language | Definition of language in English by Oxford Dictionaries
and “on what conditions two utterances count as utterances of the same word?”. . By taking the connection of thoughts and truth as the basic issue of . to provide a definition of the truth predicate for a (formal) language L. This reflexive capacity underlies much of the power of language both in everyday life . report utterances, index and describe aspects of the speech event, invoke conventional . itself what specific equivalence the speaker has in mind. of discourse is the relationship between speakers (e.g., "My telling you where to find . Sapir-Whorf hypothesis The notion that thought is determined by language. .. case An inflection which indicates the relationship of a noun to other elements in . thesaurus A kind of dictionary which consists of words grouped according to .. utterance Any stretch of spoken speech, a sentence or phrase with emphasis on.
On the methodological side, the key features of the approach to word meaning introduced by historical-philological semantics can be summarized as follows. First, it had a diachronic and contextualist orientation: Second, it considered word meaning a psychological phenomenon: Interestingly, while the rhetorical tradition had looked at tropes as devices whose investigation was motivated by stylistic concerns, historical-philological semantics regarded the psychological mechanisms underlying the production and the comprehension of figures of speech as part of the ordinary life of languages, and as engines of the evolution of all aspects of lexical systems Nerlich The contribution made by historical-philological semantics to the study of lexical phenomena had a long-lasting influence.
This feature of historical-philological semantics makes it a forerunner of the stress on context-sensitivity encouraged by many subsequent approaches to word meaning in philosophy Section 3 and linguistics Section 4. Second, the psychological conception of word meaning fostered by historical philological-semantics added to the agenda of linguistic research the question of how word meaning relates to cognition at large Geeraerts If word meaning is essentially a psychological phenomenon, how can we characterize it?
What is the dividing line separating the aspects of our mental life that are relevant to the knowledge of lexical meaning from those that are not? As we shall see, this question will constitute a central concern for cognitive theories of word meaning Section 5.
Philosophy of Language In this section we shall review some semantic and metasemantic theories in analytic philosophy that bear on how lexical meaning should be conceived and described. We shall follow a roughly chronological order.
However, such negative views form an equally integral part of the philosophical debate on word meaning. Indeed, his theory of sense and reference for names and predicates may be counted as the inaugural contribution to lexical semantics within the analytic tradition see the entry on Gottlob Frege.
However, Tarski made no attempt nor felt any need to represent semantic differences among expressions belonging to the same logical type e. See the entry on Alfred Tarski. Carnap later suggested that intensions could be regarded as the content of lexical semantic competence: However, such general conditions were not spelled out by Carnap To remedy what he agreed was an unsatisfactory feature of his system, Carnap introduced meaning postulates, i.
Meaning postulates can be seen either as restrictions on possible worlds or as relativizing analyticity to possible worlds. Carnap regarded the two options as equivalent; nowadays, the former is usually preferred. In the late s and early s, Montague and other philosophers and linguists Kaplan, Kamp, Partee, and D.
Montague semantics can be represented as aiming to capture the inferential structure of a natural language: In Montague semantics, such inferences are taken care of by supplementing the theory with suitable Carnapian meaning postulates. Yet, some followers of Montague regarded such additions as spurious: The description of the meaning of non-logical words requires considerable world knowledge: Hence, we should not expect a semantic theory to furnish an account of how any two expressions belonging to the same syntactic category differ in meaning Thomason From such a viewpoint, Montague semantics would not differ significantly from Tarskian semantics in its account of lexical meaning.
For those who believe that meaning postulates can exhaust lexical meaning, the issue arises of how to choose them, i.
However, we seem to share intuitions of analyticity, i. Such intuitions are taken to reflect objective semantic properties of the language, that the semanticist should describe rather than impose at will.
Hence, it was widely believed that lexical meaning could not be adequately described by meaning postulates. Fodor and Lepore argued that this left semantics with two options: Neither alternative looked promising.
Holism incurred in objections connected with the acquisition and the understanding of language: And how could individual sentences be understood if the information required to understand them exceeded the capacity of human working memory? For an influential criticism of several varieties of holism, see Dummett ; for a review, Pagin Fodor countered this objection by reinterpreting allegedly semantic relations as metaphysically necessary connections among extensions of words.
