Birds string together meaningless sounds to make ‘words’

Duo chectnut crowned babbler

A new study sheds light on whether animal vocalizations, like human words, are constructed from smaller building blocks. By analyzing calls of the Australian chestnut-crowned babbler, the researchers have for the first time identified the meaning-generating building blocks of a non-human communication system.
Stringing together meaningless sounds to create meaningful signals is a core feature of human language. Investigating whether animals share this basic combinatorial ability has been complicated by difficulties in identifying whether animal vocalizations are made from smaller, meaningless sounds, or building blocks. New research by scientists at the Universities of Zurich, Exeter, Warwick, Macquarie and New South Wales has addressed this question in the calls of the chestnut-crowned babbler (Pomatostomus ruficeps) — a highly social bird from the Australian Outback.

Meaningful calls composed of distinct sounds
Previous research demonstrated that chestnut-crowned babbler calls seemed to be composed of two different sounds “A” and “B” in different arrangements when performing specific behaviors. When flying, the birds produced a flight call “AB,” but when feeding chicks in the nest they emitted “BAB” provisioning calls.
In the current study, the authors used playback experiments, previously used to test speech-sound discrimination in human infants, to probe the perception of the sound elements in babblers. “Through systematic comparisons we tested which of the elements babblers perceived as equivalent or different sounds. In doing so, we were able to confirm that the calls could be broken up into two perceptually distinct sounds that are shared across the calls in different arrangements,” explains Sabrina Engesser from the University of Zurich, lead author on the study. “Furthermore, none of the comprising elements carried the meaning of the calls, confirming the elements are meaningless,” she adds.
“This system is reminiscent of the way humans use sounds to form meaningful words,” says co-author Andy Russell from the University of Exeter. The research findings, which are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveal a potential early step in the emergence of the elaborate combinatorial sound system characterizing human language.

Understanding the evolution of communication
Last author Simon Townsend from the University of Zurich and the University of Warwick says: “This is the first time that the meaning-generating building blocks of a non-human communication system have been experimentally identified.” He concludes: “Although the building blocks in the babbler system may be of a very simple kind, it might still help us understand how combinatoriality initially evolved in humans.”

These findings raise the exciting possibility that the capacity to generate meaning from meaningless building blocks is widespread in animals. However, the authors caution that there are still considerable differences between such systems and word generation in language. They emphasize that a focus on the acoustic distinctiveness of sounds in meaningful animal vocalizations offers a promising approach to investigate the building blocks of non-human animal communication systems.

Citation: University of Zurich. (2019, September 9). Birds string together meaningless sounds to make ‘words’. ScienceDaily.

Source Link: Science Daily

Aphasia : A Language Disorder after a Stroke


What is Aphasia?

Aphasia often arises as a result of damage to Broca’s area or Wernicke’s area.

Aphasia is a language disorder that results from damage to portions of the brain that are responsible for language. For most people, these are parts of the left side (hemisphere) of the brain. Aphasia usually occurs suddenly, often as the result of a stroke or head injury, but it may also develop slowly, as in the case of a brain tumor. The disorder impairs both the expression and understanding of language as well as reading and writing. Aphasia may co-occur with speech disorders such as dysarthria or apraxia of speech, which also result from brain damage.

Who has aphasia?
Anyone can acquire aphasia, but most people who have aphasia are in their middle to late years. Men and women are equally affected. It is estimated that approximately 80,000 individuals acquire aphasia each year. About one million persons in the United States currently have aphasia.

What causes aphasia?
Aphasia is caused by damage to one or more of the language areas of the brain. Many times, the cause of the brain injury is a stroke. A stroke occurs when blood is unable to reach a part of the brain. Brain cells die when they do not receive their normal supply of blood, which carries oxygen and important nutrients. Other causes of brain injury are severe blows to the head, brain tumors, brain infections, and other conditions of the brain.

Individuals with Broca’s aphasia have damage to the frontal lobe of the brain. These individuals frequently speak in short, meaningful phrases that are produced with great effort. Broca’s aphasia is thus characterized as a nonfluent aphasia. Affected people often omit small words such as “is,” “and,” and “the.” For example, a person with Broca’s aphasia may say, “Walk dog” meaning, “I will take the dog for a walk.” The same sentence could also mean “You take the dog for a walk,” or “The dog walked out of the yard,” depending on the circumstances. Individuals with Broca’s aphasia are able to understand the speech of others to varying degrees. Because of this, they are often aware of their difficulties and can become easily frustrated by their speaking problems. Individuals with Broca’s aphasia often have right-sided weakness or paralysis of the arm and leg because the frontal lobe is also important for body movement.

