jueves, 31 de mayo de 2012

Sociolinguistics, Neurolinguistics & Stylistics

Language as Social Behavior= Sociolinguistics

       Sociolinguistics is a term including the aspects of linguistics applied toward the connections between language and society, and the way we use it in different social situations. It ranges from the study of the wide variety of dialects across a given region down to the analysis between the way men and women speak to one another. Sociolinguistics often shows us the humorous realities of human speech and how a dialect of a given language can often describe the age, sex, and social class of the speaker; it codes the social function of a language.
Language is one of the most powerful emblems of social behavior. And sociolinguistics has become an increasingly important and popular field of study, as certain cultures around the world expand their communication base and intergroup and interpersonal relations take on escalating significance.
The basic notion underlying sociolinguistics is quite simple: Language use symbolically represents fundamental dimensions of social behavior and human interaction. The notion is simple, but the ways in which language reflects behavior can often be complex and subtle. Furthermore, the relationship between language and society affects a wide range of encounters from broadly based international relations to narrowly defined interpersonal relationships. In considering language as a social institution, sociolinguists often use sociological techniques involving data from questionnaires and summary statistical data, along with information from direct observation.
A slightly different concern with language and society focuses more closely on the effect of particular kinds of social situations on language structure. For example, language contact studies focus on the origin and the linguistic composition of pidgin and creole languages. These special language varieties arise when speakers from mutually unintelligible language groups need a common language for communication. In examining language contact situations, it is also possible to examine not only the details of a particular language but also the social and linguistic details that show how bilingual speakers use each language and switch between them.
Also the study of language in its social context tells us quite a bit about how we organize our social relationships within a particular community. In approaching language as a social activity, it is possible to focus on discovering the specific patterns or social rules for conducting conversation and discourse. We may, for example, describe the rules for opening and closing a conversation, how to take conversational turns, or how to tell a story or joke.
It is also possible to examine how people manage their language in relation to their cultural backgrounds and their goals of interaction. Sociolinguists might investigate questions such as how mixed-gender conversations differ from single-gender conversations, how differential power relations manifest themselves in language forms, how caregivers let children know the ways in which language should be used, or how language change occurs and spreads to communities. To answer these questions related to language as social activity, sociolinguists often use ethnographic methods. That is, they attempt to gain an understanding of the values and viewpoints of a community in order to explain the behaviors and attitudes of its members.

It is a branch of linguistics dealing mainly with the biological basis of the relationship of the human language and brain. The issues investigated related with ir were analyzed already in the nineteenth century. The first attempts to account for the parts of brain responsible for the ability to produce speech were made on the basis of unfortunate accidents in which people suffered some damage to head and brain, thus enabling scientists to exclude the damaged brain parts from linguistic investigations if the injured remained capable of language production.
Since that time on the basis of posthumous analysis of brains of people with some language dysfunctions it has been determined that the left hemisphere of the brain plays a major role in language comprehension and production, and especially some of its areas that are more or less above the left ear.
The part known as Broca’s area or ‘anterior speech cortex’ and as it has been discovered it is responsible for speech production. Interestingly, damage made to the same spot on the right hemisphere of the brain does not cause any language-related problems, therefore only the part of the left hemisphere is connected with linguistic abilities.
Posterior speech cortex, or as it is usually described Wernicke’s area is responsible for speech comprehension. This fact has been stated after the examination of a group of subject who had enormous difficulties with the understanding of speech.
The largest part of the brain is the motor cortex and it is responsible for the muscular movements. The part of motor cortex that is close to the Broca’s area is responsible for the articulatory muscles of jaw, face, as well as tongue and larynx.
When all the above mentioned parts were described it was proposed that brain activity connected with the perception and production of language would follow certain patterns. Thus, it is claimed that speech is perceived by the Wernicke’s area, then the signal is transferred through accurate fasciculus to Broca’s area. Afterwards, the signal goes to the motor cortex to articulate the word.
However, such a sophisticated system sometimes fails us in everyday conversations when it is difficult to remember a well-known word. In situations like that speakers often claim that they have the word at the tip of the tongue. Studies show that in fact speakers can often tell how many syllables the word has, or what sound it begins with, and in some tests they produce similar words which led neurolinguists to believe that the word-storage may be organized on the basis of phonological information.
There are some other similar phenomena analyzed by neurolinguists, such as the slip of the tongue for example. The slip of the tongue is an unconsciously made error in which the (usually) initial sounds of a few words are interchanged. One other type of mistakes often made in conversations is the slip of the ear which can be described as hearing a word as a different word which might not have been said. It is said that such mistakes are in fact slips of the brain which is trying to process and organize the linguistic information. Moreover, neurolinguistics deals with various language disorders known as ‘aphasia’ which is impairment of language functions because of some brain damage leading to difficulties in either producing or understanding linguistic forms. There are different aphasias depending on the language impairment and the damaged part of brain. Thus Broca’s aphasia is characterized by a reduced amount of speech, slow pace of speaking and distorted articulation. Wernicke’s aphasia is characterized by quite fluent, yet incomprehensible speech and difficulties in finding appropriate words. Conduction aphasia is connected with damage to accurate fasciculus and it is connected with mispronouncing words, disrupted rhythm, large number of hesitations and pauses.