The difficulties of atomism and holism opened the way to vindications of molecularism e. While mainstream formal semantics went with Carnap and Montague, supplementing the Tarskian apparatus with the possible worlds machinery and defining meanings as intensions, Davidsonput forth an alternative suggestion.
Tarski had shown how to provide a definition of the truth predicate for a formal language L: By contrast, Davidson suggested that if one took the notion of truth for granted, then T-biconditionals could be read as collectively constituting a theory of meaning for L, i.
Unfortunately, few of such extensions were ever spelled out by Davidson or his followers. Construed as theorems of a semantic theory, T-biconditionals were often accused of being uninformative Putnam ; Dummett This is particularly striking in the case of lexical axioms such as the following: To prove their point, they appeal to non-homophonic versions of lexical axioms, i.
Such would be, e. Therefore, if V3 is substantive, so is V1. But this is beside the point. But what is relevant here is informative power: However, he did not specify the format in which word senses should be expressed in a semantic theory, except for words that could be defined e. But of course, not all words are of this kind. For other words, the theory should specify what it is for a speaker to know them, though we are not told how exactly this should be done.
Lacking such descriptions, possible worlds semantics is not really a theory of meaning but a theory of logical form or logical validity. In a similar vein, Partee argued that Montague semantics, like every compositional or structural semantics, does not uniquely fix the intensional interpretation of words. The addition of meaning postulates does rule out some interpretations e.
Arguments to the same effect were developed by Bonomi and Harnad In particular, Harnad had in mind the simulation of human semantic competence in artificial systems: In his view, lexical competence has two aspects: Language users typically possess both aspects of lexical competence, though in different degrees for different words: However, the two aspects are independent of each another, and neuropsychological evidence appears to show that they can be dissociated: In the case of most natural kind names, it may be argued, baptisms are hard to identify or even conjecture.
The indexical component this liquid, our rivers is crucial to reference determination: It might be remarked that, thanks to modern chemistry, we now possess a description that is sure to apply to water and only to water: Does externalism apply to other lexical categories besides proper names and natural kind words?
Others sided with Putnam and the externalist account: The new artifactual word would then refer to the kind those objects belong to independently of any beliefs about them, true or false. Whether artifactual words are liable to an externalist account is still an open issue, as is, more generally, the scope of application of externalist semantics.
There is another form of externalism that does apply to all or most words of a language: Thus, social externalism eliminates the notion of idiolect: The competence of a speaker is unaffected by such factors as nervousness, temporary loss of memory, speech errors, etc.
These latter phenomena are entirely within the domain of performance which refers to the process of applying one's competence in the act of speaking. Bear in mind that competence also refers to the ability to judge if a sentence is grammatically well-formed; it is an unconscious ability. We are knowing German is not well-formed in English. The distinction between the two forms arises from the fact that these can occupy one and the same slot in a syntagm, i.
Forms which contrast are called distinctive. This is one of the major structural distinctions introduced by Saussure and which is used to characterise types of linguistic investigation. I studied linguistics in London when I was in my twenties.
For instance all words consist of combinations of a limited number of sounds, say about 40 in either English or German. Equally all sentences consist of structures from a small set with different words occupying different points in the structures allowing for virtually unlimited variety.
An extralinguistic reason for a linguistic feature would be one which is not to be found in the language itself. Figurative usage is the source of the second meaning of polysemous words.
It contrasts explicitly with applied linguistics. The term is also used in lexicology to refer to the determining section of a compound; in family tree, the element tree is head and family is modifier. This has consequences for grammar, especially in synthetic languages, such as German where in a compound like Stammbuch the gender is neuter with das because the head Buch is although the modifying word is masculine der Stamm.
The notions of top and bottom are intended in a metaphorical sense. Apart from these formal characteristics, definitions of languages tend to highlight other aspects such as the fact that language is used regularly by humans and that it has a powerful social function.
These divisions are largely independent of each other and are characterised by rules and regularities of organisation. Traditionally five levels are recognised: Pragmatics may also be considered as a separate level from semantics.
