Showing posts with label Linguistics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Linguistics. Show all posts

Syntax in Linguistics


          The word syntax is derived from a Greek word meaning 'ordering together', 'systematic arrangement', or 'putting together'. It is the study of sentence-building, of the ways in which words are arranged together in order to make larger units. A syntactic analysis is generally concerned with sentences and the constituents of sentences. Briefly speaking, syntax is the grammar of sentences; it is the, science of sentence construction. 'It is perhaps best to define syntax negatively, as the study of the combinations of such morphemes as are not bound on the levels of either inflection or derivation' (Robert A.Hall, 1969:91). By this definition, most of the elements involved in syntactical combinations will indeed be free, but some will be phrasally or clausally bound.

          There are two quite distinct areas of syntax, one related to morphology, the other wholly or largely unrelated to it. In the past morphology dealt with the ways in which words are built up and syntax with the ways in which they combine with each other to form sentences. It was Saussure who pointed out that 'morphology' has no distinctly autonomous object. It cannot, he said, be distinguished from syntax. It was Saussure, too who demonstrated that lexicology cannot be isolated from either syntax or morphology. 'Morphology, syntax and lexicology interpenetrate because every synchronic fact is identical. No line of demarcation can be drawn in advance.'

          However, the chief concern of syntax is the sentence which is the maximal unit of grammatical analysis, and the minimal syntactic level is the morpheme. Sentence may be analysed segmentally into phonological units called phonemes and syllables; into morphological units called morphemes and words; and into syntactic units called phrases; and clauses. At the same time, sentences may be described suprasegmentally in respect of the prosodemes of length, stress and pitch and intersegmentally in respect of the prosodeme of syllable transition or juncture. Some linguists, notably of the school of Transformational-Generative Grammar are trying to study the maximal linguistic units through a fusion of all these approaches. They have closely inter-related all the components of language: the phonological, syntactical grammatical (fusing morphology and syntax together) and semantic.

                                   Semantics              Syntax           Phonology

          Nevertheless, syntax, not only to the Transformational Grammarians but also to a number of other linguists, is the core, the centre of grammar. And the linguists are interested in two aspects of this structuring of language. First, they are interested in the patterns underlying the sentence and its constituents. Secondly, they are interested in that syntactic devices used to link the constituents together, and the rules that transform one structure into another (the deep structure into immediate/surface) structure.



           Psycholinguistics is a recent branch of linguistics developed in the sixties. It is the study of interrelationship of psychological and linguistic behaviour. It uses linguistic concepts to describe psychological processes connected with the acquisition and use of language. As a distinct area of interest psycholinguistics developed in the early sixties, and in its early form covered acoustic phonology and language pathology. But now-a-days it has been influenced deeply by the development of generative theory, and its most important area of investigation has been language acquisition. It has raised and has partly answered questions such as how do children acquire their mother tongue? How do they grow up linguistically and learn to handle the registral and stylistic varieties of their mother tongue effectively? How much of the linguistic system that they ultimately command are they born with and how much do they discover on the basis of their exposure to language?

          In its early form, psycholinguistics covered the psychological implications of an extremely broad area, from acoustic phonetics to language pathology. Now-a-days, certain areas of language and linguistic theory tend to be concentrated on by the psycholinguist. Much of psycholinguistics has been influenced by generative theory and the so-called mentalists. The most important area is the investigation of the acquisition of language by children. In this respect there have been many studies of both a theoretical and a descriptive kind. The descriptive need is impelled by the fact that until recently hardly anything was known about the actual facts of language acquisition in children, in particular about the order in which grammatical structures were acquired. Even elementary questions as when and how the child develops its ability to ask question syntactically, or when it learns the inflectional system of its language, remained unanswered. And a great deal of work has been done recently on the methodological and descriptive problems related to the obtaining and analysing information of this kind.

          The theoretical questions have focused on the issue of how we can account for the phenomenon of language development in children at all. Normal children have mastered most of the structures of their language by the age of five or six. The generative approach argued against the earlier behaviourist assumptions that it was possible to explain language development largely in terms of imitation and selective reinforcement. It asserted that it was impossible to explain the rapidly or the complexity of language used by the people around them.

          Psycholinguists therefore argue that imitation is not enough; it is not merely by mechanical repetition that children acquire language. They also acquire it by natural exposure. Both nature and nurture influence the acquisition of language in children. Children learn first not items but systems. Every normal child comes to develop this abstract knowledge of his mother tongue even of a foreign language to some extent for himself, and the generative approach argues that such a process is only explicable if one postulates that certain features of this competence are present in the brain of the child right from the beginning. 'In other words, what is being claimed is that the child's brain contains certain innate characteristics which pre-structure' it in the direction of language learning. To enable these innate features to develop into adult competence, the child must be exposed to human language, i.e. it must be stimulated in proper to respond. But the basis on which it develops its linguistic abilities is not describable in behaviourist terms.' (David Crystal, Linguistics, p. 256)

          The boundary between psycholinguistics and linguistics is becoming increasingly blurred as the result of recent developments in linguistics which aim to give psychological reality to the description of language. Chomsky regards linguistics as a subfield of psychology, more specially the cognitive psychology. His view of linguistics, as outlined for instance, in his book Language and Mind, is that the most important contribution linguistics can make is to the study of the human mind. The bonds between psychology and linguistics become more and more strong by the extent to which language is influenced by and itself influences such things as memory, motivation, attention, recall and perception.

