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SYRACUSE / Linguistics / LING 201 / What is the used to communicate?

What is the used to communicate?

What is the used to communicate?


School: Syracuse University
Department: Linguistics
Course: The Nature and Study of Language
Professor: K. oda
Term: Fall 2019
Tags: Linguistics and phonetics
Cost: 50
Name: LIN 201 - Study Guide for September 30 Test
Description: Covers the introductory Big Ideas of Linguistics and Phonetics, or lecture 8/28 through 9/16 and Chapters 1 through 3.
Uploaded: 09/26/2019
8 Pages 38 Views 5 Unlocks

LIN 201 - Study Guide (September 30 Exam)

What is the used to communicate?

LECTURES 8/28, 9/4, 9/9 and CHAPTERS 1 AND 2


A language - a dialect with cultural, geographic, and political significance. Arguably, a chunk of dialects that mutually intelligible.

Dialect continuum - a range of dialects spoken across a geographical space, with mutual-intelligibility dependent on distance. The closer two communities are, the more comprehensible they tend to be.

i.e. The Scandinavian languages

Language - while individual languages differ in countless ways, they share common traits that are largely, near Universally, observed. The most common are as follows: ● Used to communicate

● Arbitrary sound-meaning association

Language is received or perceived also through what?

● Hierarchically organized

● Produced and perceived

● Quintessentially human

● Genetically endowed

● Creative but constrained to a productive system


Used to communicate

Language allows for the transmission of meaning from one person to another Sign - a discrete unit of meaning

Conventional Signs - all members of a community agree upon the meaning of a sign. The sign must be mutually understood by the people trying to communicate. Semanticity - the general study of signs, including within animal communication, where organisms learn about and navigate their environment

What is semantically, in language?

Don't forget about the age old question of What is macroscopic anatomy?

Arbitrary sound-meaning association

The association between a sign and its meaning is random. There is no intrinsic aspect of a sign (particularly sound) which suggests a specific meaning. Otherwise, even unrelated languages would have very similar sounding words, where as many languages have completely different sounds for the same meaning and vice versa, with completely different meanings for the same sound AKA “principle of arbitrariness” or “Saussurean arbitrariness” Don't forget about the age old question of Why is it important to have a personal philosophy about life?

A notable exception may be onomatopoeia.

Hierarchically organized

Language has units of increasing complexity and length, which are organized according to a consistent set of rules which can have an effect on meaning (and usually do) Types of units - Sound, syllable, word, phrase, sentence We also discuss several other topics like What are the different causes of land degradation?

Organization of units

Combining units produces sentences that develop and modify meaning

Ex - the dog ran + a blue bird = the dog ran after a blue bird. Don't forget about the age old question of What is operant conditioning?

Ordering units can change meaning due to grammatical rules

Ex - /piwi/ vs. /wipi/ peewee =/ weepy, sea-blue =/ blue sea

Substituting units can change meaning, creating contrasting signs

Ex - /bit/ replace b with f you get beat → feet

Syntagmatic relations - relative order of elements in a language

Paradigmatic relations - possibility of substituting one element for another Produced and perceived

Language is transmitted or produced through human physiology, which is further explored in the phonetics section, Anatomy of Speaking which goes through how specifically human physiology is specialized towards speaking. Here’s the basic relations:

Speaking - lungs, windpipe, larynx, glottis, oral cavity

Signing - fingers, body, facial expressions, etc.

Language is received or perceived also through physiology We also discuss several other topics like Why do we persuade?

Sounds - ears

Visual cues - vision

McGurk effect - hearing the sound you see produced

Quintessentially Human


Animal communication is far more simplistic and designed to address immediate, pressing issues such as DANGER and FOOD, but lacks many elements that allow for complex communication in humans:

● Unable to refer to space/position and time (tenses)

● No grammar or syntax

● Can’t produce new words/no productive morphology

● With a very small vocabulary and no grammar, the number of sentences and messages that can be produced is incredibly small

This physiological distinction may be one of the key factors that propelled humanity, and thus language is associated with the great leap forward.Don't forget about the age old question of What is the distribution of earth's water?


Language changes and develops different uses and systems according to the needs of human societies and cultures

● Geographical conditions i.e. many ways to describe snow

● Social status i.e. ways to distinguish between talking to be of lower, equal, or higher social status

● Political influence e.g. suddenly getting colonized and enslaved will produce new dialects and inject words into both languages

Genetically endowed

The “Innateness hypothesis”

Humans have such an incredible capacity for acquiring language, particularly children, that is is believed there are human cognitive mechanisms that enable language development.