In contrast to Broca’s aphasia, damage to the temporal lobe may result in a fluent aphasia that is called Wernicke’s aphasia. Individuals with Wernicke’s aphasia may speak in long sentences that have no meaning, add unnecessary words, and even create new “words.” For example, someone with Wernicke’s aphasia may say, “You know that smoodle pinkered and that I want to get him round and take care of him like you want before,” meaning “The dog needs to go out so I will take him for a walk.” Individuals with Wernicke’s aphasia usually have great difficulty understanding speech and are therefore often unaware of their mistakes. These individuals usually have no body weakness because their brain injury is not near the parts of the brain that control movement.

A third type of aphasia, global aphasia, results from damage to extensive portions of the language areas of the brain. Individuals with global aphasia have severe communication difficulties and may be extremely limited in their ability to speak or comprehend language.


How is aphasia diagnosed?

Aphasia is usually first recognized by the physician who treats the individual for his or her brain injury, usually a neurologist. The physician typically performs tests that require the individual to follow commands, answer questions, name objects, and converse. If the physician suspects aphasia, the individual is often referred to a speech-language pathologist, who performs a comprehensive examination of the person’s ability to understand, speak, read, and write.

How is aphasia treated?
In some instances, an individual will completely recover from aphasia without treatment. This type of “spontaneous recovery” usually occurs following a transient ischemic attack (TIA), a kind of stroke in which the blood flow to the brain is temporarily interrupted but quickly restored. In these circumstances, language abilities may return in a few hours or a few days. For most cases of aphasia, however, language recovery is not as quick or as complete. While many individuals with aphasia also experience a period of partial spontaneous recovery (in which some language abilities return over a period of a few days to a month after the brain injury), some amount of aphasia typically remains. In these instances, speech-language therapy is often helpful. Recovery usually continues over a 2-year period. Most people believe that the most effective treatment begins early in the recovery process. Some of the factors that influence the amount of improvement include the cause of the brain damage, the area of the brain that was damaged, the extent of the brain injury, and the age and health of the individual. Additional factors include motivation, handedness, and educational level.

Aphasia therapy strives to improve an individual’s ability to communicate by helping the person to use remaining abilities, to restore language abilities as much as possible, to compensate for language problems, and to learn other methods of communicating. Treatment may be offered in individual or group settings. Individual therapy focuses on the specific needs of the person. Group therapy offers the opportunity to use new communication skills in a comfortable setting. Stroke clubs, which are regional support groups formed by individuals who have had a stroke, are available in most major cities. These clubs also offer the opportunity for individuals with aphasia to try new communication skills. In addition, stroke clubs can help the individual and his or her family adjust to the life changes that accompany stroke and aphasia. Family involvement is often a crucial component of aphasia treatment so that family members can learn the best way to communicate with their loved one.

Family members are encouraged to:

  • Simplify language by using short, uncomplicated sentences.
  • Repeat the content words or write down key words to clarify meaning as needed.
  • Maintain a natural conversational manner appropriate for an adult.
  • Minimize distractions, such as a blaring radio, whenever possible.
  • Include the person with aphasia in conversations.
  • Ask for and value the opinion of the person with aphasia, especially regarding family matters.
  • Encourage any type of communication, whether it is speech, gesture, pointing, or drawing.
  • Avoid correcting the individual’s speech.
  • Allow the individual plenty of time to talk.
  • Help the individual become involved outside the home. Seek out support groups such as stroke clubs.

What are researchers investigating about aphasia?
Aphasia research is exploring new ways to evaluate and treat aphasia as well as to further understand the function of the brain. Brain imaging techniques are helping to define brain function, determine the severity of brain damage, and predict the severity of the aphasia. These procedures include PET (positron emission tomography), CT (computed tomography), and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) as well as the new functional magnetic resonance (fMRI), which identifies areas of the brain that are used during activities such as speaking or listening. In-depth testing of the language ability of individuals with the various aphasic syndromes is helping to design effective treatment strategies. The use of computers in aphasia treatment is also being studied. Promising new drugs administered shortly after some types of stroke are being investigated as ways to reduce the severity of aphasia.

source :

Language and Brain Connection


Do you know that a part of the brain is responsible for your Language and Speech Areas?