          Similarly psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics are coming closer since the realization that merely grammatical competence is not enough; we have to aim at communicative competence too. Whereas psycholinguistics is language and the mind, sociolinguistics is language and community. In other words, psycholinguistics can be said to deal with language and the individual, and sociolinguistics with languages and society.


          About sixty years ago, Edward Sapir introduced a valuable new concept into linguistics. 'Language,' he wrote,' moves down time in a current of its own making. It has a drift... Nothing is perfectly static. Every word, every grammatical element, every locution, every sound and accent is a slowly changing configuration, moulded by the invisible and impersonal....' (E. Sapir, Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech, New York, repr. 1942). Of all linguistic elements, meaning is probably the least resistant to change. There is a proverb in our villages which says that language changes every six miles. One of the result is that "all grammars leak! because language is not a static entity. While defining language we have already said that language is 'modifiable, extendable' and that language changes in time and space.

          Living language, indeed, never hold still. All of them are continually changing their sounds, their grammar, their vocabulary and their meaning for various reasons. A look at the old inscriptions and manuscripts, at Chaucer or Shakespeare shows how many of English sounds and spellings have changed. For example the final 'e' in numerous Chaucerian words is no more seen in modern English; the sound phonetically /i/ which occurs before /u/ in words such as tune, duty, muse, has disappeared in words such as rute, flute. Once expression 'It is me' was ungrammatical, but now it is the quite acceptable.

          But for the most part these changes are gradual and systematic and minor. They are so natural that they escape our attention as they occur and remain imperceptible. Over a span of centuries, however, their cumulative effect is noticeable. 'It is only by a necessary fiction that we treat linguistic systems, for the purposes of synchronic analysis, as if they were static and unchanging. The linguistic analyst's first task is the synchronic description of linguistic structures; his second task is to formulate the changes that take place in language with the passage of time, through irreversible alterations'(Hall 1969).

          But the astonishing thing about language is not the fact that it changes, but that it changes so little not to disturb its equilibrium or upset its basic characteristics. Furthermore, language changes in an orderly and integrated fashion. No sound change is an isolated incident. In an interrelated system, a change in one item automatically affects all the other items by a chain reaction. 'Language, like thermostat, is self regulating, constantly readjusting itself in an attempt to maintain an equilibrium'. But a perfect equilibrium is impossible for various reasons, main being the irregular layout of the speech organs.


          Language has a tendency to change from complexity towards simplicity, from length towards precision, from difficulty towards ease, from disorder towards order. Need or uniformity or diversity, desire for novelty, need for new expressions because of new inventions, discoveries, developments, and need to find words for new objects, concepts and places cause language change. 

          Language changes because of linguistic, social, cultural, psychological historical and geographical factors too. According to Saussure, language changes due to the innovations of individuals and of community, and historical reasons. Bloomfield gives several accounts of linguistic change and concludes that sound change arises from the preference for one non-distinctive variant of a phoneme over another. Changes in the syntax or phonology or meaning of a language also result from borrowing which, in most cases, takes place because of prestige'. Neighbouring dialects and languages as well as foreign languages also effect linguistic changes. 


          Minimal units of grammatical structure, such as the four components of un faith fulness are called morphemes. Telephones has three morphemes 

[tele}, phone, and {-s} while telephone has two and phone just one. Morphemes are customarily described as minimal units of grammatical analysis the-units of 'lowest rank of which words, the units of next 'highest rank are composed. So morphemes are those distinct, minimal syntactical units which form words. They can also be defined as the minimal units of meaning out of which meaningful words are composed in various ways. 

          A morpheme thus is a distinct linguistic form. It is a minimal unit of speech that is recurrent. It has a grammatical function. It is a semantically different form other phonemically similar or identical linguistic forms, and is not divisible or analyzable into smaller forms. If we try to break or analyze a morpheme into its constituents, it loses its identity, and we end up with a sequence of meaningless noises, e.g., nation (na+tion, or nati+on). Analyzing the morphomes leads us straight into the realm of phonology.

          Morphemes may or may not have meaning, may or may not have a phonological representation, {un-} has a negative meaning in unfriendly unhealthy, unable, unemployed and many other words, but is meaningless in under. 

{-er} has a constant meaning in teacher, heater, reader, writer, speaker, painter, leader, etc. But it would be difficult to pin down any constant meaning for spect in respect, inspect circumspect, for pre in and spectacle protest, professor, prospective, process, proceed, etc. In plural words like sheep, fish we have two morphemes in each words; the first morpheme in each case has a phonological representation but the second one has no phonological representation and is called morpheme. Morphologically the plural noun sheep is {sheep}+{}, that is to say that the word 'sheep' is made up of two morphemes sheep plus a plural morpheme which is present in the meaning but is not physically present in spelling or pronunciation.

