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Unformatted text preview: Score: _____ out of 8 (= 16 points ÷ 2) LINGUISTICS 1: ASSIGNMENT 1
Name: KEY TA: Section: To do this assignment, you should have read Chapters 1-3 of The Language Instinct and seen the film “Discovering the Human Language”. Be concise in your answers. If you use more than the space allotted, you have written too much. WE ARE LOOKING FOR SPECIFIC POINTS—OFTEN A FEW KEY WORDS OR PHRASES! 1. (2 points) In his book Knowledge of Language (p. 8), Noam Chomsky gives the following pair of sentences, noting that in (a), the underlined pronoun them can refer to “the men” earlier in the sentence, whereas in (b), the underlined them MUST refer to people OTHER THAN “the men” mentioned in the sentence: (a) I wonder who the men expected to see them. (b) The men expected to see them. With respect to these facts, Chomsky poses the questions, “How does every child know, unerringly, to interpret the [pronoun] differently in the two cases? And why does no pedagogic grammar have to draw the learner’s attention to such facts?” Quote a sentence from Pinker’s Language Instinct, pp. 4-6, that answers Chomsky’s questions. SIGNIFICANCE THAT LANGUAGES SUCH AS THESE HAVE FOR THE CLAIM THAT LANGUAGE IS PART OF HUMAN BIOLOGY, NOT A PLANNED INVENTION OF A MAMMAL WITH A LARGE BRAIN. 2. (2 points) Pinker at the beginning of Chapter 2 of speaks of “Stone Age people [living in the highlands of New Guinea] isolated from the rest of the world for forty thousand years.” The film (see p. 21 of the APS book) has a segment on the Warlpiri, a group of hunter-gatherer people in Australia, of which the narrator says, “[Warlpiri] has been spoken in isolation from nonAustralian languages for possibly up to 60,000 years.” GIVE A QUOTE OF ONE OR TWO SENTENCES FROM PINKER, pp. 13-19 (with page cited) WHICH EXPLAINS THE Linguistics 1, Assignment 1. p. 2 3. (2 points) John Simon, in his book (pp. 113-115), writes critically about Erica Jong’s novel, . He criticizes Jong’s style and goes on to say, “…there is virtually no grammatical error Miss Jong doesn’t commit…,” offering the following examples, among others:
“unbeknownst”, a vulgarism for “unbeknown” “if it was him” for “if it was he” “I couldn’t help but notice” for “I couldn’t help noticing’ ‘Her pelvis felt like someone had knotted the bones” instead of “Her pelvis felt as if someone had knotted the bones” Jong is a native speaker/writer of English. We have claimed that native speakers of a language do not speak (or, presumably, write) ungrammatically. In what sense, then, can Simon criticize these phrases from Jong’s novel? - 4. (2 points) On pages 21-23 of , Pinker compares English as spoken by the first laborers on Hawaiian sugar plantations with spoken by people who had grown up hearing the pidgin as their language model. Pinker gives a creole example: . One typical feature of creoles is to mark verb tense using “auxiliaries”, such as done for “past”, go for “future”, for “progressive” (= verbs using –ing in English). How does this example show a development in verbal expressive power beyond that of the pidgin examples on page 21? as a progressive auxiliary. The pidgin examples are short on verbs in general, and where verbs do show up, it is just a verb with no sort of tense marking at all. 5. (2 points) Pinker compares the case of Mr. Ford (pp. 35-37), who can speak only with great difficulty in chopped phrases because of trauma in a certain area of his brain, to Denyse (pp. 39-41), who speaks fluently and grammatically about fantasies such as a non-existent bank account. HOW DO THESE CASES SUPPORT THE CLAIM THAT
BIOLOGICAL HUMAN FUNCTION SEPARATE FROM GENERAL (Once when we went home at night this thing was flying about.) LANGUAGE IS A INTELLIGENCE? Linguistics 1, Assignment 1. p. 3 6. (2 points) Here is what Benjamin Lee Whorf had to say about how language could CAUSE its speakers to view the world in certain ways ( , edited by J.B. Carroll, MIT Press, 1956, p. 156; my underlining and emphasis—RGS):
