Linguistics and Language Essay
Linguistics and Language
Grimm’s law (also known as the First Germanic Sound Shift or the Rask’s-Grimm’s rule), named for Jacob Grimm, is a set of statements describing the inherited Proto-Indo-European (PIE) stops as they developed in Proto-Germanic (PGmc, the common ancestor of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European family) in the 1st millennium BC. It establishes a set of regular correspondences between early Germanic stops and fricatives and the stop consonants of certain other centum Indo-European languages (Grimm used mostly Latin and Greek for illustration).
As it is presently formulated, Grimm’s Law consists of three parts, which must be thought of as three consecutive phases in the sense of a chain shift: 1. Proto-Indo-European voiceless stops change into voiceless fricatives. 2. Proto-Indo-European voiced stops become voiceless stops. 3. Proto-Indo-European voiced aspirated stops become voiced fricatives; ultimately, in most Germanic languages these voiced fricatives become voiced stops. The chain shift can be abstractly represented as: b? > b > p > ? d? > d > t > ? Karl Verner.
Verner’s law, stated by Karl Verner in 1875, describes a historical sound change in the proto-Germanic language whereby voiceless fricatives *f, *? , *s and *x, when immediately following an unstressed syllable in the same word, underwent voicing and became respectively *b, *d, *z and *g. When Grimm’s law was discovered, a strange irregularity was spotted in its operation. The Proto-Indo-European (PIE) voiceless stops *p, *t and *k should have changed into Proto-Germanic (PGmc) *f, *? (dental fricative) and *x (velar fricative), according to Grimm’s Law. Indeed, that was known to be the usual development.
However, there appeared to be a large set of words in which the agreement of Latin,Greek, Sanskrit, Baltic, Slavic etc. guaranteed PIE *p, *t or *k, and yet the Germanic reflex was a voiced consonant (*b, *d or *g). At first, irregularities did not give scholars sleepless nights as long as there were many examples of the regular outcome. Increasingly, however, it became the ambition of linguists to formulate general and exceptionless rules of sound change that would account for all the data (or as close to the ideal as possible), not merely for a well-behaved subset of it.
One classic example of PIE *t > PGmc *d is the word for ‘father’, PIE *pH2te:r (here *H2 stands for a laryngeal, and the colon marks vowel length) > PGmc *fade:r (instead of expected *fa? e:r). Curiously, the structurally similar family term *bhra:te:r ‘brother’ developed as predicted by Grimm’s Law (Gmc. *bro:? e:r). Even more curiously, we often find both *? and *d as reflexes of PIE *t in different forms of one and the same root, e. g. *wer? – ‘turn’, preterite *war? ‘he turned’, but e. g. preterite plural and past participle *wurd- (plus appropriate inflections). August Schleicher.
August Schleicher (1821–1868) and his Stammbaumtheorie is often quoted as the starting point of evolutionary linguistics. Inspired by the natural sciences, especially biology, Schleicher was the first to compare languages to evolving species.  He introduced the representation of language families as an evolutionary tree in articles published in 1853. Joseph Jastrow published a gestural theory of the evolution of language in the seventh volume of Science, 1886.  The Stammbaumtheorie proved to be very productive for comparative linguistics, but didn’t solve the major problem of studying the origin of language: the lack of fossil records.
The question of the origin of language was abandoned as unsolvable. Famously, the Societe Linguistique de Paris in 1866 refused to admit any further papers on the subject. b. 1875 to 1925 Ferdinand de Saussure Ferdinand de Saussure, 1857-1913. Ferdinand de Saussure was born in Geneva into a family of well-known scientists. He studied Sanskrit and comparative linguistics in Geneva, Paris, and Leipzig, where he fell in with the circle of young scholars known as the Neogrammarians. Brugmann, in particular, was his mentor, but he was also close to Karl Verner and others of the circle.
In 1878, at the age of 21, Saussure published a long and precocious paper called “Note on the Primitive System of the Indo-European Vowels”. He explained in greater and clearer detail than others who were coming to similar conclusions how the PIE ablaut system worked. (Ablaut is the ancient system of vowel alternations in the parent language, visible in surviving irregular alternations among cognates like Latin ped vs. Greek pod, ‘foot’; and also in the Germanic strong verb system in exemplified by vowel alternates like sing, sang, sung).
One of the most inspired parts of his analysis is the positing of ‘sonorant co-efficients’, consonantal elements that do not appear in any daughter language but can be hypothesized due to the systematic way the vowels are affected in the descendent languages, and due to position and distribution of such elements in the rest of the PIE system. The great 20th century Indo-Europeanist Jerzy Kurylowicz later pointed out that Hittite, the last-discovered ancient Indo-European language, had consonants in just the positions predicted by Saussure’s analysis.