It is the study of the devices in languages (such as rhetorical figures and syntactical patterns) that are considered to produce expressive or literary style.
Style has been an object of study from ancient times. Aristotle, Cicero, Demetrius, and Quintilian treated style as the proper adornment of thought. In this view, which prevailed throughout the Renaissance period, devices of style can be catalogued. The essayist or orator is expected to frame his ideas with the help of model sentences and prescribed kinds of “figures” suitable to his mode of discourse. Modern stylistics uses the tools of formal linguistic analysis coupled with the methods
Stylistics can be by and large described as the study of style of language usage in different contexts, either linguistic, or situational. Yet, it seems that due to the complex history and variety of investigated issues of this study it is difficult to state precisely what stylistics is, and to mark clear boundaries between it and other branches of linguistics which deal with text analysis.
What has been the primary interest of stylistics for years is the analysis of the type, fluctuation, or the reason for choosing a given style as in any language a single thought can be expressed in a number of ways depending on connotations, or desired result that the message is to produce. Therefore, stylistics is concerned with the examination of grammar, lexis, semantics, as well as phonological properties and discursive devices. It might seem that the same issues are investigated by sociolinguistics, and indeed that is the case, however sociolinguistics analyses the above mentioned issues seen as dependent on the social class, gender, age, etc, while stylistics is more interested in the significance of function that the style fulfills.
Moreover, stylistics examines oral and written texts in order to determine crucial characteristic linguistic properties, structures and patterns influencing perception of the texts. Thus, it can be said that this branch of linguistics is related to discourse analysis, in particular critical discourse analysis, and pragmatics. Owing to the fact that at the beginning of the development of this study the major part of the stylistic investigation was concerned with the analysis of literary texts it is sometimes called literary linguistics, or literary stylistics. Nowadays, however, linguists study various kinds of texts, such as manuals, recipes, as well as novels and advertisements. It is vital to add here that none of the text types is discriminated and thought to be more important than others. In addition to that, in the recent years so called ‘media-discourses’ such as films, news reports, song lyrics and political speeches have all been within the scope of interest of stylistics.
Each text scrutinized by stylistics can be viewed from different angles and as fulfilling at least a few functions. Thus, it is said that texts have interpersonal function, ideational function and textual function. When describing a function several issues are taken into consideration. Therefore, interpersonal function is all about the relationship that the text is establishing with its recipients, the use of either personal or impersonal pronouns is analyzed, as well as the use of speech acts, together with the tone and mood of the statement. When describing the ideational function linguists are concerned with the means of representing the reality by the text, the way the participants are represented, as well as the arrangement of information in clauses and sentences. The textual function is the reference of sentences forwards and backwards which makes the text cohesive and coherent, but also other discursive devices such as ellipsis, repetition, and anaphora are studied. In addition to that the effectiveness of chosen stylistic properties of the texts are analyzed in order to determine their suitability to the perceived function, or contribution to overall interpretation.
Linguists dealing with a sub-branch of stylistics called pedagogical stylistics support the view that this field of study helps learners to develop better foreign language competence.

Walt Wolfram. Sociolinguistics. Linguistic Society of America.2012. Retrieved on May 22th, 2012 from < http://lsadc.org/info/ling-fields-socio.cfm>
Explore Linguistics. What is sociolonguistics?. Tuesday, February 25th, 1997. Retrieved on May 22th, 2012 from < http://logos.uoregon.edu/explore/socioling/>
Kamil Wiśniewski. Neurolinguistics. Aug. 12th, 2007. Retrieved on May 22th, 2012 from < http://www.tlumaczenia-angielski.info/linguistics/neurolinguistics.htm>
Brown K. (Editor) 2005. Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics – 2nd Edition. Oxford: Elsevier.


