Study of Language: Module 1

1. THE ORIGIN OF LANGUAGE

It is language that distinguishes man from the rest of the animal world. It is the most remarkable tool that man has invented and  is the one that makes all the others and culture too possible. Language may be broadly described as a means of expressing human thought. It is difficult to say when exactly language arose; but its origin can be traced to the days when people began a settled life of mutual co-operation. Language can flourish only in communities; it belongs to a group of people rather than to an individual. Language is thus a signalling system which operates with symbolic vocal sounds and which is used by groups of people for the purposes of communication and social co-operation.

The question of the origin of language remains a speculation for there is no physical evidence to show how language originated. All the same, philologists have put forward several theories about the origin of language, though none of them is satisfactory. These theories are based on indirect evidence such as the language of children, the behaviour of higher animals like apes and the behaviour of people with speech defects. These theories can be grouped under two heads:

(a) the natural sounds source and (b) the oral-gesture source.

a. THE NATURAL SOUNDS SOURCE: The theories in this group base the beginnings of speech on the concept of ‘natural sounds.’

a.1. The Bow-Wow theory

            According to this theory the earliest language could have been imitations of the natural sounds which early men and women heard around them. They used the imitated sound to refer to the object associated with the sound. Words like cuckoo, splash, buzz, hiss which ‘echo’ natural sounds (onomatopoeic words) support this theory. Supporters of this theory point to the example of a child who refers to an animal by imitating its characteristic cry. Thus a child refers to a dog as ‘bow-wow’ or to the cat as ‘miaw-miaw.’ Words like grumble, splash, bang, show this sound symbolism. It is only because of the constant association between the words and the things they denote that we notice this symbolism. There are a large no of words that are soundless and do not have the onomatopoeic element. For example in English words with initial ‘fl’ are connected with fire and light (flame, flare, flash) and also with flying or movement (fly, flick, flee). But the words flannel, flat, flesh and flask have nothing to do with fire or quick movement. Hence the onomatopoeic element cannot explain the origin of all the words in the    language even though a number of words are onomatopoeic.

a.2. The Pooh-Pooh theory

According to this theory all forms of speech utterances go back to instinctive cries of emotion such as pain, anger, joy, sorrow, fear, surprise etc. Our rational speech is looked upon as a refinement of such exclamations. The expression ‘to pooh-pooh’ which means that somebody’s ideas, or suggestions are not very good is the best illustration of this principle. At first ‘pooh’ must have been a cry of contempt but later it acquired the status of a word.

a.3. The Yo-He-Ho theory

This theory envisages language as arising from the sounds made by a group of people engaged in joint labour. Involuntary noises are made when people move a tree trunk or lift a rock. Vocal noises of this kind might have later developed into words. This theory is significant as it sees the origin of language in a situation involving human co-operation with adequate motives.

a.4. The Gesture theory

This theory takes the view that gesture language preceded speech. It suggests that physical gesture, involving the whole body, could have been a means of indicating emotions and intentions. According to this theory primitive man used a set of physical gestures to communicate with his fellow men. As his intelligence developed he needed more exact gestures but found that his eyes and hands were occupied by his arts and crafts. So the gestures of the hand were unconsciously copied by movements of the tongue, lips and mouth. Thus man passed from sign language to spoken language. Words like ‘I,’ ‘here,’ ‘come’ are said to show the movement towards the speaker; whereas in ‘you,’ ‘there,’ ‘go’ the movement is away from the speaker.

We have thus a no of theories regarding the origin of spoken language. Each has its own claims and virtues; but none by itself can claim to be perfect. Hence we cannot but admit that in dealing with the origin of language we remain in a realm of speculation.

2. THE NATURE OF LANGUAGE 

Language is an indispensable part of human life and is as familiar to us as our daily breath. It is language that differentiates man from animals and makes human culture possible. Language may be broadly described as a means of expressing human thought. C. L. Barber defines language as “a signalling system which operates with symbolic vocal sounds, and which is used by some group of people for the purposes of communication and social co-operation.” Philologists and academicians from different disciplines have made several attempts to define language as is illustrated by the following definitions:-

  • Language is a purely human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of a system of voluntary produced symbols.  (Edward Sapir)
  • A language is a system of conventional signals used for communication by a whole community.  (A. C. Gimson)
  • A language is a set (finite or infinite) of sentences, each finite in length and constructed out of a finite set of elements. (Noam Chomsky)
  • A language is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which a social group cooperates. (Bloch and Trager)

These definitions affirm the fact that the term language is beyond the scope of standard definition; there is no single definition to explain the term language. Nevertheless language can be better understood in terms of its properties or characteristics. Human language has six distinct features and they are not likely to be seen in the communication systems of animals.

