Introduction to Language and Communication

  • Created by: Elena.S
  • Created on: 12-01-18 16:01

Communication as transmission

1) info source sends message to transmitter
2)Signal is sent w/ noise source + is received by receiver
3) Message is sent to destination

  • transmits messages w/o speech i.e spider courtships, fiddler crabs, bird songs, honey bees
  • topics limited to mating, food
  • creativity limited to the known
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Communication as language

  • set of vocal cords required
  • brain capable of handling sounds required
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When did language emerge?

100,000-30,000 BC - brain cavity similar to our in human-like beings in Europe
8,000 BC - first evidence of writing

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What does language do?

  • Precise warnings i.e imperatives
  • Strategy
  • Passing knowledge along i.e weather
  • expression of identity i.e accents, dialects
  • expression of emotions i.e swearing in pain
  • making jokes i.e word play
  • social interaction i.e small talk, checking emotions,
  • ceremonial uses i.e religious ceremonies
  • talking to oneself
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Communication as interaction

  • Language as message structured embedded in time which simultaneously structures + contracts + creates meaning as result of ongoing dialogic process
  • message -> decoder/interpreter/encoder -> message -> encoder/interpreter/decoder etc etc
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Communication as social construction

  • dynamic ongoing process
  • collaborative (co - with/together + munia - sharing/giving)
  • meaningful by transmitting messages
  • participatory (praxis)
  • creative (poesis)
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Differences between human language and animal syst

  • human language unlimited in that new language can be made for new situations
  • animal signalling systems limited to communicating certain circumstances i.e mating, food, dominance
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Define polysemy

  • multiple meanings
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What makes up a language?

  • phonetics (sound system)
  • lexicon (words)
  • morphology (shape/form)
  • syntax (sentence structure/rules)
  • semantics (arbitrary association of strings of words w/ meanings)
  • creativity
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What does it mean to know a language?

  • to know sounds (phonetics)
  • to know arbitrary links between sounds and meanings (semantics)
  • to know creative rules and identify unacceptable strings (syntax)
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How do we speak?

  • speech results from air vibration
  • lungs act as bellows pushing air through vocal chords (pair of thin vibrating membranes) and pharynx out of mouth and nose (oral and nasal sounds)
  • vowels (open mouth/airstream)
  • consonants (sound stopped by tongue/teeth/lips)
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How do consonants differ?

  • place of articulation
  • manner of articulation (mouth/nose exit; type of obstruction; voice/voiceless)
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How do vowels differ?

  • high/low position of langue
  • forward/backward position of tongue
  • position of lips (pursed/open)
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Differences between L1 and L2 acquisition

  • L1 is instinctive so babies filter out noises not relevant to that language
  • L2 learnt with L1 already known so two languages have to be processed
  • more time for L1 as babies without responsibilities or obligations in this capitalist hellscape
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L1 acquisition methods

  • imitation
  • positive reinforcement/correct
  • analogy
  • structured input (baby talk)
  • innate knowledge
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Define communication

  • collaborative progress of using messages to create and participate in social relation i.e identity, relationships, organisations, communities, cultures, ideas
  • actualises possibility and achieve change/growth
  • from Latin; co - with/together and munia - sharing/giving/servicing
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Why did speech communities start writing?

  • continuity
  • permenence
  • privacy
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Timeline of marking to writing

30,000 BC - cuts into sticks/bones as sign of counting
9,000 BC - figurative clay shapes/tokens (representing animals etc)
4,000 BC - marking of clay tokens strung on rope/kept in clay ball
3,400 BC - markings outside of ball > no need for tokens (made redundant)

  • dependent on writing bc survival based on external factors i.e predators so ∴ nomadic requiring knowledge to be passed on
  • then domestication (recording cattle) and agriculture (recording crops) in sedentary societies
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Timeline of pictograms to logograms

Fourth millennium BC: Mesopotamian cuneiform (wedge-shape symbols) writing representing concepts (pictograms/pictographs)
1200 BC: Ancient Chinese writing (logographs/logograms: word signs/paintings)
500 BC: Mayan writing

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  • deciphered by hieroglyphs by Champollion
  • translated Rosetta Stone (created in 196 BC, discovered by French and translated in 1799) from Greek, Egyptian and Demotic
  • combo of phonetic and ideographic symbols
  • classified into three categories: meaning, sound and meaning, sound
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Systems of writing

  • logograms: one symbol for one object (difficult to talk about different tenses)
  • syllabaries: one symbol for one syllable i.e Japanese katakana (requires many symbols)
  • alphabets: one symbol for one sound (requires combos of symbols for all sounds, different sounds depending on accent)
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Difference between writing and orthography

Writing - informal system of how communication is transferred without using oral methods

Orthography - correct and standardised way of writing including relevant norms i.e grammar and spelling

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Why do we use writing?