Furthermore levels may have subdivisions as is the case with morphology which falls into inflectional and derivational morphology the former is concerned with grammatical endings and the latter with processes of word-formation.
The term 'level' may also be taken to refer to divisions within syntax in generative grammar. As a scientific discipline built on objective principles, linguistics did not develop until the beginning of the 19th century.
The approach then was historical as linguists were mainly concerned with the reconstruction of the Indo-European language. With the advent of structuralism at the beginning of the 20th century, it became oriented towards viewing language at one point in time.
The middle of this century saw a radically new approach — known as generative grammar — which stressed our unconscious knowledge of language and underlying structures to be found in all languages. Also termed the linguistic relativity hypothesis.
For instance zero plurals in English such as sheep or deer are marked. This process is very common in the use of language and may lead to changes in grammar as with the verb go in English where its spatial meaning has come to be used metaphorically for temporal contexts as in He's going to learn Russian.
This field is particularly concerned with etymology and with the general historical value of the information which names offer the linguist. A paradigm can be thought of as a vertical list of forms which can occupy a slot in a syntagm. Contrast principle in this respect. For instance the prefixation of re- to verbs in modern English is productive because this can be done with practically all verbs, e.
The term also refers — in syntax — to the ability of speakers to produce an unlimited number of sentences using a limited set of structures. Many linguists are divided on this issue, one extreme claiming that this requirement of a theory is not necessary, other saying that it is the ultimate test of any respectable theory.
Regarded in the past as an art and cultivated deliberately. Sapir-Whorf hypothesis The notion that thought is determined by language. In recent years sign language has been the object of linguists' attention and has come to be regarded as a fully-fledged system comparable to natural language with those individuals who are congenitally deaf and who learn sign language from childhood. It was introduced at the beginning of the century by Ferdinand de Saussure as a deliberate reaction to the historically oriented linguistics of the 19th century and subsequently established itself as the standard paradigm until the 's when it was joined, if not replaced, by generative grammar.Antonyms and Synonyms
This may be the present but need not be. Forms a dichotomy with diachronic. Structural studies of language are usually synchronic and the Indo-Europeanists of the 19th century were diachronic in their approach. It is usually implied that no attempt for linguistic generalisations is made. Unproductive processes can nonetheless be statistically common, again umlaut is unproductive but occurs with words which have a high frequency in German because they belong to the core of the language — mainly names of beings, parts of the body, etc.
Phonetics and phonology Phonetics is the study of human sounds. Phonology is the study of the sound system of a language or languages. Affricates act as units phonologically and are synchronically indivisible, e. Each segment has different realisations which are only partly distinguishable for speakers.
A phoneme can have different allophones, frequently depending on position in the word or on a preceding vowel, e. Allophones are written in square brackets. For all west European languages the Latin alphabet has been the outset for their writing systems. However, because each language has a different sound system different combinations of letters have arisen and letters have come to be written with additional symbols attached to them.
Alveolar sounds are formed with the tip or the blade of the tongue. It is preferred to inter-dental as the tongue is not usually positioned between the teeth for these sounds. The cardinal vowels are represented in a quadrangle with vowels at each corner and two closed mid and open mid vowels, a pair in the front and a pair in the back of the quadrangle. Consonants contrast with vowels in their relatively low sonority and are hence found typically in the margins of syllables, i.
A phonetic distinction is contrastive if it has significance on the phonological level, i. Indicated by a subscript diacritic representing a tooth, i. The initial sounds in English this and think are sometime referred to as dental fricatives but the description ambi-dental is more appropriate as the tip of the tongue need only be in the region of the teeth.
Not all diphthongs have phonological status in a language. Historically, diphthongs tend to develop from long vowels. It may play a role in allegro speech and possibly effect the sound system over time but cannot be assumed to be a generally valid principle on the phonological level.
Turbulence arises when air flows through a narrow gap and it is this which causes the noise typical of fricatives. Fricatives can be voiced or voiceless. The equivalent term spirant is sometimes found. It is formed with little friction and has a high degree of sonority which accounts for why glides are found near the nucleus of syllables. Sometimes called a semi-vowel. It consists of both accent concerns individual words and sentence melody concerns word groups. IPA A system of transcribing the sounds of languages which consists of some Latin and Greek letters and a variety of additional symbols and diacritics.