“How does such a network of language, culture, and behavior come about historically? Which was first: the language patterns or the cultural norms? In main they have grown up together, constantly influencing each other. But in this partnership the nature of the language is the factor that limits free plasticity and rigidifies channels of development in the more autocratic way. THIS IS SO BECAUSE A LANGUAGE IS A SYSTEM, NOT JUST AN ASSEMBLAGE OF NORMS.” As an example of how different language SYSTEMS might influence world view, we can cite the way English, Spanish, and Swahili categorize nouns. Here are some nouns modified by adjectives in these three languages. The Spanish and Swahili nouns are listed with the labels traditionally given to the classes. Just a selection of Swahili classes is given—there are about 18 classes. English good son good daughter good oil good water good book good chair Spanish Maculine: hijo bueno Feminine: hija buena Masculine: óleo bueno Feminine: agua buena Masculine: libro bueno Feminine: silla buena Swahili Class 1: Class 1: Class 6: Class 6: Class 7: Class 7: mwana mzuri binti mzuri mafuta mazuri maji mazuri kitabu kizuri kiti kizuri Using these linguistic facts, we might argue that speakers of the three languages must not be looking at objects in the world in the same ways. English never changes the form of the adjective, so English must cause its speakers to see all nouns as having the same quality of “nounness”; Spanish uses a different form of the adjective for “masculine” nouns and “feminine” nouns, so Spanish must cause its speakers to view objects as to whether they have “masculine” qualities or “feminine” qualities; Swahili, like Spanish, uses different forms of adjectives depending on the noun, but in this case, “classes” rather than gender, so Swahili must cause its speakers to view objects as falling into discrete categories, each having properties different from the words grouped into the other classes.
WHAT IS THE FALLACY OF REASONING IN THIS ARGUMENT THAT THE SYSTEM OF LANGUAGE STRUCTURE INFLUENCES HOW SPEAKERS VIEW OBJECTS IN THE WORLD? RELATE YOUR ANSWER TO THE EXAMPLES IN THE TABLE. YOU SHOULD NEED NO MORE THAN 50-60 WORDS TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION: Circular reasoning: The argument uses the fact that forms of adjectives demonstrate that speakers of these languages must be looking in different ways. But the only evidence for this claim is the very observation that the languages differ in the way they mark adjectives. That is, there is no ind that, for English speakers, a ‘book’ and a ‘chair’ are undifferentited in kind from, say, ‘son’ and ‘daughter’, that, for Spanish speakers, ‘book’ shares properties with ‘son’ while ‘chair’ shares properties with ‘daughter’, and that, for Swahili speakers, ‘book’ and ‘chair’ share properties that they don’t share with the other nouns listed. Linguistics 1, Assignment 1. p. 4
A CLAIM THAT WE ARE MAKING IN THIS COURSE IS THAT BOTH LANGUAGE AND THOUGHT ARE PRODUCTS OF THE BRAIN BUT THAT THEY ARE SEPARATE PHENOMENA. 7. (2 points) Give one example of your own or drawn from or the video of a thought (some sort of acquired knowledge) which Language cannot express, at least with any precision. 8. (2 points) Samuel Foote was an 18th century British comedy actor. Foote composed the following passage on the spot to challenge actor Charles Macklin’s claim that he could memorize anything. Macklin is said to have refused to repeat a word of it. The passage is (sort of) well-known because it introduced the word panjandrum into English (look it up!).
So she went into the garden to cut a cabbage-leaf to make an apple-pie; and at the same time a great she-bear, coming up the street, pops its head into the shop. "What! No soap?" So he died, and she very imprudently married the barber: and there were present the Picninnies, and the Joblillies, and the Garyulies, and the grand Panjandrum himself, with the little round button at top, and they all fell to playing the game of catch-as-catch-can till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots. How does Foote’s passage illustrate that LANGUAGE is a stand-alone mental capacity, separate from THOUGHT? There is a Wikipedia article about Samuel Foote, in which the above selection is mentioned, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Foote ...
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This note was uploaded on 04/02/2011 for the course LING 1 taught by Professor Schuh during the Winter '08 term at UCLA.
- Winter '08