          Morphemes sometimes vary in their phonological manifestations. Pro, for instance, is pronounced different in profess and the noun progress. The plural morpheme is pronounced {s} in words like cats, maps and snacks; {z}in dogs, hands, and ideas; {iz} in words like churches, judges, classes; but it has no phonetic form at all in the plural nouns such as sheep, fish, etc. Then there are completely idiosyncratic forms such as oxen, children, brethren. It is not always clear whether or not a given sound sequence, should be considered a morpheme. For instance, should animal be said to consist of two morphemes anima (a) and (b) I, or just one? consider natural: it has two morphemes {nature} and {-al}. Shouldn't we then regard woman as a word having two morphemes {wo-} and {man}? A sound sequence is a morpheme in some words; it is not in some others. Un clearly in a morpheme in unnatural and unfaithful but it is not a morpheme in under or sun.

          A morpheme may be monosyllabic as {man} and {a/an/the} or polysyllabic as {happy} and {nature}.

          A morpheme has been called 'a grammatical moneme' by Martinet. Another synonym for the morpheme is 'glosseme'.

          Morphemes are usually put into braces, i.e. curly brackets {} { the } { help }{ -less } { boy }{  -s }


          Any phonemic shape or representation of a phoneme is a morph (Hockott). Each morph, like each phone, or each person or each day, happens only once and then it is gone. To quote John Lyons, "When the word can be segmented in to pact, these segments are referred to as morphs." Thus the word shorter is analyzable in two morphs, which can be written orthographically as short and er, and in a phonological transcription /t/ and //. Each morph represents a particular morpheme, but each morpheme does not have a morph. For example, the plural noun sheep has one morph, but it has two morphemes {sheep} and {} went has one morph, but two morpheme {go} and [ed}.



           It frequently happens that a particular morpheme is not represented everywhere by the same morph, but by different morphs in different environments. The alternative phonological manifestation or representations of such a morpheme are called allomorphs or 'morpheme alternats' or 'morpheme variant'. An allomorph, therefore, is a non-distinctive variant of a morpheme. Or, it may be called a family or class of morphs which are phonemically and semantically identical, that is, an allomorph is a family of morphs which are alike in two ways: (1) in the allophones of which they are composed and, (ii) in the meaning which they have" (Nelson Francis).

          The allomorphs are phonologically conditioned. Their forms are dependent on the adjacent phonemes. Or else, they are morphologically conditioned. That is when morphemes are affected by their phonological environment 'sandhi', they become allomorphs. For example, /-z/, /-s/, and  /-iz/, are the various allomorphs of the plural morpheme {-z} in English.

          The study of different shapes of allomorphs is half way between phonology and morphology and is sometimes referred to as morphophonology or morphonology. In America where phonology, is considered as part of descriptive, synchronic linguistics has relied phonemic analysis, the term morphophonemic is used for this aspect of grammar.


          Language is a social-cultural-geographical phenomenon. There is a deep relationship between language and society. It is in society that man acquires and uses language. When we study a language which is an abstraction of abstractions, a system of systems, we have to study its further abstractions such as dialects, sociolects, idiolects, etc. That is why we have to keep in mind the geographical area in which this language is spoken, the culture and the society in which it is used, the context and situation in which it is used, the speakers who use it, the listeners for whom it is used and the purpose for which it is used besides the linguistic components that compose it. Only then can our study of a language be complete and comprehensive. So we must look at language not only from within but also from without: we should study language from both the points of view of form and functions. Socio-linguistics is the study of speech functions according to the speaker. the hearer, their relationship and contact, the context and the situation. The topic of discourse, the purpose of discourse, and the form of the discourse. An informal definition of socio-linguistic suggested by a linguist is the study of: "Who can say what how, using what means, to whom and why." It studies the causes and consequences of linguistic behaviour in human societies: it is concerned with the function of language, and studies language from without.

          Socio-linguistics is a fascinating and challenging field of linguistics. It studies the ways in which language interacts with society. It is the study of the way in which the structure of a language changes in response to its different social functions, and the definition of what these functions are 'Society, here is to cover a spectrum of phenomena to do to with race, nationality, more restricted regional, social and political groups, and the interactions of individuals within groups. Different labels have sometimes been suggested to cover various parts of this spectrum. ETHNOLINGUISTICS is sometimes distinguished from the rest, referring to the linguistic correlates and problems of ethnic groups-illustrated at a  practical level by the linguistic consequences of immigration; there is a language side to race relations. The term ANTHROPOLOGICAL LINGUISTICS is sometimes distinguished from 'sociological linguistics', depending on one's particular views as to the validity or otherwise of a distinction between anthropology and sociology in the first place (for example, the former studying primitive cultures, the latter studying more 'advanced political units; but this distinction is not maintained by many others). 'Stylistics, is another label which is sometimes distinguished, referring to the study of the distinctive linguistics characteristics of smaller social groupings. (But more usually, stylistics refers to the study of the literary expression of a community, using linguistics gradually merges into ethno-linguistics, anthropological linguistics, stylistics and the subject matter of psychology.

          Broadly speaking, however, the study of language as part of culture and society has now commonly been accepted as SOCIOLINGUISTICS. But there are also some other expressions which have been used at one time or another, including the sociology of language', 'social linguistics', 'institutional linguistics', 'anthropological linguistics', linguistic anthropology', 'ethnolinguistics', the 'ethnography of communication', etc.