  • convenience
  • permanence
  • diffusion (not spatially/temporally restricted)
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Putting English into writing

  • adoption of monks of Latin alphabet as basis - 23 signs
  • additional of extra letters i.e front low vowel æ of Anglo-Saxon represented by ligature of a and e
  • runic characters for frictatives thorn, eth and yogh


  • regression of Anglo- Saxon in official documents
  • scribes trained in French with French pronounciation i.e Latin ‘c’ = French ‘c’
  • Viking fathers and Norman mothers had children being taught Norman at home


  • absence of norms
  • regional variation evolutions


  • influence of printing and education
  • development of reference books i.e dictionaries (Johnson: Dictionary of the English Language) and grammar
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Differences between spoken and written language


  • short, incomplete sentences
  • repetitions/formulations
  • pauses with filler words
  • photic formulas i.e “you know”
  • body language and expressions
  • simpler structure and syntax


  • long sentences
  • narrative
  • perfect dialogue
  • correct orthography
  • follows social conventions
  • complex structure and syntax
  • complex themes
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How do mediums shape language?

  • increased coverage of certain accents i.e RP in early ration and television
  • new tech i.e emojis, wider use of slang specific to certain communities (AAVE)
  • ease of usage i.e old phone with 9 buttons
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Define idiolect

  • the way a person talks
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Define dialect

  • systematic differences between groups
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Difference between linguistics and sociolinguistic

  • linguistics: studies language in isolation with focus on unity
  • sociolinguistics: studies language in social context with focus on diveristy
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Define phonetics

  • study of all possible sounds
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Define phonology

  • set of sounds specific to given languages
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Define accent

  • phonological differences
  • i.e regional dialects, North-South difference (one/gone, foot/strut)
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Regional dialects

  • syntactic differences i.e ‘give it me’ (north) v ‘give it to em’ (south); ‘I could have done’ (UK) v ‘I could have’ (US)
  • semantic differences i.e ‘pants’ in UK and US, ‘gosses’ in European and Quebecois French
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Social dialects

  • social boundaries give rise to dialect variation
  • socio-economic status i.e Indian castes
  • religion i.e Arabic spoken in Baghdad by Christians, Jewish and Muslims
  • ethnic’racial differences i.e African-African, Latino, Chicano English
  • dominant or prestige dialect - the standard
  • evolving ideal - BBC used RP so implied adoption of aspirations; banned languages i.e Native American, French patois, r-dropping in RP and Northeast USA
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  • Lakoff: women hedge speech i.e ‘I suppose’ ‘I’d imagine’; tag questions i.e ‘’he is not very good is he?”; more polite words; intensifiers i.e ‘it is so nice’
  • why? Lack of confidence, role in teaching children, more accommodation to middle-class educated interviewers
  • discursive behaviour
  • pitch
  • specific lexical forms i.e ‘stomach’ is onaka (m) or hara (f) in Japanese
  • difference pronounciation i.e at beginning of Bengali words woman use ‘l’, men use ‘n’
  • different grammar i.e Chiquitano has different noun classes for men/gods and women
  • different languages i.e Carib Indian woman speak Arawak not Carib bc Arawak men were killed
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Diachronic variation

  • Keller 1994: change at society through natural phenomena i.e general trends of subjectification (face/back), reinterpretation (hamburger, bikini), segmentation (apron), analogy; artificial phenomena i.e planned action on prestige or corpus; military (Normans)/culture (Renaissance)/economy (sugar trade)
  • culture at indiv level
  • language evolution across life
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Language, group and individual

  • sociolinguists: Language changes bc speakers can alter the wa they speak in order to potentially achieve prestige (over/covert)
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Early and recent studies of speech communities