Lateralization of the brain:

In human beings, it is the left hemisphere that usually contains the specialized language areas.

While this holds true for 97% of right-handed people, about 19% of left-handed people have their language areas in the right hemisphere and as many as 68% of them have some  language abilities in both the left and the right hemispheres.


Broca (1861):

The first language area within the left hemisphere to be discovered is called Broca’s Area, after Paul Broca. Broca was a French neurologist who had a patient with severe language problems: Although he could understand the speech of others with little difficulty, the only word he could produce was “tan.” After the patient died, Broca performed an autopsy, and discovered that an area of the frontal lobe, had been seriously damaged. He correctly hypothesized that this area was responsible for speech
Wernicke (1876):

The second language area to be discovered is called Wernicke’s Area, after Carl Wernicke, a German neurologist. Wernicke had a
patient who could speak quite well, but was unable to understand the speech of others. After the patient’s death, Wernicke performed an autopsy and found damage to an area at the upper portion of the temporal lobe, just behind the auditory cortex. He correctly hypothesized that this area was responsible for speech comprehension.


How the two Areas Work together:
Broca’s area processes the information received from Wernicke’s area into a detailed and coordinated pattern for vocalization and then projects the pattern via a speech articulation area in the insula to the motor cortex, which initiates the appropriate movements of the lips, tongue, and larynx to produce speech. The angular gyrus behind Wernicke’s area appears to process information from words that are read in such away that they can be converted into the auditory forms of the words in Wernicke’s area.


How these  areas of the brain  play  critical roles  in speech and language.

Broca’s Area

Broca’s area, located in the left hemisphere, is associated with speech production and articulation. Our ability to articulate ideas, as well as use words accurately in spoken and written language, has been attributed to this crucial area.

Wernicke’s Area

This critical language area in the posterior superior temporal lobe connects to Broca’s area via a neural pathway. Wernicke’s area is primarily involved in the comprehension. Historically, this area has been associated with language processing, whether it is written or spoken.

Angular Gyrus

The angular gyrus allows us to associate multiple types of language-related information whether auditory, visual or sensory. It is located in close proximity to other critical brain regions such as the parietal lobe which processes tactile sensation, the occipital lobe which is involved in visual analyses and the temporal lobe which processes sounds. The angular gyrus allows us to associate a perceived word with different images, sensations and ideas.

references:  Boeree, C. G. (2004). Speech and the brain.

Doing Ethnographic Study


What is Ethnography?
The term ethnography has come to be equated with virtually any qualitative research project  where the intent is to provide a detailed, in-depth description of everyday life and practice. This is sometimes referred to as “thick description” — a term attributed to the anthropologist Clifford Geertz writing on the idea of an interpretive theory of culture in the early 1970s (e.g., see The Interpretation of Cultures, first published as a collection in 1973). The use of the term “qualitative” is meant to distinguish this kind of social science research from more “quantitative” or statistically oriented research. The two approaches, i.e., quantitative and qualitative, while often complementary, ultimately have different aims.

While an ethnographic approach to social research is no longer purely that of the cultural anthropologist, a more precise definition must be rooted in ethnography’s disciplinary home of anthropology. Thus, ethnography may be defined as both a qualitative research process or method (one conducts an ethnography) and product (the outcome of this process is an ethnography) whose aim is cultural interpretation. The ethnographer goes beyond reporting events and details of experience. Specifically, he or see attempts to explain how these represent what we might call “webs of meaning” (Geertz again), the cultural constructions, in which we live.

Ethnographers generate understandings of culture through representation of what we call an emic perspective, or what might be described as the “‘insider’s point of view.” The emphasis in this representation is thus on allowing critical categories and meanings to emerge from the ethnographic encounter rather than imposing these from existing models. An etic perspective, by contrast, refers to a more distant, analytical orientation to experience.

An ethnographic understanding is developed through close exploration of several sources of data. Using these data sources as a foundation, the ethnographer relies on a cultural frame of analysis.

