use of many morphological endings. In contrast，in English word order is used more than morphological additions to convey much of the meaning of the utterance. For instance，The dog sees the rabbit. If we change the order of the words and get The rabbit sees the dog，the meaning of the sentence changes. But in Latin and also in Russian，dog and rabbit take on some morphological endings depending on whether they are subject or object of the sentence，and can therefore change places without affecting the meaning of the sentence.
SYNTAX is about principles of forming and understanding correct sentences. The form or structure of a sentence is governed by the rules of syntax. These rules specify word order, sentence organization, and the relationships between words, word classes and other sentence elements. We know that words are organized into structures more than just word order. For example:
a. The children watched [the firework from the hill].
b. The children watched [the firework] [from the hill].
Here is a single string of words that without any change of order can have two quite different meanings, each corresponding to a possible structure. There are more. For instance: The chicken is too hot to eat.
SEMANTICS examines how meaning is encoded in a language. It is not only concerned with meanings of words as lexical items, but also with levels of language below the word and above it, e.g. meaning of morphemes and sentences. The following are what the key concepts look like: semantic components, denotation of words, sense relations between words such as antonymy and synonymy, sense relations between sentences such as entailment and presupposition and more.
PRAGMATICS is the study of meaning in context. It deals with particular utterances in particular situations and is especially concerned with the various ways in which the many social contexts of language performance can influence interpretation. In other words, pragmatics is concerned with the way language is used to communicate rather than with the way language is internally structured.
It regards speech performance as primarily a social act ruled by various social conventions. Some key concepts such as reference, force, effect, and cooperative principles may appear commonsensical, yet pragmatics is just about one of the most promising fields of linguistic studies. Take conversation for example, since language is transmitted primarily via the speech mode, pragmatic rules govern a number of conversational interactions, such as sequential organization, repair of errors, role and speech acts. Organization of conversations includes taking turns, opening, maintaining and closing a conversation, establishing and maintaining a topic etc.
Linguistics is not the only field concerned with language. Other disciplines such as psychology, sociology, ethnography, the science of law and artificial intelligence etc. are also preoccupied with language. On the other hand, although “Saussure's goal was to establish the autonomy of linguistics, giving it a well-defined subject of study and freeing it from reliance on other disciplines, with its coming of age linguistics is developing interactive links with other sciences. The central goal of describing the underlying system remains; this is the province of general, descriptive linguistics. But since language has both individual and social aspects, it is naturally of interest to psychologists and sociologists among others” (Hartley, 1982: 16). It is not surprising therefore we have some branches of MACROLINGUISTICS that show an interdisciplinary nature from the very names:
PSYCHOLINGUISTICS investigates the interrelation of language and mind，in processing and producing utterances and in language acquisition for example. In the psycholinguistic study of grammar, the psycholinguistic constraints on the form of grammar are examined. It also studies language development in the child, such as the theories of language acquisition; biological foundations of language; and a profound aspect—the relationship between language and cognition (Slobin, 1979).
SOCIOLINGUISTICS is an umbrella term which covers a variety of different interests in language and society, including the social functions of language and the social characteristics of its users. Sociolinguistics is the study of the characteristics of language varieties, the characteristics of their functions, and the characteristics of their speakers as these three constantly interact and change within a speech community. It seeks to discover the societal rules and norms that explain and constrain language behavior and the attitudes toward language in speech communities. It also seeks to determine the symbolic value of language varieties for their speakers. The fact that language varieties come to take on symbolic or symptomatic value，in and of themselves, is an inevitable consequence of their functional differentiation.
As a science，the study of languages is somewhat older than anthropology. The two disciplines became closely associated in the early days of anthropological fieldwork when anthropologists enlisted the help of linguists to study unwritten languages. In contrast with other linguists, then, anthropological linguists are interested primarily in the history and structure of formerly unwritten languages. They are concerned with the emergence of language and also with the divergence of languages over thousands of years. Because an unwritten language must be heard in order to be studied, it does not leave any traces once its speakers died off. Anthropological linguists must begin in the present, with comparisons of contemporary languages. Then they may draw inferences about the kinds of change in language that may have occurred in the past and that may account for similarities and differences observed in the present. They typically ask such questions as: Did two or more contemporary languages diverge from a common ancestral language? If they are related, how far back in time did they begin to differ?
