Introducing Language in Use
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Human language is also unique in being able to refer to abstract concepts and to imagined or hypothetical events as well as events that took place in the past or may happen in the future. This ability to refer to events that are not at the same time or place as the speech event is called displacement , and while some animal communication systems can use displacement such as the communication of bees that can communicate the location of sources of nectar that are out of sight , the degree to which it is used in human language is also considered unique.
Theories about the origin of language differ in regard to their basic assumptions about what language is. Some theories are based on the idea that language is so complex that one cannot imagine it simply appearing from nothing in its final form, but that it must have evolved from earlier pre-linguistic systems among our pre-human ancestors. These theories can be called continuity-based theories. The opposite viewpoint is that language is such a unique human trait that it cannot be compared to anything found among non-humans and that it must therefore have appeared suddenly in the transition from pre-hominids to early man.
These theories can be defined as discontinuity-based. Similarly, theories based on the generative view of language pioneered by Noam Chomsky see language mostly as an innate faculty that is largely genetically encoded, whereas functionalist theories see it as a system that is largely cultural, learned through social interaction. Chomsky is one prominent proponent of a discontinuity-based theory of human language origins. Continuity-based theories are held by a majority of scholars, but they vary in how they envision this development.
Those who see language as being mostly innate, for example psychologist Steven Pinker , hold the precedents to be animal cognition ,  whereas those who see language as a socially learned tool of communication, such as psychologist Michael Tomasello , see it as having developed from animal communication in primates: either gestural or vocal communication to assist in cooperation. A prominent proponent of this view is archaeologist Steven Mithen. Researchers on the evolutionary origin of language generally find it plausible to suggest that language was invented only once, and that all modern spoken languages are thus in some way related, even if that relation can no longer be recovered Because language emerged in the early prehistory of man, before the existence of any written records, its early development has left no historical traces, and it is believed that no comparable processes can be observed today.
Theories that stress continuity often look at animals to see if, for example, primates display any traits that can be seen as analogous to what pre-human language must have been like.
And early human fossils can be inspected for traces of physical adaptation to language use or pre-linguistic forms of symbolic behaviour. Among the signs in human fossils that may suggest linguistic abilities are: the size of the brain relative to body mass, the presence of a larynx capable of advanced sound production and the nature of tools and other manufactured artifacts. It was mostly undisputed that pre-human australopithecines did not have communication systems significantly different from those found in great apes in general. However, a study on Ardipithecus ramidus challenges this belief.
Some scholars assume the development of primitive language-like systems proto-language as early as Homo habilis 2. The study of language, linguistics , has been developing into a science since the first grammatical descriptions of particular languages in India more than years ago, after the development of the Brahmi script. Modern linguistics is a science that concerns itself with all aspects of language, examining it from all of the theoretical viewpoints described above. The academic study of language is conducted within many different disciplinary areas and from different theoretical angles, all of which inform modern approaches to linguistics.
For example, descriptive linguistics examines the grammar of single languages, theoretical linguistics develops theories on how best to conceptualize and define the nature of language based on data from the various extant human languages, sociolinguistics studies how languages are used for social purposes informing in turn the study of the social functions of language and grammatical description, neurolinguistics studies how language is processed in the human brain and allows the experimental testing of theories, computational linguistics builds on theoretical and descriptive linguistics to construct computational models of language often aimed at processing natural language or at testing linguistic hypotheses, and historical linguistics relies on grammatical and lexical descriptions of languages to trace their individual histories and reconstruct trees of language families by using the comparative method.
However, Sumerian scribes already studied the differences between Sumerian and Akkadian grammar around BC. Subsequent grammatical traditions developed in all of the ancient cultures that adopted writing. In the 17th century AD, the French Port-Royal Grammarians developed the idea that the grammars of all languages were a reflection of the universal basics of thought, and therefore that grammar was universal. In the 18th century, the first use of the comparative method by British philologist and expert on ancient India William Jones sparked the rise of comparative linguistics.
Introducing Language in Use : A Course Book
Early in the 20th century, Ferdinand de Saussure introduced the idea of language as a static system of interconnected units, defined through the oppositions between them. By introducing a distinction between diachronic and synchronic analyses of language, he laid the foundation of the modern discipline of linguistics. Saussure also introduced several basic dimensions of linguistic analysis that are still fundamental in many contemporary linguistic theories, such as the distinctions between syntagm and paradigm , and the Langue-parole distinction , distinguishing language as an abstract system langue , from language as a concrete manifestation of this system parole.
In the s, Noam Chomsky formulated the generative theory of language.
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According to this theory, the most basic form of language is a set of syntactic rules that is universal for all humans and which underlies the grammars of all human languages. This set of rules is called Universal Grammar ; for Chomsky, describing it is the primary objective of the discipline of linguistics. Thus, he considered that the grammars of individual languages are only of importance to linguistics insofar as they allow us to deduce the universal underlying rules from which the observable linguistic variability is generated.
In opposition to the formal theories of the generative school, functional theories of language propose that since language is fundamentally a tool, its structures are best analyzed and understood by reference to their functions. Formal theories of grammar seek to define the different elements of language and describe the way they relate to each other as systems of formal rules or operations, while functional theories seek to define the functions performed by language and then relate them to the linguistic elements that carry them out.