  1. Displacement – is the property of human language that allows the users of language to talk about things and events not present in the immediate environment. Human language can refer to the past, present and future eg – last night, now, next week. It enables us to talk about things and places whose existence we are not sure of eg – fairies, angels, heaven, hell, superman etc. The property of displacement allows the humans, unlike any other creature, to create fiction. On the other hand, animal communication is designed for the immediate place and time. It lacks the property of displacement. Animal communication is a response to stimulus in the immediate environment like food or danger.
  2. Arbitrariness – There is no ‘natural’ or direct connection between a linguistic form (word) and the object it represents (meaning). For example the English word ‘tree’ corresponds with ‘vriksha’ of Sanskrit or ‘maram’ of Malayalam. There is apparently no natural relationship between the various sounds that are used by these languages to these sequences and the meaning denoted by them ie the relationship between sounds and meaning is arbitrary (not based on reason). In animal communication there is a clear connection between the conveyed message and the signal used to convey it. It consists of a fixed and limited set of forms (vocal or gestural); many of these forms are used only in specific situations eg—establishing territory or at particular times like the mating season.
  3. Duality / Double articulation —   Human language is organized at two levels or layers simultaneously. This property of language is called ‘duality.’ We have the physical level at which we can produce individual sounds (phonemes) e.g.—p, a, t. We also have the semantic level when we combine these sounds in different ways and produce different levels of meaning eg—pat, tap have different meanings. With a limited set of distinct sounds we are capable of producing a very large no of sound combinations (words) with distinct meanings. The communicative signals of animals are fixed and cannot be split up e.g.—in ‘woof’ w,oo and f cannot be separated out as a distinct level of production.
  4. Productivity / Creativity / ‘Open-endedness.’ – Human language is open-ended, extendable and modifiable. It has the capability to continually create new expressions and utterances to describe new objects and situations. Human communication makes infinite use of finite means. Animal communication is a closed system; it has a limited set of signals and cannot produce any new signals to describe novel experiences.
  5. Cultural Transmission – Human beings inherit physical features from their parents but not language. We acquire a language in a culture with other speakers and not from parental genes. Cultural transmission is thus the process by which a language is passed on from one generation to the next. For example an infant, born to Malayali parents who live in Kerala and speak Malayalam, who is brought up from birth by English speakers in U.K, will have the physical characteristics inherited from its natural parents, but it will inevitably speak English. On the other hand, in animal communication only a set of specific signals are used and they are produced instinctively and not learned.
  6. Discreteness – The sounds used in language are meaningfully distinct; this leads to a distinction in meaning. This property of language is known as discreteness. For example / b / and   / p / are different; when these sounds are used, they are used in such a way that the occurrence of one sound rather than the other is meaningful and causes a difference in meaning: — pat, bat.

Human language is a symbolic system. It is not only spoken but also written. It has alphabets which help us to preserve our ideas.

3. ANIMAL COMMUNICATION

Animals have communication systems and each animal communicates in its own way different from that of other animals. Animal communication is context bound. Animals can communicate only with reference to certain concrete things of immediate relevance to their needs and which are present in their surroundings. They cannot give expression to their past experiences. They have only a very limited range of signals with which to communicate and produce only a limited number of messages. Animals cannot produce new combinations of sounds as human beings do. Animal systems are genetically transmitted whereas human languages are culture bound and are culturally transmitted.

4. CLASSIFICATION OF SPEECH SOUNDS

Sounds are broadly classified into vowels and consonants.

VOWELS

Vowels are voiced sounds in the articulation of which the air escapes through the mouth freely and continuously without any audible frictional noise. All other articulated sounds are consonants. Vowels are articulated with a stricture of open approximation i.e. the active articulator, the tongue, is raised towards the passive articulator, the roof of the mouth, in such a way as to leave sufficient space between them for the air to escape freely and continuously.

Vowel Limit is the highest level to which the tongue can be raised and a sound produced without any frictional noise.

Vowels can be classified on the basis of:

  • the part of the tongue that is raised

Based on the part of the tongue that is raised, vowels are divided into front vowels, back vowels and central vowels. Front vowels are those vowels in the articulation of which the front of the tongue is raised towards the hard palate. E.g.:   / i: / / ɪ / / e / & / æ /.  Back vowels are those vowels in the articulation of which the back of the tongue is raised towards the soft palate. E.g.: / ɒ / / ɔ: / / ʊ / & / ɑ: /.  Central vowels are those vowels in the articulation of which the centre of the tongue (i.e. the part where the front and the back of the tongue meet) is raised towards that part of the roof of the mouth where the hard palate and the soft palate meet. E.g. /ʌ / / ə / / ɜ: /.

  • the height to which the tongue is raised

On the basis of the height of the tongue, vowels are classified into high / close, low /open, half-high / half-close and half-low / half-open vowels. High or close vowels are those vowels in the articulation of which the tongue is raised close to the roof of the mouth. E.g.: / i: / / u: /.  Low or open vowels are those vowels in the articulation of which the tongue is kept low i.e. it is far away from the roof of the mouth. E.g.: / æ / / ɒ / / ɑ: /. Half-high / half-close vowels are those vowels in the articulation of which the tongue occupies a position one- third of the distance from ‘close’ to ‘open’. E.g.: / ɪ / / e / / ʊ /.  Half-low / half-open vowels are those vowels in the articulation of which the tongue occupies a position two-thirds of the distance from ‘close’ to ‘open’. E.g.: / ʌ / / ɔ: /.                                        

The vowels / ə / / ɜ: / are articulated with the tongue position between half- close and half-open. 

  • the position of the lips

According to the position of the lips, vowels are divided into two categories, rounded and unrounded. Rounded vowels are those vowels in the articulation of which the lips are rounded (i.e. drawn together so that the opening between them is more or less round). E.g.: / ɒ / / ɔ: / / ʊ / / u: /. Unrounded vowels are those in the articulation of which the lips are spread or neutral. If the spreading of the lips is very marked, the vowels are called spreads and if not so marked, are called neutral. E.g.: / ɪ /  / e /  / æ /  /  ʌ /  / ə /  / ɜ: /  / i: /  &   /  ɑ: /        

DIPHTHONGS

Diphthongs are vowel glides in the articulation of which the tongue starts in the position of a particular vowel and moves in the direction of the position of another vowel, within a single syllable. Diphthongs are represented by the sequence of two symbols, the first indicating the starting point and the second the direction of movement. They are referred to as the first element and the second element respectively. Vowels which remain constant and do not glide are called pure vowels or monophthongs.

Diphthongs of R.P. are classified into closing diphthongs and centring diphthongs.  

  • Closing Diphthongs

Closing diphthongs are diphthongs in which the glide is from one vowel position to that of a close vowel.  The closing diphthongs are: / aɪ / / eɪ / / ɔɪ / / əʊ / & / aʊ/.

  • Centring Diphthongs

Centring diphthongs are diphthongs which glide in the direction of the central vowel / ə /.  There are three centring diphthongs: / ɪə / / eə / & / ʊə /.

They can be further sub-divided into two groups: falling and rising diphthongs. Falling diphthongs are diphthongs in which the first element has greater ‘prominence’ than the second element. All the closing diphthongs and the centring diphthong / eə / are falling diphthongs. Diphthongs with a stronger second element are rising diphthongs. Triphthong: is a glide from one vowel to another and then to a third, all produced rapidly and without interruption. E.g.: / eɪ ə /  / eɪ + ə /  (layer),  / aɪ  ə /   /  aɪ + ə /  ( liar)  / ɔɪ ə /  /ɔɪ+ ə /  (loyal),  / əʊ ə /  /  əʊ+  ə /  (lower).