  • dialectologists charting distribution of colloquial speech forms in societies dominated by major standard languages i.e English, French, German
  • other studied languages of occupationally specialised minority groups, craft jargon, secret argots etc
  • notion of speech community critically revisited - is it really possible to use concept in age of globalisation
  • potentially substituted as “communities of practice”
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Define speech community (Grumperz 2009)

Human aggregate characterised by regular and frequent interaction by means of shared body of verbal signs and set off from similar aggregates by significant differences in language use… the verbal behaviour of such groups always constitutes a system

  • Can be based on geographical (regional accent) or social factors (teen slang), related to activities (IT jargon)
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Individual speakers within speech communities

  • normally part of more than one speech communit using more than one variety so speakers can choose speech communities
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Speech community varieties as markers of group mem

  • individuals accepted as members of group to extent their usage of language conforms to accepted practices
  • choices made by speakers aren’t made in vacuums so its not necessarily possible to change varieties
  • sociolinguists aim to uncover/describe/interpret socially motivated restrictions on linguistic choices
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Language and identity

  • speakers/groups of speakers can flag identify by using language according to practices of certain speech communities
  • identities partly given and partly made i.e parler racialle (constructed idea of using Arabic words to appear tough in Brussels)
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Identities aren’t fixed

  • Schriffrin 1996: “Identity is neither categorical nor fixed; we may act more or less middle-class, more or less female, and so on, depending on what we are doing and with whom”
  • Identity is a multilayered and dynamic process. Each individual's group membership/identities are variable,changing in intensity by context/over time
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The Fur and Baggara in Sudan/Germans in USA during

  • Economic incentives can provide principal rationale for crossing group boundaries/identity change
  • Weber: “ethnic membership … differs from kinship group precisely by being a presumed identity”
  • Presumed identities are flexible and dynamic > unalterably given
  • Page (1986): “we behave in that way that - unconsciously or consciously - we think appropriate to the group with which at the moment we wish to identify
  • Nomadic tribe adopted language of superior static tribe to appear better
  • Language variation occurs bc in given societies, different groups use different varieties
  • Indiv. speaker with both given/flexible group affiliations can choose which group to belong to (to certain extent) therefore uses appropriate variety
  • Language not fixed but subject to trend, socio-economic and tech changes that indiv. speakers react to
  • Sociolinguistic identity research is faced with the task of developing models that can explain why languages and varieties are utilized as signs of identity in some situations and not in others
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Causes of language contact

  • power relations i.e war, invasion
  • economic exchange i.e international trade
  • political decisions i.e marriages, alliances
  • cultural domination i.e US dominance
  • population movement i.e exploration, slavery, tourism
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Bilingual practices at societal level

  • lingua franca: existing language with prestige/practical advantages
  • pidgin: created simplified vehicular language (small/specialised lexicon with reduced grammatical structures)
  • creole: expansion of pidgin to become mother tongue
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Features of Pidgin

  • lack of grammatical words (i.e auxiliary verbs, prepositions, articles) and inflectional morphology (i.e tense, aspect)
  • fewer prepositions
  • productive morphological processes i.e reduplication (big-big) and composition (gras beling head)
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Features of Creole

  • inflectional morphology i.e you bags
  • reduction of composition i.e skinwara
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Bilingualism and code-switching

  • speakers fluent in multiple languages engage in communication with other bilingual speakers
  • productive use of prelearned phrases for communication i.e people in foreign languages, taxi drivers for English-speaking passengers

How do bilinguals communicate

  • Grosjean 2001: bilingual mode in use of both inventories of words
  • frequent use of code-switching
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Code switching

  • Matras 2009: term applying to alternating languages within conversations
  • normative grammarians saw it as Language
  • 1970s - code-switching as field of investigation in own right
  • key terms - term itself, regularities and constraints, function, code switching-borrowing continuum

Process/loans/transfer of full/partial adoption of linguistic units/features (lexical/syntactic/phonological) to recipient from other languages (donor language)

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Borrowing as replication

  • emphasises aspects of ownership and boundaries between linguistic systems involved
  • diverted attention away from dynamic process of sharing structures/word form applying/adapting/using it
  • dealing with activity of employing items in context in order to achieve communicative goals


  • gaps in recipient language
  • prestige of donor language
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Gaps in L1