COMPUTATIONAL LINGUISTICS is an interdisciplinary field which centers around the use of computers to process or produce human language (also known as “natural language”，to distinguish it from computer languages). To this field，linguistics contributes an understanding of the special properties of language data, and provides theories and descriptions of language structure and use. Computer Science contributes theories and techniques for designing and implementing computer systems. Some current application areas include translating from one language to another (Machine Translation), storing and finding relevant documents in large collections of text (Corpus Linguistics and Information Retrieval), and carrying out various forms of computer mediated communication.
Consider the following:
Don't say X.
People don't say X.
The first is a PRESCRIPTIVE command, while the second is a DESCRIPTIVE statement. The distinction lies in prescribing how things ought to be and describing how things are.
“To say that linguistics is a descriptive (i.e. non-normative) science is to say that the linguist tries to discover and record the rules to which the members of a language community actually conform and does not seek to impose upon them other (i.e. extraneous) rules，or norms，of correctness” (Lyons, 1982: 47).
The reason why present-day linguists are so insistent about the distinction between the two types of rules is simply that traditional grammar was very strongly normative in character，e.g. You should never use a double-negative; You should not split the infinitive; etc.
In the 18th century，all the main European languages were studied prescriptively. The grammarians then tried to lay down rules for the correct use of language and settle the disputes over usage once and for all. Some usages were prescribed to be learned by heart, followed accurately or avoided altogether. It was a matter of black or white, right or wrong.
These attitudes are still with us, though people realize nowadays the facts of usage count more than the authority-made “standards”. We can appeal neither to logic nor to Latin grammar when it comes to deciding whether something is or is not correct in English. It does not mean that there is no place at all for the establishment and prescription of norms of usage. “There are obvious administrative and education advantages, in the modern world, in standardizing the principal dialect that is employed within a particular country or region” (Lyons, 1982: 53). But the nature of linguistics as a science determines its preoccupation with description instead of prescription.
A SYNCHRONIC description takes a fixed instant (usually, but not necessarily, the present) as its point of observation. Most grammars are of this kind. If you take something called “A Grammar of Modern Greek” from the library shelves, it will usually claim to be a synchronic grammar; likewise “The Structure of Shakespeare's English” claims to be a synchronic description of a single, past state of the language. But of course synchrony is a fiction, for language changes as the minutes pass and grammar-writing is a lengthy enterprise. However, the fiction of synchronic description is essential to linguistics (Fowler, 1974: 34).
Saussure's DIACHRONIC linguistics is the study of a language through the course of its history. Historical linguistics was a pervasive interest of the Darwinist in the nineteenth century; in the course of their historical researches into the development of the Indo-European tongues, the philologists instituted a firm tradition which had led to the production of much diachronic information about most of the culturally prominent, lettered languages of Europe.
Saussure distinguished the linguistic competence of the speaker and the actual phenomena or data of linguistics (utterances) as LANGUE and PAROLE. While parole constitutes the immediately accessible data，the linguist's proper object is the langue of each community, the lexicon, grammar, and phonology implanted in each individual by his upbringing in society and on the basis of which he speaks and understands his language.
“If we could embrace the sum of word-images stored in the minds of all individuals, we could identify the social bond that constitutes language (langue). It is a storehouse filled by the members of a given community through their active use of speaking (parole), a grammatical system that has a potential existence in each brain, or, more specifically, in the brains of a group of individuals. For language (langue) is not complete in any speaker; it exists perfectly only within a collectivity. In separating language (langue) from speaking (parole) we are at the same time separating (1) what is social from what is individual; and (2) what is essential from what is accessory and more or less accidental.”
(Saussure: Course in General Linguistics, pp. 13-14)
This fundamental distinction is discussed by Chomsky in his Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. A language user's underlying knowledge about the system of rules is called his linguistic competence. And performance refers to the actual use of language in concrete situations (Chomsky, 1965: 3) .
As a language user we all have intuitive grasp of the rules of language, and though we may not be able to state the rules explicitly, our performance demonstrates our adherence to them. If you have ever listened to an excited argument and tried to transcribe it, you will find that speakers do not always observe the linguistic rule. Instead there can be numerous false starts, deviations, and ungrammatical expressions even in the mature speaker.
Even pre-school children know virtually all the rules of language except for some subtleties. They learn the rules by actually using the language. A child demonstrates by the way he uses words that he knows what a noun is long before he can define the term. We can also observe the discrepancy between competence and performance in normal language users. According to Chomsky，the task of a linguist is to determine from the data of performance the underlying system of rules that has been mastered by the language user.