CONSONANTS

Consonants include all breathed (voiceless) sounds and those voiced sounds produced by means of an obstruction in the mouth or by a narrowing of the air passage, giving rise to a frictional noise. Consonants can be classified in two ways:

(a) according to the articulating organs / points / places of articulation.

(i) Bilabials – these are sounds formed using both lips – e.g.: /p/ /b/ /w/ and /m/.

(ii) Labio- dentals – are sounds formed with the upper teeth against the lower lip – e.g.: /f/ and /v/

(iii) Dentals – are sounds formed with the tip of the tongue against the upper teeth – e.g.:  / θ / / ð /.

(iv) Alveolars – are sounds produced with the tip or blade of the tongue against the teeth ridge – e.g.: /t/ /d/ /n/ /l/ /s/ and / z /

 (v) Palato – alveolars – are sounds articulated by the tip or blade of the tongue along with the raising of the tongue towards the hard palate – e.g.: / ʧ / / ʤ / / ʃ / / ʒ /.

 (vi) Post – alveolar – articulated by the tip of the tongue against the back part of the teeth ridge – e.g.: /r/

 (vii) Palatal – articulated by raising the front of the tongue towards the hard palate – e.g.: /j/

 (viii)  Velars – are sounds produced with the back of the tongue against the velum or soft palate – e.g.: /k/ /g/ and /ŋ /

 (ix) Glottal – sound produced in the glottis without the active use of the tongue and other parts of the mouth. The vocal cords are the articulators – e.g.: /h/

(b) according to the manner in which they are articulated.

 (i) Plosives – a plosive or a stop is a consonant in the articulation of which there is a complete closure or stopping of the air stream at some point. The articulators come into firm contact with each other, thus blocking the air stream and causing the air pressure to increase. Simultaneously there is a velic closure blocking the nasal passage of air. The articulators are suddenly separated and the oral closure is released; the air then escapes with a small explosive noise. Sounds thus produced with a stricture of complete closure and sudden release are calld plosives. There are six plosives in R.P.: / p / / b / / t / / d / / k / / g /

 (ii) Affricates – in the articulation of affricates also, there is complete closure, the oral and nasal passage of air being completely blocked. But the oral closure is removed slowly; so instead of an explosive sound an audible friction is heard.  / ʧ / and / ʤ / are the two affricates in R.P.

(iii) Fricatives – in the articulation of fricatives, the articulators are brought so close together that the air escapes through the narrow space between them with a hissing sound. /f / /v/ / h / /s / / z / / ʒ / / ʃ / / θ / / ð /. They are also known as sibilants.

 (iv) Lateral – is produced with the oral passage blocked at the centre but open at the sides.  / l /  is the only lateral sound in R.P. In the articulation of / l /, the tip of the tongue is raised towards the teeth ridge, blocking the air passage at the centre. The sides of the tongue are lowered allowing the air to escape freely through the sides.

 (v)  Nasals – in the articulation of nasal sounds, the soft palate is lowered so that that nasal passage is open. The oral passage is completely blocked at some point. As a result, the air escapes through the nose. English has three nasal sounds.  / m / / n / / ŋ / .

 (vi) – Frictionless Continuants – are consonants which can be prolonged for a long time without any audible friction. The soft palate is raised, closing the nasal passage. The articulators are brought near each other but not close enough to produce friction.  E.g.:  / r / /

(vii) Semi-Vowels / Glides – are gliding sounds in which the speech organs glide from one vowel position to another. There are only two semi-vowels in R.P.: / w / / j /. In the articulation of  / w /  the glide is from the tongue position of approximately  / u : /  to / ə / and for  / j /  from the position of  / i: /  to  /  ə / . They function like consonants in the structure of a syllable.

PHONOLOGY—is the description of the system of the distinctive sounds and their specific patterning in a language. It includes their syllabic structure, stress, pitch and intonation.

PHONEME

A phoneme is the smallest distinctive unit of sound in the sound system of a language. The phonemes of a language are distinctive / contrastive ie they stand in contrast with one other in the phonological system of that language. When one phoneme is substituted by another it produces a change of meaning. For example, when  / p /  is replaced by  / t /  in the word, ‘pin,’  / p ɪ  n /   it becomes ‘tin’ / t  ɪ  n / , a different word with a different meaning. So / p / and / t / are contrastive in English and hence they are two different phonemes in English. Each language has its own phonological system with differences from the phonological systems of other languages. English R.P. has a system of forty four distinctive sounds or phonemes.

MINIMAL PAIRS are pairs of words which are identical in form except for a contrast in one phoneme occurring in the same position. For example bat / b æ t / and fat / f æ t / constitute a minimal pair differing from each other in the initial consonant alone; bet / bet / and bat / bæt / in the medial consonant and tile / taɪl / and tide / taɪd / in the final consonant.

ALLOPHONES are the different, concrete, phonetic realizations of the same phoneme according to the phonetic environment (i.e. the variant forms of a phoneme). They are in non-contrastive distribution while phonemes are in contrastive distribution. The substitution of one phoneme for another will bring about a change of meaning; but the substitution of one allophone for another of the same phoneme will not. For example, English voiceless plosives / p / / t / / k / have both aspirated (articulated with a strong puff of breath after the release of the plosive) and un aspirated varieties. They are aspirated when they occur initially in a stressed syllable; they are un aspirated when they occur immediately after / s / and in un stressed syllables: pin /p ɪ n/, spin /spɪn /. These two varieties – /p / and/ p /– are allophones of the / p / phoneme. Allophones are phonemically the same but phonetically different.

