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Language and Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of language and languages. It encompasses their nature, the function of the human mind when forming their words and meanings, and their reception and resulting effects on the listener.
The definitive origin of language has so far been elusive, although there are several theories, all of which point to its earliest use. Hand signals, for example, emanated from thoughts and these are thought to eventually adopt sound, while other studies indicate that objects were given names to reflect their appearance. Still other theories posit that primitive grunts and similar sounds, made during hunts and in the midst of hard work, evolved into distinct words.
Nevertheless, there are several linguistic sub-branches including historical, comparative, grammatical, theoretical, neuro-, psycho-, anthropological, ethno-, socio-, computational, and stylistic.
Speech can be defined as the utterance of an individual, while writing is considered as a displacement of this speech or a form of symbolization. Although language is a conventional system of habitual vocal behavior by which members of the community communicate and can therefore be considered primary, only a small percentage of languages took a written form, since most cultures were only oral cultures.
Writing itself can be considered voluntary, since it is a set of habits, which can be changed at will, and its form is arbitrary with respect to what is communicated verbally.
Subdivided, linguistics can be seen as encompassing two definitions: ‘language’, meaning any language in general, and ‘speech’, or any language involving a set of operations.
Synchronic linguistics is the study of any language at a given time, such as English in the 16th century, while diachronic linguistics is the study of a language across different historical periods.
Language is not static. Indeed, it is constantly changing, explaining the proliferation of dialects, which themselves result from socially altered conditions, such as those of occupation, distance, and time in history.
Language also has several properties. Phonemes, for example, are a small inventory of distinct sounds, usually between 30 and 40, organized in a certain way, called phonology. Syntax is the complex of words and phrases, which form meanings. Both result in the bilateral structure of language.
All languages are open, meaning an infinite number of sentences can be generated due to the infinite number of ways words can be grouped together and used collectively. Therefore, its extent cannot be determined.
Language both creates and reflects. In the first case, it creates the culture in which modern man lives and by which he defines himself. In the latter case, it reflects the social structure of the society in which it is spoken. Kinship terminology – or words related to others – is limited in English, for example, and encompasses kinships such as mother-father and brother-sister. Yet there is no basic term to express the parents of a bride versus those of a groom and so this concept needs to be explained.
This lack does not exist in Yiddish. A single term – “machuten” (masculine), “machutaneste” (feminine) and “machutenim” (plural, both genders) – means “in laws”. In Niamal, the language of an Australian tribe, simple terms express degrees and ties of relationships.
The Navajo language offers an example of how oral communication reflects its culture. In European languages, man is part of the ongoing processes of the universe, as indicated by sentences such as “I write”, “I drive, “I walk.” Man commands and the sentences are constructed with the actor, the action, and what is being acted upon, such as “I shoot the arrow”. Navajo, however, is noun-centric, and human is part of natural processes. His sentences are constructed with the actor, the action and their reflexive expansion, such as “I participated in the ‘arrow’.”
Culture can further be reflected in the number of words that exist in a language to express what is important to its people. English, for example, has only one word for “camel”, while Arabic has over a thousand. English, again, has few nouns for “snow”; but the Alaskan Indians have hundreds of them. Conversely, English has many words for cars, their makes and types.
Grammatical strategies also reflect culture. Verbal ties indicating past, present, future and conditional, for example, are plentiful in English, whereas in Hopi tense is not expressed at all, with its verbal ties built around validity, duration, intensity and trend. . Its grammar exists without concepts of time and space, but it still manages to adequately describe the universe.
Language, as stated earlier, is constantly changing and there are several methods by which it does so.
One of them is conquest. During the Norman conquest of England, for example, the two languages then spoken, Anglo-Saxon (Old English) and Norman French, were combined.
Another result of this dynamic is the substrate, that is, a language, forming a sub-layer, disappears temporarily only to surface later in a modified form. Latin, for example, underwent phonological or sound changes when it was introduced in Spain, which explains why the “v” was later pronounced as a “b”.
Phonological variations also occur when one region of a country becomes more important than the other, due, for example, to economic conditions. Before 1600, the “r” was pronounced as in Italian, trill, but later was pronounced more like in French, further back in the throat.
Several other phenomena cause a change of language.
Adstratum occurs when the language of one or two contiguous linguistic communities exerts an influence on the other, as has happened between Bulgarian and Romanian or between American English and Latin American Spanish. In the latter case, the expressions were adopted from each other. Latin American Spanish, for example, has adopted the expression “Happy weekend” from American English: “Tenga un buen fin de semana”.
The superstrate, perhaps the result of a more forced event, is introduced into a linguistic community for reasons of military conquest, cultural superiority or colonization, affecting the language before it disappears, as has happened produced with Norman French.
Language can be seen as providing five functions to the culture it expresses.
The investigative question, the first of these, consists of the standard “who”, “what”, “when” and similar parameters usually structuring the first paragraph of a journalism or newspaper article, and involve inflectional modifications – or pitch voice change. Spanish places an upside-down question mark at the beginning of a written sentence to indicate that it is an inquiry and thus warn the reader to silently employ this inflection in their mind.
The second function is the ostensible question, in which orders are replaced by requests for information. “Close the door”, for example, becomes “Would you like to close the door?” Interjections such as “Wow” do not convey meaning.
The third is argument or dispute. Attempting to persuade, as lawyers do in their arguments, language is employed to persuade the other person to adopt the views or ways of persuasion. This is the main driver of a debate.
The fourth is ritual use. Used in prayer, sermons, and on official documents, it is predictable, repetitive, and often intellectually empty.
Finally, the fifth function of language is to establish contact, in which case it is considered “contactive language”, and it includes frequently used greetings such as “Hi”, “Hello” and “How are you?” Usually meaningless, they rarely expect or attract meaningful responses, particularly if one person is pressed for time, and only indicate recognition of another, such as when two students pass each other in the hallway of their school, or become the prelude to real and wanted conversation. As such, they convey no message.
There are also two important terms related to language – dialect and ideolect.
The first, dialect, is a subvariation of the main language and can share as little as 51% of intelligibility with it, introducing modification of phonology (sound), morphology (words) and syntax (grammar). In the United States, American English is infinitely more unified than the languages spoken in relatively smaller countries, such as Germany and Italy, although dialects exist even here, such as those between Standard and Black American English and those between Standard American and Standard British English. .
The designation “standard” is used to indicate primary structure, vocabulary, and grammar, but does not necessarily imply “correct” or “right”. Because the purpose of language is to communicate orally, if that intention has been achieved between two or more people using slang, then it has succeeded, despite what grammarians or Harvard English professors might protest, it was mixed with “wrong” components.
The ideolect, second sub-variation, is the characteristic speech of an individual. Although two brothers may be raised by the same parents in the same city, for example, their ideolects will change as they attend school, make different friends, immerse themselves in clubs and activities. , and eventually leave their region of origin.
Morphemes (words), like language as a whole, can also change, acquiring new meanings that eradicate or even reverse others. “Deer” in Modern English, for example, refers to a specific animal, but in Old English it meant any animal species, as it came from the Old German word “Tier”. “Silly” meant “blessed” in Old English, as it came from the Old German word for exactly that, “selig”.
In modern times, the distinction between “good” and “bad” has blurred and, in some cases, completely reversed. “Hey, you’re a bad man”, can mean, in slang, that someone is actually good and esteemed, because they may have used underhanded or unconventional tactics and means to do something good.
Some words may completely disappear, such as “ado” and “swell”, because they have become archaic or no longer fulfill their initial functions.
Nevertheless, language serves as the oral cohesion of humanity, its culture and its society.
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