The goal is to represent each recognisable sound in a unique fashion. Common types are plosives, fricatives and affricates. Such word pairs are used in traditional phonology to determine the status of sounds as phonemes, e. German Kunst Gunst and English railing sailing which show that the initial sounds in all these words are phonemes in the respective languages. Note that the spelling of minimal pairs is irrelevant.
Most long vowels in German are monophthongs while those in English are diphthongs, e. An example would be the group of obstruents stops and fricatives as only these are affected by final devoicing in German.
Contrary to the opinion of many speakers, onomatopoeia is not a major principle in historical phonology. The term usually implies that the nasal cavity is not involved, e. From an evolutionary point of view one can see that these functions are secondary adaptations and specialisations of organs which have some other primary function. Each phoneme has one or more realisations, called allophones. A language's phonology is its inventory of phonemes and the rules for their combination, distribution, etc.
In a wider sense, phonology could be said to subsume phonetics as its 'surface' aspect. Phonology involves the classification of sounds and a description of the interrelationship of the elements on a systematic level. This can be anywhere from the lips at the front to the glottis the gap between the vocal folds at the back. The most common place of articulation is the alveolar ridge just behind the upper teeth.
Given its concrete nature pronunciation is a matter of phonetics rather than phonology. Received Pronunciation The standard pronunciation of British English. This stems originally from the speech of the middle and upper classes in London.
In the course of the 19th century it developed into a sociolect, particularly when adopted by the public schools, and attained a wide distribution in Wales and Scotland as well. The term was coined by the English phonetician Daniel Jones.
Multiple marking of grammatical categories is the most common case of redundancy and is often found in German, e. The rhythym of English and German is characterised by the foot which consists of a stressed syllable and all unstressed syllables up to the next stressed one.
It contrasts with the term suprasegmental which refers to those aspects of phonetic structure above the level of individual sounds. It contrasts directly with a fricative which does not involve an interruption of the airstream.
The physical correlates of stress can vary. A syllable consists of a series of sounds which are grouped around a nucleus of acoustic prominence usually a vowel. A closed syllable is one which has a coda, an open syllable has a codaless rhyme: The tongue can be divided into the following areas: The distinction between tip and blade is important for the production of dental and alveolar sounds.
The root of the tongue can be retracted in order to achieve a constriction of the larynx as with the so-called 'emphatic' sounds of Arabic. For phonological purposes a broad transcription is sufficient as long as the systemic distinctions in the particular language can be recognised. A narrow transcription is more typical of phonetics and may also be necessary in phonology where a feature relies on a phonetic basis which has to be specified. Morphology Morphology is the study of the words as they express grammatical categories.
It may vary for gender and case in languages with gender distinctions and a formal case system such as German. Both lexical and grammatical morphemes may be bound, but the number of the former is very limited, e. Sie hat ihm versprochen, nach Hause zu kommen. There are, however, many instances in which case requirements are not semantically motivated, e. For instance phonemes, grammatical morphemes and syntactic structures are a closed set but the lexicon is definitely an open class as it is continuously expanding.
The set of inflections is called a nominal paradigm. The term declension can also be used for classes of nouns which conform to a certain paradigm. It is the equivalent with nouns of the term conjugation with verbs. Not every language has such an element, though it is more common for the indefinite article to be missing. Languages furthermore vary according to whether they demand the definite article when nouns are used generically.
Word Meaning (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
This is a major difference between English and German, cf. He is interested in philosophy. There are three degrees: It contrasts explicitly with a content word which has lexical meaning. The number of inflections in a language can be taken as an indication of its type, a large number being characteristic of synthetic languages. Diachronically inflections arise from clitics which become unseparable from the lexical bases to which they are attached.
A morph usually realises a morpheme, the unit of grammar on an abstract level, e. A morpheme can be an inflection, e. A morpheme is an abstract unit and is realised by a morph; it is the approximate equivalent of a phoneme on the level of phonology. It is traditionally located between phonology the level of sounds and syntax the level of sentences.