SYLLABLE is a unit of pronunciation which is uttered in one chest pulse. When we speak, the air from the lungs does not come out in a continuous stream. The muscles of the chest push the air out in small puffs at the rate of approximately five times a second; each puff of air produces a syllable. Each movement of the muscles of the chest is called chest pulse. Occasionally, chest pulse is produced by greater muscular effort. This is called reinforced chest pulse and it produces a stressed syllable. A syllable is made up of one or more phonemes. If a syllable consists of just one sound it will be a vowel e.g.: ‘I,’  ‘eye.’ If a syllable has more than one speech sound one of them will be a vowel and the rest consonants e.g. – ‘any’ has two syllables: / e – n ɪ /. The basic elements of the syllable are the onset (one or more consonants preceding the vowel sound) and a coda (the following consonants). The vowel in a syllable is its central element and is called the nucleus. Consonants are marginal elements. The nucleus (vowel) is represented as V and the marginal element as C. For example the syllabic structure of ‘pin,’ is CVC; ‘eye’ has only V whereas order / e – n ɪ / has VCV. A syllable that ends in a consonant is called a closed syllable e.g. – ‘got’; while a syllable that ends in a vowel is an open syllable e.g. – ‘go’.

Consonant Cluster – Both onset and coda can consist of more than one consonant and it is known as consonant cluster. For example skin, craft.

Assimilation – when two phonemes occur in a sequence and some aspect of one phoneme is taken or copied by the other phoneme the process is known as assimilation. This process is occasioned by ease of articulation in every day talk. For example ‘horse’ /h ɔ:  s /; ‘shoe’ /ʃ u: / ‘horseshoe’ / h ɔ: ʃ ʃ u: /

Elision is the omission of a sound segment which would be present in the deliberate pronunciation of a word in isolation; e.g.: /d/ in ‘friendship’ / f r e n ʃ ɪ p /

Etymology – The Greek word ‘etymology’ refers to the study of the origin and history of words and their meanings.

5. WORD-FORMATION/ GROWTH OF VOCABULARY/ WORD-MAKING IN ENGLISH

The English language has a very rich and extensive vocabulary. This is partly due to the historical factors, partly due to ‘the genius of the language’ to make new words where existing terms are inadequate and also because of its readiness to absorb words from foreign tongues. Human beings may run short of the basic essentials of life, but never short of words.  New ideas, new fashions, new inventions and discoveries and even new societal issues and crimes demand fresh expressions. Surprisingly they are always in the coffer as a result of a growth from within. This growth has taken place in a number of ways.

Imitation or Onomatopoeia– This is one of the basic and oldest methods of word-making. It is considered to be one of the most important sources of words in all languages. Each possible sound made by man himself or by animals, insects, birds or even lifeless objects has a word to denote it. A number of words are thus echoic or imitative in character, the sound echoing the sense. eg.: buzz, click, crash, giggle, hiss, rumble, screech, splash etc. The word ‘cuckoo’ is a verbal attempt to represent its distinctive call. There are many terms in daily use that reflect the onomatopoeic principle. For eg. the word ‘slither’ has a slippery suggestion about it. The word ‘awe’ reminds us of the exclamation ‘oh!’, denoting surprise wonder. Words with the initial ‘sn’ are often associated with the nose. eg snarl, sneer, sneeze, sniff, snore, snort etc. The combination ‘bl’ suggests inflation.eg. blow, blast, blister, bladder, etc. A large number of words suggesting stability or lack of movement are found to begin with the combination ‘st’ eg: statue, stop, stay, station, stand, still, stable etc. The combination ‘fl’ implies hurry as in fly, flee, fling, flash etc. But this process cannot be pursued too far; for all words beginning with ‘be’ do not suggest inflation eg: blue, black and the ‘st’ combination does not stand for stability in many words eg: star, stale etc. So also ‘fl’ which does not signify any movement in flask, flannel, flat etc. Nevertheless, the fact that onomatopoeia can be detected in a number of words shows that in the past it has been one of the chief methods of word-making.

Borrowing – is one of the most common sources of new words in English. Throughout its history English has adopted a large number of words from other languages; example : alcohol (Arabic), boss (Dutch), piano (Italian), robot (Czech), verandah (India).

Conversion– This is the transfer of a word from one grammatical category to another i.e. from noun to verb, adjective to noun and so on. The most frequent change is between noun and verb. For eg: we can ‘paper’ a room, ‘stone’ a prophet, ‘floor’ an adversary, ‘sack’ an employee, ‘pocket’ an insult etc. The nouns signifying the parts of the body can nearly all be used as verbs. We can ‘elbow’ our way through a crowd, ‘eye’ a person with suspicion; we can ‘nose’ around, ‘thumb’ a book, ‘face’ a danger, ‘toe’ the line. We can also ‘foot’ a stocking or ‘foot’ it along a dusty road or ‘foot’ a bill. In modern times many new verbs are formed from nouns eg: ‘to feature’, ‘to pin-point’, ‘to highlight’ etc. In recent years certain compound nouns have been formed from corresponding verbs eg: ‘walk-out’, ‘’know-how’, ‘black-out’ etc.

Abbreviation /Shortening /Clipped forms– Shortening of words by the omission of sounds from the beginning, the middle or the end is one of the most general forms of change giving rise to new words. When shortening takes place as a result of a gradual or unintentional loss of an unaccented vowel at the beginning of a word it is called APHESIS. eg: ‘cute > acute; venture > adventure etc. The shortening that takes place as a result of the omission of the final syllable is called APOCOPE. eg: cab > cabriolet; taxi > taximeter cabriolet; photo > photograph; mob > mobile vulgus. We have also such shortenings as:-

flu        >          influenza

fridge  >          refrigerator

bike     >          bicycle

bus       >          omnibus

lab       >          laboratory

plane    >          aeroplane

phone  >          telephone

pram    >          perambulator

pants    >          pantaloons

auto     >          automobile

zoo      >          zoological gardens

maths   >          mathematics

exam    >          examination

ad        >          advertisement

mike    >          microphone

pub      >          public house

para     >          paragraph

Some shortened forms have become so popular that the full words have been forgotten eg: wig (periwig); goodbye (God be with you).

