LS - 01 - Everything You Always

LS - 01 - Everything You Always - Chapter 1 Everything You...

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Chapter 1 Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Linguistics (But Were Afraid To Ask) Introduction I n this chapter I provide a series of mini essays that explain a variety of general notions that are part of the enterprise called linguistics or that concern questions about the phenomenon of language. See this as the chapter in which you find ‘everything you always wanted to know about languages and linguistics (but were afraid to ask)’. I have tried to order the pieces of information in a logical order so that they form a continuing story, but most of them stand on their own. What is Linguistics? W hen people ask me what I do, I sometimes say: “Well, the University of Connecticut gives me a modest salary to talk about anything I want; I give this money to my wife, and for the rest I fold the laundry and drive my children to and from various activities.” Usually, however, I say that I’m a linguist . Unlike the first answer, this more serious answer almost always calls for additional explanation. Is it the case that I speak a lot of languages? No, that is not the case. (I only speak Dutch, English, some German, and even less French). However, it is true that this is one meaning of the word linguist . In the most general sense, the word refers to a person, - ist , who has something to do with lingua , which is a Latin word meaning “tongue” or “speech.” However, the vague phrase has something to do with has been narrowed down in more than one way: Linguist . A person who is skilled in many languages. Polyglot. A different meaning (one that applies to me better) is: Linguist . A specialist in linguistics.
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Part I: Linguistic Matters Chapter 1: Everything You Always Wanted to Know Then we look up linguistics and find something like: Linguistics . The science of language. (In fact, linguistics is what linguists do . One thing they do is analyze words such as linguistics into their meaningful parts: lingu(a) ist ics .) A linguist, like me and other people in linguistics or language departments, studies language , that is, the phenomenon of language . The primary goal is not to learn a specific language in order to communicate with foreigners (although that’s always useful), but rather to understand how languages in general work. There is nothing odd about studying the phenomenon of language, given that language is an extremely central aspect of human societies (sociology) and of people’s mental life (psychology). It is actually quite strange that people come to college with an understanding of subjects like physics, chemistry, mathematics, and so on, whereas something as important as language has never been introduced to them as a fascinating subject for study. I think we should do something about that and introduce linguistics as a subject in primary, middle and high school. Linguists are interested in describing and analyzing languages, hoping, like any
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This note was uploaded on 03/13/2012 for the course CHEM 2444 taught by Professor Smith during the Spring '08 term at UConn.

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LS - 01 - Everything You Always - Chapter 1 Everything You...

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