By Ronald Batchelor
A most dominant factor in the use of language is register, or variety or level of language determined by the communicative situation in which the speaker/writer finds herself/ himself. In other words, the level of language we resort to depends, to a very large extent, on whether we are speaking with friends, which would attract a colloquial style, writing a letter, delivering a lecture involving a standard style, or writing a book frequently entailing a formal, elevated style of expression. Levels of language may therefore differ over a range from informal to formal, and are determined by four factors: sex, age, professional or social status, and intimacy. All these features affect, in varying degrees, the way we . . . → Read More: A note on Register, or Level of Language, in Spanish
by Ronald Batchelor
To the English-speaking beginner, the notion of masculine and feminine gender for French nouns comes as a surprise. Perhaps it should not be so. For in most European languages of Indo-European origin, and this includes Arabic, Pashto, Hindi, among many others, but excludes Basque, Finnish, Hungarian or Turkish, gender distinction forms an integral part of grammatical discourse. But let’s play the devil’s advocate. For such a beginner, the concept of gender assigned to inanimate objects appears extraordinary, lacking all logic and convincing definition. So much for the logic of “Ce qui n’est pas logique n’est pas français.” It seems to make more sense that gender should find no place when applied to inanimate objects, as in English. . . . → Read More: A note on the Concept of Gender in French
by Louise Cummings
Nottingham Trent University, UK
As academic researchers, linguists are increasingly being asked to demonstrate the impact of their work on the lives of individuals and on the growth of national economies. There is one field within linguistics where impact is more readily demonstrated than in any other. This is the study of the many ways in which language and communication can break down or fail to develop normally in children and adults with communication disorders. These disorders are the focus of a recently published handbook, the Cambridge Handbook of Communication Disorders, which brings together 30 chapters on all aspects of the classification, assessment and treatment of communication disorders. The chapters in this volume will speak for themselves. . . . → Read More: Communication Disorders in an Age of Impact
Posted on behalf of Editors William Labov and Dennis Preston
Cambridge University Press is pleased to announce the launch of the new online-only Journal of Linguistic Geography (JLG). The journal’s goal is to open the flow of linguistic analysis using electronic formats (such as scalable maps and figures, searchable data sets, and embedded audio files) in a field that has long been blocked by technical factors. For all new subscribers, a comprehensive User Experience Guide provides an overview of the journal’s interactive capacities. Submissions to the journal are welcome and may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Queries are welcome, too.
The journal is an official publication of the International Conference on Methods in Dialectology. Editors Bill Labov (University of Pennsylvania) . . . → Read More: Cambridge University Press announces launch of the Journal of Linguistic Geography
Published on behalf of Aline Godfroid, Paula Winke and Susan Gass
Understanding how languages are learned involves investigating the cognitive processes that underlie acquisition. Many methodologies have been used over the years to comprehend these processes, but one of recent prominence is eye-movement recording, colloquially referred to as eye-tracking. Eye-tracking consists of the registration, in real time, of what an individual looks at and for how long. Thus, eye-trackers provide information about the duration and location of an individual’s eye movements on a computer screen as he or she reads text or listens to audio. Because eye-tracking is still a relatively novel technique in research on adult second language learning, we put together a thematic issue on this topic. The . . . → Read More: Taking the pulse of eye-movement research: Special issue of Studies in Second Language Acquisition.
By Iris Berent Northeastern University, Boston
Humans weave phonological patterns instinctively. We contrast dogs and gods, favour blogs to lbogs; we begin forming patterns at birth; and like songbirds, we do so spontaneously, even in the absence of an adult model. In fact, we impose phonological design not only on our natural linguistic communication but also on invented cultural technologies—reading and writing. Why are humans compelled to generate phonological patterns? And why do different phonological systems—signed and spoken—share aspects of their design?
In The Phonological Mind, I outline a novel answer to these questions. The answer encompasses two claims. The first is that phonology is an algebraic system—it comprises powerful rules, akin to syntactic generalizations. For example, speakers whose language . . . → Read More: The Phonological Mind
Part 6. Gumbo: The thought–language–hand link, social interactive growth points, the timeline of Mead’s Loop, and bionic language.
David McNeill, University of Chicago
To end this series, I address four questions regarding Mead’s Loop: 1) what evidence is there for the thought-language-hand link that in theory it established; 2) how did it change face-to-face social interaction; 3) when did it emerge; and 4) how far can it be duplicated artificially? The questions, disparate as they are, are connected through the concept of the growth point, which is the linchpin of each.
The “IW case” reveals the thought–language–hand link
Natural selection of a thought-language-hand link, chiefly in Broca’s Area but also with links to the other “language areas” indicated in . . . → Read More: The origin of language in gesture–speech unity
Part 5: The dynamic dimension, modes of consciousness.
David McNeill, University of Chicago
The dual semiosis of global-synthetic gesture, merging with analytic-combinatoric speech, synchronizing at points where they are co-expressive – namely, gesture–speech unity – led to other dynamic properties: the imagery–language dialectic, and three others, “psychological predicates,” “communicative dynamism,” and that GPs self-unpack by “calling” constructions to do it.
Collectively these properties comprise “the sentence” viewed dynamically. Dynamic properties arose organically out of Mead’s Loop. They would not have been separately selected. They are among the “new actions” mentioned in Part 4, are themselves linked and are inseparable from context. The context, dynamic in itself, penetrates GPs and leads ineluctably to dynamic properties.
We will also see that Wundt’s . . . → Read More: The origin of language in gesture–speech unity
Part 4: Mead’s Loop (2). Wider consequences.
David McNeill, University of Chicago
As it evolved Mead’s Loop created “new actions,” as mentioned previously. New actions are one of the “wider consequences” of Mead’s Loop. Action itself was a target of natural selection, and the new actions emerged organically. They did not need a separate evolution. A second consequence is metaphoricity. A third is the emblem, a culturally established gesture with metaphoricity at the core. A fourth is how children acquire language – twice, the first of which goes through the equivalent of extinction. A fifth (many more can be identified) is what phenomenologist philosophy calls “being” – “inhabiting” gesture and speech, rather than only displaying them as elements of communication.
. . . → Read More: The origin of language in gesture–speech unity
Part 3: Mead’s Loop (1).
by Professor David McNeill
Part 1 of this series put forth the idea that language is inseparable from imagery, in particular the imagery of gesture, and that theories of language origin can be judged by how well they predict this gesture–speech unity. The second part applied the test to a widely held origin theory, gesture-first, and found it wanting – doubly so, in fact. This part applies the test to a new hypothesis, which I call “Mead’s Loop.”
Mead’s Loop holds that gesture was essential in the origin of language. In this it agrees with gesture-first, but differs in that, it says, gesture and speech had to be naturally selected together. Rather than gesture-first . . . → Read More: The origin of language in gesture–speech unity