Language, please, people! with Lynn Gwyst.

look, fellow earthlings, i can see that you are trying, but there is not yet in existence a course in general linguistics, nor any textbook, nor information on-line that i can in good conscience refer you to in delivering my lectures. there is plenty out there, but it’s all very faulty, and before i can even start i’ll have to write my own and i’ll even let you have it for free.

no, seriously, i’ve looked at text-books, journal articles, websites and wikipedia, books for the intelligent lay-reader, the intros to language learning books and websites and truckloads more. i’m assuming that you, o venerated reader, have done as much or are doing so or intending to. perhaps you too have noticed or will notice and been or will be dismayed by the many quite big bits that don’t ring true in the works of even the most respected of linguists. i won’t name names. well, not too many, anyway. don’t want to embarrass anyone. or not too many, anyway. or anyway, i don’t want to embarrass them too much. and only the truly deserving… my blog will identify and examine the worst of these clangers and you’ll all be the better for it.

i won’t try here to entrance you too much with forays into the special branch of linguistics called prescriptive linguistics, though it is an adorable little foray if you get time for it. google it if you like. wikipedia sums it up for the uninitiated as satisfactorily as most introductory-level university text-books do, but with fewer errors, since anyone can hop in and correct wikipedia, with the consent of a jealously watching peer group, who are the more honest for not being paid for it.

most of us are well acquainted with the idea that the standardised, standardising varieties of language used by officialdoms, educational institutions and the mainstream mass media are usually based on the speech of a ruling elite,  the so-called dominant culture, and not intrinsically superior to any of the many other forms of the language. ‘i dun roow good in inglish’ among people who speak like that naturally is as good as ‘I did very well in English’, and a wi’u bi’ of a glo’u sto (little bit of a glottal stop) is not a feature of inferior speech. they are just different variations of the same language, samples from different parts of the melange. many children grow up speaking one form at home and learning the standard as a school language, never using it again after leaving school. they are no longer regarded as inferior because of it. which is a blessed relief, because you can’t just trash whole peoples after trampling their cultures to death. so heave a sigh. here goes.

linguistics for free radicals. (try not to mop me up).
spoken language consists of vocalisations associated with meaning. written language consists of marks on paper the shapes of which are intended to represent the sounds or units of meaning of spoken language.
spoken language attempts to represent meaning, each utterance using a sequence of vocalisations associated in the minds of speaker and listener with particular meanings such that communication can occur. we can tell each other what we think and feel, what we know and believe, what we want or need, fear or deplore etc. written language attempts to represent meaning, each mark or sequence of marks representing a sound or sequence of sounds evocative of associated meaning or… yes, hilda, did you have a question? no? a complaint? you already knew that? oh all right. you’ve all read widely on the subject and grasped the pith of that. good. but i’m not on about all that at the moment. i’m on about syllables.

because they are the smallest units of verbal meaning and since each syllable has a meaning we have to look at the language not just word by word, but syllable by syllable.
you can divide words into syllables according to the rules of syllabication:

  • a syllable has a single vowel sound. …
  • doubled consonants are split to make syllables. …
  • words with single consonants between vowels are divided before the consonant.

but this is not the best way for, say, etymological purposes. syllables all have their own meaning.

i remember reading years ago in one of those very numerous books on the subject of general linguistics about a language spoken in africa which had words of many syllables to the point of hysteria, and no not welsh, an obscure african one. i remember wondering what he meant? it was the language of an illiterate people, and without writing how can you decide where a word begins and ends? you can’t, in my opinion, but what do others think?

run means something. okay, having grasped that the second n is a mere spelling convention, and ok, running means something else. the run or runn- part still means what it most naturally means, but the ing part has its own meaning which is also consistent wherever it occurs. in it? it is. then whose decision is it that run(n) and ing are one word? dr johnson’s? oxford university’s? some ancient inventor of spaces between written ‘words’. yours? mine? seems so natural now, no one would ever want to change it, least of all me, because by now i am as enchanted by the way language is now as anyone. the multisyllabic word makes the rhythms and flows of our most beautiful poetry, musical prose and endearing conversation. but i suggest that for the purposes of linguistic analysis, each syllable is a word.
naturally during the course of time, some syllables become eroded. does not becomes doesn’t. i will becomes i’ll. and con (with/together) + vers (information/verse/teach)* + a(n)(the/a)  + ti (do) + on (ing) = together information the do ing = conversation.

heehee, i/m gonna use this!  believe me, it gets ex cit ing.