Chomsky points out that this distinction is related to the langue-parole distinction of Saussure; but he does not accept the view of seeing langue as a mere systematic inventory of items. For him, competence is closer to the famous German linguist Humboldt's conception, that is, it should refer to the underlying competence as a system of generative processes.
Not all linguists agree with Chomsky in thinking that “linguistic theory is concerned primarily with an ideal speaker-listener, in a completely homogeneous speech-community, who knows its language perfectly” (1965: 3). Dell Hymes (1971) approaches language from a socio-cultural viewpoint with the aim of studying the varieties of ways of speaking on the part of the individual and the community. It is found that speakers vary their performance not at random but in a regular way. Thus it is possible to extend the notion of competence, restricted by Chomsky to a knowledge of grammar, to incorporate the pragmatic ability for language use. This extended idea of competence can be called communicative competence. And the concept, though still not so clarified, has become very popular in EFL (English as Foreign Language) teaching in China in the past two decades.
1. Define the following terms:
2. Consult at least four introductory linguistics textbooks (not dictionaries), and copy the definitions of “language” that each gives. After carefully comparing the definitions, write a paper discussing which points recur and explaining the significance of the similarities and differences among the definitions.
3. Can you think of some words in English which are onomatopoeic?
4. Do you think that onomatopoeia indicates a non-arbitrary relationship between form and meaning?
5. A story by Robert Louis Stevenson contains the sentence “As the night fell, the wind rose.” Could this be expressed as “As the wind rose, the night fell?” If not, why? Does this indicate a degree of non-arbitrariness about word order? (Bolinger, 1981: 15)
6. Does the traffic light system have duality? Can you explain by drawing a simple graph?
7. The recursive nature of language provides a theoretical basis for the creativity of language. Can you write a recursive sentence following the example in section 1.3.3.
8. Communication can take many forms, such as sign, speech, body language and facial expression. Do body language and facial expression share or lack the distinctive properties of human language?
9. Do you agree with the view that no language is especially simple?
10. What do you think of Bertrand Russell’s observation of the dog language: “No matter how eloquently a dog may bark, he cannot tell you that his parents were poor but honest”? Are you familiar with any type of ways animals communicate among themselves and with human beings?
11. Can you mention some typical expressions of phatic communion in Chinese? There is the dialog between Ms. P and Ms. Q. in section 1.5.5. When someone sneezes violently, do you say anything of the nature of phatic communion? Have you noticed your parents or grandparents say something special on such an occasion?
12．There are many expressions in language which are metalingual or self-reflexives, namely, talking about talk and think about thinking, for instance, to be honest, to make a long story short, come to think of it, on second thought, can you collect a few more to make a list of these expressions? When do we use them most often?
13. Comment on the following prescriptive rules. Do you think they are acceptable?
(A) It is I.
(B) It is me.
You should say A instead of B because “be” should be followed by the nominative case, not the accusative according to the rules in Latin.
(A) Who did you speak to?
(B) Whom did you speak to?
You should say B instead of A.
(A) I haven't done anything.
(B) I haven't done nothing.
B is wrong because two negatives make a positive.
14. The prescriptivism in grammar rules has now shifted to prescriptions in choice of words. In the “guidelines on anti-sexist language” issued by the British sociological association, some guidelines are listed below. Do you think they are descriptive and prescriptive? What’s your comment on them?
(1) Do not use man to mean humanity in general. Use person, people, human beings, men and women, humanity and humankind.
(2) colored: This term is regarded as outdated in the UK and should be avoided as it is generally viewed as offensive to many black people.
(3) civilized: This term can still carry racist overtones which derive from a colonialist perception of the world. It is often associated with social Darwinist thought and is full of implicit value judgments and ignorance of the history of the non-industrialized world.
15. Why is the distinction between competence and performance an important one in linguistics? Do you think the line can be neatly drawn between them? How do you like the concept “communicative competence”?
16. Which branch of linguistics do you think will develop rapidly in China and why?
17. The following are some well-known ambiguous sentences in syntactic studies of language. Can you disambiguate them?
The chicken is too hot to eat.
Flying planes can be dangerous.
18. There are many reasons for the discrepancy between competence and performance in normal language users. Can you think of some of them?
