Introduction to linguistics
Prof. Dr. Linas Selmistraitis
Mykolas Romeris University
• The system of communication in speech or writing that is used by people of a
particular country or area (OALD).
• Language is a primarily human and non-instinctive method of communicating
ideas, emotions and desire by means of a system of voluntarily produced
symbols (E. Sapir).
• Language is a system of conventional, spoken or written symbols by means
of which human beings, as members of a social group and participants in
its culture, communicate (Encyclopaedia Britannica).
natural of artifcial like Esperanto, human or non-human, to
language in general.
• To lead you to examine your own linguistic beliefs and attitudes;
• To make you aware of the diversity of linguistic systems;
• To give you a reasonable taste of most of the subfields of linguistics:
phonetics, phonology, morphology, semantics, syntax, pragmatics,
historical linguistics, psycholinguistics, and sociolinguistics;
• To equip you with some tool and techniques for linguistic analysis.
üEvery language is enormously complex.
üDespite this enormous complexity, every language is systematic, often in
ways that are hidden and surprising (relationships in language are called
üNot only is language systematic, but it is systematic on many levels, from the
system of sounds to the organization of discourse.
üLanguages vary systematically from person to person, area to area, situation
to situation. Speakers are not consciously aware of most of this variation.
üLanguages are diverse. There are surprising differences in the ways individual
languages are organised.
languages. That is, there are characteristics shared by all languages as
well as characteristics no language can have.
ü It is not easy for speakers of a language to reflect on their speech. We
are often not aware of rules that govern our speech. The same is with
principles that govern ball throwing or riding a bicycle.
ü The attitudes that people hold about their language or other languages
can be very different from the facts about them.
ü Speech is the primary manifestation of language, and writing is only a
ü Although children learn their first language, they cannot really be said
to be taught it. They intuit the rule of their language from what they
üLinguists try to give accounts of the properties of a language.
üLinguists try to determine the ways in which all languages are alike and the
ways in which they differ.
a means of communication. That is conveying and obtaining of
v Physiological function. Language helps us to release inner energy, physical
energy (fans of sports).
v Social function. Greeting formulas do not require answers.
v Identifying function. Through words we identify objects, or entities, we talk
v Reasoning function. We think through words.
Referential – relating to entities in the outside world (notional elements).
Non-referential – not relating to the entities in the outside world (functional
v teach + er
v il + legal
v gold + en
v re + write
v write + ing
v over + cook
joining them into sentences.
• allomorphic features
Vladimir Skalichka: “If in a particular language there is A, B should be as well”.
• Writing is more perfect than speech.
• Women generally speak better than men.
• There are “primitive” languages with only a few hundred words.
• French is clearer and more logical language than English or German.
• People who say Nobody ain’t done nothin’ cannot think logically.
• Swearing degrades a language.
need to study for years in school to learn to speak their language
• Some people can pick up a language in a couple of weeks.
• It’s easier to learn Chinese if your ancestry is Chinese.
• All Native Americans speak dialects of the same language.
• The only reasonable way to arrange words in a sentence is to start with the
subject and follow with the verb.
• English is a simpler (and more simple) language than Latin or Greek.
distinguishes singular nouns from plural nouns by adding an
ending in the plural.
• The only ways deaf people can communicate are by writing, by reading lips, and
by spelling out English with their fingers.
• People all over the world indicate yeas or no by the same gestures of the head
that we use.
• Many animals have languages much like human beings.
• You can almost always recognise Jews and Afro-Americans by the way they talk.
• Correct spelling preserves a language.
• The more time parents spend teaching their children the better their children
• The more words you know in a language, the better you know the language.
• Nouns refer to people, places, or things.
• Speech is primary and writing is secondary.
• Speech is primary and writing is secondary.
• Writing is a two-stage process.
• Writing was first utilised in Sumer /ˈsuːmər/ about 5000 years ago. Spoken
language has probably been used by human for thousands of years.
is a historical region in Western Asia situated within the
Tigris–Euphrates river system, in modern days roughly corresponding to
most of Iraq, Kuwait, parts of Northern Saudi Arabia, the eastern parts of
Syria, Southeastern Turkey, and regions along the Turkish–Syrian and Iran–
Mesopotamia from the beginning of written history (4000 BC).
History of Sumer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDJa2sLNYZs
systems at the end of the fourth millennium. The first written language in
Mesopotamia is called Sumerian. Over time these signs became more
abstract and wedge-like, or “cuneiform”.
wedge-shaped mark on a clay tablet.
Explanations of cuneiform: www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UHRQwl1lH0
• Example of modern day scientists’ personal experience:
• Epic of Gilgamesh and The Flood Tablet
• During its 3,000-year history cuneiform was used to write around 15 different
languages including Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Elamite,
Hittite, Urartian and Old Persian.
scholars searched for proof of the places and events recorded in the Bible.
Confirmation of cuneiform reading success came in 1857.
• “When we study human language, we are approaching what some might call
the “human essence”, the distinctive qualities of mind that are, so far as we
know, unique to man” (Noam Chomsky Language and Mind).
• Linguistics is the science that describes and classifies languages.
• The product of writing is usually more aptly worded and better organised,
containing fewer errors, hesitations, and incomplete sentences than are
found in speech.
• Writing is intimately associated with education and educated speech.
• Speech is ephemeral and transient but because of its physical medium,
writing lasts and can be preserved for a very long time.
in Vermont is named Disa, after a Viking queen.
• Linguistic competence is a person’s potential to speak language.
• Linguistic performance is the realisation of that potential.
• Linguistic knowledge as represented in the speaker’s mind is called grammar.
• In phonetics we study the description of vocal organs, which come under the
field of biology, and the articulation of sound, its transmission and audition,
which is an area of physics.
• Articulatory phonetics is the study of the movement of the speech organs in the
articulation of the speech.
• Acoustic phonetics deals with the physical properties of speech sounds such as
frequency and amplitude in their transition.
• Auditory phonetics describes the hearing and perception of the speech sounds.
system of a particular language.
• Morphology describes the patterns of formation of words by
the combination of sounds into minimal distinctive units of
meaning called morphemes.
• Syntax is a branch of grammar which studies the arrangement of words in
sentence and the means by which the relations are maintained.
• Cordelia was Lear’s youngest daughter.
• She loved him.
• Cordelia, who was Lear’s youngest daughter, loved him.
• Every speaker of language has a dictionary or lexicon in their
head with all the words which they know.
Lexicology is the science about words.
• Speakers also know quite a lot what the expressions in their
language mean or signify and it is this knowledge which
makes the patterns of sounds or gesture symbolic.
Semantics is study of meaning.