          The scope of socio-linguistics, therefore, is the interaction of language and various sociologically definable variables such as social class, specific social situation, status and roles of speakers/hearers, etc. As J.B. Pride says, socio-linguistics is not simply 'an amalgam of linguistics and sociology (or indeed of linguistics and any other of the social sciences). It incorporates, in principle at least, every aspect of the structure and use of language that relates to its social and cultural function. Hence there seems no real conflict between the socio-linguistics and the psycho-linguistic approach to language. Both these views should be reconciled ultimately. Linguisticians like John Lyons and cognitive psychologists like Campbell and Wales advocate the necessity of widening the notion of competence to take account of a great deal of what might be called the social context of speech.

          No doubt that the study of language as part of culture and society has the now commonly accepted label sociolinguistics.' But there are also some other expressions which have been used at one time or another, including the sociology of language,' 'social linguistics,' 'institutional linguistics,"sociological linguistics', 'anthropological linguistics', anthropology', ethnolinguistics', and 'the ethnography communication,



1. Code

'A code' is an arbitrary, pre-arranged set of signals' (Gleason, 1968:374). A language is merely one special variety of code. The total organization of various linguistic components in a language is the code of that language. It is an abstract system which happens to be accepted arbitrarily in the community which uses it.

2. Dialect and Socioleot

A regional, temporal or social variety within a single language is a dialect; it differs in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary from the standard language, which is in itself n socially favoured dialect, 8o a dialect is a variation of langungo sufficiently different to be considered a separate entity, but not different enough to be classed as a separate language. Sometimes it is difficult to decide whether a variant constitutes a dialectal sub-division or a different language, since it may be blurred by political boundaries, eg between Dutch and some Low German dialects. Regional dialects (or local or geographical or territorial dialects) are spoken by the people of a particular geographical area within a speech community, e.g. Cockney in London, but due to the increase in education and mobility they are receding.

Sociolects (social dialects or class dialects), on the other hand, are spoken by the members of a particular group of stratum of a speech community.

3. Isogloss

An isogloss is 'a line indicating the degree of linguistic change' (Gleason 1963 : 398). "On linguistic maps, a line separating the areas (called isogloss area) in which the language differs with respect to a given feature of features, i.e. a line making the boundaries within which a given linguistic feature or phenomenon can be observed (A Dictionary of Linguistics).

So an isogloss is a representation of statistical probabilities, a graphic way of portraying a translation in speech characteristics from one area to another, a bundle of isoglosses may be interpreted as marking a zone of relative great translation in speech. We may, therefore, think of it as indicating dialect boundary. It is a term modelled on geographical terms like isotherm (a line joining areas of equal temperature) and isobar (a line joining areas of equal atmospheric pressure). It is in contrast to another linguistic term isograph, i.e. 'any line on a linguistic map, indicating a uniformity in the use of sounds, vocabulary, syntax, inflection, etc'.

Though an isogloss is a convenient way of description, but may be misleading if the apparent sharpness of distinction between the areas is not carefully discounted. The reading of the isoglosses is even more dangerous, since the reader has not seen the intricate mass of data upon which they are based.

4. Registers

Whereas dialects are the varieties of language according to users, registers are the varieties of language according to use. Registers are 'stylistic-functional varieties of a dialect or language'. These may be narrowly defined by reference to subject matter (field of discourse, e.g. jargon of fishing, gambling, sports, etc.), to medium (mode of discourse e.g. printed material, written, latter, message on tape, etc.), or to level of formality, that is style (manner of discourse). Registers are, therefore, situationally conditioned field-of-discourse oriented varieties of a language'. 

According to the role of the speaker, a young lecturer, for example, will speak in different ways when communicating with his wife, his children, his father, his colleagues, his students, when shopping, and so on. Each of these varieties will be a register.

5. Idiolect

Idiolect is a variety of language used by one individual speaker, including peculiarities of pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, etc. A dialect is made of idiolects of a group of speakers in a social or regional subdivision of a speech community. Linguists often analyse their own idiolect to make general statements about language. So the idiolect is "an identifiable pattern of speech characteristic of an individual." or "Idiolect is the individual's personal variety of the community language system" (A Dictionary of Linguistics: 1954.

6. Diglossia

Where we do find two or more dialects or languages in regular use in a community we have a situation which Fergusson (1959) has called 'diglossia.' He has observed that in diglossia communities there is a strong tendency to give one of the dialects or language a higher status or prestige, and to reserve it for certain functions in society, such as government, education, the law, religion, literature, press, radio and television. The prestige dialect' is often called the standard dialect (the language),

7. Pidgin

A pidgin is a contract language, a mixture of elements from different natural languages. Its use is usually restricted to certain groups, c.g. traders and seamer. Pidgins are used in some parts of South-West Asia. Chinese pidgin, a combination of items from Chinese and English to serve the limited purpose of trade, is another well-known example. An alternative terms used for the pidgin is contact vernacular.

8. Creole

When a pidgin becomes a linguafranca, it is called a creole. Thus a pidgin may extend beyond its limited function and permeate through various other activities. Then it may acquire a standardized grammar, vocabulary and sound-system; and it may then be spoken by an increasing number of people as their first language. It has not such history, not much prestige either. But on account of its wider application and first-language status, it has to be distinguished from a pidgin. A creole or a creolized language is a mixed natural language composed of elements of different languages in areas of intensive contact. Well-known examples are the creoles of the islands of Mauritius and Haiti.