19. What do these two quotes reveal about the different emphasis or perspectives of language studies?
(1) A human language is a system of remarkable complexity. To come to know a human language would be an extraordinary intellectual achievement for a creature not specifically designed to accomplish this task. A normal child acquires this knowledge on relatively slight exposure and without specific training. He can then quite effortlessly make use of an intricate structure of specific rules and guiding principles to convey his thoughts and feelings to others, ... Thus language is a mirror of mind in a deep and significant sense. It is a product of human intelligence, created anew in each individual by operations that lie far beyond the reach of will or consciousness.
(Noam Chomsky: Reflections on Language. 1975: 4)
(2) It is fairly obvious that language is used to serve a variety of different needs, but until we examine its grammar there is no clear reason for classifying its uses in any particular way. However, when we examine the meaning potential of language itself, we find that the vast numbers of options embodied in it combine into a very few relatively independent “networks”; and these networks of options correspond to certain basic functions of language. This enables us to give an account of the different functions of language that is relevant to the general understanding of linguistic structure rather than to any particular psychological or sociological investigation.
(M. A. K. Halliday, 1970: 142)
20. You may be familiar with the following proverbs. How do you perceive them according to the arbitrariness and conventionality of language?
The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
Let sleeping dogs lie.
You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
Rome was not built in a day.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
All roads lead to Rome.
21. Give examples of situations in which a usage generally considered non-standard (e.g. ain’t) would be acceptable, even appropriate.
22. The following are some book titles of linguistics. Can you judge the diachronic and diachronic orientation just from the titles?
English Examined: Two centuries of Comment on the Mother-Tongue.
Protean Shape: A Study in Eighteenth-century Vocabulary and Usage.
Pejorative Sense Development in English.
The Categories and Types of Present-Day English Word-Formation.
Language in the Inner City: Studies in the Black English Vernacular.
design feature: the distinctive features of human language that essentially make human language distinguishable from languages of animals.
function: the role language plays in communication (e.g. to express ideas, attitudes) or in particular social situations (e.g. religious, legal).
synchronic: said of an approach that studies language at a theoretical ‘point’ in time.
diachronic: said of the study of development of language and languages over time.
prescriptive: to make authoritarian statement about the correctness of a particular use of language.
descriptive: to make an objective and systematic account of the patterns and use of a language or variety.
arbitrariness: the absence of any physical correspondence between linguistic signals and the entities to which they refer.
duality: the structural organization of language into two abstract levels: meaningful units (e.g. words) and meaningless segments (e.g. sounds, letters).
displacement: the ability of language to refer to contexts removed from the speaker’s immediate situation.
phatic communion: said of talk used to establish atmosphere or maintain social contact.
metalanguage: a language used for talking about language.
macrolinguistics: a broad conception of linguistic enquiry, including psychological, cultural, etc.
competence: unconscious knowledge of the system of grammatical rules in a language.
performance: the language actually used by people in speaking or writing.
langue: the language system shared by a “speech community”.
parole: the concrete utterances of a speaker.
2. All the definitions should not exclude the description of design features that have been mentioned in this course book. Also it will be better if other design features, say, interchangeability or cultural transmission is included. But it seems impossible to give an unimpeachable definition on language, because the facets people want to emphasize are seldom unanimous. To compare several definitions can make you realize where the argument is. 3.
creak: the sound made by a badly oiled door when it opens.
cuckoo: the call of cuckoo.
bang: a sudden loud noise.
roar: a deep loud continuing sound.
buzz: a noise of buzzing.
hiss: a hissing sound.
neigh: the long and loud cry that a horse makes.
mew: the noise that a gull makes.
bleat: the sound made by a sheep, goat or calf.
4. No matter you say "Yes" or "No", you cannot deny that onomatopoeia needs arbitrariness. Before we feel a word is onomatopoeic we should first know which sound the word imitates. Just as what is said in Chapter One, in order to imitate the noise of flying mosquitoes, there are many choices like "murmurous" and "murderous". They both bear more or less resemblance to the genuine natural sound, but "murmurous" is fortunately chosen to mean the noise while "murderous" is chosen to mean something quite different. They are arbitrary as signifiers.5. Yes. It is a case in point to illustrate non-arbitrariness about word order. When the two parts interchange, the focus and the meaning of the sentence is forced to change, because clauses occurring in linear sequence without time indicators will be taken as matching the actual sequence of happening. The writer’s original intention is distorted, and we can feel it effortlessly by reading. That is why systemic-functionalists and American functionalists think language is not arbitrary at the syntactic level.6. Traffic light does not have duality. Obviously, it is not a double-level system. There is only one-to-one relationship between signs and meaning but the meaning units cannot be divided into smaller meaningless elements further. So the traffic light only has the primary level and lacks the secondary level like animals’ calls.