● Language acquisition doesn’t depend on cognitive abilities

● Children acquire languages within months, far easier and far better than adult language learners

● Children around the globe, in every society and every language, follow the same steps

Universal Grammar Theory - the theory that there is a cognitive template for grammar, genetically encoded into humans, which constrains language diversity.

Productive but constrained

Language allows for the production and understanding of new words and sentences i.e. new technology (emails, CD’s, fax, Keurigs, beautyblenders, etc.) or new experiences (stories, space travel, etc.).

This is constrained within the rules of language

Grammatical, phonotactics, etymological, etc.

Linguistic Competence - the innate knowledge a speaker has of their language

How linguistics study language

Corpus - body of recordings and documentation of spontaneously produced language Elicitation - an interview that asks interviewees to identify right or wrong expressions; see Linguistic Competence.

Experimentation - controlled experiments done in a lab setting that measures language, usually language perception, production, and neurological


Linguistics competence - the tacit, innate knowledge of how to use a language Linguistic performance - the actual production of language (based on competence) ● Real speaking involves false starts, slips of the tongue, stuttering, pauses, and can be affected by fatigue, sickness, or inebriation.

● Similar Plato’s Theory of Form. Competence is the ideal of what a speaker’s language is, and performance is the imperfect production based off that ideal.


Linguistics use the scientific method, but because of how humans perceive their own language use, there is a certain bias that their personal dialect has an inherent superiority (or inferiority) to others. This may color research, and so the approaches must be differentiated.

Prescriptivism - The view that there is such a thing as a ‘correct’, ‘educated’, ‘better’ way to use a language

Often results in people (purists) telling other people how they should be

speaking. Attacks informal speaking in particular.

Descriptivism - the approach Linguists take, where the language that people actually speak is studied.

What that specific dialect identifies as unacceptable or acceptable is recorded and accepted, and then further analyzed. These are pure observation, without any opinion.

Standard Dialects

The adoption of a Standard, though prescriptivist from a Linguistic perspective, has advantages.

● In multilingual nations, establishing an official language would allow everyone in its borders to be able to communicate with each other (mutual intelligibility) ● Writing in the Standard dialect would also make your ideas more distributable and have more social prestige.

● On the other hand, using Nonstandard dialects signals authenticity.


When linguists talk about grammar, they’re talking about the inherent acceptability certain constructions have in relation to a specific grammar.

Generality - All languages have a grammar system governing how to encode to information

Parity - All languages and dialects are equal. They are all complex and intelligible to the users. There isn’t such a thing as good grammar or bad grammar

Universality - All grammars are alike in basic ways

Mutability - All grammars change over time

Inaccessibility - Grammatical knowledge is innate and passive within native speakers

LECTURES 9/11 AND 9/16 and CHAPTER 3


The English writing system (orthography) is inadequate to accurately transcribe sounds for many reasons:

● Silent letters (due to historical pronunciations, e.g. knife, knight, make, subtle, etc.) ● A single letter being associated with many different sounds

○ e.g. c = /k, s, ʃ, t͡ʃ/ or even silent

● The inverse, with multiple letters being associated with one sound

○ e.g. q, k, c = /k/

○ e.g. ea, ee, ei, y, ey, i, ie, eo, ae = /i/

● Digraphs/representing a single sound with multiple letters

○ e.g. sh, ch, th, wh, gh (f), ng, etc.

● The opposite, representing multiple sounds with one letter

○ e.g. x

Instead, linguistics use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)

● One sound to one symbol

● Designed to transcribe all human language, and lists 800+ symbols

● Based on the Roman alphabet, so there are plenty of English overlaps ● [] = phonetic transcription (narrow)

● // = phonemic transcription (broader, relative to a language)


Human anatomy is specialized towards communication:

1. Exhale. This forces air out of your lungs and up through your throat

a. Pulmonic sounds - sounds produced by the lungs

b. Egressive sounds - sounds made on the exhale, by forcing air from the lungs 2. The air passes through the larynx, a cartilaginous cavity at the top of your windpipe. a. Vocal Cords - two thin laps of skin pulled across this cavity

b. Four States of the Glottis

i. Closed - the vocal folds are tightly shut. This blocks airflow completely and produces only one sound: a glottal stop (/ʔ/)

ii. Vibrating/Partially Open - the folds are held close together but are not sealed, causing the flaps to vibrate. This state yields all voiced sounds.

iii. Open - the folds are loose and open, allowing air to flow unhindered. This state produces all voiceless sounds.

iv. Taut - the folds are tight and open, allowing air to flow but still affecting the airflow and creating turbulence. This produces h (/h/).