Lesson Plan for Countable, Uncountable, Common and Collective nouns

 Studente Learning Outcomes

1- Recall and demonstrate the use of more common, countable and uncountable nouns from the immediate and extended environment.

2- Identify and use collective nouns.

Information for teachers

1- Collective nouns are nouns that refer to things or people as a unit or group. Nouns that name a group of people, place or thing are called collective nouns.  Example: family; a class of students; team; a crowd of people, a crowd; a galaxy of stars/a galaxy; a fleet of ships/a fleet; a colony of ants; a pride of lions; a bunch of flowers/bananas; a parade of elephants

2- Time allocation is tentative and can change as per need of the activity.

3- While teaching the lesson, the teacher should also consult textbook at all steps where and when applicable

Duration/Number of periods

40 mins/01 Period

Material/Resources required

Pictures (cut from newspapers, magazines) of crowd of people, students in a class, cricket team, herd of sheep/goats, bunch of flowers, a family etc, chalk/marker, board, worksheets. You can even draw these on flash cards to show.


1- Review previously learnt types of noun by asking students: What are nouns? Give some examples of common nouns. What are countable and uncountable nouns? Invite few students to blackboard and ask them to write examples (words, sentences) of common nouns, countable and uncountable nouns.

2- Help students recall the concepts if they have difficulty recalling.

3- Show the students a picture (see materials above) and ask what they see in the picture.

4- Repeat with all the pictures.

5- Tell the students that they are seeing a new type of noun. Teach the students collective nouns (see Information for Teachers above).

6- Write ten examples of collective nouns on the blackboard. Go through each collective noun with students and teach pronunciation.


Activity 1

1- Write the definition of collective nouns on the board with examples, (Definition is given in Information for Teachers above).

2- Ask students to write the definition and examples of collective nouns in their note books.

Activity 2

1- Give the students worksheets. Give clear instructions. (See the sample worksheet at the end of the lesson plan.) (If photocopying of worksheets is not possible, then students can write the sentences in notebooks and draw pictures if they get time in class or do as homework.)

2- For students' understanding, write on the blackboard one sentence using a collective noun. (For example: I saw a fleet of ships in the sea).

3- Help students If they have difficulty constructing a sentence,

Conclusion/Sum up

Give students a quick recap by asking them: What are collective nouns? What are some examples of collective noun?


1- Assess Students' ability to recall and demonstrate use of common, countable and uncountable nouns through the correct responses given in the introduction activity.

2- Assess students' ability to use collective nouns through the sentences made in activity 2.

3- Assess students' understanding of collective nouns through their response in the sum up session.

4- Assess students' ability to identify collective nouns through the correct selection of collective nouns in the follow up activity.

5- Arrange a written quiz / activity to assess students' understanding of common, proper, countable, uncountable and collective nouns.

6- Keep assessing and reinforcing whenever a collective noun is found in subsequent reading lessons.


Ask the students to write in their note books all the collective nouns they find in the chapter they are currently reading. Give this activity as home work.

American IPA Chart with Sounds


International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) with Examples

  In English correspondence between sounds of word and their spellings is a rare phenomenon. The same letter sounds differently at different places. The reason is that the spelling system became fixed in the sixteenth century, although pronunciation has been changing since then. So, while learning the English sounds it is absolutely necessary to use a script such as the International Phonetic Alphabet, in which each symbol represents one and only one sound. The following table explains the symbols used for English sounds.

English Pure Vowels:



Ordinary Spelling

Phonetic Transcription





















































English Diphthongs



Ordinary Spelling

Phonetic Transcription















/eə /



















English Consonants



Ordinary Spelling

Phonetic Transcription



































































































Note: In Received Pronunciation (R.P.), Y is not pronounced when it is in the final position or is followed by a consonant. Its sound, therefore, is not given in phonetic transcription.

Linguistics and Anthropology


            Broadly speaking, anthropology is the study of mankind and of culture. Its main subdivisions are physical anthropology and cultural anthropology. Linguistics is a branch of cultural anthropology. The chief contribution of cultural anthropology, as a whole, to the study of language has been the broadening of linguists' outlooks so that their horizons include, not only languages, but culture of many different types. It has helped in removing the misconception that one language is superior to the other in accepting a generalization that all languages are complex and are adequate to the needs of the respective communities, and in establishing certain linguistic universals. It has also made clear to the linguist the fact that languages are not primitive' although cultures may be primitive. Furthermore, a language is a language even if it has no writing system.

           On another level, linguistics has made a very valuable contribution to the methodology of social sciences, through the concept of the functional unit and the distinctive feature of behaviour, etc. Anthropology has benefited from linguistics in the field of individual and social group learning process, correlation between heredity and linguistic structure, etc. The fact that a man's dialect is the mirror of his culture has also been beneficial to the anthropologists and sociologists.

           Now-a-days, the relationship between linguistics and anthropology is less close. But at the same time a new discipline called Sociolinguistics is expanding rapidly, meaning thereby, sociology and linguistics are getting closer

Linguistics and Philosophy

           Association between philosophy and language and linguistics has indeed been historically very long. In fact, it were the philosophers who first of all speculated on language. Plato's Dialogues have explicit reference to language. In the field of semantics, philosophy has contributed tremendous insight to the linguists. The structural linguists ignored meaning because they thought it to be a subject of philosophy.