The Charles Fillmore’s grammatical cases & The Semantic Structure Form the Perspective of Wallace Chafe.

The Charles Fillmore’s grammatical cases

Charles Fillmore was one of the first linguists to introduce a representation of linguistic knowledge that blurred this strong distinction between syntactic and semantic knowledge of a language. He introduced what was termed case structure grammar and this representation subsequently had considerable influence on psychologists as well as computational linguists. He was a proponent of Noam Chomsky's theory of generative grammar during its earliest transformational grammar phase.
He was one of the founders of cognitive linguistics, and developed the theories of Case Grammar (Fillmore 1968), and Frame Semantics (1976). In all of his research he has illuminated the fundamental importance of semantics, and its role in motivating syntactic and morphological phenomena.

Associated with each verb sense is a set of cases. Some of the cases are obligatory and others are optional. A case is obligatory if the sentence would be ungrammatical if it were omitted. For example, John gave the book is ungrammatical.
     There are two notable features that are illustrated in the example representation. First, the cases associated with a verb seem to be associated with questions that we one would naturally ask about an event. Who did what to whom when?
The representation seems well adapted to the retrieval of the information provided in a sentence. This feature was particularly appealing to psychologists and computational linguists
          A second interesting feature is that the same representation is provided to both the active and passive forms of the sentence. In the figure the active form is shown above the representation and the passive form below. This feature would be consistent with a finding that we rarely recall the exact syntactic form of the sentence but do recall the basic information provided by the sentence.
The eight cases are as follows, with examples either of the English case or of the English syntactic alternative to case:
·       Nominative case indicates the subject of a finite verb.
Ex. We went to the store.
She bought a new dress.

·       Accusative case indicates the direct object of a verb.
Ex.  The clerk remembered us.
He forgot her.

·       Dative case indicates the indirect object of a verb.
Ex.  The clerk gave us a discount.
He gave a flower to his mom.
·       Ablative case indicates movement from something, or cause.
Ex. The patient went to the doctor because she had headache.
He was unhappy because of depression.

·       Genitive case, which roughly corresponds to English's possessive case and preposition of, indicates the possessor of another noun.
Ex. John's book was on the table.

·       Vocative case indicates an addressee.
Ex.  John, are you alright?
Hello, John!

·       Locative case indicates a location.
Ex. We live in China.
John is at the supermarket.

·       Instrumental case indicates an object used in performing an action:
Ex. We wiped the floor with a mop.
      The essay was written by hand.
Fillmore suggests that the verb establishes a set of cases in a sentence: these are like slots, which usually need not all be filled. For example, consider these sentences:
1. Mary opened the door with a key.
2. Mary opened the door.
3. A key opened the door.
4. The door opened.

In (1) the semantic cases are: Mary - agent; the door - object; a key - instrument.
In (2) they are as in (1), except that there is no instrument.
In (3) the cases are: a key - instrument; the door - object.
In (4) the only case is the door - object.
In other words, to open requires at the minimum that the object be specified in a sentence.

