Linguistics, though one of the youngest behavioral sciences, has a background extending over several millennia. During this period scholars with various interests have concerned themselves with language. Some of the most readable treatises on language were produced by the Greeks and Romans, such as Plato’s Cratylus and Quintilian’s advice to an orator. Much of our terminology was devised in the course of this earlier concern. Any of introductions to linguistic cannot, therefore, limit itself to one school; rather it must present the general principles applied in the study of language. A knowledge of earlier studies of languages in particularly important at a time when the vigorous transformationalist school has affirmed its relationship with traditional grammar. Any discipline is based on earlier work, though scientific schools are rarely capable of advancing their subject on all fronts. Thus, nineteenth-century linguistics made particular advances in phonetics and historical linguistics. In the first four decades of this century linguistics contribute especially to refinements in phonological theory, while collecting data on exotic languages. Subsequent linguistics have devoted themselves especially to syntactic study and to the interrelations between linguistics and other behavioral sciences. Since the tempo of scientific research is being speeded up, it is not surprising that the transformationalist school is already becoming fragmented, with some of this member focusing on semantic study. This century therefore has seen a shift in emphasis from phonological to syntactic to semantic studies. At the same time, linguistics has become closely involved with the sciences specializing in human behavior. It is difficult to present in an elementary text all of the concerns of linguistics. Moreover, since linguistics is an empirical science, any elementary text must include a great deal of linguistic data, that is, examples of spoken language. The data included must be taken from the native languages of students. For a pedagogical treatment one must select material carefully because of the richness of language; therefore data from other languages can only be given as supplements to that of English. But students should use every opportunity to collect and study data from other languages as they acquired adequate techniques for assembling and analyzing linguistic material. In order to gain control of linguistics, the data of language must first
Aims for descriptive linguistics
Descriptive linguistics aims to provide an understanding of language by analyzing in its various uses. Generally descriptive linguists deal with one language at a specific time, such as contemporary English. But to gain perspective, they also examine others, preferably those having different structures, such as Chinese, which lacks all inflections, or Japanese, which adds inflections in a regular manner, or Eskimo, which may combine the entities of a sentence into a word-like sequence. Linguists also draw on studies of human behavior; psychology for an understanding of the mental processes involved in the use of language; anthropology and sociology for an understanding of man’s behavior in the contexts in which man uses language and from pertinent fields of other sciences are formulated in grammars. This book is an introduction to the aims and procedures of descriptive linguistics, presenting at the same time some of the contributions of that study to the understanding of language. Like other behavioral sciences-for example, anthropology-linguistics is confronted with two major task is to acquire an understanding of the various languages spoken today or at any time in the history of man. To achieve an understanding of any one language is a great task, as the inadequacy of our grammars many indicate. Providing descriptions of the 5,000 or so languages in use today, as well as future; we may illustrate the extent of the work that needs to be done by...
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