           Yet there are deep-rooted differences between philosophy and linguistics. The philosopher's concern is with 'the uses of language for certain purposes that are common to many communities' he is not interested in the detailed differences between languages; the linguist's concern is with the details of each language for its own sake', and he evolves and evaluates theories primarily to deal with particular languages. The linguist is particularly interested in the formal structuring of the sentences of a language; the philosopher is interested in the logical structure and the inferential possibilities of the propositions they express irrespective of the grammar of any particular language. Hence both these disciplines are getting remote from each other these days.

Linguistics and Psychology


            Linguistics studies human language. Language is behaviour or a cognitive process or both, is still a controversial issue, yet it is well accepted that psychology is the study of human behaviour and human mind. Hence both linguistics and psychology are closely related.

             Investigations and attempts to find out answers to certain fundamental questions like the following are likely to provide invaluable clues to the linguist: What is the principle of learning? How is language learned by a child? Does he learn by merely imitating the sounds he hears? How does a child select the sounds that belong to the language he is exposed to, and ignore all other sounds? Does the learning of the mother tongue involve the same processes as the learning of a second or a foreign language? Is language learning a result of stimulus-response, imitation, repetition and reinforcement, or of exposure? Can a child whose brain is injured in an accident relearn a language? Does the loss of linguistic skills affect his other skills? What roles do memory, motivation, age and aptitude play in language learning? Surely the answers to such questions would help both the linguist and the scientist.

Linguistics and Literature

           The nature of language is of vital concern to the students of literature, because language is the medium in which literature is written. A creative writer is never wholly free from linguistic and cultural considerations or limitations howsoever unconscious of these he may be literally. He has to choose his structures and sounds according to the kind of aesthetic effect he wants to create. His creation is determined by the structure of the language. The structure determines what can and cannot be said in the language, just as his cultural background determines the semantic content of his work. All linguistic levels exert an influence on his creativity and on what he creates. All these factors influence his style. Word-formation can often be used as a source for particular literary effect. It is linguistics which can scientifically explain the difficulties of translating a literary text, especially a poem. In return, it is the literary artist who enriches a language enormously, and refines it. It is he who also sets direction of language change by his distinct use and coinages and word formations. Applying linguistics to the study of poetry and other forms of literature under the name of "Stylistics" is another testimony of the closeness between linguistics and literature. Among other fine arts music is much closer to linguistics than any other branch of fine arts.

Linguistics and the Natural Sciences


            Linguistics touches the natural sciences such as physics, physiology and zoology Acoustics brings linguistic near physics, the structure of the human vocal organs near physiology and the communicative systems of living beings and their comparison near zoology. A fairly detailed knowledge offered by these sciences about how sound waves are framed, transmitted and received, what are the organs and articulatory processes involved in the production of speech are of immense help to the linguist. On the basis of such information he classifies sounds, and determines their characteristics. Physiology provides him knowledge about brain and the central nervous system.

             Language is speech uttered out of mouth. Hence the answers to questions like--how are sounds produced? how does the wind come out of the lungs through the windpipe to the vocal cords to pass through the mouth or nasal passage? How do various speech organs such as vocal cords, soft-palate, tongue, teeth lips, etc. affect the sound?-are of primary interest and investigation for the linguist. He can find out answers to such questions from biologist. 

            Science has contributed a great deal to the methodology of linguistics. It has formalized it; it has made it much more rigorous, objective and scientific. It has helped the linguist to describe language too. Yet in its methodology, linguistics is 'intermediate' between the natural and social sciences. This is because of the subject matter of linguistics which is complicated and full of many variables. Predictions of the linguist are not exactly like those of the natural scientist. Linguistics may, therefore, be compared with geology rather than with chemistry or physics in matters of approach and methodology.



              Applied Linguistics is the collective term for the various applications of linguistic (and phonetic) scholarship to related practical fields--foreign language teaching, lexicography, translation, speech pathology and therapy, error analysis, etc. Applied linguistics in the widest sense, therefore, borders on other disciplines, e.g. sociology, anthropology, psychology, biology computational linguistics, stylistics, etc. The speech therapist, the literary critic, the translator, communication engineer, the language teacher, the syllabus former, the educational planner, the textbook writer, the dictionary maker have found linguistics useful for their work. Applied Linguistics is a consumer, or user, not a producer of theories. As a field of study it is about 30 years old.

              If a person knows a language and its structure, it may help him write better text-books teach it more efficiently and translate it more accurately. If a learner who wants to learn a language is told about its systems and sounds scientifically he may learn it sooner and better than he would do it by haphazard, hit-or-miss manner. A learner of a foreign language can acquire with the help of phonetics accurate pronunciation.

              Psychologists and neuro-surgeons are interested in the function of the brain and the principle of learning. A child's attempt to learn a language, his ability to categorize, his loss of control over his linguistic skill (reading, writing, speaking and listening with understanding), his his conceptual capabilities and failures-all aid the specialist in his field. Engineers who know the properties of speech can devise better telephones, telephones that can operate when you dictate rather than dial the number of subscriber. Instead of touch-typewriter we can have dictation typewriter, and machine can do the translation work done by humans. We can have better radios and better television receivers.