Yellow→get ready to go or stop
7. Today I encountered an old friend who was my classmate when I was in elementary school where there was an apple orchard in which we slid to select ripe apples that…8. On a whole, body language and facial expression lack most of the distinctive properties of human language such as duality, displacement, creativity and so on. Body language exhibits arbitrariness a little bit. For instance, nod means "OK/YES" for us but in Arabian world it is equal to saying "NO". Some facial expressions have non-arbitrariness because they are instinctive such as the cry and laugh of a newborn infant.9. Yes. All human languages are complicated systems of communication. It is decided by their shared design features.10. When gazelles sense potential danger, for example, they flee and thereby signal to other gazelles in the vicinity that danger is lurking. A dog signals its wish to be let inside the house by barking and signals the possibility that it might bite momentarily by displaying its fangs.11. Some of the typical phatic expressions in Chinese are: 吃了吗？ 家里都好吧？这是去哪里啊？最近都挺好的？
If someone is sneezing violently, maybe you parents and grandparents may say: “Are you ok?”, “Do you need to see a doctor?”, “Do you need some water?”, “Do you need a handkerchief?”, “Do you have a cold?” or something like these to show their concerns.12. To tell the truth, frankly speaking, as a matter of fact, to be precise, in other words, that is to say
Such expressions are used most frequently when we want to expatiate the meaning of former clauses in anther way in argumentation. 13.
(1) the Latin rule is not universal. In English, me is informal and I is felt to be very formal.
(2) Whom is used in formal speech and in writing; who is more acceptable in informal speech.
(3) Language does not have to follow logic reasoning. Here two negative only make a more emphatic negative. This sentence is not acceptable in Standard English not because it is illogical, but because language changes and rejects this usage now.14. They are undoubtedly descriptive. Guidelines are not rules that can determine whether a sentence is right or not. The guidelines advise you to avoid the use of particular words that are grammatically correct but offensive to some certain groups. Actually, they describe the way anti-sexist advocators speak and write.15. This is proposed by Chomsky in his formalist linguistic theories. It is sometimes hard to draw a strict line. Some researchers in applied linguistics think communicative competence may be a more revealing concept in language teaching than the purely theoretical pair—competence and performance.16. It is up to you to decide after you have gone through the whole book. At this stage, we suggest all branches of linguistics have the potential to flourish.17. The chicken is too hot to eat.
The chicken meat is too hot, so it cannot be eaten at the moment.
The chicken feels so hot (maybe after some intense aerobic exercises) that it cannot start eating and needs to calm down first.
Flying planes can be dangerous.
The ambiguity comes from "flying planes". It can be deciphered as "the planes that is flying" or "to fly planes".18. Ethnic background, socioeconomic status, region of the country, and physical state (such as intoxication, fatigue, distraction, illness) vary from individual to individual. 19. The first quote shows children’s inborn ability of acquiring the knowledge of intricate structure of specific rules. It implies that the language user's underlying knowledge about the system of rules is the valuable object of study for linguists. The second attaches great importance to the functions of language. It regards the use of language as the choice of needed function. The meaning of language can be completely included by a few “networks” which is directly related to basic functions of language. It indicates the necessity to study the functions of language.20. Arbitrariness and conventionality derive from the choice of the subject matter. For example, in the “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” The word “pudding” is selected arbitrarily, for we can use another word such as cheese instead of pudding without changing the associative meaning of the proverb. On the other hand, once such links between particular words and associative meaning are fixed, it becomes a matter of conventionality.21. In the talks between intimate friends, one may say “gimme that!” instead of “give me that!” and “wachya doin’?” instead of “what are you doing?” and this list may go on.22. Synchronic:
Protean Shape: A Study in Eighteenth-century Vocabulary and Usage.
The Categories and Types of Present-Day English Word-Formation.
Language in the Inner City: Studies in the Black English Vernacular.
English Examined: Two centuries of Comment on the Mother-Tongue.
Pejorative Sense Development in English
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