Normally there is a distinction between singular and plural as well. There are more distinctions available than just those found in European languages, for instance languages may distinguish between a personal form for 'we' which includes the addressee and one which does not. In discourse it is used to avoid repetition of a name which has already been mentioned. All languages have a particular means for expressing this category, frequently by using a characteristic inflection.
This is taken as the unmarked or normal instance in language, the plural, or even more so the dual, being marked forms, usually with special inflections characterising them.
It is normally unalterable, though some morphological processes, such as umlaut in German, may change it. It is usually used synonymously with root.
Suffixation in one of the major operations in morphology and is undertaken to indicate grammatical categories as in stone: The set of inflectional forms of a verb is termed a conjugation parallel to declension with nouns.
Verbs are usually distinguished for person and number along with tense and mood and frequently for aspect as well. Typically word classes are nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions. In a synthetic language like German inflected words tend to be morphologically complex whereas in an analytic language like English these are usually simpler in structure. This is particularly common in English today, e.
Another name for this phenomenon is conversion. Lexicology Lexicology is the study of the structure of the lexicon. A base can itself consist of more than one morpheme whereas a root contains only one. Often the form used for a dictionary entry, typically the nominative of nouns and the infinitive of verbs in English and German. This word is thus a new word which is gained by combining two or more morphologically simpler words, e.
The term is occasionally used in syntax, as in 'a compound sentence', when referring to a sentence which consists of clauses which in turn could function as sentences on their own. Conversion is a common feature of analytical languages such as English. A lexeme subsumes a set of forms which are related semantically, e. This second use implies that a form cannot be derived by rule and hence it must be learned as an indivisible whole during language acquisition and stored in the lexicon in its full, unalterable form.
It can refer to the book form of a dictionary usually with an alphabetic listing of words or the assumed lexicon which speakers possess mentally. The precise nature and organisation of this mental lexicon is much debated in linguistic literature as it is generally assumed to be radically different in organisation from a conventional dictionary.
Frequently a borrowing but not necessarily so. For instance the German compound Kinderarzt is transparent but English pediatrician, which is derived from the Greek word for 'child' is not so.
Soviet Psychology: Thinking and Speech, Thought and Word Chapter 7. Lev Vygotsky
Former transparent compounds may change in the course of time. The English word hussey is a reduced form of 'housewife' and because of loss of transparency underwent a semantic shift to 'unpleasant woman' with the transparent housewife being re-introduced into the language. Transparent contrasts directly with opaque.
The young girl spoke to the older girl because the words the and girl occur twice. These are usually grouped into word fields so that the vocabulary can be said to show an internal structure. The term lexicon is also found here but the latter has two meanings the words of a language and one's mental storehouse for these words. Word formational processes are closely connected to a language's type: German as a synthetic language has much compounding but English as an analytic language has somewhat less, though in this sphere a tendency towards complex formations is noticeable, e.
Syntax Syntax is the study of sentence structure. A similar marking may be used after prepositions. As a term from traditional Latin grammar the term is inappropriate to modern English as the latter does not have any corresponding inflection.
This type is generally taken as more basic than a passive sentence. Adjectives in this position are termed 'attributive' while those placed after a copula are called 'predicative' as in The snow is very dry. Adjectives can themselves be qualified by adverbs as in the example just given. The category is somewhat fuzzy and tends to be used as a bin for elements which cannot be assigned unequivocably to another word class. Some adverbs can qualify a clause or an entire sentence as in Surprisingly, John left for home.
Some adjectives can only occur in this role, e. German vorder in Ein vorderer Vokal which cannot occur as a predicative adjective: There are basically two types, main clauses and subordinate clauses, which are joined by certain grammatical words such as conjunctions or subordinators.
We are talking where the plural pronoun requires the form are and that in turn demands the progressive form of the verb. Concord is also a key feature of synthetic languages which have very strict agreement requirements for classes of inflections.
A set of verbal inflections is also termed an inflectional paradigm. The term is sometimes used to refer to the class of verbs which shares sets of forms, e. This can be a recognisable part of a word as with lexical compounds or it can be a phrase in a sentence as indicated in tree representations in phrase structure grammar.