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What Are the Fundamentals of Linguistics? Essay

Question: What are the fundamentals in Linguistics? Explain each of them and illustrate with relevant examples. by Samuel T. T. Wee Linguistics is the science of language. All areas of language can be examined scientifically such as grammar, sounds, meaning, just to name a few. For the purposes of this essay, I shall limit the fundamentals of linguistics to the following: phonetics and phonology, pragmatics, semantics, discourse morphology and syntax. Phonetics and Phonology Pronunciation can be studied from two perspectives: the phonetic and the phonological.

Phonetics “is the study of the way humans make, transmit, and receive speech sounds” (Crystal 1995:236). There are three main branches of phonetics, namely articulatory (i. e. how the vocal organs are used to make sounds); acoustic (i. e. the physical properties of sounds) and auditory (i. e. the way people receive and decode sounds). Phonology “is the study of the way sounds are used in a language, their relationship with each other and the way they cause difference in meaning” (London Teacher Training College Notes Module 4: 12). ? ?

To overcome the inconsistency of spelling and sounds, the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) was developed to show the pronunciation of words or phonemes using phonetic transcriptions. A phoneme is the smallest “contrastive phonological segment whose phonetic realizations are predictable by rule” (Fromkin et al. 2006:654). Minimal pairs decide what is or is not a phoneme, e. g. [sip] – to drink a little at a time; [????? – a sailing vessel. All English speech sounds are pulmonic egressive or come from the movement of lung air through the glottis, the pharynx and through either the oral or nasal cavity.

In English, there are 24 distinct consonant sounds and 20-25 vowel sounds. The consonants are as follows: p peep b book r roof t tent d dim m mom k kiss g girl n Gnostic t?? choke d? George ?? sing f flip v van l left ?? through ?? the h hope s skips z zip w witch ?? shoe ?? measure j you The consonants sounds are made through some obstruction of the airstream and they can be classified as follows: a) Voiced or voiceless – if the consonant involves the vibration of the vocal cords, it is voiced and vice-versa e. g. /d, g/ are voiced and /t, k/ are voiceless.

b) Place of articulation – this is where the sound is produced, e. g. bilabial, labiodental, alveolar, palatal, velar, uvular and glottal e. g. /p, b/ are bilabial sounds, whilst /f, v?? are labiodental sounds. c) Manner of articulation – this describes the physical process of how the sound is made, e. g. plosives /p,b,t,k,d,g/; fricatives /f,v,s,z, ? , ????????? h/; nasals /m, n, ?? ; affricates / t??? d? /; semivowels/glides /j,w,r/; laterals /l/. Voiceless sounds may be aspirated or unaspirated, where aspirated sounds require the vocal cords to remain apart for a short time after the stop closure is released.

Vowels are sonorous sounds that form the nucleus of words. They are always voiced with no obstructions. English vowels include: monopthongs /? , i:, ? , u:, ? , a:, ?? ????????????????? diphthongs /???????????????????????????????? and triphthongs /e?? , a???????????????????? An allophone is a sound that differs from another sound, although both sounds belong to the same phoneme, such as [ph] as in pin and [p] as in spin are allophones for the phoneme /p/.

Semantics Semantics is the study of linguistic meaning. Semantic features show semantic properties of words, e. g. father [+male, +human, +parent]; bitch [+female, -human, +canine].

Leech (Semantics, Chp 2, quoted in London Teacher Training College TESOL Notes pp. 42) categorised meaning into seven types: 1. conceptual reference – denotation 2. connotative – implying ‘fast’, ‘strong’, ‘rich’ etc. 3. stylistic – implying a speaker’s age, sex, etc. 4. affective – conveying emotional impact or intention 5. reflected – from other meanings of a word 6. collocative – from possible collocations 7. thematic meaning – differences of emphasis The recognition of a word is both in the sound and the meaning.

Homonyms, for example, are different words pronounced the same, e. g. to, too, two. Homographs, on the other hand, are words that are spelled the same but not necessarily pronounced the same, e. g. lead the metal and lead the verb. Words that sound different but have similar meaning are known as synonyms, e. g. terrorist – guerrilla, radical, rebel. Words that are opposite in meaning are antonyms, e. g. peace – disagreement, war. Words that include other words in their meaning are hyponyms, e. g. hatchback includes car includes vehicle.

Pragmatics Pragmatics “is concerned with the interpretation of linguistic meaning in context” (Fromkin et al 2006:173). The first is linguistic context – i. e. the discourse that precedes the phrase to be interpreted, consider this: Service with a smile. The service has no referents and the sentence can mean “Our service with a smile” or “We will only serve you, if you smile”. But if we add, “At iWork Cafe, it is always…”, the interpretation would be clearer. Situational context is the second type of context which includes the utterance, knowledge about the status of those involved and the inferred intent of the speaker.

The ability to understand the discourse in context is pragmatic competence. Discourse Discourse analysis or text linguistics, is concerned with how speakers combine sentences into broader speech units. It involves style, appropriateness, cohesiveness, difference between spoken and written texts, topic/sub-topic structure, etc. For example, pronominalization occurs when pronouns replace noun phrases. If the pronoun is coreferent to the noun phrase, it is bound, if it does not refer to some object explicitly, it is free.

Bound pronouns are anaphors (backward referencing), for example: Jim kicked the cat with the white tail. Allan also kicked it (= the cat with the white tail). Besides anaphors, there are cataphors (forward referencing) He went to market. Sam bought pork. Morphology Morphology is “the study of the internal structure of words, and of the rules by which the words are formed” (Fromkin et al 2006:40). The morpheme is the smallest contrastive unit of grammar and can be free (standalone) or bound (attached to a host morpheme).

Examples of free morphemes are girl, special, gift and bound morphemes are –ish, -able, ness, -ly, dis-, trans- and un-. Bound morphemes are affixes and can occur as prefixes such as unkind, encourage; as suffixes such as sleep + ing, teach + er and as infixes such as stand (stood), think (thought). Morphemes can be derivational, changing the part of speech e. g. from Noun to Verb, moral + ize , Verb to Adjective, work + able, Noun to Adjective affection + ate. Morphemes can also be inflectional. Consider the following example: I eat my Christmas pudding. He eats his Christmas pudding.

John ate his Christmas pudding. Ist person singular 3rd person singular -ed past tense John has eaten his Christmas pudding. John is eating his Christmas pudding. Past perfect tense Continuous/progressive tense Syntax Syntax is “the study of sentence structure” (Crystal 1995:459). One part of syntax covers the various parts of speech in a language and organizes them into different groups. In English, there are nine parts of speech, namely, noun book, verb walk, pronoun you, adjective tall, adverb happily, conjunction and, preposition under, interjection hurray, and article the.

Another aspect of syntax is seeing how the various parts of speech connect. The basic English sentence pattern is Subject Verb Object John loves chocolate fudge. The above paragraphs are a broad overview of the fundamentals of linguistics. (1189 words) References: 1. Crystal, D (1995) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2. Fromkin V, Rodman R, Hyams N and Hummel KM (2006) An Introduction to Language (3rd Canadian Ed). Ontario: Thomson-Nelson. 3. London Teacher Training College TESOL Notes

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