1. An Introduction to Linguistics
Faculty of Education
Department of Foreign Language Teaching
Dr. Nuray Alagözlü
2. The definition of Language
• Language is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols which permit all
people in a given culture or other people who have learned the
system of that culture, to communicate or to interact
• As system of communication by sound operating through the organs
of speech and hearing among members of a given community, and
using vocal symbols possessing arbiraryconventional meanings
• Sapir (1921:8) wrote: Language is purely human and non-instinctive
method of communicating ideas, emotions, desires, by means of
voluntarily produced symbols.
• Chomsky (1957:13) considers language to be a set (finite or infinite)
of sentences , each finite in length and constructed out of a finite
set of elements
• Language is systematic and generative. (Brown, 1987:4-5)
3. The definition of Language
• Language is a set of arbitrary symbols.
• Those symbols are primarily vocal, but may also be
• The symbols have conventionalized meanings to which
• Language is used for communication.
• Language operates in a speech community or culture.
• Language is essentially human, although possibly not
limited to humans.
• Language is acquired by all peoplein much the same
way- language and language learning both have
4. Properties of Language
• 1-Arbitrariness-There is an arbitrary relationship between the form
and the meaning of a word in spoken language. Neither the shape
nor the physical attributes of the objects determine their
pronunciation in any language.
• However there is some sound symbolism in language, which may
be called onomatopoeic which means that the sound of the words
imitate the sounds of the nature.
• For example “cockadoodledoo” represent the rooster’s crow. In
Russian, they say “kukuriku”
• Sometimes certain sounds seem to indicate a particular concept.
E.g. In English gl relate to sight. Words like glitter, glaze, glimmer,
glance, glimpse, glisten. Etc. However, there are words which have
nothing to do with “sight” such as glory, glossy, globe etc. Language
has conventional meanings, the reason of which cannot be
• Each language is a stock of sound units or phonemes
which are similar in number to the basic sounds
possessed by animals, the average number is 30-40.
each phoneme is meaningless in isolation ıt becomes
meaningful only when it is combined with other
phonemes. For example the sounds like f, g, d, o mean
nothing separately. They normally take on meaning only
when they are combined together in various ways, as in
dog, fog, god.
• This organization of language into two layers- a layer of
sounds which combine into a second layer of larger
units-is known as duality double articulation.
6. Use of sounds
• When animals communicate they do it by a
variety of ways . Bees are involved in a
complicated series of dances and crabs
communicate by waving their claws. Language
is made up of sounds. Humans produce sounds
by the help of their lungs, lips, tonguesand vocal
cords. Of course , not all the sounds we produce
are communicative. Communicative sounds
should be distinguished from unintentional
• Most animals can communicate about things in
their immediate environment For example a bird
utters its danger cry when there is something
perilious around it. This is similar to a baby’s
sounds of contentment, hunger, and pain. By
contrast, human language can communicate
about things which are absent as easly as the
things which are present.
8. Patterning (knowledge of
sentences and non-sentences)
• Many animal communication systems consist of a simple list of
elements. There is no internal organization within the system.
Human language, on the other hand, is most definitely not
haphazard heap of individual items. Humans do not juxtapose
sounds and words in a random way. Instead, they ring the changes
on a few well defined patterns.There are rules governing the
organization of the sounds. For example, the order of the words “
burglar, loudly, sneezed, the” can only be organized as
• “The burglar sneezed loudly”
• “Loudly sneezed the burglar”
• “The burglar loudly sneezed.”
• As the rules (the structure ) of English language allows the
production of such sentences.
• In animal language, there is a limited number of messages they can
send or receive, For example, dolphins in spite of their intelligence,
and large number of clicks, whistles and squawks seem to be
restricted to communicating about the same things again and again.
Even the cleverest monkey who is claimed to make 36 different
vocal sounds, is obliged to repeat these over and over. However,
human language is not restricted to a certain set of sounds. With a
limited number of sounds, infinite number of messages can be
created. Humans can produce novel sentences-utterances
whenever they want to. A person is not obliged to say the same
thing every time. He might say “ coffee please” or l would like to
have a cup of coffee” or Is there anything to drink like coffee? Every
speaker of a language can create new sentences and can
understand the sentences created.
10. Linguistic Knowledge
(Competence) and Performance
• Speakers linguistic knowledge permits them to
form longer and longer sentences by joining
sentences and phrases together or adding
modifiers to a noun. Evidently there is a
difference between having the knowledge
necessary to produce sentences of a language
and applying this knowledge. What you know
about language is your linguistic knowledge How
you use this knowledge in actual speech
production and comprehension is your linguistic
• Competence -a person’s internalized grammar of a language . This
means a person’s ability to create and understand sentences,
including sentences they have never heard before. It also includes a
person’s knowledge of what are and what are not sentences of a
particular language.For example a speaker of English would
recognize “I WANT TO GO HOME” as an English sentence but
would not accept a sentence such as “I WANT GOING HOME *
though all the words in it are English.Competence often refers to the
ideal speaker and hearer, that is an idealized, but not a real person
who would have a complete knowledge of the whole language.A
distinction is made between competence and performance, which is
the actual use of the language by individuals in speech and writing.
• Performance is how a person uses this knowledge in
producing and understanding sentences. The difference
between competence and performance can be seen in
the production of long and complex sentences. People
may have the competence to produce an infinitely long
sentence but when they actually attempt to use this
knowledge (to “perform”) there are many reasons why
they restrict the number of adjectives, adverbs , and
clauses in any sentenceThey may run out of breath or
the listener may get bored or forget what has been said if
the sentence is too long.