Syncopation– is a process by which a word is shortened by the omission of a vowel or a consonant on either side running together.

eg: hence <  henes

      else    <  elles

Portmanteau words or Blends- Sometimes a new word is formed by combining part of one word with part of another. The new word carries with it the idea behind both the original terms.. There are a number of words which originated in this way and which are now part of normal English vocabulary. For eg:

tragic-comedy >         tragedy and comedy

brunch   >        breakfast and lunch

melodrama      >          melody and drama

travelogue       >          travel and monologue

radiogram        >          radio set and gramophone

motel   >          motorist and hotel

electrocute       >          electric and execute

smog    >          smoke and fog

flurry   >          fly and hurry

comsat >          communication and satellite

commintern     >          communist and international

glocal   >          global and local

skyjack            >          sky and hijack

edutainment    >          education and entertainment

stagflation       >          stagnation and inflation

three-peat        >          three and repeat (winning a competition 3 times)

infotainment    >          Information and entertainment

edusat  >          education and satellite

netizen > internet and citizen

blog > web and log

Telescoping- This is a process by which two words are combined into one, often with the elision of a vowel. The verbs ‘to don’ and ‘to doff’ are the result of the telescoping of ‘to do on’ and ‘to do off’. The expression ‘to dout a fire is a telescoped form of ‘to do out’. The earliest eg of telescoping is the word ‘atone’. It was formerly two words ‘at one’ and was used adverbially around 1300. By 1557, telescoping had taken place and the single word ‘atone’ resulted. The verbal use of the word first appeared in Shakespeare’s Richard II- “since we cannot atone you, we shall see Justine design the Victor’s chivalry”. More recent egs of telescoping are ‘pinafore’ and ‘overall’.

Compounding or Composition– One method of word formation that has been very prolific is compounding. Two or more words are put together to make a new word. The commonest type is noun and noun eg: classroom, ice-cream, rainbow, bookcase, railway, teacup, houseboat, etc. But there are also other compounds like:-

•           Adjective + Noun       eg: hot-bed, blackboard, greenhouse

•           Adverb + Noun           eg: downfall, afterthought, outpost

•           Noun + Adjective       eg: seasick, snow white, knee-deep

•           Adjective/ Adverb + Adjective          eg: dark blue, ever green, fully grown

•           Noun/ Adjective + Verb         eg: white wash, wire draw

•           Adverb + Verb            eg: overtake, overcome

•           Noun/ Adjective + Participle  eg: machine made, heart-breaking, bedridden, easy-

            going

•           Verb + Adverb            eg: set back, break down

•           Adverb/ Adjective + Participle  eg: well known, oncoming, incoming

•           Verb + Noun   eg: breakneck, dare devil, know how

Often the two elements are hyphenated. There are also a number of phrases which have been wielded into compounds. eg: happy-go-lucky; mother-in-law; hand-to-mouth etc.

Acronyms or Words from initials– At times initials are used more commonly than the actual names for which they stand. Such initials can almost be regarded as words themselves. Thus we usually speak of an ‘M.A’ or a ‘B.A’ rather than ‘Master of Arts’ or ‘Bachelor of Arts’. Usually it is either brevity, or the desire for catchy expressions that is the motive for forming acronyms.  Acronyms like BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), CID (Central Investigation Department) and RAM (random access memory) are so well known that no one can think of using the words for which they stand. In some cases they have actually been combined to form words.eg: UNESCO, UNICEF, CARE, RADAR etc. ‘Gestapo’, the name given to the secret police in Nazi Germany was made by combining the beginnings of three words which formed their official designation – ‘Geheime Staats Polizei’.

Affixation- Another common device of forming new words is by adding prefixes (initial affixation) and suffixes (terminal affixation) to existing words. This tendency dates back to the O.E period.

Prefixes

be        belittle, beset

for       forlorn, forbear

mis       mislead, misbehave

un        uncouth, unlucky

ante     anteroom, antedate

counter    counteract, counterpoint

de        decode, dehumanize

ex        ex p.m, ex official

in         inability, injustice

post     post war, post graduate

pre       prefix, predegree

re         rebirth, rebuild

super    supermarket, supernatural

ultra     ultramodern, ultraviolet

non      non- stop, non- existent

anti      anti-national, antihero

arch     archbishop, archenemy

auto     autobiography, autosuggestion

hyper   hypertension, hypersensitive

pseudo   pseudo classical

dis       disagree, disobedient

micro   microchip, microwave

bio       biochemistry, biodegradable

Suffixes

-en       strengthen, lengthen

-dom    kingdom, dukedom

-ful      beautiful, cheerful

-hood   childhood, boyhood

-ish      childish, boyish

-less     childless, helpless

-let       outlet, booklet

-ly        kingly, manly

-ness    kindness, bitterness

-ship    friendship, kingship

-y         hungry, noisy

-ation   starvation, operation

-ative   talkative

-ic        energetic, comic

Words from Proper Nouns– Many new words have come from proper nouns. For eg: ‘sandwich’ from the Earl of Sandwich who first introduced sandwiches as a convenient form of refreshment for his card parties; ‘spoonerism’ from Dr Spooner who confused words by wrongly placing initial words; ‘boycott’ from Charles Boycott, a land agent who was ostracized by the Irish land league agitators; ‘teddy bear’ from Theodore Roosevelt, cardigan from the 7th century Earl of Cardigan who led the charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War wearing extra woollen garments to withstand the biting cold. A number of scientific terms are coined from the names of the scientists:

ampere < the French scientist Ampera

pasteurize < Louis Pasteur

Watts < James Watt

Ohm < the German scientist Ohm

Sometimes the names of flowers are from the names of those people who first cultivated them.eg: dahlia is from the name of the Swedish botanist, Dahl.

