Linguistics

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  • nonesuch42nonesuch42 Los Angeles, CAPosts: 7
    I only kinda skimmed the thread, but it looks like there are some excellent linguistics people on here! I'm a first year PhD student at the University of Southern California. @Hedvig is right when she says most Americans learn generativist theory. Just today we finished our first semester on Government and Binding/Minimalist Program syntax. I am most interested in pursuing syntax/semantics/pragmatics, but I did a year of field methods during by BA, and would love to work in language documentation as well. USC is also big on "psycholinguistics," which is where the linguists interested in cognitive science work. Hopefully I can convince my professors to look at some more functionalist approches to syntax, but for now I'll be content that there are cool people on the internet. :)
  • HedvigHedvig Posts: 80 ✭✭
    edited December 2012

    I only kinda skimmed the thread, but it looks like there are some excellent linguistics people on here! I'm a first year PhD student at the University of Southern California. @Hedvig is right when she says most Americans learn generativist theory. Just today we finished our first semester on Government and Binding/Minimalist Program syntax. I am most interested in pursuing syntax/semantics/pragmatics, but I did a year of field methods during by BA, and would love to work in language documentation as well. USC is also big on "psycholinguistics," which is where the linguists interested in cognitive science work. Hopefully I can convince my professors to look at some more functionalist approches to syntax, but for now I'll be content that there are cool people on the internet. :)
    How nice!

    I've found that a good introduction to more functionalist frameworks is Basic Linguistic Theory (BLT) by Dixon and Croft (or anything by Croft, Comrie or the semi-god Haspelmath). http://linguistics.buffalo.edu/people/faculty/dryer/dryer/blt

    BLT is like a summary of what functionalist, structuralists and certain parst of generative grammar takes for granted. It's not really a created by Dixon as such, but making assupmtions that we take for granted explicit is what linguistiscs is all about in a way any way ^^!

    I think the main point about functionalists and syntax is that they/we tend to not be very bothered with they're being universal truths at all, except for perhaps very general ones.
    by Hedvig

  • HedvigHedvig Posts: 80 ✭✭
    Question for all:
    I really want to read a linguistic textbook and work on that. I bought  Contemporary Linguistics study guide and plan to just use wikipedia and you guys for the help I need but I don't know if that will be enough.
    Anybody have recommendations for cheap (free preferably) books I can get? Textbooks are preferable over just random books people have written, ones like Contemporary Linguistics (but not 100 dollars!).
    Any suggestions?
    George Yule the Study of Language, Cheap good, relevant and well-written. We even give it to swedish students in their first year even though they're not supposed to have literature in English because it's so good.

  • HedvigHedvig Posts: 80 ✭✭
    edited December 2012
    @Hedvig oh, minimal pairs! My roommate is in an intro to linguistics class and she was pulling her hair out over them! (A friend of mine who studied linguistics explained it to me, and then I gave my roommate her explanation, but it occurs to me that that is probably not the best way to learn something and as a result, I'm still kind of fuzzy!) I feel like I would need a ton more practice to even talk coherently about a lot of things related to phonology, even in my own poking around the subject, I tend to get caught up in morphemes and etymology. 

    Though! you brought up something really interesting, about how people get preoccupied with how people sound "wrong" and then have a tendency to disregard what that person is saying. I was actually sort of itching to talk about grammar and dialect as it relates to sociolinguistics. I've always been really fascinated with "proper" language use as a kind of social currency. The same people who tend to dismiss my mom because of her thick southern accent and non-standard usage listen to me even if I don't even know what I'm talking about, if only because I can play by the rules of "proper" English and have a very "nondescript" accent. It's actually kind of irritating sometimes! 
    Minimal pairs isn't that odd really when you think about it, it's just two words that differ in only one phonemic respect. the problem is when you get into real phonological theory and understand that the a phoneme as we think of it (i.e. alphabethical) doesn't really exist as a natural concept but is quite man made. People who can't read alphabeth can't pick out phonemes in the same way but they concentrate on onsets, codas and syllables instead.

    Well.. language in use is really all about forming groups and speech communities that you can conform to, or distansing yourself form certain groups (sometimes you might wanna mark that you're not a memeber too). It is really a social currency, but it has more directions than one.

    If I go up north and visit my aunt then my "prestigous" Stockholm dialect will be inappropriate and I'd be better of imitating their speech. There's been a lot of work on gender and willingnes to adapt to the groups dialect, some say that men have a lesser tendency to do so and that it signals "authenticity" and "confidence" to not adapt..

    p.s. sorry about spell-check being off, I don't know why and I've been making an ass of my self all day ^^! So much for linguists being good at "correct language" and spelling :)
    by Hedvig

  • HedvigHedvig Posts: 80 ✭✭
    Soo... about the thread "How many languages does Nerdfighteria speak?" I put it all in a sheet:  https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AulVFHmduY1WdDduT3NJbVNvc3FBMnRrNjJGZ1RYeWc&usp=sharing

    Nerdfighteria speaks roughly 109 languages (not counting programming languages, languoids or dialects that are commonly considered dialects, play languages or conlangs). If we do counts those we have 133 langs.

