A Linguistic Analysis: Quantity, Quality, and Contrast

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  • Topic: English language, Germanic languages, Indo-European languages
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  • Published : March 16, 2013
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Lecture 1. Handout.
1. A linguistic analysis may be performed in two directions: if we focus on the structure of a language at a particular moment in time (not necessarily the present), we apply a synchronic approach, while using a diachronic approach we look at the development of a language over time. 2. Any language, whether it is English, Russian or Chinese, is a historical phenomenon, it does not stay unaltered for a considerable period of time, but is constantly changing throughout its history. The changes affect all the spheres of the language: grammar, vocabulary, phonetics and spelling. 3. Languages have been traditionally classified in terms of the genetic relations that they exhibit. This classification is called historical or genealogical and groups languages in accordance with their origin from a common linguistic ancestor (for English – Indo-European Language Family (Proto-Indo-European)). The subgroup within Indo-European to which English belongs is Germanic (Teutonic), specifically West Germanic. 4. All the Germanic languages of the past and present have common linguistic features; some of these features are shared by other groups in the IE family, others are specifically Germanic. Specifically Germanic features are: synthetism; a different phonological system (for example, Grimm’s Law); the fixation of the words stress; the change in word structure; the definite article (English the); the dental suffix as a past tense marker (English -ed); the decrease in the number of cases; inflections, vowel interchange and suppletion as ways of form-building; the use of ablaut. 5. The commonly accepted, traditional periodization: Old English (OE), Middle English (ME), and New English (NE), with boundaries attached to definite dates and historical events affecting the language. OE begins with the Germanic settlement of Britain (5th c.), or with the beginning of writing (7th c.), and ends with the Norman Conquest (1066); ME begins with the...
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