These consonants are now called laryngeals, and the study of laryngeals, bringing to bear more recent evidence than Saussure had access to, is still an important area of Indo-European studies. This brilliant start was not followed by any tremendous output of published work, but it contained the seeds of his essential insight into the importance of the linguistic system and how central it is for understanding human knowledge and behavior.
De Saussure was only eight years younger than Karl Brugmann, and he died some years earlier than Brugmann; yet because of his re-focussing of attention onto aspects of language that had not been part of the older field, he seems to belong to a later generation. His ideas fit into a recognizably modern era in which human phenomena are no longer viewed primarily from the point of view of their construed trajectory through time, but as structural wholes that are self-contained and whose parts fill interrelated functions.
Saussure’s influence on linguists was far-reaching, first through his direct influence on his students at the University of Geneva, who practically worshipped him, and then through his ideas as collected and disseminated after his death by two of his students, Charles Bally and Albert Sechaye These students, who became well-known linguistic researchers in their own right, put together course notes from their and another student’s notebooks to produce the Cours de Linguistique Generale, based on several of Saussure’s courses of lectures at Geneva, using the notebooks of various students attending.
This composite work, shaped and interpreted by Bally and Sechaye, was prepared in the years immediately following Saussure’s death as a tribute and as a way making his brilliant ideas accessible beyond Geneva and for posterity. It worked: the Cours was widely read in French by scholars all over Europe, and in 1959 was translated into English by Wade Baskin mainly for American students, who were less likely to have learned to read French than their European counterparts. A new translation of the Cours by Roy Harris appeared in 1986.
Saussure’s fresh ideas were consonant with those of his influental compatriot Claude Levi-Strauss, and also those of Emile Durkheim, pioneer of the new field of sociology. Saussure’s influence spread all through the new social sciences in the early and mid-twentieth century, and ultimately, for better or worse, to literary theory and modern cultural studies. They still exert a very strong intellectual force in all these disciplines (probably most in Linguistics and the disciplines most influenced by literary theory; less so now in traditional Anthropology, Sociology, and Psychology).
In Linguistics, Saussure’s focus on the synchronic dimension and on language as an interrelated system of elements was maintained through the American Structuralist period (Bloomfield, Hockett), and also in the Generative period (Chomsky, Bresnan). His view of the essential nature of the form-meaning pairing, without the intermediate and essentiallly meaningless syntactic layer posited by Chomsky, Perlmutter, and other generative theory-builders, has re-emerged in theories like Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (Sag and Pollard) and Construction Grammar.
Modern Functionalist theories have integrated diachrony much more than generative theories (cf. the Functional Typology of Greenberg, Givon, Comrie, Heine, and Bybee), but the focus on the synchronic has nevertheless been essentially maintained in modern Cognitive theories of language, in keeping with the synchronic view of the human mind in the Cognitive Sciences, notably Psychology and Neuroscience. c. 1925 to 1950 Edward Sapir Edward Sapir, (born Jan. 26, 1884, Lauenburg, Pomerania, Ger.
—died Feb. 4, 1939, New Haven, Conn. , U. S. ), one of the foremost American linguists and anthropologists of his time, most widely known for his contributions to the study of North American Indian languages. A founder of ethnolinguistics, which considers the relationship of culture to language, he was also a principal developer of the American (descriptive) school of structural linguistics. Sapir, the son of an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, was taken to the United States at age five.
As a graduate student at Columbia University, he came under the influence of the noted anthropologist Franz Boas, who directed his attention to the rich possibilities of linguistic anthropology. For about six years he studied the Yana, Paiute, and other Indian languages of the western United States. From 1910 to 1925 Sapir served as chief of anthropology for the Canadian National Museum, Ottawa, where he made a steady contribution to ethnology. One of his more important monographs concerned cultural change among American Indians (1916).
He also devoted attention to Indian languages west of the continental divide. He joined the faculty of the University of Chicago in 1925 and in 1929 suggested that the vast number of Indian languages of the United States and Canada and certain of those of Mexico and Central America could be classified in six major divisions. In 1931 he accepted a professorship at Yale University, where he established the department of anthropology and remained active until two years before his death. Sapir suggested that man perceives the world principally through language.
He wrote many articles on the relationship of language to culture. A thorough description of a linguistic structure and its function in speech might, he wrote in 1931, provide insight into man’s perceptive and cognitive faculties and help explain the diverse behaviour among peoples of different cultural backgrounds. He also did considerable research in comparative and historical linguistics. A poet, an essayist, and a composer, as well as a brilliant scholar, Sapir wrote in a crisp and lucid fashion that earned him considerable literary repute. d. 1950 to 1960 Leonard Bloomfield.
