Nine Ideas About Language
Clark 5
1. Children learn their L1 swiftly,
efficiently, and largely w/o instruction
 Children are not ‘taught’ to talk
 Discover underlying rules
 Not imitation, but hypothesizing
 By school age, have already learned
majority of NL governing rules
2. Language operates by rules
Arbitrary - sounds, grammar
 Agreement among speakers to use
features/patterns consistently
 Variations are still governed by rules, and
are mutually intelligible
3. All languages have 3 major
 Lexicon
 2 definitions of grammar
4. Everyone speaks a dialect
Dialect - variety of a particular language
which has a set of distinguishing lexical,
phonological, and grammatical rules
 How do dialects occur?
 No dialect is inherently superior
5. Speakers of all languages
employ a range of styles and a set
of sub-dialects or jargons
Ability to adjust language forms to social
context - part of native understanding
 Sociolinguistic rules
 Learned late
 Jargons
 Martin Joos - 5 basic styles
 Halliday - 7 main functions
6. Language change is normal
Sounds/grammar change more slowly than
lexical changes
 Causes
New ideas/inventions
7. Languages are intimately
related to the societies and
individuals who use them
L is shaped by its speakers and their needs
 Conversely, speakers are shaped by their
 Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
8. Value judgments about
different languages or dialects
are matters of taste
Every language is a ‘fully formed, logical,
rule-governed variant of human speech’
 Prestige for the standard is the result of
prestige for its speakers/ prejudices of the
dominate speech community
 No intrinsic shortcomings of nonstandard
9. Writing is derivative of speech
Talking for half a million years, writing less than
5,000 years
Only 5% of languages have indigenous writing
Shifts in formality occur in writing, changes in
speech habits are reflected in writing
Beliefs about writing are bound to literary
Did you bring any misconceptions/
generalizations/ prejudices about language
into this class? Is there anything new you
have learned in regards to language?
 One page, double-spaced, typed response
for Wednesday, September 1st

Nine Ideas About Language