A number of words are derived from place names.eg:

Calico < Calicut

Muslim < Mosul

Laconic < Laconia in Greece

Champagne < champagne in France

Back-Formation- is the coinage of a word from an existing word which is mistakenly assumed to be its derivative. Eg: ‘grovelling’ was an adverb which meant ‘on the ground in an abject manner’. It was wrongly understood to be a present participle and a new word ‘to grovel’ was formed from it. In the same way, the nouns beggar, hawker, editor, burglar, pedlar, have given us the verbs ‘to beg’, ‘to hawk’, ‘to edit’, ‘to burgle’, ‘to peddle’ respectively. Other egs are:

Televise < television

Audit < auditor

Gloom < gloomy

Donate < donation

Swindle < swindler

More recently we have ‘to housekeep’ from housekeeper, ‘to visit’ from visitor, ‘to babysit’ from babysitter. G.K.  Chesterton has humorously made use of this device in this expression ‘the wicked grocer groces’.

Freak Formation– Words have strayed into the language through very strange or unexpected circumstances. Such words are called ‘freaks’ and the process ‘freak formation’. For eg: the word ‘teetotaler’ has originated from ‘t-total’ by stammering the ‘t’ of ‘total’ in the expression ‘total abstainer.

Coinage / the invention of totally new terms – is one of the least common processes of word formation in English. Words like aspirin, nylon, Xerox which began as invented trade names have now become everyday words in English.

MORPHEME

     A morpheme is a minimal unit of meaning or grammatical function in the grammatical system of a language. For example, the word ‘reopened’ consists of three morphemes ; — open, re (meaning ‘again’) and ‘—ed’ (indicating past tense) . ‘Open’ and ‘re’ are minimal pairs of meaning while ‘—ed’ is a minimal unit of grammatical function. There are two types of morphemes :–  (a)  Free morphemes – are morphemes which can stand on their own as independent words eg—open, happy. They fall into two categories –(1)  lexical morphemes —  nouns, adjectives and verbs (2) functional morphemes – conjunctions, articles, prepositions and pronouns.  Bound morphemes – are morphemes which cannot normally stand alone as single words. They are always attached to a free morpheme eg – re, un, –ed, –ness.   They can be divided into two types—(1) derivational morphemes that are used to make new words – ‘un’– unhappy; ‘ish’ — childish (2) inflectional morphemes that indicate aspects of the grammatical function of a word – ‘-ed’ – jumped; ‘-est’ – smallest.   

  Morphology – is a systematic study of all the basic ‘elements’/ morphemes which are used in a language and how morphemes join to form words.

GRAMMAR

    It is very difficult to define grammar. Everybody intuitively knows what grammar is. When we distinguish between a well-formed sentence, ‘children love sweets’ and a not at all well-formed sentence ‘sweets love children’ we display our knowledge of grammar. Grammar is an attempt to discover patterns in language structure, to classify words and sentences and then to deduce certain rules. Grammar studies the way in which words join to form meaningful sentences. The five fundamental units of grammatical structure are – morpheme, word, phrase, clause and sentence.  There are main types of grammar.

Traditional / Prescriptive Grammar

    The traditional approach to grammar is prescriptive. Traditional grammarians were preoccupied with the prescription of rules and norms of usage; they neglected the actual usage. They formulated rules based on Latin grammar. Traditional grammar gave importance to meaning in defining word classes / parts of speech. For example a noun is defined as the name of a person, place or thing. This definition cannot account for nouns like destruction, equality. The traditionalists gave too much importance to the written form of the language and formed grammar based on the written form. They considered it as the ‘correct’ language and the spoken form only as a corrupt representation of it. They ignored linguistic changes and held the language of past masters as a model for present day English.

Structural / Descriptive Grammar

    The early 20th century saw rapid advances in the scientific discipline of linguistics which radically changed the traditional approach to the study of grammar. The new scientific approach was descriptive or structural and was an improvement upon the traditional approach. It was later modified into Phrase Structure Grammar (PS Grammar) and still further modified into Transformational Generative Grammar (TG Grammar). Descriptive grammar was popularised by Leonard Bloomfield and his followers. They held the view that language has a structure composed of phonemes, morphemes etc in sequence at different levels; it is the inter-relationship between these units that determine the structure of a language. Meaning is ignored and form is given too much importance. Speech is given prime importance. All language varieties are studied and described objectively. Linguistic changes are taken as natural linguistic phenomena and standards of usage are based on contemporary criteria.

PHRASE STRUCTURE / PS GRAMMAR       Phrase Structure Grammar is a method of structural description set forth by Noam Chomsky. PS Grammar contains a set of rules called Phrase Structure / PS / Re-write Rules. PS rules are capable of generating strings of linguistic elements and also of providing a constituent analysis of that string. Re-write rules provide a set of directions which, if followed mechanically, will generate the abstract frame work of basic English sentences. A re-write rule is a replacement rule in which the symbol to the left of the arrow is replaced by the expanded form written to the right of the arrow. For example: — S > NP + VP means that ‘S’is to be rewritten as an NP + VP; ie a sentence consists of a noun phrase and a verb phrase; NP > Art (Adj) N – the book or the green book. An article (the) and a noun (book) are needed for a noun phrase to occur in English but the inclusion of the adjective (green) is optional; NP > {Art N, pronoun, proper noun}indicating that only one of the elements enclosed within the brackets must be selected. The NP can contain (a) determiners – articles, demonstrative pronouns, possessives and wh-words when they precede nouns ; eg : the book, that book, her book, whose book.(b) ordinals – first, second which denote the order of items in a series. (c) quantifiers – specific quantity or number – several pens, two girls. (d) adjective phrase — a phrase that functions as an adjective – a very nice lady. (e) classifiers – a noun that functions as a noun – Women’s College. The rewrite rules represent how morphemes are organized into words, words into phrases and phrases into sentences. The representation of the structure of a sentence is called its Phrase Marker / PS Marker.

