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what linguistics is not

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  • what linguistics is not

    what linguistics is not

  • #2
    Linguistics is a word which seems particularly prone to misinterpretation. To begin with, when people hear the name for the first time, they usually do not ask "what is linguistics" ?, but "what are linguistics"- as if the word referred to a collection of 'linguisticky' objects conveniently gathered together for examination , like pictures at an exhibition .It is not really surprising, though , that people should react in this way, and treat the noun as if it were a 'thing' word like 'car' rather than a 'mass' one like 'mathematics'. The subject has not been in existence long enough to be popularly recognized as the name of an intellectual discipline. It has been studied in an academic context only since the turn of the century, and it has really developed in British universities only since about 1960. It has been going longer in the United states, but even there in depth courses of study are found mainly at postgraduate level. In Britain, the first undergraduate degree courses (always a significant stage in the development of a subject) were begun as recently as 1964, at York leading to a BA in Language, and in 1965 at Reading leading to a BA in linguistics .These days , however, the subject is well represented in universities, and in other institutes of higher education , and it is beginning to make a considerable impact in schools



    Linguistics=The scientific study of language

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    • #3
      The relative newness of the subject creates a problem, however. For if people do come across the word (in a university prospectus , for example), and want to know more about it, where can they go? Until recently, even the major dictionaries and encyclopedias were of little help ; for example, a common definition of Linguist was 'one who is killed in the use of languages ;one who is master of other tongues beside his own'. The trouble with this definition is that it is almost completely wrong, as far as the modern academic study called Linguistics (or General Linguistics, or Linguistics Science) is concerned. We shall be discussing some of the reasons for this shortly. Other reference books sometimes provide up-to-date information, but the glosses are often sufficiently technical for people still to require substantial clarification . So where else can they turn? If they are lucky, there may be a careers teacher at school , or helpful librarian in the locality , who may have read a little in the subject and can inform .But what if there is not? Or if the enquirer is a careers teacher or a helpful librarian , and does not know

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      • #4
        There are a number of difficulties in the way of anyone trying to discover what Linguistics is about, and these have to be admitted and faced. For one thing the relatively recent growth of the subject means that very few introductory textbooks have been produced; and of those that are available, many suffer from what, for the complete beginner, are faults. They tend to be too comprehensive in scope, rather than advanced in level , and frequently rather unreadable. To take the point about comprehensive first, it is surely the case that a relatively complete survey of Linguistics is far too ambitious for one's first reading in the subject; after all , this assumes an acquired interest, and a desire on the part of an individual to go into it in some depth. When one sees that R.A.Hall 's Introductory Linguistics is some 500 pages long , for example, then it should be clear that this is very serious sense of 'introductory' , which assumes either considerable interest, or at least compulsory attendance at a course of study, before one plunges in. But are not yet sure that Linguistics is even potentially interesting or useful ? It is important to have brief, introductory accounts of the subject for people who want to know what it is about without having to commit themselves to a course of serious study- and few books on Linguistics could safely be called bedtime reading.

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        • #5
          As regards level, many of the introductory books currently available are hardly introductory in the sense that they could be read without a supervisor. Linguists tend to forget the great gap which exists between their study of language and the views of the man in the street. They often take too much for granted, introduce technical terms with too little explanation, or focus their attention on relatively specialist or restricted areas of study. The word 'introductory' or 'introduction' in a title covers a multitude of sins , and does not really guarantee anything. Nor , incidentally, do books simply entitled 'language'. If one dips into the literature without advice, one can get into very deep water very quickly: witness the confusion of a sixth former who came for a university interview in Linguistics having begun to read a book with the deceptive title Fundamentals Of Language – a book which was at the time recommended reading for advanced postgraduate students. Also , the books which do appear in public libraries tend to be the wrong ones, popular and often misleading accounts of the less important , and usually less technical sides of Linguistics, as far as its university study goes. Books like The Loom of Language by Mario Pei, though interesting in many ways, embody a number of misconception, and do not really gives a clear picture of what is expected of someone about to take up the study of Linguistics seriously. What we need are reliable popularization to enable people to get the feel of the subject relatively quickly, without having to assimilate too much new information at once- yet providing enough to allow them to make up their minds that Linguistics is or is not a good thing to (a) begin studying, (b) apply to a university to read, or (c) bring into a modern language course, and so on. And until such are widely available , the problem for the beginner will remain.