  • not necessarily deficiencies in recipient languages
  • typically cultural loans for new concepts, inventions, undiscovered species, products etc in which new linguistic forms (signfiant) imported together with new concept (signfié)
  • i.e coffee <- French café from Turkish kahve from Arabic qahwe; gastronomy (pizza, naan, taco), art (allegro, piano), politics (democracy)
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Prestige hypothesis

  • assumes speakers imitate elements of speech of more socially powerful/dominant community in order to gain approval/social status
  • unlike cultural loans, prestige loans have parallel expressions in recipient language i.e training is ‘entraînement’
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Lexical borrowing

  • Full borrowing i.e adoption of ‘sa’ and ‘sé in ‘staff’, hinterland, zeitgeist, kindergarten
  • Partial borrowing i.e adoption of ‘sé’ but adaption of ‘sa’ is dopage, verbs borrowed as noun (i.e abseiling), derived from borrowed nouns (i.e ‘telephone’ taking consonantal root to form verb ‘letalfen’)
  • False borrowing i.e construction from foreign ‘sé’ to ‘sa’ not known in donor language (tennisman, brushing)
  • Calque i.e morphology (supermarché), semantics (introduire/présenter, gradué/diplômé), idiomatic (voyager léger)
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Grammatical borrowing

  • more frequent in code-switching i.e Quebec
  • adoption of foreign structures i.e prepositions (être sur le bus, bureau informations, supplément science, soirée poésie); word order (sud-américain); calque of structure (un bon dix minutes)
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Phonological borrowing

  • naturalisation of pronunciation i.e redingote, boulingrin, paquebot
  • adoption of foreign pronounciation i.e contemporary new trend resulting in new phonemes (-ing in French)
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Codeswitching/borrowing continuum

1) bilinguality - bilingual speaker to monolingual speaker
2) composition - elaborate phrases to single lexical item
3) functionality - special conversational effect; stylistic choice to default expression
4) specificity - lexical to para-lexical
5) operationality - core vocab to grammatical operations
6) regularity - regular occurrence to single occurrence
7) structural integration - integrated to not integrated

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Intercultural encounters

1) issues with language and gestures

  • words have different meanings
  • bad translations
  • different gestures i.e a-okay in Greece, Malta and Brazil is obscene; thumbs up is offensive in Nigeria; stop is rude in Turkey; fig is obscene in Turkey, Greece, Tunisia, Holland

2) issues with interaction codes

  • people viewing convo in different lights i.e negotiations being forceful in West or not in East
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  • verbal communication not limited to exchange of info
  • includes major function of shaping interpersonal relations
  • Coulmas 2005: politeness is practice organising linguistic action so that it is seen as inoffensive and conforming to current social expectations

Theory of politeness

  • must be culturally neutral
  • basic assumption is that people engaging in convo are co-op and assume others to be co-op
  • uses linguistic concept of face
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Speakers’ sense of linguistics and social identity; any speech act may impose on this sense ∴ face-threatening

Levinson & Brown 1987

  • negative face - desire to be unconstrained by others in one’s actions
  • positive face - desire to be appreciated and accepted by others
  • rational actions people take to preserve both kinds of face for themselves and people they interact with
  • i.e
    1) I want some beer’ - on-record strategy does nothing to minimise threats to hearer’s ‘face’
    2) ‘Is it okay for me to have a beer?’ - positive politeness strategy shows recognition that hearer has desire to be respected
    3) ‘I hope it's not too forward, but would it be possible for me to have a beer?’ - negative politeness recognises hearer’s face and that you are imposing upon them
    4) ‘It’s so hot. It makes you really thirsty’ - off record indirect strategies take pressure of asker
  • different cultures consider different acts/expressions as face-threatening
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Politeness across cultures

  • pronominal address
  • English has egalitarian pronouns
  • French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch have pronouns based on familiarity and authority
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Markedness theory

  • in each society there is normal linguistic usage allowing social actors expression of modesty, respect, deference, solidarity, authority, formality etc
  • to follow usage makes for unmarked utterances
  • marked utterances are conspicuous and out of ordinary with respect to certain point of reference i.e sheep v ewe

Understanding politeness

  • valuable analytical tool for understanding working of politeness devices in linguistic interaction
  • every unmarked choice functions as affirmation of existing social order
  • every marked choice is potential threat
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Strongly and weakly socially encoded languages

  • English is weakly coded meaning politeness isn’t inherent in words but in certain phrases
    Indirectness - “I am looking for a pen”
    Passive - “I am told”
    Address - “Sir, Madam”
    Greetings - “How do you do?”

