Understanding Language: A Basic Course in Linguistics

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Understanding Language is an introduction to linguistics aimed at non-major undergraduate students who are new to the subject. The book is comprehensive in its coverage of the key areas of linguistics, yet explains these in an easy to understand, jargon-free way. Pictures, jokes, diagrams, tables and suggestions for further reading make this an accessible, student friendly guide which should enable students to navigate this often complicated area of study. Topics covered include language acquisition; speech sounds; the make-up of words; grammar; meaning; communication; the history of English; language variation and change. 

This is an essential introduction for students who are taking linguistics at university, whether as their core subject of study, as a non-major or as a bridge between school and undergraduate.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826484833
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
  • Publication date: 7/21/2007
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.65 (w) x 8.54 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Winkler is Associate Professor of Linguistics at Western Kentucky University, USA.

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Table of Contents

Preface     xi
List of Figures     xiii
Acknowledgements     xv
What every native speaker of a language secretly understands     1
The sound system     2
The lexicon: the human dictionary     4
Morphology     7
Grammar     8
How the world's languages differ     9
The boundaries of a language: language versus dialect     12
How does a standard develop or get chosen?     14
Standard and written language versus normal or non-standard speech     17
A linguistic approach to language diversity     19
Human Language versus Animal Communication Systems     22
Naturally occurring animal communication systems     24
Black Austrian honeybee communication     24
Bird calls and songs     26
Dolphins and whales     28
More complex animal communication systems     29
Primate communication     29
Artificially taught animal communication systems     30
Chimpanzees and great apes     30
African grey parrots     32
Language Acquisition     36
Early theories of first language acquisition     37
Challenges to behaviourismand structuralism     38
The innateness hypothesis     38
Support for the innateness hypothesis     39
Problems with reinforcement and imitation     40
What children's 'errors' tell us     41
Studies supporting the innateness hypothesis     43
Studies on the living brain     44
Critical age hypothesis for first language acquisition     45
Stages of language acquisition     46
Learning the sound system     46
Sound and meaning     48
From single words to grammar     48
Second language acquisition     49
SLA and behaviourism     50
First language interference in SLA     52
SLA and feedback or correction     53
Individual differences     55
Critical age hypothesis for second language acquisition     57
Recent developments in second language acquisition     58
Phonetics     62
How is speech produced?     63
The consonants     64
Voicing     65
Place of articulation     65
Manner of articulation     66
The International Phonetic Alphabet     72
The vowels      73
Classification of vowels     73
The vowel chart     73
Diphthongs     74
Vowel length     75
Advantages of a phonetic system     76
Other features of sound: suprasegmentals     78
Morphology: The Makeup of Words in a Language     82
Categorizing the words of a language     84
Morphemes     85
Inflectional and derivational morphemes     86
Morphology and phonetics     89
A final word about morpheme structure     91
Our ever-expanding and changing vocabulary     91
Word formation processes     92
Linguistic borrowing     98
The dictionary     100
New dictionary words     101
Grammar     105
Traditional grammar     108
Language word orders     110
Phrase structure grammars     111
Advantages of a phrase structure grammar     113
Determining phrase structure grammar rules     113
Other aspects of syntax     128
Semantics: Language and Meaning     132
How is meaning developed?     133
How is meaning encoded?     134
Word meaning: sense and reference      135
Proper nouns: the problem of names     136
What native speakers understand about meaning     138
Ambiguity     138
Synonymy     139
Antonymy     140
Levels of specificity     140
Meaning inclusion     141
Compositional versus non-compositional utterances     142
Phrasal verbs     146
Figures of speech     147
Irony and sarcasm     148
Pragmatics: Language in Use     152
Speech acts     153
Direct versus indirect speech acts     155
Speaking the unspeakable: indirection as a linguistic strategy     156
Euphemisms     156
Euphemisms for pregnancy     157
Proverbs as indirect speech     158
Language and advertising     160
Weasel words     161
Open-ended comparisons     162
Ambiguous language and modal auxiliaries     163
Politics as advertising     164
Meaning and humour     167
Humour and the sound system of a language     167
Humour and morphology     167
Humour and semantics     168
Humour and syntax      169
The History of English     172
Periods of English     174
Effects of the Norman invasion     176
The return of English     177
The influence of Geoffrey Chaucer     178
The printing press     179
The influence of James I     181
Lexical change     182
English expands through military and economic expansion     184
Sound change     186
The Great Vowel Shift     187
Evidence for sound change from Old English     188
Changes in grammar     189
The spelling 'system' of English     190
Fixing the spelling problem     194
Language Variation and Change     197
Why languages change     197
Lexical and semantic change     198
Changes in the sound system     199
Changes to grammar and morphology     201
Language variation     202
Causes of dialectal diversity     203
Social attitudes about language varieties     206
Measuring attitudes about language varieties     207
Dialects of language contact     208
Chicano English and codeswitching     208
Codeswitching      211
Pidgins and Creoles     215
Varieties of English     225
Appalachian English     225
African American Vernacular English     229
Cockney English     232
Language and gender     234
Use of titles     235
Asymmetries in language     236
Generic 'he' for unspecified reference     237
Effects of gender on language     238
Common beliefs about gendered language     239
Language and the workplace     242
Early socialization by gender     243
The future of English and its dialects     244
References     249
Index     253
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