Introducing English Linguistics

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Content: Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-83350-9 - Introducing English Linguistics Charles F. Meyer Frontmatter More information Introducing English Linguistics Are you looking for a genuine introduction to the linguistics of English that provides a broad overview of the subject, that sustains students' interest and avoids excessive detail? Introducing English Linguistics accomplishes this goal in two ways. First, unlike traditional texts, it takes a top-down approach to language, beginning with the largest unit of linguistic structure, the text, and working its way down through successively smaller structures (sentences, words, and finally speech sounds). The advantage of presenting language this way is that students are first given the larger picture ­ they study language in context ­ and then as the class progresses, they see how the smaller pieces of language are really a consequence of the larger goals of linguistic communication. Second, Introducing English Linguistics does not contain invented examples, as is the case with most comparable texts, but instead takes its sample materials from the major computerized databases of spoken and Written English, giving students a more realistic view of language. CHARLES F. MEYER is Professor in the Department of applied linguistics at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. His recent publications include English Corpus Linguistics: An Introduction (Cambridge, 2002).
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Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-83350-9 - Introducing English Linguistics Charles F. Meyer Frontmatter More information Cambridge Introductions to Language and Linguistics This new textbook series provides students and their teachers with accessible introductions to the major subjects encountered within the study of language and linguistics. Assuming no prior knowledge of the subject, each book is written and designed for ease of use in the classroom or seminar, and is ideal for adoption on a modular course as the core recommended textbook. Each book offers the ideal introductory material for each subject, presenting students with an overview of the main topics encountered in their course, and features a glossary of useful terms, chapter previews and summaries, suggestions for Further reading, and helpful exercises. Each book is accompanied by a supporting website. Books published in the series: Introducing Phonology David Odden Introducing Speech and Language Processing John Coleman Introducing Phonetic Science Michael Ashby and John Maidment Introducing second language acquisition Muriel Saville-Troike Introducing English Linguistics Charles F. Meyer Forthcoming: Introducing Sociolinguistics Miriam Meyerhoff Introducing Morphology Rochelle Lieber Introducing Historical Linguistics Brian Joseph Introducing Language Bert Vaux Introducing Semantics Nick Riemer Introducing Psycholinguistics Paul Warren
© Cambridge University Press
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Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-83350-9 - Introducing English Linguistics Charles F. Meyer Frontmatter More information Introducing English Linguistics CHARLES F. MEYER
© Cambridge University Press
www.cambridge.org
Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-83350-9 - Introducing English Linguistics Charles F. Meyer Frontmatter More information cambridge university press Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, Sгo Paulo, Delhi Cambridge University Press The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York www.cambridge.org Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9780521541220 © Charles F. Meyer 2009 This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2009 Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library LIBRARY OF CONGRESS Cataloguing in Publication data Meyer, Charles F. Introducing English linguistics / Charles F. Meyer. p. cm. -- (Cambridge introductions to language and linguistics) Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 978-0-521-83350-9 1. English Language -- History. 2. Linguistics. I. Title. II. Series. PE1075.M5995 2009 420 -- dc22 2009009162 ISBN 978-0-521-83350-9 hardback ISBN 978-0-521-54122-0 paperback
Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this book, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate. © Cambridge University Press
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Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-83350-9 - Introducing English Linguistics Charles F. Meyer Frontmatter More information
Contents
Preface
ix
1 The study of language
1
Introduction
2
Language as part of a semiotic system
3
The modes of language
5
Studying linguistic structure
6
Language and ideology
12
Theorizing about language
15
Summary
17
Self-study activities
18
Further reading
18
2 The development of English
19
Introduction
20
The current state of the English language
20
Genetic classifications of languages
23
Typological classifications of languages
34
Why languages change
39
The nature of language change
43
Summary
44
Self-study activities
45
Further reading
46
3 The social context of English
47
Introduction
48
Grammatical vs. pragmatic meaning
48
Sentence vs. utterance
49
Speech act theory
50
The cooperative principle
55
Politeness
62
Speaker variables
70
Summary
76
Self-study activities
77
Further reading
78
4 The structure of English texts
79
Introduction
80
Register or genre?