Long-term engagement in the field setting or place where the ethnography takes place, is called participant observation. This is perhaps the primary source of ethnographic data. The term represents the dual role of the ethnographer. To develop an understanding of what it is like to live in a setting, the researcher must both become a participant in the life of the setting while also maintaining the stance of an observer, someone who can describes the experience with a measure of what we might call “detachment.” Note that this does not mean that ethnographers cannot also become advocates for the people they study. Typically ethnographers spend many months or even years in the places where they conduct their research often forming lasting bonds with people. Due to historical development and disciplinary biases, in the past most ethnographers conducted their research in foreign countries while largely ignoring the potential for work right here at home. This has meant that much of the ethnography done in the United States today is now being done outside of its disciplinary home. Increasing numbers of cultural anthropologists, however, have begun doing fieldwork in the communities where they themselves live and work.

Interviews provide for what might be called “targeted” data collection by asking specific but open-ended questions. There is a great variety of interview styles. Each ethnographer brings his or her own unique approach to the process. Regardless, the emphasis is on allowing the person or persons being interviewed to answer without being limited by pre-defined choices — something which clearly differentiates qualitative from more quantitative or demographic approaches. In most cases, an ethnographic interview looks and feels little different than an everyday conversation and indeed in the course of long-term participant-observation, most conversations are in fact purely spontaneous and without any specific agenda.

Researchers collect other sources of data which depend on the specific nature of the field setting. This may take the form of representative artifacts that embody characteristics of the topic of interest, government reports, and newspaper and magazine articles. Although often not tied to the site of study, secondary academic sources are utilized to “locate” the specific study within an existing body of literature.

Over the past twenty years, interest has grown within anthropology for considering the close relationship between personal history, motivation, and the particulars of ethnographic fieldwork (e.g., see Hoey & Fricke 2007). It is undeniably important to question and understand how these factors have bearing on the construction of theory and conduct of a scholarly life. Personal and professional experiences, together with historical context, lead individual researchers to their own particular methodological and theoretical approaches. This too is an important, even if unacknowledged, source.

Ethnographic fieldwork is shaped by personal and professional identities just as these identities are inevitably shaped by individual experiences while in the field. Unfortunately, the autobiographical dimension of ethnographic research has been downplayed historically if not discounted altogether. This is mostly understandable given a perceived threat to the objectivity expected of legitimate science, to reliability of data, and to integrity of our methodology, if we appear to permit subjectivity to intervene by allowing the ethnographer’s encumbered persona to appear instead of adhering to the prescribed role of wholly dispassionate observer.

Most anthropologists today point to Bronislaw Malinowski, author of such landmark ethnographies as Argonauts of the Western Pacific (first published in 1922), as a kind of founding father to ethnographic fieldwork, the practice of “participant-observation.” Malinowski’s early twentieth century ethnographies were written in a voice removed and utterly unrevealing about the nature of the ethnographer and his relationship to people studied. Since Malinowski’s time, the personal account of fieldwork has been hidden away in notes and diaries. These “off the record” writings document the tacit impressions and emotional experiences without which we cannot, as ethnographers, fully appreciate and understand the project of our research itself. Malinowski’s diaries were published after his death in a revealing autobiographical account of his inner life while in the field (A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term, first published in 1967). We learn in his diaries that, among other details, Malinowski longed to write great novels even as his scientific writing effectively defined the practice of cultural anthropology for much of the twentieth century.

Of many important lessons for anthropologists, Malinowski’s diaries hold two especially relevant ones here. First of these is that, at its heart, ethnographic writing is a means of expressing a shared interest among cultural anthropologists for telling stories – stories about what it means to be human. The other is that the explicit professional project of observing, imagining and describing other people need not be incompatible with the implicit personal project of learning about the self. It is the honest truth of fieldwork that these two projects are always implicated in each other. Good ethnography recognizes the transformative nature of fieldwork where as we search for answers to questions about people we may find ourselves in the stories of others. Ethnography should be acknowledged as a mutual product born of the intertwining of the lives of the ethnographer and his or her subjects (for more on these points.