13. Functions of language
• Language has functions in different circumstances. When everyday talk is
examined, we become aware that there are many functions we perform by
language such as expressing fears or affection, swearing, greeting.
• As an individual a major function of language is the expression of our
personal identity- the signalling of who we are and where we belong. The
use of language tell listeners-readers about our
• Regional origin
• Social background
• Level of education
• As individuals we use language to express our opinions, ideas and feelings.
Language has an emotive or expressive function. It is the instrument of
thought and is used to speak thoughts aloud.
14. Functions of language
• As a member of society we use our language to maintain a
comfortable relationship between people and to signal friendship.
The use of such phrases such as “Good Morning” “pleased to meet
you” and ritual exchanges about health and the weather do not
communicate ideas in the usual sense , but it helps to form
friendship (Phatic Communion by Malinowski, 1942).They are
automatically produced and stereotyped in nature. E.g. In English –
weather , in Turkish – health. Language is also the expression of
social identity. Our language conveys information about who we are
and where we belong to. Language also has a unitary function. It
unites people. As in the following cases; The shooting of names
and slogans at public meetings
• The chanting of a crowd at a football match.
• The stage managed audience reactions to TV game shows
• The shouts of affirmation at some religiousmeetings.
15. Functions of language
• Language has a function of recording facts about the societies.
• Hymes (1964) classifies functions as follows;
• Function as Focus
• Expressive: To send emotions, feelings etc.
• Directive: To persuade, influence, command, the listener to bring
about changes in his or her attitude or behaviour.
• Contact: to have a physical channel between the speaker and the
• Phatic: to preface (start) communication, some kind of
psychological rapport must be created.
• Aesthetic or Poetic: Any use of language where the form itself is
intended to be of focal interest serves an aesthetic function
• Meta-linguistic: Using language to talk about language
16. Functions of language
• Function as goal:
• Requests for goods, services, information.
• Requests for social response
• Offering information or instruction
• Expressive monologues. The speaker reacts to an external
stimulus and expresses joy, sorrow, and preoccupation. The
speakerdoes not attend to the hearer’s comments which may
be minimal or absent.
• Routines. Greetings, thanks, apologies.
• Performatives: speaking as doing-that is an utterance
performs an act. E.g. “There is a vicious dog behind you”
perform the act of warning (implied), while “I promise not to be
late” performs a “promise” or “watch out” perform a warning.
17. The origin of language
• How did the language originate?
• All religions and mythologies contain stories of
language origin. Though we have no direct
knowledge of the origin and early development
of language, we have some theories about it.
• 1-The Divine source: Acc.to one view, God
created Adam and Eve and “whatsoever Adam
called every living creature, that was the name
thereof” (Genesis, 2:19) Alternatively, following a
hindu tradition , language came from the
goddess Sarasvati, wife of Brahma, creator of
the universe.In most religions there appears to
be a divine source who provides humans with
18. The origin of language
• 2-The Natural sound source (the bow-wow
theory)- Speech arose through people imitating
the sounds of the environment, especially
animal calls. Onomatopoeic words (yankıma
• Buzz, splash, cuckoo, bang, boom, hiss in
• Şırıl şırıl, patlamak, cik cik in Turkish The theory
has little support, though thera are a few
example in languages.
19. The origin of language
• 2- The oral gesture source
• Speech arose through people making instinctive sounds, caused by
pain, anger, or emotions. It is believed that there is a link between
physical gesture and orally produced sounds. The evidence is the
use of universal sounds as interjections. (like hmm, oh,gosh, wow,
ugh,) but no language has any of them.
• A quite different level of speculation on the origins of human speech
comes under this heading. This view basically focus on the
biological basis of the formation and the development of human
language. It is claimed that some physical aspects of humans were
changed as a result of a process of evolution. For example,
Neanderthal man was unable to produce speech. Undergoing a
physiological adaptation, they became able to speak. Due to the
forcing need to use language along with their physical tendency to
speak, speech arose.
20. The origin of language
• 4-The yo-heave-ho theory : Speech arose
because , as people worked together, their
physical efforts produced communal, rhythmical
grunts (homurtu), which in due course
developed into chants and thus language. The
main evidence would be the universal use of
prosodic features, especially of rhythm, (tone,
intonation, stress) but the gap between this kind
of expression and what we find in language as a
whole is so immense that an explanation for the
latter would still have to be found.
21. The origin of language
• 5-The la-la Theory: Jesperson claims that
human language is initiated from the
romantic side of life- sounds associated
with love , play, poetic feeling, perhaps
even song.The clash between the
emotional and the rational aspects of
speech needs explanation.
22. Classification of Languages
• Three different classification schemes have
been devised. Geographically, Genetically, and
• This type of classification is used when we do
not know enough about the languages in
question to categorize them acc. to their
characteristics. In that case, the geographical
divisions of that area are adopted as divisions.
23. Classification of Languages
• Languages are classified genealogically
according to their life history. The ancestors of
the language are specified, including the source
or mother language.Sisters and cousins which
all sprang up at different points in time from the
original source are noted in a family tree.The
languages of the world belong to families.The
languages of the world have similarities and
differences among them that provide for the
genetic relatedness (Historical connections