Influence of Language In Language Bloomfield emphasized the need to be objective, to deal only with physically observable phenomena, and to develop a precise description and definition in order to make linguistics a true science. The period from the publication of Language in 1933 to the mid-1950s is commonly called the “Bloomfieldian era” of linguistics. Though Bloomfield’s particular methodology of descriptive linguistics was not widely accepted, his mechanistic attitudes toward a precise science of linguistics, dealing only with observable phenomena, were most influential.
His influence waned after the 1950s, when adherence to logical positivist doctrines lessened and there was a return to more mentalistic attitudes. Today linguists, especially the younger ones, are more concerned with the directly non-observable mental processes by which human beings are uniquely capable of generating language. Avram Noam Chomsky The Language Acquisition Device (LAD) is a postulated “organ” of the brain that is supposed to function as a congenital device in language acquisition.
First proposed by Noam Chomsky, the LAD concept is an instinctive mental capacity which enables an infant to acquire and produce language. It is component of the nativist theory of language. This theory asserts that humans are born with the instinct or “innate facility” for acquiring language. Chomsky has gradually abandoned the LAD in favour of a parameter-setting model of language acquisition (principles and parameters). Chomsky motivated the LAD hypothesis by what he perceived as intractable complexity of language acquisition, citing the notion of “infinite use of finite means” proposed by Wilhelm von Humboldt.
At the time it was conceived (1957–1965), the LAD concept was in strict contrast to B. F. Skinner’sbehavioral psychology which emphasized principles of learning theory such as classical and operant conditioning and imitation over biological predisposition. The interactionist theory of Jerome Bruner and Jean Piaget later emphasized the importance of the interaction between biological and social (nature and nurture) aspects of language acquisition.
Differing from the behaviorists who emphasize the importance of social interactions in language acquisition, Chomsky (1965) set out an innate language schema which provides the basis for the child’s acquisition of a language. The acquisition process takes place in an infant’s mind because of this mental organ which enables him/her to speak despite the limited nature of the Primary Linguistic Data (PLD, the input signals received) and the degenerate nature (frequent incorrect usage, utterances of partial sentences) of that data.
Given this poverty of the stimulus, a language acquisition model requires a number of components. Firstly, the child must have a technique for representing input signals and, secondly, a way of representing structural information about them. Thirdly, there must be some initial delimitation of the class of possible language structure hypotheses. Fourthly, the child requires a method for determining what each of these hypotheses implies with respect to each sentence. Finally, an additional method is needed by which the child can select which hypothesis is compatible with the PLD.
Historical development of models of transformational grammar Transformational grammar Chomsky, in an award acceptance speech delivered in India in 2001, claimed “The first generative grammar in the modern sense was Panini’s grammar”.  This work, called the Ashtadhyayi, was composed by the middle of the 1st millennium BCE. Generative grammar has been under development since the late 1950s, and has undergone many changes in the types of rules and representations that are used to predict grammaticality.
In tracing the historical development of ideas within generative grammar, it is useful to refer to various stages in the development of the theory. Standard Theory (1957–1965) The so-called Standard Theory corresponds to the original model of generative grammar laid out in Chomsky (1965). A core aspect of Standard Theory is a distinction between two different representations of a sentence, called Deep structure and Surface structure. The two representations are linked to each other by transformational grammar. Deep Structure and Surface Structure.
In 1957, Noam Chomsky published Syntactic Structures, in which he developed the idea that each sentence in a language has two levels of representation — a deep structure and a surface structure.  The deep structure represented the core semantic relations of a sentence, and was mapped on to the surface structure (which followed the phonological form of the sentence very closely) via transformations. Chomsky believed there are considerable similarities between languages’ deep structures, and that these structures reveal properties, common to all languages that surface structures conceal.
However, this may not have been the central motivation for introducing deep structure. Transformations had been proposed prior to the development of deep structure as a means of increasing the mathematical and descriptive power of context-free grammars. Similarly, deep structure was devised largely for technical reasons relating to early semantic theory. Chomsky emphasizes the importance of modern formal mathematical devices in the development of grammatical theory: But the fundamental reason for [the] inadequacy of traditional grammars is a more technical one.
Although it was well understood that linguistic processes are in some sense “creative,” the technical devices for expressing a system of recursive processes were simply not available until much more recently. In fact, a real understanding of how a language can (in Humboldt’s words) “make infinite use of finite means” has developed only within the last thirty years, in the course of studies in the foundations of mathematics. Electronic Reference: http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Linguistics.