Immediate constituent analysis (IC)


Immediate constituent analysis : A method in Grammatical analysis 

In linguistics, immediate constituent analysis or IC analysis is a method of sentence analysis that was first mentioned by Leonard Bloomfield, and developed further by Rulon Wells. The process reached a full blown strategy for analyzing sentence structure in the early works of Noam Chomsky.The practice is now widespread. Most tree structures employed to represent the syntactic structure of sentences are products of some form of IC-analysis. The process and result of IC-analysis can, however, vary greatly based upon whether one chooses the constituency relation of phrase structure grammars (= constituency grammars) or the dependency relation of dependency grammars as the underlying principle that organizes constituents into hierarchical structures.

binary principle

IC-analysis in phrase structure grammars

Given a phrase structure grammar (= constituency grammar), IC-analysis divides up a sentence into major parts or immediate constituents, and these constituents are in turn divided into further immediate constituents. The process continues until irreducible constituents are reached, i.e., until each constituent consists of only a word or a meaningful part of a word. The end result of IC-analysis is often presented in a visual diagrammatic form that reveals the hierarchical immediate constituent structure of the sentence at hand. These diagrams are usually trees. For example:

tree structure 1

This tree illustrates the manner in which the entire sentence is divided first into the two immediate constituents this tree and illustrates IC-analysis according to the constituency relation; these two constituents are further divided into the immediate constituents this and tree, and illustrates IC-analysis and according to the constituency relation; and so on.

An important aspect of IC-analysis in phrase structure grammars is that each individual word is a constituent by definition. The process of IC-analysis always ends when the smallest constituents are reached, which are often words (although the analysis can also be extended into the words to acknowledge the manner in which words are structured). The process is, however, much different in dependency grammars, since many individual words do not end up as constituents in dependency grammars.

IC definitions


1 . Un gentlemanly
This will be broken down into un-gentlemanly —-> un- gentleman-ly —-> un-gentle-man-ly—–> un-gentl-e-man-ly
un + { [(gentle- + le ) + man ] + -ly

As we break the word we obtain at any level only two immediate constituents (IC)s, one of which is the stem of any given word.

IC main requirement


A given word/node plus all the words/nodes that that word/node dominates

This definition is neutral with respect to the dependency vs. constituency distinction. It allows one to compare the IC-analyses across the two types of structure. A constituent is always a complete tree or a complete subtree of a tree, regardless of whether the tree at hand is a constituency or a dependency tree.

Morphology in IC

Constituency tests

The IC-analysis for a given sentence is arrived at usually by way of constituency tests. Constituency tests (e.g. topicalization, clefting, pseudoclefting, pro-form substitution, answer ellipsis, passivization, omission, coordination, etc.) identify the constituents, large and small, of English sentences. Two illustrations of the manner in which constituency tests deliver clues about constituent structure and thus about the correct IC-analysis of a given sentence are now given. Consider the phrase The girl in the following trees:

tree diagram 2

The acronym BPS stands for “bare phrase structure”, which is an indication that the words are used as the node labels in the tree. Again, focusing on the phrase The girl, the tests unanimously confirm that it is a constituent as both trees show:

…the girl is happy – Topicalization (invalid test because test constituent is already at front of sentence)

It is the girl who is happy. – Clefting

(The one)Who is happy is the girl. – Pseudoclefting

She is happy. – Pro-form substitution

Who is happy? -The girl. – Answer ellipsis

Based on these results, one can safely assume that the noun phrase The girl in the example sentence is a constituent and should therefore be shown as one in the corresponding IC-representation, which it is in both trees. Consider next what these tests tell us about the verb string is happy:

*…is happy, the girl. – Topicalization

*It is is happy that the girl. – Clefting

*What the girl is is happy. – Pseudoclefting

*The girl so/that/did that. – Pro-form substitution

What is the girl? -*Is happy. – Answer ellipsis

The star * indicates that the sentence is bad (i.e. it is not acceptable English). Based on data like these, one might conclude that the finite verb string is happy in the example sentence is not a constituent and should therefore not be shown as a constituent in the corresponding IC-representation. Hence this result supports the IC-analysis in the dependency tree over the one in the constituency tree, since the dependency tree does not view is happy as a constituent.

In summary:

Immediate constituent analysis is a form of linguistic review that breaks down longer phrases or sentences into their constituent parts, usually into single words. This kind of analysis is sometimes abbreviated as IC analysis, and gets used extensively by a wide range of language experts. This kind of exploration of language has applications for both societal or traditional linguistics, and natural language processing in technology fields.