81
Spoken and written registers
83
Unity of structure
84
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Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-83350-9 - Introducing English Linguistics Charles F. Meyer Frontmatter More information
viii
CONTENTS
Unity of texture Summary Self-study activities Further reading 5 English syntax Introduction Formal vs. notional definitions The linear and hierarchical structuring of constituents Form and function Word classes and phrases Clauses, sentences, and clause functions Summary Self-study activities Further reading 6 English words: Structure and meaning Introduction Varying definitions of meaning The morpheme Lexical semantics Deixis Summary Self-study activities Further reading 7 The sounds of English Introduction Speech segments Suprasegmentals Summary Self-study activities Further reading Appendix: Linguistic corpora consulted Glossary Answers to self-study activities References Index
98 108 108 109 111 112 113 115 116 117 130 146 147 147 149 150 151 152 157 182 192 192 193 195 196 196 208 216 216 218 219 221 239 247 253
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Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-83350-9 - Introducing English Linguistics Charles F. Meyer Frontmatter More information
Preface
English is currently the most widely spoken language in the world. Mandarin Chinese may have more speakers, but no language is spoken in more parts of the world than the English language. The global reach of English is one reason the language has more non-native speakers than native speakers. The popularity of English, it must be emphasized, has little to do with the language itself, and more to do with geopolitical considerations: the initial spread of English worldwide as a consequence of British colonization, and the rise in the twentieth century of the United States as an economic and political power in the world. Because of the importance of English as a world language, it has been widely studied and taught: English has been the focus of many linguistic descriptions, and it is taught worldwide in thousands of classrooms and language institutes. In fact, more people are learning English from non-native speakers of the language than native speakers. For this reason (and many others), it is important that teachers of English as well as others having an interest in the structure and use of the language have an adequate understanding of the language. This book attempts to provide such an understanding, but it does so in a manner that is different from many other introductions to the English language. Because language involves not just individual sentences but sentences that are parts of texts, the book is organized on the principle that an adequate introduction to the study of the English language requires a top-down rather than a bottom-up discussion of the structure of English. That is, instead of beginning with the smallest unit of language (the phoneme) and working up to the largest unit (the text), this book begins at the level of the text and works
its way down to progressively smaller units of language. The idea behind this organizational strategy is that the structure and use of smaller structures is in many cases dependent on larger linguistic considerations. For instance, in Boston, whether one pronounces the word never with a final /R/ [n3 v7] or without one [n3 v] depends not just upon whether the speaker's grammar contains a rule deleting /R/ after vowels but upon other factors as well, such as the social context (e.g. formal vs. informal) in which the individual is speaking. To provide a top-down description of English, the book is divided into two main sections: one dealing with more general characteristics of English ­ its development as a language and the pragmatic considerations governing its use ­ and a second focusing on the grammatical characteristics of the language, from the sentence down to the individual speech sound. Chapter 1 ("The study of language") discusses how linguists study language, advancing but also critiquing the widely held view in linguistics that all languages are valid systems of communication and that it makes little sense to claim that one language is "better" than another. Chapter 2 ("The development of English") provides a historical perspective on English: where it has stood over time in relation to the other languages of the world, and how its development can be explained by general principles of language change. The next two chapters focus on the various pragmatic principles that affect how English is used. Chapter 3 ("The social context of English") examines the social factors influencing linguistic interaction, such as politeness considerations and speaker variables (e.g. age, gender, ethnicity, and level of education). Chapter 4 ("The structure of English texts") describes how English texts (both written
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Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-83350-9 - Introducing English Linguistics Charles F. Meyer Frontmatter More information
x
PREFACE
and spoken) are structured, and why they have the structure that they do. The second section of the book contains chapters concerned with examining the grammar of English. Chapter 5 ("English syntax") discusses the major syntactic categories in English, focusing on how the structure of English sentences can be described in terms of the particular constructions that they contain ­ clauses (main and subordinate) and phrases (e.g. noun phrase and verb phrase) ­ and the functions within clauses (e.g. Subject and object) that these forms serve. Chapter 6 ("English words: Structure and meaning") is concerned with the structure and meaning of words. The chapter begins by discussing how morphemes, the smallest unit of meaning, are combined to create words, and continues with a description of how the meanings of words are described by lexicographers (those who produce dictionaries) and semanticists (linguists who theorize about meaning in language). Chapter 7 ("The sounds of English") discusses the sound system of English, beginning with a description of speech segments (phonemes) and concluding with an overview of word stress and intonation. Much current work in linguistics has demonstrated that linguistic descriptions are most accurate and meaningful if they are based on actual examples of spoken and written English rather than on examples invented by the linguist him or herself. Therefore, most of the examples included in this book were taken from a number of different linguistic corpora: computerized databases containing various kinds of spoken and written English, such as transcriptions of actual conversations that
people had, or samples of articles appearing in newspapers. The appendix contains a list of the corpora that were used as well as a brief description of the kinds of texts that they contain. There are many people to whom I owe a huge debt of gratitude for their help with this book. First of all, I want to thank Andrew Winnard of Cambridge University Press for his help and support throughout the process of writing this book. I also wish to thank three anonymous reviewers for Cambridge University Press for the many useful comments they provided that helped improve the book considerably; Malcolm Todd, whose expert copy-editing skills greatly improved the clarity of the book; Bill Kretzschmar for his feedback on sections of Chapter 3; Stephen Fay, who did the artwork for Figures 6.3 and 7.1; my colleagues in the Applied Linguistics Department at the University of Massachusetts, Boston; the many students whom I have taught over the years who have helped me refine and improve the way that I teach linguistics; and, most importantly, my wife, Libby, and son, Freddie, who offered their constant love and support while I spent many hours away from them writing this book. Copyright acknowledgment My thanks to Mouton de Gruyter for giving me permission to include material in chapter 6 taken from my forthcoming paper `Pre-electronic corpora' to be published in Corpus Linguistics: An International Handbook, ed. Anke Lьdeling and Merja Kytц (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter).
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