Introduction to Linguistics The Study of Language
Introduction | What is Linguistics?
Linguistics is the scientific study of language. Linguistics is concerned with the nature of language and communication, and with the study of particular languages and dialects. It includes the following subareas / fields of research : 1- Phonology and Phonetics (sounds) 2- Morphology (structure of words) 3- Syntax (structure of sentences) 4- Semantics (meaning) 5- Pragmatics (language in context) --> All these subareas / fields of research are part of Grammar.
Part One | What is language?
Language defines human being. Mankind is the only creature in the world to have developed language. We use language to communicate to one another, for amusement, and we use language to think. Language is indeed the basis of human reason, and thinking is a linguistic act. Every individual is able to speak one or several languages. Language is an innate ability that every human being has (except causes of illness and disease). There are no limits of systems (languages) one can learn.
Animals do not have language Language is a human property. Animals DO NOT have language. They can of course communicate but they do not use language. They lack the four basic properties of language: Creation, Adaptation, Displacement, Grammar.
We can adapt our speech whether we address children, teachers, friends, parents...
Humans are continually creating new expressions by manipulating language to describe new situations, concepts or objects. This property is called "productivity" (or "creativity" or "open-endedness"). [ Productivity = creativity = open-endedness. (ces trois expressions veulent dire la même chose)]
Languages are flexible and evolve through time. We can create new words whenever we need them. (to snapchat, to skype, to google, to facebook message, to text = ce sont tous des verbes). The potential number of utterances in any human language is infinite.
The way we organise / arrange words (or sings) together to create precise meaning. - We can generate as many sentences as we want. (productivity) - We can create sentences that we have never heard before. (productivity)
The ability to talk about things that are not present in time or space. Human beings can refer to past and future time. Displacement allows us to talk about things that are not present in the immediate environment. It also allows us to talk about things whose existence we cannot even be sure of (heaven, hell, angels, fairies). In contrast, it seems that animal communication is designed for the here and now.
Humans are clearly able to reflect on language and its uses. Exemple : "Could you please use less technical terms when you explain something to us?" Reflexivity is the property that enables humans to use language to think and talk about language itself and does not appear to be present in any other creature’s communication system.
Humans are continually creating new expressions by manipulating language to describe new situations, concepts or objects. The communication systems of other creatures are not like that. For example, vervet monkey communication has a fixed set of signals (36 vocal calls). This lack of productivity in animal communication can be descrived in terms of fixed reference. In other words, each signal is fixed and relates to particular situation and/or purpose. Animals cannot produce any new signals to describe novel experiences.
Apes and Sign Language
Speaking to BBC News, Prof Graham Turner of Heriot Watt University, said: "Serious efforts to teach apes some signing began in the 1960s with researchers attempting to teach individual signs derived from American Sign Language (ASL). And the apes did learn to use some hand gestures in this way. "But it is a distortion to imply that Koko or any ape has ever learned to use a natural signed language like a human being [ ... ] [ ... ] communication in ASL or any such signed language entails acquiring command of a far more complex system of linguistic expression. [ ... ] 'signing' apes have never proven capable of displaying grammatical competence comparable to human fluency.' "Although the apes can use two or three signs in a sequence, close inspection of filmed data has repeatedly shown trainers prompting them, and then questionably interpreting separate responses as signed sentences." Cliquez-ici pour lire l'article au complet.
Conclusion PART ONE
Whenever humans exist, language exists.
Language is a human property. Animals DO NOT have language. They can of course communicate but they do not use language. They lack the four basic properties of language: Productivity (= creativity, open-endedness), Adaptation, Displacement, Grammar.
There are no ‘primitive’ languages – all languages are equally complex and equally capable of expressing any idea in the universe. The vocabulary of any language can be expanded to include new words for new concept.