"The Case for Case" (1968). In Bach and Harms (Ed.): Universals in Linguistic Theory. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1-88.
 "Frame semantics and the nature of language" (1976): . In Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences: Conference on the Origin and Development of Language and Speech. Volume 280: 20-32.
Charles F. Schmidt. Case grammar. Understanding, Interpreting and Remembering Events. 2010. Retrieved from May 15th, 2012 < http://www-rci.rutgers.edu/~cfs/305_html /Understanding/CaseGram1.html>
The Semantic Structure Form the Perspective of  Wallace Chafe.
The Semantics means “everything that have a meaning”, is the interpretation of any symbol of a Language or abstract expression; semantics can be studied since different points of view, which are: linguistic semantics, logical semantics and semantics in cognitive science.
            Linguistic semantics gives meaning to the words of a Language, by examinating its variations over time and their changes for new meanings, but it cannot assign meanings to words, because lexicography is the responsible for that, semantics only studies the meaning.        
            Wallace Chafe’s perspective has been influenced by the fact that he studied  in Yale by the middle of the 50s, Yale was one of the universities called structuralists, in that moment the Bernard Bloch was in charge of that university.
            In 1957 Noam Chomsky published his work of syntactic structuralism, which shook the foundations of structuralism. But Chafe did not feel the need to replace his ideas of language instead of the Chomskians. Although he was surprised that many linguists accepted the new doctrine. “Chomsky’s notion of phrase structure seemed to me at best to be a caricature of the immediate constituent model as I understood it.”(Chafe,2).
            Chafe was also influenced by the Bureau of American Ethnology, he was already familiarized with the work of Floyd Lounsbury in Yale and it was natural for him that his semantic structures were influenced by the model of the components.
            He started to think about a phenomenon which he called ‘semantic axes’ and it was formed by : the actor-action axis, the action-goal axis, the possessor-possessed axis, the coordination axis , and others. 
Ex. My father laughed
He said that the phonetics and semantics are parallel and he invented a diagram, instead of a tree and as far as it was taking shape, he realized the virtues of the work of Chomsky and he agreed to him until 1963 “I thought of Language in terms of semantic units, structured in a certain way, being linked to phonetic units.” (Chafe, 8).
Semantic structure à surface structure à symbolization àunderlying phonology à phonetic structure
                The sentence is the most basic unit to organize a syntactic description and with it Wallace Chafe begins to make the analysis by separating the verb and the noun and then analyzing its inflections and changes, gender, number etc.
To finally analyze the inmediate components of a sentence.
L. Chafe, Wallace. Meaning and the structure of language. 4a ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago, 1970.
CLICK HERE: Cases of Fillmore & Semantic Structure of Chafe

Generative Grammar

Estructuralismo Americano

         El movimiento del estructuralismo lingüístico se sitúa a comienzos del siglo XX y constituye los inicios de la lingüística moderna. Su iniciador fue Ferdinand de Saussure con su obra Curso de lingüística general (1916). El Curso de lingüística general fue una obra publicada póstumamente por dos de sus discípulos, quienes se basaron en apuntes de clase de estudiantes que habían escuchado a Saussure durante sus 3 últimos años en la Universidad de Ginebra. El estructuralismo surge como una reacción frente a las investigaciones lingüísticas comparativistas de la gramática comparada, frente a las investigaciones diacrónicas de la gramática histórica y frente a las investigaciones positivistas de los neogramáticos. Este nuevo movimiento propuso una nueva concepción de los hechos del lenguaje, considerándolo como un sistema en el cual los diversos elementos ofrecen entre sí una relación de solidaridad formando una estructura.1 El estructuralismo fundado por Saussure continuó desarrollándose en Europa por lingüistas posteriores, surgiendo más tarde diversas escuelas estructuralistas, como La Escuela de Ginebra, El Círculo Lingüístico de Praga, y la Escuela de Copenhague.
El Estructuralismo Norteamericano tiene dos maneras de considerar el concepto de estructura.

Uno es el “Hocus-pocus” y el otro el “God´s truth”. El primero supone que el investigador es el que impone cierto orden y que ese orden es la estructura. El segundo supone que la lengua ya posee una estructura y el investigador la descubre. A estas dos posturas corresponden los métodos de investigación: si el método es inductivo, corresponde al “God´s truth”; si por el contrario es deductivo, corresponde el “Hocus-pocus". El enfoque estructuralista norteamericano es el denominado descriptivismo.

Se parte de un corpus de datos que no es más que el habla o emisión. El punto de vista es el sincrónico y el objeto de la gramática son las funciones. Se excluye el estudio del significado, pues los aspectos del significado dependen de las ocurrencias de formas lingüísticas, de sus combinaciones textuales y de sus interrelaciones en la estructura de la lengua.

Por ejemplo: la emisión “Tengo frío”, en boca de un mendigo, puede significar “déme algo de comer”, y en boca de una chica “abrázame”.

Los pasos para el análisis gramatical son los siguientes:

-     -Observación.

-      -Hipótesis operacionales.

-      -Cálculo basado en las hipótesis.

-     -Predicción.

-     -Comprobación de predicciones.

(Este método es fundamentalmente inductivo)
Los principios que para Sapir definen la lengua son:
un sistema de símbolos, un sistema funcional plenamente formado dentro de la constitución psíquica o espiritual del hombre, no es instintiva, sino cultural, adquirida, y sirve para expresión de ideas o de estados psíquicos.

La lengua es un proceso mental cuya manifestación externa son los sonidos (seleccionados por el hablante).

Sapir considera que la descripción de una lengua no debe ceñirse al modelo gramatical de ninguna otra (lengua). Por Ej.: las lenguas clásicas no sirven de modelo para las lenguas de los aborígenes americanos. Cada lengua tiene su propia estructura, que se abstrae de un corpus de textos nativos.

