The Floating University

Glossary

  • Linguistics: the science of language
     
  • Charles Darwin (1809-1882): English naturalist; observed that man from birth “has an instinctive tendency to speak”, and thus posited an evolutionary foundation for language acquisition
     
  • Grammar: the assembly of words, phrases and sentences
     
  • Phonology: the study of sound
     
  • Semantics: the study of meaning
     
  • Pragmatics: the study of the use of language in conversation
     
  • Psycholinguistics: the study of how language is processed in real-time
     
  • Language Acquisition: the study of how language is acquired by children
     
  • Neurolingustics: the study of how language is computed in the brain
     
  • Descriptive Grammar: the rules that characterize how we actually speak
     
  • Prescriptive Grammar: the rules that characterize how we should speak
     
  • Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis: also known as the relativity hypothesis; the weak version holds that language can affect thought and certain kinds of non-linguistic behavior, and the strong version holds that language determines thought and that cognition is limited by linguistic categories 
     
  • Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913): Swiss linguist; one of the fathers of 20th-century linguistics; identified the basic principle of a word and the arbitrariness of a sign; example: “duck” doesn’t look like a duck, but we have learned through brute force to associate that sound and its meaning, thus it has to be stored in our memory
     
  • Noam Chomsky (b. 1928): American linguist; considered the godfather of linguistics; he said the big puzzle is explaining creativity or productivity; he believed children are hard-wired with a universal grammar  
     
  • Syntax: the rules that allow us to assemble words into phrases
     
  • Long Distance Dependencies: one word in a sentence dictates the word choice much later; example: Either… or, If…. then
     
  • Morphology: the rules that allow us to assemble bits of words (prefixes and suffixes) into complex words
     
  • Wug Test: a way to detect universal grammar; tell a young child a picture of a bird is a “wug” then ask them what there is when there are two of the birds; they will say “wugs”, something they could not have imitated from hearing an adult say it as the term "wug" (or any other made-up noun) was invented for the test
     
  • Word by Word Linear Rule: “the man who is tall is in the room” -> “Is the man who tall is in the room?”
     
  • Structure Dependent Rule: looks at the geometry of the phrase structure tree, -> “Is that man who is tall in the room?”
     
  • Language Interfaces: allow us to understand language spoken by others and  to produce language others can understand
     
  • Trachea: the windpipe
     
  • Larynx: voice box
     
  • Phoneme: vowel or consonant; the smallest unit of sound that makes up a language
     
  • Pragmatics: the study of how people understand language using contextual knowledge
     
  • The Cooperative Principle: assumes that the person you’re speaking with is working with you to convey meaning and forward the conversation