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          • #6
            thank u very much to provide us with these valuable information

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            • #7
              A more worrying point, relating in a way to the older dictionary definitions, is that many people see the word 'Linguistics', and assume that they know that it means , while in fact they do not. The general reaction, as far as I can , is to equate Linguistics with Philology, the study of the history of language, and to discuss it only in these terms when giving someone advice. To illustrate this point, we may take the case of the sixth-formers who applied to read Linguistics at Reading University during the first year the subject was offered by the University in the UCCA prospectus. All applicants, when asked what they thought the study of Linguistics was, began to talk about such things as the way words and meanings change over the years, or how languages originated in the history of mankind. Now they must have got this view from somewhere, and the consistency of their replies argues a quite general misconception as to what language study is centrally about. Their answer is of course only a very small part of the truth. And if they believe this answer- and why shouldn't they?
              Whichever attitude they adopt, the result is potentially unfortunate: those who do not like historical studies may be put off Linguistics for good, and never know what they are missing ; and those who do, when they begin the non-historical which is so much a part of modern Linguistics, may get a rude shock



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              • #8
                more details

                There is also danger, unhappily, that prospective students may ask advice from someone who knows about linguistics, but who has at some time or another been offended by the subject. These people are quite numerous , in fact. The history of Linguistics, as of many new sciences, has been filled with clashes between discipline, while the subject extended its field of study. A lot of this was due to exaggerated claims on behalf of Linguistics-claiming , for example, that one could not study the Classics without linguistics training, or that literary criticism was all wrong unless a thorough linguistic study of a text had first been made. But much was due to uncritical conservatism in people who worked in more well-established fields of study, and who did not like the critical examination which linguistics was making of many cherished ideas. Nowadays, people pride themselves on being more enlightened and ecumenical in their views on the relationship of Linguistics to other subjects, but feelings can still be aroused. Moral: if one finds a person who reacts violently when asked what Linguistics about , one should nod politely and ask someone else.

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                • #9
                  what linguistics is not

                  There are, then , numerous misconception about the nature of Linguistics, and it may be as well to get these out of the way once and for all. Let us say, therefore, forcibly , that Linguistics is not to be identified with four main fields : (a) comparative philology , or philology , or the study of the history of language , or whatever one likes to call it ; (b) the learning of many languages, or polyglottism ; (c) literary criticism, r other fields involving a scale of values, such as speech-training and (d) the traditional study of grammar as carried on over the past hundred years in most of our schools. I shall amplify each of these points before going on to be a bit more constructive as to what Linguistics is.

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                  • #10
                    The History Of Language

                    The History Of Language

                    Firstly, Linguistics is not to be viewed as a historical (diachronic) study. In a historical study of language, we see how different languages have developed from old languages , such as English from Older English (or Anglo-Saxon , as it is often called ), or French from Latin , and how these older languages in turn have developed from still earlier languages, which perhaps no longer exist- for example, Latin , Greek, and Sanskrit from the language we call Indo-European. We have do not, incidentally, deal with such dramatic problems as the origin of language , or the world's first language, in view of the fact that there is hardly any evidence we can point to in order to solve such questions scientifically. 'Comparatively philology' is a branch of linguistic study which has been practices in an amateurish kind of way for many hundreds of years, though not systematically until the end of the eighteenth century. It is, however, only one aspect of Linguistics as a whole- and really quite a small, though complex one. (Historical studies account for but one paper in most final examination.) we shall define Linguistics as 'the science of language', and clearly there is a lot more to language , or to any other phenomenon , than its history. Linguistics is in fact primarily concerned with non-historical (i.e. synchronic) study of language , the study of a state of a language at a given time, seen regardless of its previous or future history : to look, for instance, at English as it is used now , in the 1980s , or as it was in Shakespeare's time, and not at the way in which Shakespeare 's became modern English, or the way in which the English current today is even now in the process of changing into the English of the twenty-first century. Most of the important questions at all. What are the jobs that language does in the society? How does it do them? How do we analyze any language which we come across? Do all languages have the same parts of speech ? what is the relationship between language and thought? Or language and literature? To answer such questions, and many more besides, we are forced to look at language in non-historical way, to see it as an object of study which has to be examined empirically, in its own terms, like the subject-matter of physics or chemistry

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