    That means we can speak to roughly 71% of the worlds population in their native tounges, we represent five or the six major lanugage families (we have no language in the trans-new-guinea family so far).

    Even though we can talk to so many we only speak 1.6% of the worlds language which tells us something about the distribution of languages and speakers; a few number of languages are spoken by very many people and most languages are spoken by less than 100 000 speakers.

    The smallest language someone in nerdfigtheria knows is sanskrit, which is technically a dead language but according to ethnologue has 2950 speakers (194,433 second language-speakers). Next up we have Israeli Sign Language which is a living language with 5000 speakers/users. Third smallest is Lakota with 6390 speakers, a Siouan language.

    We know 8 sign languages, 2 isolates (no living relatives) and 4 contact languages (JAAY!) We speak loads of Indo-Iranian lanugages (a branch of the indo-european family) and a lot of semitic and altaic

    If you wanna know more about statistics on languages go here: http://www.ethnologue.com/ethno_docs/distribution.asp?by=country

    So jaay!

  • daeiribudaeiribu Posts: 99 ✭✭
    Great info, @Hedvig Thanks for the statistics! (yaay indeed!)

  • FletcherFletcher Posts: 7
    Is it too late to jump in and say I'm really happy that there are other linguistics nerds out there? When I jump up and down and get really excited about grammar even the nerdiest of my friends look at me like I'm very strange... So I'm sending out e-hugs to the awesome people in this thread.

    PS: I'm thinking about majoring in Linguistics when I go to college next year. Does anyone know what sort of things you can actually do with a Linguistics degree aside from speech therapy? 
  • turdl38turdl38 Posts: 976 ✭✭✭
    @fletcher ;I get really excited about grammar and stuff too and the fuzzy brain that makes it hard to think of words and how sentences are supposed to be structured and stuff is probably my least favorite side effect.  Speech therapists are actually in a lot of demand right now.  Some companies use linguists in the technical/legal writing,  Or government job stuff with translation, sometimes?  Also, check this out maybe? http://www.linguisticsociety.org/
    Difficult does not mean impossible.  Very little is impossible if you want it badly enough.
  • FletcherFletcher Posts: 7
    @turdl38 Thanks so much for the link! It was incredibly helpful, actually-- I found a pamphlet with a bunch of ideas for Linguistics majors! Might I say that at first I thought lexicography might be a cool idea, I was forcibly reminded of 1984 by George Orwell and decided against it. The pamphlet also suggested teaching foreign languages or preserving endangered languages, which sounds really awesome to me. It also sounds like a pretty nerdfighterly thing to do. Anyways, thank you for the information! Bookmarking the website right now.
  • turdl38turdl38 Posts: 976 ✭✭✭
    Oh good, I'm glad it was helpful!  I had only heard of it vaguely from a speech therapist that works at the same hospital that I do.
    Difficult does not mean impossible.  Very little is impossible if you want it badly enough.
  • HedvigHedvig Posts: 80 ✭✭
    edited March 2013
    @turdl38 and @fletcher

    There are many things you can do with linguistics, it's an unusually broad field (primarily because it is so young).

    I am a graduate student of general linguistics and I aim to become a academic research in linguistic typology, grammaticalization and contact languages.

    I could have chosen to direct my interest to computational linguistics and perhaps gone into the industry improving speech recognition and automatic translation, I could have become another type of researcher, perhaps focusing on the acquisition of a first language. The main areas of lingustics are

    General linguistics (semantics, syntax, theory, grammaticalization, historical linguistics, typology etc)
    phonetics (acoustice, speech production and comprehension)
    computational linguistics (speech regonition, corpuses, automatic translation etc)
    field work (language documentation and perhaps preservation, linguistic description)
    psycholinguistics (brain brain brain, neurology and pschyology)


    It is not appropriate to pursue linguistics only/directly if you want to become a teacher of language, speech therapist or translator, there are separate educations for that (which include linguistics of course). It can be necessary to have a minor in linguistics in order to later attend those educations though.

    I don't mean do discourage you from linguistics, I just believe you should now what the reality is.

