explore the complete system of language
explore the complete system of language as well as the various levels of language structure. Using your knowledge of the whole structure, as well as the individual levels, create a poster you can display in your classroom that explains the different levels. This poster can be created using Microsoft Word, Glogster, or it can be hand drawn and scanned to share for this discussion. The content of this poster should be a minimum of 150 words and it should be presented on one page. It can contain text and visuals such as pictures and/or graphics. At a minimum, please provide a brief summary of the three main levels and use your creativity as you break these down. Support the content of your poster with information from the textbook and at least one outside source. Citations must be properly formatted in APA style and be included on your poster.
fter her first day of preschool at age 29 months, Isabelle and her father had the following
conversation about the rabbit named Bela who shared the classroom with
Isabelle and nine other children:
Isabelle: Papa, Bela bite Jason.
Papa: Who is Jason?
Isabelle: At my school.
Papa: Oh, and Bela bit him.
Isabelle: Yes. Bela bitted him.
Even though her language was still a work in progress, Isabelle had already, without being
aware of it, mastered much of the language structure that will be described in this chapter.
In Chapter 1, we began to see how impressive a feat this is. In 29 months, Isabelle had
grown from an infant who did not yet know her name and whose only vocalization was
crying, to a little girl who could make herself understood talking about something that
had happened in the past. True, some of her forms were imperfect, but she was already
well on her way to being a proficient language user.
In order to understand and appreciate what she and children the world over accomplish
in the first few years and how teachers can build on that accomplishment in the school setting,
it is useful to understand how language is organized. Many people consider themselves
experts on language by virtue of the fact that they have been using it successfully
for a number of years and may have become quite proficient in it. Attaining proficiency
does not require speakers to have a conscious knowledge of the formal structure of language—
and certainly most children do not—but it takes a linguist to understand and
explain the underlying mechanics of language that we all take for granted (Bauer & Trudgill,
1998). Actually, it would take many linguists and several volumes because there are
so many aspects of language to be described. Here, we will take only an introductory look
at how language is structured in order to begin to appreciate the magnitude of children’s
Children learn language in order to express meaning and to communicate with people
around them. The miracle of the infant brain is its capacity to acquire all of the structures
of any language spoken on earth. Children do not learn the components of language separately
or in isolation. They don’t master the sound system and then move on to learning
words and then sentences. Nor do they learn the structures of the language as a cognitive
exercise. In order to learn to communicate effectively, children master the complex structures
of their language. Watching them do so is fascinating. In Chapter 3 we take a closer
look at how children acquire the structures of language. For now, let’s look at how the
English language is structured.
Pre-Test CHAPTER 2
Language has several components—sounds (phonology), words (morphology), and sentences
(syntax). These are descriptors that adults use. Children, at least at the beginning,
are happily unaware of either the structure of language or the need to learn it.
Languages differ in many other ways. Have you ever tried to master the sounds of French,
the syntax of German, or the tones of Mandarin? Mandarin speakers also struggle with the
sounds of English, finding the l/r/w distinctions especially confusing. Speakers of Arabic
have trouble mastering English prepositions because there are only about 20 prepositions
in Arabic but 57 in English. Beginning learners often try to understand a new language in
terms of their first language. Arab speakers of English cannot readily translate and have
difficulty getting the troublesome little English words right. Indeed, almost all non-native
speakers struggle to some degree with English prepositions.
All languages can be described using the same categories and the same descriptors. Phonology
is the branch of linguistics concerned with the description of the sound system.
Morphology is the branch concerned with word structure, and syntax refers to sentence
structure. Semantics refers to meaning, and pragmatics refers to the functional use of
language in real-life settings.
1. In comparison to consonants, vowels
a. use less air obstruction in their production.
b. are more often the reason children are referred for speech therapy.
c. exist in greater numbers in the English alphabet.
d. are produced with more impediments in air stream.
2. Inflectional morphemes are types of
a. function morphemes.
b. lexical morphemes.
c. content morphemes.
d. function words.
3. The two major considerations of syntactic learning are
a. the order of words and the relationships among aspects of sentences.
b. to whom the speaker is speaking and the time frame of the information.
c. the number of words needed and the time needed to communicate.
d. the tense of the verbs and the number of objects.
4. Which of the following is true of semantics?
a. Semantics can differ within the same language.
b. Words in some languages do not mean the same thing in others.
c. Individual and cultural variations do not affect language.
d. Language has fairly rigid conventions for communication.