As opposed to languages with honorifics i.e Japanese, Korean etc

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Media revolutions

1) invention of writing
2) 1450 - invention of European printing press by Gutenberg with major consequences for political developments (Anderson 1981)
3) invention of computers and Internet

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Define Internet

Association of computer networks with common standards enabling messages to be sent from any registered computer to another

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How did the Internet change how we communicate?

  • internet is now world’s largest computer network
  • 100s of millions of hosts
  • provides increasing number of services
  • allows unprecedented number of people to be in touch with email, discussion groups, social media, provision of digital pages on any topic
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Effect of computer-mediated communciation on Langu

  • smaller languages can be revived
  • languages without written forms could die out
  • languages could be swallowed up i.e English over smaller languages

English - 948.6m users
Chinese - 751.9m users
Spanish - 277.1m users
Arabic - 168.4m users
Portuguese - 154.5m users

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Communicative situations on Internet

  • email
  • blogging
  • vlogging
  • group chats
  • virtual worlds
  • instant messaging
  • interactive voice dialogue
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Influence of language on internet

  • netiquette
  • loss of linearity due to hypertext
  • punctuation i.e @, .com, /
  • abbreviations
  • emojis
  • neologisms i.e geek language: flaming someone, 404, dotcom org, e-prefix

Potential impact of internet on languages

  • development of netspeak or specific dialects
  • imposition of English as lingua Franca or place of multiculturalism
  • potential for “Babel fish” (bilinguals needed for developing application )
  • new forms of authorship
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Define globalisation

Economic arrangements based on a world market system increasing transnational interdependencies and influences

  • i.e overarching dominant states like Roman or British empire, colonisation, trade arrangement like Hanseatic League, religion

Current globalisation

  • due to tech i.e air travel, communication tech
  • influences economy, politics, culture
  • food
  • migration
  • communciation
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Consequences of modern globalisation

  • increasing mediation of culture; world-wide cultural landscapes
  • massively increased demographic mobility
  • proliferation of communication tech
  • large shift to service sector work
  • upsurge in consumer culture and new forms of commodification
  • more emphasis on individualism
  • developing ethnic pluralism mainly in urban areas
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Globalisation and place

  • not a new phenomenon but accelerating massively in modern world
  • one of dynamics of modern life is separation of place from space (removing social relations from local contexts)
  • world indiv. experiences is no longer necessarily in physical world in which they move
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Changed parameters for linguistics in globalised w

  • who speaks/writes what languages to whom and when and to what end?
  • general approach of sociolinguists to language for man decades must be reconsidered bc place and time are assumed when no longer important in globalised world
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Impact of globalisation on language

  • easier to learn different language
  • increased language
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How do speakers and speech community react to this

  • commodification of languages
  • rise of English as global language
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Is globalisation good for language?

Yes - increased contact
No - losing worldviews

Chinese - spoken in 35 countries with 1,302m L1 speakers
Spanish - spoken in 31 countries with 427m L1 speakers
English - spoken in 106 countries with 339m L1 speaker

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English in globalisation

Language shifts to English

  • Tegulu in South Africa

Borrowing from English

  • English as main language to borrow from
  • advertising

Invasions of domains by English

  • Dutch as academic language
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Future of English (Crystal 2003)

Rejection of English

  • colonial heritage i.e Tanzania spoke Swahili and English until 1967; Malaysia’s National Language Act 1967 shifting sole status to Malay; growth in Algeria
  • choice of regional languages i.e Spanish in South Africa, Russian in Baltic states
  • shifts to other languages

New Englishes

  • evolution of English in new settings i.e USA, Canada, Australia with different lexicons and grammatical features
  • evolution of English in different settings i.e new languages (Latin); Diglossia: regional varieties of English and World Standard Spoken English
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Why/how globalisation affects smaller languages

  • adoption of English
  • loss of culture
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In which ways does globalisation affect use of lan

  • increased language contact
  • easier to learn languages
  • diluting of languages
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