             

T G  GRAMMAR

   T G grammar was introduced by Noam Chomsky and is one of the most influential of modern linguistic theories. T G grammar is both transformational and generative. It not only analyses the sentences, divides them into parts and shows the functions of various parts but also completely rearranges them and shows the inter-relationship between sentences (such as active-passive, affirmative-negative, etc.). It shows how different types of sentences are derived from basic types of simple sentences through the application of Transformational rules ( T rules). The basic types of sentences are called kernel sentences; they are simple, affirmative, active and declarative sentences. From these kernel sentences other types of sentences are derived by applying T rules. There are seven types of kernel sentences:

     1     SV                               Raju  laughed 

     2   SVO                              Raju threw the ball.

     3   SVC                              Raju  is clever.

    4   SVOC                            Raju  proved her wrong.

    5   SVOO                            Raju  teaches them English.

    6    SVA                              Raju  is in the hall. 

    7   SVOA                            Raju kept the ball on the table.

So sentences are structured strings of words comprising the constituents SVOCA.  A sentence can be broadly classified into NP (Noun Phrase) and VP (Verb Phrase).

               

T  rule shifts ‘past’ to the right of the verb and the string becomes

Raju + past + laugh         Raju + laugh + past

                                                 Laughed

The  T rule / Affix Switch rule

Affix + V          V + Affix

Affix          tense,  –ing,  –en

1  Tense + V        V + Tense 

 2  –ing + V        V  +  –ing 

 3  –en + V         V + –en

Kernel Sentence                                          Affix

She  saw Raju                                                Did

She  + past + see + Raju                                Do + past + she + see + Raju

She  saw Raju                                                      Did she see Raju ?           

He is sleeping (kernel sentence)

He +present + be + ing + sleep

Is he sleeping? ( Interrogative)  

 Be + present + he + sleep + ing  

 Meera has seen the Taj    

Meera + present + have + en + see + the Taj

 Has Mera seen the Taj?   

 Have + present + Meera + see + en + the Taj     

Syntax – is the study of the relationship between linguistic forms, how they are arranged in sequences and which sequences are well formed. It is the arrangement of words into phrases and sentences.

Inflection – refers to a change in the form of a word (typically the ending) to express a grammatical function or alteration such as tense, mood, person; eg : eat, eats. In moern grammar it is called morphology.

Parts of Speech – English grammar has traditionally described words in terms of parts of speech – nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections.

Word Classes – In modern grammar words are classified into two categories on the basis of their form and function : — (a) Form class – form class words have a reasonably clear lexical meaning and are semantically significant; eg – book, play, clever, quickly. They are also known as full / content / lexical words. (b) Function class – function class words do not have any definable lexical meaning but grammatically they are significant. They are important I their function to form structural frames and they are also helpful in identifying form class words; eg – to, out, and, but. They are also known as empty/ structure words.

Grammatical Categories – In traditional grammar there are seven grammatical categories – (1) Gender – masculine, feminine and neuter.

(2) Number – singular, plural.

(3) Person – a classification of the pronouns and a feature of verbs – first person (I, we, me, our), second person (you), third person (he, she, it, they).

(4) – a feature of verbs associated with time  — present, past, future.

(5) Mood – a feature of the verb associated with statement of facts, possibility etc – imperative, indicative.

(6) Voice – a feature of the verb largely associated with whether the subject is active or at the receiving end (passive).

(7) Case – nominative, denoting the subject and direct object, the vocative which is the form of address (oh! boy), the dative or the indirect object and the genitive indicating possession (the boy’s).   

Lexical Meaning – or word meaning is the meaning of individual lexical items. These are of two types: — (1) the open class lexical items such as nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs; (2) the close class items like prepositions, conjunctions and determiners. The open class items have independent meanings which are defined in the dictionary. The closed class items have meaning only in relation to other words in a sentence; this is called grammatical meaning. For example the sentence, ‘the tiger killed the elephant,’ contains three open class items – tiger, killed, elephant, two of which are nouns and one is a verb. There is only one closed class item, ‘the’ which occurs before each noun. It has no independent reference of its own and has meaning only when placed before the nouns.

SEMANTICS

   Semantics is the study of the relationships between linguistic forms and entities in the world; how words literally connect to words. It is the study of meanings of words, phrases and sentences. Words are not limited to one single meaning. Most words have several meanings which are categorized as either denotative or connotative. Denotative meaning is the literal meaning of a word as defined by its context. Connotation is the suggestion or implication represented by a word which alludes to its social context. For example: red rose > red = the denotation of a colour; rose = denotation of a flower; together they present a description of a flower of a particular colour. Connotation of red rose = a symbol of love. In semantic analysis there is always an attempt to focus on what the words conventionally mean, rather than on what a speaker might want the words on a particular occasion. When linguists investigate the meaning of words in a language they are normally interested in characterizing the conceptual meaning and less concerned with the associative meaning of words. Nevertheless, poets and advertisers are very interested in using terms in such a way that their associative meanings are evoked. For example Burns’ comparison of love to a red rose or the advertisement for Thumbs Up, ‘taste the thunder.’    Conceptual meaning covers those basic essential components of meaning which are conveyed by the literal use of a word. For example some of the basic components of the word ‘needle’ might include ‘thin, sharp, steel instrument.’ Associative meaning is the association which that specific word brings to us; it is the connotation attached to a word. For example the word ‘needle’ which makes us think of it as something ‘painful’ whenever we come across the word needle. This association of pain to needle is not treated as a conceptual meaning of needle. 

   Semantic approach is helpful as a means of accounting for the ‘oddness’ which we experience when we read English sentences such as : — (1) The sandwich ate the man; (2) My cat studied phonetics; (3) A chair was listening to music. These sentences are syntactically perfect but semantically odd. According to the basic syntactic rule for forming English sentences ( S > NP +VP) these are well structured sentences – the sandwich (NP) ate the man (VP). The kinds of nouns which can be subjects of the verb ‘ate’ must denote entities which are capable of ‘eating.’ The noun ‘sandwich’ does not have this property but man has; that is the reason for the oddness of the first sentence. The crucial component of meaning which a noun must have in order to be used as the subject of the verb, ‘ate’ can be determined by analysing it in terms of semantic features such as ‘+animate’ ( denotes an animate being) or ‘– animate’ (denotes an inanimate thing), ‘+human,’ ‘– human’, ‘+male,’ ‘—male’. They can be treated as the basic features that help us to differentiate the meaning of each word in the language from every other word. For example the crucial distinguishing features of the meanings of the set of English words (table, cow, girl, woman, boy, man) can be represented in this manner:–  table       cow      girl      woman      boy      man

animate                                     —              +         +            +             +           +                   

human                                       —              —         +           +             +           +

male                                         —             —         —             —              +          +

adult                                         —             +          —             +              —          +

