Language & Corpus Linguistics Chap 03 (pp.75-112): W. Teubert. from Halliday, et al. (2004). Lexicology and corpus linguistics: An introduction. London: Continuum. Philologists: The pre-modern linguists Pre-modern linguistics in Europe was not concerned with the productivity of language. From the Middle Ages well into the nineteenth century, linguists were philologists, which was, at the time, more or less synonymous with classicists. Their research was on 'dead' languages: Latin, Greek and Hebrew. Their aim was not to produce new texts in these languages; they wanted to understand the texts we had inherited from ancient times. The rules they came up with were rules to help us make sense of the sentences. The rules were meant to describe what we were confronted with in the texts; they were not designed to empower us to become competent speakers of ancient Greek. The Philologist The philologists may not have had a scientific method. And yet we inherited from them the academic editions of classical and oriental texts we are still using today, together with comprehensive dictionaries, or rather glossaries, citing each noteworthy occurrence of any word embedded in its contexts and still providing an irreplaceable aid in understanding these texts. The emergence of modern linguistics In the nineteenth century we find a novel interest in languages, different from traditional philology. It was the century when the enlightenment finally bore fruit and nature began to be understood in terms of the laws of nature. All the academic glamour now rested with the sciences. The hermeneutical approach to language was not interested in immutable, eternal laws or rules. But that did not necessarily mean that there weren't any. The first domain of this new 'scientific' approach to language was the study of relationships among languages. That became the starting point of modern linguistics. The modern linguistics To the linguists of the nineteenth century who found patterns of changes in the Indo-European languages, it seemed that the phonetic changes these words underwent in the course of history were governed by laws. The new linguists wanted to discover the laws of phonetic change. It had become possible to describe language in terms of rules; rules that did not involve any decision-making on the part of the linguists, rules that produced results that had to be objectively correct once you accepted the premises. The modern linguistics The modern linguists who succeeded the philologists saw themselves as scientists. They were not interested in the mental processes linked to language but wanted to investigate the structure of language, based on analyses of texts, in order to understand the language system behind it. They wanted to describe a system of rules and means that existed independently of its individual speakers and its historical development. What is grammar? Winter’s and Sinclair’s view Utterance: a sequence of signs which represent the content, which stand in place of the content. The utterance 'a Martian scientist visits Earthlings' can be said to represent an image, a photograph or a mental image which is two- or even three-dimensional. But the utterance is always a one dimensional string of signs. John Sinclair, citing the grammarian E. O. Winter that 'grammar is needed because you cannot say everything at the same time'. This is certainly the reason why all natural languages need grammar, and perhaps also why these various grammars can be described if not in identical, then in very similar terms. What’s grammar? Chomsky’s view All humans share the same language faculty, an innate faculty that regulates the ways signs are to be organised so that they become utterances. This is what is called grammar. In Chomsky's view, the innate language faculty shapes the grammar. Language Universals (A Chomskyan view) Chomsky sees the language organ as an apparatus that gives limited options. Adjectives can precede the noun they modify, or they can follow it. But all languages have adjectives and nouns and several other parts of speech. Language Universals (A Chomskyan view) Languages resemble each other because their phonology, syntax, and morphology can be described in the same - or at least similar – terms. For mainstream linguists, languages are all more or less the same, which may follow different rules, but are made up of the same entities and share many properties. Grammar and competence (A Chomskyan view) Chomsky's revolution in linguistics is about the generative power of rules, which do not describe what is there but what is possible. This focus on the generative aspect of language has changed the agenda of linguistics. The role of linguistics is no longer to interpret what we find in existing texts, but to describe the language faculty, or, in abstract terms, the competence of a speaker to produce new grammatical sentences. Lexical entry/item Each lexical entry consists of the word, an indication of the part of speech it belongs to, and the syntactic and semantic properties it has. boy a noun, countable (hence there is a plural boys), it fits into a slot (i.e. a terminal element of the syntactic structure of a given sentence), which asks for a word denoting a human being (such as the subject and the object position of the verb love). 'Big boys love intelligent girls. adjective + noun + (transitive) verb + adjective + noun. Each noun and the verb exemplifies a slot into which we can insert a suitable lexical element taken from the lexicon. Similar but not the same 'This is a fake diamond.‘ Is fake a noun or an adjective? cf: big, which is gradable (big, bigger, biggest); but not fake, faker, fakest ‘The house is big.” ‘The diamond is fake.' ‘The diamond is a fake.' fake as a noun that can be used as an adjective? fake as an adjective that can be used as a noun? Grammar vs. Vocabulary We seem to have much less difficulty in learning the syntax of a foreign language than its vocabulary. It is not always too difficult to construe grammatically correct sentences in a second language. But unless we are acquainted with it very thoroughly, we will make mistakes when we try to put our thoughts into words or to translate a text from our native language. Grammar vs. Vocabulary The meaning of words, as compared with the regularities of phonetic change and sentence construction, is generally fuzzy and vague, not only when we compare one language with another, but also from a monolingual perspective. Words, single words, may be the ideal core units when it comes to describing the working of grammar. But they are much less the appropriate core units when we are interested in meaning. Single words are commonly ambiguous. Dictionaries capture this ambiguity by assigning two or more word senses to a word. Word meaning in context Usually we have no problem understanding what a sentence means. This is because we do not look at the words in isolation, but embedded in a context. We read a word together with the words to its left and to its right; we have no problem in knowing what a word means. Ambiguity is a consequence of our misguided belief that the single word is the unit of meaning. Units of meaning are, by definition, unambiguous; they have only one meaning. While some words are units of meaning, many are not. Collocation This enquiry into meaning makes the case that meaning is an aspect of language and cannot be found outside of it. It is entirely within the confines of the discourse that we can find the answer to what a unit of meaning means, be it a single word or, more commonly, a collocation, i.e. the co-occurrence of two or more words. A unit of meaning is a word (often called the node or keyword) plus all those words within its textual context that are needed to disambiguate this word, to make it monosemous. Collocation Compare fire and enemy fire Fire is therefore not a unit of meaning. The collocation enemy fire, meaning 'the shooting of projectiles from weapons by the enemy in an armed conflict‘, is (under normal circumstances) monosemous, and is therefore a unit of meaning.