For those who use this kind of analysis to examine text or speech, immediate constituent analysis often requires separating parts of a sentence or phrase into groups of words with semantical synergy or related meaning. For example, the sentence, “the car is fast,” could be broken down into two groups of words: “the car” and “is fast.” In this case, the first group contains an article applied to a noun, and the second group contains a verb followed by a defining adjective.

Many kinds of immediate constituent analysis include multi-step processing. For the example above, the two groups of words could be split up further into individual words. Reviewers might consider how the article “the” applies to the word “car,” for instance, in specifying one particular car, and how the adjective “fast” describes the verb “is,” in this case, in a simple, rather than a comparative or superlative sense.


Akmajian, A. and F. Heny. 1980. An introduction to the principle of transformational syntax. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Ágel, V., L. Eichinger, H.-W. Eroms, P. Hellwig, H. Heringer, and H. Lobin (eds.) 2003/6. Dependency and valency: An international handbook of contemporary research. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Bloomfield, Leonard. 1933. Language. New York: Henry Holt ISBN 0-226-06067-5, ISBN 90-272-1892-7

Conversation Analysis

Conversation Analysis


Conversation Analysis

              Conversation analysis (commonly abbreviated as CA) is an approach to the study of  social interaction, embracing both verbal and non-verbal conduct, in situations of everyday life. As its name implies, CA began with a focus on casual conversation, but its methods were subsequently adapted to embrace more task- and institution-centered interactions, such as those occurring in doctors’ offices, courts, law enforcement, helplines, educational settings, and the mass media. As a consequence, the term ‘conversation analysis’ has become something of a misnomer, but it has continued as a term for a distinctive and successful approach to the analysis of social interaction.

              Inspired by Harold Garfinkel’s ethnomethodology and Erving Goffman’s conception of the interaction order, CA was developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s principally by the sociologist Harvey Sacks and his close associates Emanuel Schegloff and Gail Jefferson. Today CA is an established method used in sociology, anthropology, linguistics, speech-communication and psychology. It is particularly influential in interactional sociolinguistics, discourse analysis and discursive psychology. It is distinct from discourse analysis in focus and method. (i) Its focus is squarely on processes involved in social interaction and does not include written texts or larger sociocultural phenomena (for example, ‘discourses’ in the Foucauldian sense). (ii) Its method, following Garfinkel and Goffman’s initiatives, is aimed at determining the methods and resources that the interactional participants use and rely on to produce interactional contributions and make sense of the contributions of others. Thus CA is neither designed for, nor aimed at, examining the production of interaction from a perspective that is external to the participants’ own reasoning and understanding about their circumstances and communication. Rather the aim is to model the resources and methods by which those understandings are produced.


Turn-taking refers to the process by which people in a conversation decide who is to speak next. It depends on both cultural factors and subtle cues.

Turn-taking and gender
Turn-taking in male-female interactions is highly salient. Male interlocutors systematically interrupt females and tend to dominate conversations, and women are frequently treated in much the same way as children are in conversations. This interruption, however, is not due to female interlocutors’ failure to pursue the floor. “Deep” interruption, or interruption at least two syllables before a potential utterance boundary, is perpetuated more frequently by men, towards women, regardless of ways that women negotiate them.

Language and conversation are primary ways in which social interaction is organized. Unequal conversational patterns are therefore reflective of larger power disparities between men and women. One study by Zimmerman and West found that in same-sex pair conversations, overlap and interruption tend to be equally distributed between the two interlocutors, and interruptions are clustered – that is, only a couple of the pairs did all of the interrupting. For opposite sex pairs, male interlocutors interrupt much more, and interruptions are much more widely distributed – that is, most men did it. Gender differences in turn-taking are not invariable, however, and are related to the conditions and context of the speech Gendered aspects of speech and turn-taking must be recognized as being reflective of the cultures in which they exist. Questions have been raised about the correlation between interruption and dominance, and its importance to gender as opposed to other social categories. Studies done by Beattie find status difference more important than gender difference in predicting which speakers interrupted more.