    Also, A LOT depends on the type of department you attend. I'm in a very research focused typology and fieldwork-department, if you attend a uni in the US you might find yourself among generative syntacticians instead.

    by Hedvig

  • ZoggFromBetelgeuseZoggFromBetelgeuse Posts: 59 ✭✭
    I'm not a linguist, but during the research for a recent video about the development of language I discovered a really great book:


    It's a very interesting book, and easy to read even for a layman (or layalien) like me. Its main point is that the mechanisms of the perceived "decline" of language is actually what created and continuously creates language in the first place: Words are combined into metaphores, fusionate, are assimilated and eroded, until they have lost most of their expressiveness and are combined to new metaphores, and so on. Deutscher goes so far as calling language "a reef of dead metaphores".

    Thought this might interest some of you.
    image
  • HedvigHedvig Posts: 80 ✭✭
    I'm not a linguist, but during the research for a recent video about the development of language I discovered a really great book:


    It's a very interesting book, and easy to read even for a layman (or layalien) like me. Its main point is that the mechanisms of the perceived "decline" of language is actually what created and continuously creates language in the first place: Words are combined into metaphores, fusionate, are assimilated and eroded, until they have lost most of their expressiveness and are combined to new metaphores, and so on. Deutscher goes so far as calling language "a reef of dead metaphores".

    Thought this might interest some of you.
    I haven't read it but it does sound like a great book, that's a truth that needs to be repeated over and over again. This bleaching and erodation process is sometimes called grammaticalization and it's very interesting and not as obvious as it might seem. Grammaticalization is not really concerned with metaphors though, more semantic bleaching and so called re-analysis. But metaphors is a very messy term.

    Older generations have ALWAYS complained about the language of today, the vulgarity of the youth and attacks from foreign tongues. Seems like as soon as a language becomes standardized and official in some way, people get things strange idea that there is a pure and right way.

  • cookiefiendcookiefiend Posts: 114 ✭✭✭
    @nonesuch42, how are you liking your program?  I had a fantastic professor for Syntax as an undergrad, who seemed to be under the impression that the functionalist/generativist split in the US was mainly coastal, i.e. in order to present at conferences on the west coast, she found she had to largely remove generativist citations from her work, so it kind of surprises me you're having such a hard time finding functionalist faculty. 

    PS have you heard of the WordsEye project out of Columbia? I haven't read too many of the publications about it yet, but if you're interested in Syntax/Semantics/Pragmatics, and field linguistics, it might be worth checking out!
    In masks outrageous and austere the years go by in single file; but none has merited my fear, and none has quite escaped my smile.
  • cookiefiendcookiefiend Posts: 114 ✭✭✭
    @Real, I know I'm late to the party (I only joined...an hour ago...) but I wanted to put in my two cents on the "English Orthography is Awful" debate.  We spent a decent amount of time talking about this in my Applications of Linguistics capstone, since teaching reading and writing more efficiently is one way in which the world at large would be made better if more people debating the issue had a working knowledge of basic linguistics.  What we came up with, though, is that even though our standard English orthography is seriously messed up, the thought is that wholesale attempts to break it down and make it logical again will really only benefit speakers of Standard American English, and really only help to further confuse reading and writing fluency for non-standard speakers, many of whom are already underserved by our education system.  When you ask questions like why we can't make the orthography logical, Sociolinguists would fire back with the counter-question, whose logic? An orthography consistent with the way newscasters speak would only further alienate, for example, speakers of African American Vernacular English (AAVE for short). At least with the total seeming ill-logic of our current system, we all start out on an even, if totally confused, playing field
    In masks outrageous and austere the years go by in single file; but none has merited my fear, and none has quite escaped my smile.
  • SnufflesdogSnufflesdog Posts: 65 ✭✭
    @cookiefiend Or we could all just speak Esperanto. Or Ido if you like aspects of Eastern (Asian) languages.
  • cookiefiendcookiefiend Posts: 114 ✭✭✭
    well, yes, there's that. But people simply doing what's most logical would immediately eliminate a vast amount of worldsuck, which would just be too easy :)
    In masks outrageous and austere the years go by in single file; but none has merited my fear, and none has quite escaped my smile.
  • SnufflesdogSnufflesdog Posts: 65 ✭✭
    Yeah... I guess I could just boycott English though. Actually, that sounds like an interesting social experiment. 
  • HedvigHedvig Posts: 80 ✭✭
    This... idea that language is about logic is strange and fascinating

  • daeiribudaeiribu Posts: 99 ✭✭
    @Hedvig, the way I see it, language as a whole is obviously not about logic, but its notation, the way of writing it down, greatly benifits from having an inherent logic to it ;)

  • HedvigHedvig Posts: 80 ✭✭
    I a,m as I've said before, very busy. But I made this: 

    It's comments on pgogbats video on "How will we talk in the future?".

  • RealReal You know that's right! Huntsville, ALPosts: 413 ✭✭✭
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