Section 2.1 The Sounds of English: Phonology CHAPTER 2
1. a. use less air obstruction in their production. The answer can be found in Section 2.1.
2. a. function morphemes. The answer can be found in Section 2.2.
3. a. The order of words and the relationships among aspects of sentences. The answer can be found in Section 2.3.
4. b. Words in some languages do not mean the same thing in others. The answer can be found in Section 2.4.
2.1 The Sounds of English: Phonology
At age 3, Isabelle’s pronunciation of yellow was “lalo.” She couldn’t manage the
initial “y” sound, nor did she get the first vowel quite right. It wasn’t that she was
unable to produce the “y” sound or the correct vowel—the word yes, for example,
with the same vowel and initial consonant, gave her no problem at all. But in the word
yellow, she couldn’t quite get all the sounds right. The reason is that the process of learning
the sound structure of English is not just a matter of learning individual sounds, it
is learning the system—all of the sounds and how they are combined and pronounced
in various environments. For a child, the “environment” of a two-syllable word is very
different from that of a single syllable, and she simplified the pronunciation according to
certain predictable processes. In this section, we will look at the sounds of English, which
ones are distinctive and which are not, and some of the rules for combining them. We will
also look briefly at stress, or the force with which a syllable is articulated, and intonation,
or the rhythm of the language, and the role they play in English.
Linguists who study the sounds of a language are called phonologists. In general terms,
phonology is concerned with the physical, or acoustic, properties of speech sounds and
the rules that govern how those sounds are combined in speech. From the child’s point
of view, the business of phonology is figuring out how to produce those sounds that are
necessary for making meaning. When children are very young, it is unlikely that they can
focus on any unit smaller than the word, at least not directly. As soon as they understand
that cat and hat are different words conveying very different meanings, however, they
have unknowingly recognized that the /k/ sound is different from the /h/ sound. This
is a good example of a minimal pair, or two words that differ by only one sound, which
is an important concept in determining which sounds are separate phonemes, or sounds
that native speakers perceive to be different, in English.
Sounds and letters are different. There is a somewhat predictable relationship between the
sounds of English and the letters used to represent them in print. For the most part, the sound
/m/ is represented by the letter “m,” and we can usually count on the letter “b” to represent
the sound /b/. But the sound-symbol correspondence in English is far from perfect, as any
second language learner or anyone who struggles with English spelling can testify. The sound
/f/, for example, can be spelled in four different ways, as illustrated by fame, tough, phone, and
puff. Moreover, the word of has the letter “f” but the pronunciation is /v/. For now, we are
concerned with the sounds of English with only passing reference to the alphabet.
How Speech Sounds Are Formed
Human speech can be described in acoustic terms, or the nature of the disturbance to the
airwaves that occurs when we speak. Each vowel and consonant sound has distinctive
acoustic properties that can be measured on a sound spectrogram. How and why do speech
sounds differ from each other? Here is an example from a grade-school science class. If we
Section 2.1 The Sounds of English: Phonology CHAPTER 2
take two identical, glass soft-drink bottles and pour 4 inches of water into one, leave the
other empty, and then blow into them, as if blowing a flute or piccolo, the sound produced
by each will be different. The sound produced by the bottle with liquid will be of a higher
pitch than the sound produced by the one without liquid. That is because the resonator
(i.e., the soft-drink bottle) has changed with the addition of liquid; vibration occurs above
the level of the water only. The water has effectively shortened the resonator and caused
the sound to have a pitch. The human head is also a resonator, and because we are all a
little different from each other, our voices and speech sounds tend to be unique. But there
is enough similarity that we can understand each other because we produce the speech
sounds of our language in more or less the same way. Each speech sound is distinguished
from the others by the shape of the resonator (i.e., the vocal apparatus) during speech.
When we speak, the airstream—the same one used in breathing—is modulated, or
changed, by the articulators as it moves from the lungs upward to exit through the oral or
nasal cavity (or both). The articulators, as shown in Figure 2.1, are of two types. Passive
articulators, which include the teeth, alveolar ridge, hard palate, velum, uvula, and pharynx
(or pharyngeal wall) remain static during speech. Active articulators move to create
different speech sounds. The tongue is the most important of these, but the glottis and the
lips, particularly the lower lip, also play roles in speech production.
Figure 2.1: Articulators involved in speech