Un acto de habla es momentáneo, fortuito, individual. Hábito propio de la comunicación lingüística, es un sistema de valores psicológicos de sonidos (fonemas).

La gramática es la sistematicidad de las lenguas. La lengua está formada por unidades formales (palabras) que son el mínimo segmento con significado aislado. Las unidades formales forman oraciones, que son unidades funcionales del habla, expresadas por una proporción.

Los símbolos son complejos: constan de significado (contenido psíquico conceptual) denotado por un signo de naturaleza primaria auditiva (localizado en el cerebro, psíquico también).
La lengua es pues, un proceso mental, cuya manifestación externa es el sonido.

Leonard Bloomfield

Bloomfield parte, para su explicar su lingüística, de dos posturas:

- El mentalismo: o sea, que los hechos lingüísticos deben ser interpretados y comprendidos con referencia a fenómenos psíquicos.

-El mecanicismo: que se refiere al aprendizaje automático. Sigue la corriente conductista.

Al igual que a Saussure, le interesa el sistema (la lengua) y no las manifestaciones particulares de la lengua (el habla).

Tiene un interés particular por la estructura gramatical, y para ello Bloomfield propone una descripción de los niveles del lenguaje.

La estructura fonémica:
Las formas significativas de una lengua están integradas por un pequeño número de elementos no significativos (los fonemas). De allí que lo primero que hay que hacer, es reconocer qué sonido constituye un fonemas y cuáles variantes de ese fonema.

La estructura gramatical:

La lingüística descriptiva deja de lado el estudio de los significados que no se relacionen directamente con las formas.

La estructura de una lengua está compuesta por dos subsistemas:

*sistemas centrales

*sistemas periféricos

Al sistema central corresponden:
- el sistema gramatical

- el sistema fonológico

- el sistema morfonológico

Al sistema gramatical le corresponden la morfología y la sintaxis y sus combinaciones y relaciones.

El sistema fonológico comprende el conjunto de fonemas y sus relaciones.
El sistema morfonológico establece las relaciones entre los dos sistemas anteriores.
Al sistema periférico pertenecen la semántica y la fonética.
Bloomfield establece postulados, que surgen de enunciados que a su vez son axiomas, es decir, enunciados que no necesitan demostración:

Postulado de morfema: forma con significación ligada. Niñ-o-s.

Postulado de palabra: forma con significado libre. Niños.

Postulado de frase: forma de significado libre que está integrada por formas libres. Los niños buenos.

Postulado de oración: forma con significado libre que está integrada por formas libres. Los niños buenos toman la sopa.

Tipos de construcciones:
Boomfield distingue dos tipos de construcciones, a las que llama, respectivamente, construcciones endocéntricas y construcciones exocéntricas.
En la construcción endocéntrica la clase formal que constituye el núcleo “tiñe” todo el sintagma. Por Ej.: sintagma endocéntrico nominal, si el núcleo es un sustantivo o adjetivo.
El sintagma exocéntrico no posee esta característica enunciada.

El acto de comunicación:
Bloomfield distingue tres aspectos en el acto de comunicación (sigue una postura conductista):

1. Los hechos prácticos anteriores al acto de habla.
2.  El acto de habla.
3. Los hechos prácticos posteriores al acto de habla.

El origen de la lengua:
Para Bloomfield los niños adquieren el lenguaje de forma mecánica (por repetición), a través de estímulos y respuestas.
Bloomfield tiene una posición mecanicista/conductista con respecto a la adquisición del lenguaje.
Según este autor, la diversidad de la conducta humana se debe exclusivamente a que el cuerpo humano es altamente complejo. Las acciones son parte de secuencias de causa/efecto. Un estímulo, así entendido, puede dar múltiples respuestas o consecuencias (pero todas predecibles).
La postura de Bloomfield es opuesta al mentalismo, que sostiene que la diversidad de la conducta humana proviene del espíritu, voluntad o mente, y que se comporta de forma no física, y por ello, no se pueden predecir las acciones.
Curso de lingüística general, Ferdinand De Saussure. 1998, duodécima edición. Ed. Fontamara
Cerny, J., Historia de la lingüística, Cáceres, Universidad de Extremadura, 1998
Manoliu, M. El estructuralismo lingüístico, Madrid, Cátedra, 1973.