3. The air enters your mouth, and the articulators (teeth and lips) alter the shape of the oral cavity, further changing the type of sound being produced.

a. Vocal tract - larynx, epiglottis, pharynx, uvula, velum, palate, alveolar ridge, teeth, lips, tongue, nasal cavity and probably more.

b. Oral cavity - uvula, velum, palate, alveolar ridge, teeth, lips, tongue

c. Articulators - moving parts that change oral cavity shape/size and change the sound: lips and tongue

i. This is where Manner and Place of Articulation comes in


Place of Articulation

Manner of Articulation - How the airflow is distorted from these changes Stops/Plosives - An articulator completely blocks off airflow:

/p, b, t, d, k, g, ʔ/

Nasals - An articulator completely blocks airflow, but velum lowers, and allows for air to flow through the nasal cavity:

/m, n, ŋ/

Note ŋ=ng

Fricatives - An articulator leaves a small opening for airflow to travel, creating turbulence and producing a hiss-like quality to the sound:

/f, v, θ, ð, s, z, ʃ, ʒ, h/

Note θ, ð=th, where theta is unvoiced and eth is voiced, ʃ=sh, ʒ=zh

Approximants - An articulator allows for a large amount of room for air to pass, but not enough to be a vowel:


Lateral: /l/

Non-Later Retroflex: /ɹ/ where ɹ=r

Glides: /w, j/

Note j=y

Affricates - An articulator moves from one position to another, usually from a stop to a fricative:

/t͡ʃ, d͡ʒ/

Note t͡ʃ = ch and d͡ʒ = j

Manner of Articulation

Place of Articulation - Where the airflow is distorted by the articulators. Bilabials - the lip articulator moves against the other lip:

/p, b, m, w/

Labiodentals - the lip articulator is placed between the teeth:

/f, v/

Interdentals - the tongue articulator (tip) is placed between the teeth:

/θ, ð/

Alveolars - tongue articulator (tip/blade) is placed against the alveolar ridge: /t, d, n, s, z, ʃ, ʒ/

Palatals - tongue articulator (body) is placed against the palate:


Velars - tongue articulator (back) is placed against the velum:

/k, g, ŋ/

Glottals - the glottis is left open and taut, producing friction:



The last properties of consonants is very important, and can be seen on sagittal sections by the state of the glottis for the following reason:

Voiced - a sound produced when the vocal folds are close enough to be vibrating; on a sagittal section, the glottis is wavy. Includes all approximants, nasals, and vowels because otherwise there would very little sound produced and much less difference between them.

/b, m, w, v, ð, d, n, z, ʒ, y, g, ŋ/ + vowels

Voiceless - a sound where the vocal folds are held open limply and allow air to pass without vibrating.

/p, f, t, s, ʃ, k, h/


Tongue Position

The tongue’s position in the mouth can change the shape of the cavity, and it’s various positions are mapped on two axes:

Backness - horizontal position, like the x axis; going from Front, Central, and Back Height - vertical position, like the y axis, going from High, Mid, and Low


Front Vowels: /i, ɪ, e, ɛ, æ/ or meat, mit, mate, met, mat respectively

Central Vowels: /ə, ʌ/ or amount, mut

Back Vowels: /u, ʊ, o, ɑ/ or moot, took, moat, maul


High: /i, ɪ, u, ʊ/ or meat, mit, moot, took

Mid: /e, ɛ, ə, ʌ, o/ or mate, met, amount, mut, moat

Low: /æ, ɑ/ or mat, maul


The lip articulators also contribute to sound change, forming an ‘oh’ or rounded shape. These are usually in a box in the upper right corner of the IPA vowel grid, where all the rounded vowels in English are.


/u, ʊ, o/ or moot, took, moat


/i, ɪ, e, ɛ, æ, ə, ʌ, ɑ/ or meat, mit, mate, met, mat, amount, mut, maul Rigidity

The tongue can further change the sound by changing how tense or how lax its muscles are. This is an important distinction in English, where vowels are split into long and short vowels. In the IPA vowel grid, the lax vowels are often within a central box. Tense

/i, e, u, o, ɑ/ or meat, mate, moot, moat, and maul.


/ɪ, ɛ, æ, ə, ʌ, ʊ/ or mit, met, mat, amount, mut, took


The tongue’s movement can also affect the airflow.

Monophthongs - static vowels, where the tongue doesn’t move, producing only one vowel sound. These are the vowels above.

Diphthongs - dynamic vowels, where the tongue moves and produces two vowel sounds in a row. These include /aj, ɔj, aw/ (which can also be written as /ɑe, ɔe, ɑʊ/) or mite, moist, meow.

Their movement can be mapped on the grid with arrows.

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