             It is believed that each man's voice-print is unique as his thumb-impression. It may be easier for officer of the law to apprehend criminals and bring them before the bar of justice with the help of tapes of recorded conversation. 

            Philosophers can take a fresh look at some of the unresolved controversies in their fields with the insights gained by their acquaintance with linguistics for example, between the rationalist point of view and the empiricist point of view about the nature of learning They can also study the structure of meaning and the validity of forming linguistic universals.

            Sociologists can take a look at the interaction of social groups, the role played by languages and dialects in group dynamics, the problems created by bilingualism, polylingualism, etc. Anthropologists can study a community better if they know the language of the community.

            Mathematicians are interested in the formal properties of natural languages and how meaning is mapped into sound. In devising computer languages, such information proves valuable. Teachers of composition can easily diagnose the problems of their students and suggest quick and effective remedies to improve their performance

            Above all, the study of language satisfies our intellectual urge, and we derive satisfaction and pleasure when we come to know about the mysteries of language Finally the rhetorical question : 'why should anyone want to study the work of Shakespeare, Picasso and so on? The answer is 'for its own sake'. And so with language study.

              Thus the study of linguistics quenches linguistic thirst, gives the knowledge of the properties and mysteries of language, illuminates ancient and pre-historic culture, helps in improving and reforming spellings, vocabulary, pronunciation, usage, interpretation. Some day advances in linguistics may help in the creation of some new international language, in developing new kinds of talking machines, in understanding the language of any other species if found on any other planet, although so far there is no proof of life on any other planet. The study of linguistics is also useful in the information of scripts and spellings, production of teaching materials, dictionaries, grammars and text books.



Noam Chomsky's concept of competence and performance is somewhat similar to Saussure's concept of language and parole. Competence, according to Chomsky, is the native speaker's knowledge of his language, the system of rules he has mastered, his ability to produce and understand a vast number of new sentences. Competence is the study of the system of rules, performance is the study of actual sentences themselves, of the actual use of the language in real-life situation. So the speaker's knowledge of the structure of a language is his linguistic competence and the way in which he uses it is his linguistic performance.

              Competence is, then, an underlying mental system, it underlies actual behaviour, linguistic institution ability to analyse language, detecting ambiguities, ignoring mistakes, understanding new sentences, producing entirely new sentences. Whereas competence is a set of Principles which a speaker masters, performance is what a speaker does. The former is a kind of code, the latter is an act of encoding or decoding. Competence concerns the kind of structures the person has succeeded in mastering and internalizing, whether or not he utilizes them, in practice, without interference from the many of the factors that play a role in actual behaviour. For anyone concerned with intellectual processes, or any question that goes beyond mere date arranging, it is the question of competence that is fundamental. Obviously one can find out about competence only by studying performance, but this study must be carried out in devious and clever ways, if any serious result is to be obtained." In this way, the abstract, internal grammar which enables a speaker to utter and understand an infinite number of potential utterances is a speaker's competence. 

             This distinction has caused a lot of arguments in current-day linguistics. Some socio-linguists regard it as an unreal distinction which ignores the importance of studying language in its social setting. They say that many of today's grammars are based on unjustified assumptions concerning a speaker's competence rather on his performance. But the division is a useful one, if not carried to extremes. In an ideal situation, the two approaches should complement each other. Any statements concerning a speaker's competence must ultimately be derived from data collected while studying his performance. 

              Although Chomsky' competence/performance dichotomy closely resembles Saussure's langue/parole, yet the main difference is that Saussure stresses the sociological implications of langue, while Chomsky stresses the psychological implications of competence. These distinctions are also parallel to a distinction made between code and message in communications engineering. A code is the pre-arranged signaling system. A message is an actual message sent using that system


Ferdinand de Saussure made a sharp distinction between three main terms-le langage, la langue, and la parole, and then concentrated on two of them. He envisaged le langage (human speech as a whole) to be composed of two aspects, which he called langue (the language system) and parole (the act of speaking). Le langage has no exact equivalent in English, it embraces the faculty of language in all its various forms and manifestations. Le langage is the faculty of human speech present in all normal human beings due to heredity, but which requires the correct environmental stimuli for proper development it in our faculty to talk to each other. 'Taken whole it in many-sided and heterogeneous straddling several areas simultaneously physical physiological and psychological--it belongs to the individual and to society, we cannot put it into any category of human facts for we cannot discover its unity Langage, thus is a universal behaviour trait more of interest to the anthropologist or biologist than to the linguist, who commences his study with langues and paroles. To quote Saussure 'La langue est pour nous le langage moins la parole' Language is for us le langage less speech.