At the same time it is not easy to come up with such neat components to distinguish nouns like ‘advice,’ ‘threat’ and ‘warning.’ This is because this approach looks upon words as mere ‘containers’ carrying meaning-components. The meaning of a word can be characterised in terms of lexical relations or its relationship to other words. For example if we are asked the meaning of the word ‘conceal’ we might reply that it is the same as ‘hide.’ The meaning of shallow can be given as the opposite of ‘deep.’ and the meaning of daffodil as ‘s kind of flower.’ There are different types of lexical relations: — (1) Synonymy – synonyms are two or more forms with very closely related meanings which are often intersubstitutable in sentences. Examples are ‘broad – wide’; ‘cab – taxi’; ‘liberty – freedom.’ (2) Antonymy – antonyms are two forms with opposite meanings. Examples are ‘old – young’; ‘long – short’; alive – dead.’ Antonyms are of two types :– Gradable antonyms such as ‘big – small’, which can be used in comparative constructions ‘bigger than – smaller than’ and non-gradable antonyms / complementary pairs which cannot be used as comparative constructions (eg ‘deader’) and the negative of one member implies the other (that person is not dead implies that person is alive). (3) Homophony – homophones are two or more forms which have the same pronunciation but different meanings. Examples – ‘bare – bear’; ‘meet – meat’; ‘sea – see.’ (4) Homonymy – homonyms are words which have quite separate meanings, but two or more unrelated meanings. Examples are ‘bank’ ( the side of a river and also a financial institution), ‘pupil’ (at school and in the eye), ‘mole’ (a small animal and also a mark on the skin). (4) Polysemy – is the co-existence of multiple meanings, which are all related by extension, in one word. For example the word ‘head’ refers to the top part of our body, the top of a glass of beer, top of a company or department or ‘foot’ of person, of bed, of mountain. (5) Hyponymy – refers to the inclusion of the meaning of one form in the meaning of another. For example the word daffodil is a hyponym of flower; the meaning of ‘flower’ is ‘included’ in the meaning of daffodil. 

Pragmatics

Pragmatics is the only study which allows human beings to investigate and analyse people’s intended meanings, their assumptions, their purposes or goals and the language functions and the intended actions that they are performing when they speak. Pragmatics is the study of contextual meaning communicated by a speaker or writer and interpreted by a listener or reader. It is about what people mean by their utterances rather than what the words or phrases might mean by themselves. It necessarily involves the interpretation of what people mean in a particular context and how the context influences what is said. Pragmatics is the study of how more gets communicated by what the speaker implies to say than by what is actually said that is it is the investigation of ‘invisible meaning. There are different kinds of context. The first one is linguistic context or co-text. The c0-text of a word is the set of other words used in the same phrase or sentence and it has a strong effect on what we think the word means. For example we can know in what sense the word ‘bank’ is used from the context. If it is used in a sentence together with words like ‘steep’ or ‘overgrown’ it refers to a river bank; whereas in the statement ‘I must get to the bank to cash a cheque’ it is clear which type of  bank the speaker intended. Physical context is another type of context. Our understanding of what we read and hear is tied to the physical context, particularly the time and place.’ For example the statement ‘I am tired’ has different meanings in different situations : — (a) if someone utters it late at night it may have an invisible meaning that he/she wants to go to bed; (b) if someone utters it when the alarm rings at 6-30 am it may imply that he/she doesn’t want to get out of bed; (c) if someone utters it when it is time for him/her to go to class it may count as a way of excusing himself/herself from attending the class. So also the word ‘awesome’ has two different meanings when a boy tells a girl ‘you are awesome,’ and when someone refers to the weather as awesome. There are some words in the language called deictic expressions which cannot be interpreted at all unless the physical context, especially that of the speaker, is known ; eg : here, there, this, that, now, then yesterday, I, you, him, her, them. It is not possible to understand the sentence ‘’they’ll have to do that tomorrow because they aren’t here now’ unless we know who is speaking, about whom, where and when. Pragmatics is the study of the expression of relative distance. The notion of distance determines the choice between the said and the unsaid. On the basis of how close or distant the listener is, speakers decide how much needs to be said.   Pragmatics studies the factors that govern our choice of language in social interaction and the effects of our choice on others. Pragmatics involves three major communication skills :– (a) using language for different purposes – greeting (hello, goodbye ); information (I’m going to get an ice cream ); demanding (give me an ice cream ); promising (I’m going to get you an ice cream ); requesting ( I would like an ice cream, please); (b) changing a language according to the needs of the listener or situation – talking differently to a baby than to an adult, giving background information to an unfamiliar listener, speaking differently in a classroom and a playground; (c) following rules for conversation and story- telling – taking turns in conversation, introducing the topic of conversation, staying on the topic, rephrasing when misunderstood, how to use verbal and non-verbal signals, how close to stand to someone when speaking and how to use facial expressions and eye contact.

Ambiguity – the term refers to the presence of two or more possible meanings in a single sentence or passage. There are three kin ds of ambiguity :– (1) lexical ambiguity – occurs when two or more of the meanings of a word are applicable in a single sentence or passage. For example the word ‘want’ in the sentence ‘Iraqi heads want arms’ can be taken to mean either ‘wish’ or ‘lack.’ (2) structural ambiguity – comes from some aspect of grammar, often from the arrangement of words or from the classification of words. Examples :– (a)  Flying planes can be dangerous – flying planes / can be dangerous (planes that fly), flying / planes can be dangerous ( to fly planes). (b) Visiting aunts can be boring – visiting aunts / can be dangerous ( aunts who visit), visiting / aunts can be boring  (to visit aunts). (3) punctual ambiguity – a woman without her man, is savage; a woman, without her, man is savage.

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