Cognitive linguistics is primarily concerned with how the mind creates meaning through language. Speaking is the default modality for language in all cultures. The production of spoken language depends on sophisticated capacities for controlling the lips, tongue and other components of the vocal apparatus, the ability to acoustically decode speech sounds, and the neurological apparatus required for acquiring and producing language. The brain is the coordinating center of all linguistic activity; it controls both the production of linguistic cognition and of meaning and the mechanics of speech production.
Nonetheless, our knowledge of the neurological bases for language is quite limited, though it has advanced considerably with the use of modern imaging techniques. The discipline of linguistics dedicated to studying the neurological aspects of language is called neurolinguistics. Early work in neurolinguistics involved the study of language in people with brain lesions, to see how lesions in specific areas affect language and speech.
In this way, neuroscientists in the 19th century discovered that two areas in the brain are crucially implicated in language processing. The first area is Wernicke's area , which is in the posterior section of the superior temporal gyrus in the dominant cerebral hemisphere.
People with a lesion in this area of the brain develop receptive aphasia , a condition in which there is a major impairment of language comprehension, while speech retains a natural-sounding rhythm and a relatively normal sentence structure. The second area is Broca's area , in the posterior inferior frontal gyrus of the dominant hemisphere. People with a lesion to this area develop expressive aphasia , meaning that they know what they want to say, they just cannot get it out.
Other symptoms that may be present in expressive aphasia include problems with fluency, articulation, word-finding, word repetition , and producing and comprehending complex grammatical sentences, both orally and in writing. Those with this aphasia also exhibit ungrammatical speech and show inability to use syntactic information to determine the meaning of sentences. Both expressive and receptive aphasia also affect the use of sign language, in analogous ways to how they affect speech, with expressive aphasia causing signers to sign slowly and with incorrect grammar, whereas a signer with receptive aphasia will sign fluently, but make little sense to others and have difficulties comprehending others' signs.
This shows that the impairment is specific to the ability to use language, not to the physiology used for speech production. With technological advances in the late 20th century, neurolinguists have also incorporated non-invasive techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging fMRI and electrophysiology to study language processing in individuals without impairments.
Spoken language relies on human physical ability to produce sound , which is a longitudinal wave propagated through the air at a frequency capable of vibrating the ear drum. This ability depends on the physiology of the human speech organs. By controlling the different parts of the speech apparatus, the airstream can be manipulated to produce different speech sounds. The sound of speech can be analyzed into a combination of segmental and suprasegmental elements. The segmental elements are those that follow each other in sequences, which are usually represented by distinct letters in alphabetic scripts, such as the Roman script.
In free flowing speech, there are no clear boundaries between one segment and the next, nor usually are there any audible pauses between words. Segments therefore are distinguished by their distinct sounds which are a result of their different articulations, and they can be either vowels or consonants. Suprasegmental phenomena encompass such elements as stress , phonation type, voice timbre , and prosody or intonation , all of which may have effects across multiple segments. Consonants and vowel segments combine to form syllables , which in turn combine to form utterances; these can be distinguished phonetically as the space between two inhalations.
Acoustically , these different segments are characterized by different formant structures, that are visible in a spectrogram of the recorded sound wave See illustration of Spectrogram of the formant structures of three English vowels.
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Formants are the amplitude peaks in the frequency spectrum of a specific sound. Vowels are those sounds that have no audible friction caused by the narrowing or obstruction of some part of the upper vocal tract. They vary in quality according to the degree of lip aperture and the placement of the tongue within the oral cavity.
If the tongue is located towards the back of the mouth, the quality changes, creating vowels such as [u] English "oo".
Introducing Language in Use
Consonants are those sounds that have audible friction or closure at some point within the upper vocal tract. Consonant sounds vary by place of articulation, i. Each place of articulation produces a different set of consonant sounds, which are further distinguished by manner of articulation , or the kind of friction, whether full closure, in which case the consonant is called occlusive or stop , or different degrees of aperture creating fricatives and approximants.
Consonants can also be either voiced or unvoiced , depending on whether the vocal cords are set in vibration by airflow during the production of the sound. Voicing is what separates English [s] in bus unvoiced sibilant from [z] in buzz voiced sibilant. Some speech sounds, both vowels and consonants, involve release of air flow through the nasal cavity, and these are called nasals or nasalized sounds. Other sounds are defined by the way the tongue moves within the mouth: such as the l-sounds called laterals , because the air flows along both sides of the tongue , and the r-sounds called rhotics that are characterized by how the tongue is positioned relative to the air stream.
By using these speech organs, humans can produce hundreds of distinct sounds: some appear very often in the world's languages, whereas others are much more common in certain language families, language areas, or even specific to a single language. When described as a system of symbolic communication , language is traditionally seen as consisting of three parts: signs , meanings , and a code connecting signs with their meanings. The study of the process of semiosis , how signs and meanings are combined, used, and interpreted is called semiotics.
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Signs can be composed of sounds, gestures, letters, or symbols, depending on whether the language is spoken, signed, or written, and they can be combined into complex signs, such as words and phrases. When used in communication, a sign is encoded and transmitted by a sender through a channel to a receiver who decodes it. Some of the properties that define human language as opposed to other communication systems are: the arbitrariness of the linguistic sign, meaning that there is no predictable connection between a linguistic sign and its meaning; the duality of the linguistic system, meaning that linguistic structures are built by combining elements into larger structures that can be seen as layered, e.
The rules by which signs can be combined to form words and phrases are called syntax or grammar.