                        Langue, according to Saussure, in the totality (the collective fact') of a language, deducible from an examination of the memories of all the language users. It is a storehouse, 'the sum of word-images in the minds of individuals. It is not to be confused with human speech (langage) of which it is only a definite part, though certainly an essential one. It is both a social product of the faculty of speech and a collection of necessary conventions that have been adopted by a social body to permit individuals to exercise that faculty. Langue, therefore, is a corporate, social phenomenon. It is homogeneous whereas langage is heterogenous. It is concrete and we can study it. It is a system of linguistic signs which are not abstract but real entities, tangible to be reduced to conventional, written symbols. Putting it loosely langue is grammar + vocabulary + pronunciation, system of a community. As stated by Hjelmslev, langue as used by Saussure includes three different concepts:

(a) the language scheme (the pure language form defined independently of its social realization and physical manifestations);

(b) the language norm (the material form defined by its social realization but independent of particular manifestation);

(c) the language custom (a set of customs accepted by a particular society and defined by observable manifestations).

          Ultimately, langue has to be related to parole which is the actual usage of individuals, which a community manifests in its everyday speech, the actual, concrete act of speaking on the part of an individual, the controlled or controllable psycho-physical activity. Parole is the set of all utterances that have actually been produced, while langue is the set of all possible grammatical sentences in the language. From this it follows that parole is a 'personal, dynamic, social activity, which exists at a particular time and place and in a particular situation as opposed to langue which, exists apart from any particular manifestation in speech.' 

            Parole is the only object available for direct observation to the linguist. Utterances are instances of parole. The underlying structure in terms of which we produce them as speakers and understand them as hearers is the langue in question (Persian, Chinese, etc.) and is independent of the physical medium (or substance) in which it is realized. A langue, on the other hand, is not spoken by anybody, but is a composite body of linguistic phenomena derived as it were from the personal dialects (paroles) of all native speakers.



Synchrony is the study of a language in a given time, diachrony through time. Synchronie or descriptive linguistics studies a language at one period in time; it investigates the way people speak in a given speech community in a given point in time. Diachronie or historical (or temporal) linguistics studies the development of languages through time: for example, the way in which French and Italian have evolved from Latin, it also investigates language changes. Saussure says: "Synchronic linguistics will be concerned with the logical and psychological relations that bind together co-existing terms and form a system in the collective mind of speakers. Diachronic linguistics on the contrary, will study relations that bind together successive terms not perceived by the collective mind but substituted for each other without forming a system." Synchronie linguistics deals with systems, diachronie with units. These two approaches had to be kept clearly apart and pursued separately. Saussure considered synchronie linguisties to be more important: "the first thing that strikes us when we study the facts of language is that their succession in time does not exist in so far as the speaker is concerned, He is confronted with a state. That is why the linguist who wishes to understand a state must discard all knowledge of everything that produced it and ignore diachrony." 

Stylistics and its History

 In words of Halliday, 'we can define linguistic stylistics as the description of literary texts, by methods derived from general linguistic theory, using the categories of the description of the language as a whole; and the comparison of each text with others, by the same and by different authors in the same and in different genres. Stylistics, more commonly, is the scientific study of 'style'. But the term 'style' here has to do with those components or features of a literary composition which give to it individual stamp, marking it as the work of a particular author and producing a certain effect upon the readers.

Stylistics is not something opposed to literary criticism, for 'between true literature and linguistics there is no conflict; the real linguist is at least half a literateur and the real literateur at least half a linguist. Stylistics is an attempt to make literary criticism much more scientific, methodical, objective and precise, stresses the need to form a literary grammar of language, a literary transformation, and satisfactory definitions of various literary terms, such as 'style,' poem,''image,' etc.

Stylistics is not statistics either. It is a borderline discipline which faces the student with a double challenge: linguistics and literary criticism besides the knowledge of other factors (psychic, social, historical) involved in the study of literature which is primarily a language act of a community. It requires the combination of artistic gifts and scholarly qualities. It is the result of talent,' 'experience', and 'faith.

More technically, stylistics is the study of the linguistic features of a literary text--phonological, lexical, syntactical—which directly affect the meaning of an utterance. It is thus the study of expressiveness (emotive overtones, emphasis, rhythm, symmetry, euphony, and also the so-called 'associative elements which place style in a particular register such as literary, colloquial, slangy, or associate it with a particular milieu such as historical, foreign, proverbial, professional, etc. and choices the possibility of choosing between two or more alternatives—'stylistic variants' which mean the same thing, but are different in their language structure:He came too soon and He arrived prematurely)


The term stilistik has been in current use German since the early nineteenth century, the first example recorded by Grimm's dictionary is from Novalis. In English the noun stylistic is found as early as 1864; stylistic is first attested in 1882-3 (O.E.D.). In French the first example of stylistique is from 1872, when Littre included the word in his dictionary. In our own century, Charles Bally, regarding language as an intellectual, psychic and social system, emphasized the expressive value of language (as a vehicle of communication that moves an audience) and so concieved of a la stylistique as a study of the effective content of the verbal structures that constitute the system. Bally, stylistique on the grounds that the proper materials for the study of communication were spontaneous expressions, whereas the words of the artist are more continuously chosen and subserve an aesthetic intention

Marcel Cressot, in Le Style et ses techniques (Paris, 1947), went a step farther than Bally, employing literary as well as non-literary materials to survey the expressive possibilities of the French language. Recently, the term stylistic has come to mean the linguistic study of a literary text, the scientific study of 'style', of language as a function, of the mode and manner and variety of literature written or oral. As an independent discipline it has only a history of about twenty-five years with a great deal of controversies, and with a boiling pot which is still on the oven.