Turn constructional component
The turn constructional component describes basic units out of which turns are fashioned. These basic units are known as Turn construction unit or TCUs. Unit types include: lexical, clausal, phrasal, and sentential.

Turn allocational component
The turn allocational component describes how participants organize their interaction by distributing turns to speakers.
Sequence organization
This focuses on how actions are ordered in conversation.

Adjacency pairs
Talk tends to occur in responsive pairs; however, the pairs may be split over a sequence of turns.
A pair of turns may be understood as preliminary to the main course of action. For example, “Guess what!”/”What?” as preliminary to an announcement of some sort, or “What are you doing?”/”Nothing” as preliminary to an invitation or a request.

Preference organization
CA may reveal structural (i.e. practice-underwritten) preferences in conversation for some types of actions (within sequences of action) over other actions. For example, responsive actions which agree with, or accept, positions taken by a first action tend to be performed more straightforwardly and faster than actions that disagree with, or decline, those positions (Pomerantz 1984; Davidson 1984). One consequence of this is that agreement and acceptance are promoted over their alternatives, and are more likely to be the outcome of the sequence. Pre-sequences are also a component of preference organization and contribute to this outcome (Schegloff 2007).

Repair organization describes how parties in conversation deal with problems in speaking, hearing, or understanding. Repair segments are classified by who initiates repair (self or other), by who resolves the problem (self or other), and by how it unfolds within a turn or a sequence of turns. The organisation of repair is also a self-righting mechanism in social interaction (Schegloff, Jefferson, and Sacks 1977). Participants in conversation seek to correct the trouble source by initiating self repair and a preference for self repair, the speaker of the trouble source, over other repair (Schegloff, Jefferson, and Sacks 1977). Self repair initiations can be placed in three locations in relation to the trouble source, in a first turn, a transition space or in a third turn (Schegloff, Jefferson, and Sacks 1977). Self initiators of repair in the same turn use different
non-lexical speech perturbations, including: cut-offs, sound stretches and “uh’s” (Schegloff, Jefferson, and Sacks 1977).

Speech community
A speech community is a group of people who share a set of norms and expectations regarding the use of language.[1]
Exactly how to define speech community is debated in the literature. Definitions of speech community tend to involve varying degrees of emphasis on the following:
• Shared community membership
• Shared linguistic communication

Early definitions have tended to see speech communities as bounded and localized groups of people who live together and come to share the same linguistic norms because they belong to the same local community. It has also been assumed that within a community a homogeneous set of norms should exist. These assumptions have been challenged by later scholarship that have demonstrated that individuals generally participate in various speech communities simultaneously and at different times in their lives each of which has a different norms that they tend to share only partially, communities may be de-localized and unbounded rather than local, and they often comprise different sub-communities with differing speech norms. With the recognition of the fact that speakers actively use language to construct and manipulate social identities by signalling membership in particular speech communities, the idea of the bounded speech community with homogeneous speech norms has become largely abandoned for a model based on the speech community as a fluid community of practice.

A speech community comes to share a specific set of norms for language use through living and interacting together, and speech communities may therefore emerge among all groups that interact frequently and share certain norms and ideologies. Such groups can be villages, countries, political or professional communities, communities with shared interests, hobbies, or lifestyles, or even just groups of friends. Speech communities may share both particular sets of vocabulary and grammatical conventions, as well as speech styles and genres, and also norms for how and when to speak in particular ways.
Gumperz asserted the notion of the linguistic community as the community that carries a single speech variant, and seek a definition that could encompass heterogeneity. This could be done by focusing on the interactive aspect of language, because interaction in speech is the path along which diffused linguistic traits travel. Gumperz defined the community of speech:

Any human aggregate characterized by regular and frequent interaction by means of a shared body of verbal signs and set off from similar aggregates by significant differences in language usage.—Gumperz (1964)

This definition gives equal importance to the structural and interactional layers, and does not aim to delineate either the community or the language system as discrete entities. The community is a group of people that frequently interact with each other. This is not a definition of a discrete group because frequency of interaction is relative and graduated, and never stable. The definition of the language system is also not exclusive because it is defined as being set off from other systems by significant differences in usage.Furthermore Gumperz refines the definition of the linguistic system shared by a speech community:
                         regardless of the linguistic differences among them, the speech varieties employed within a speech community form a system because they are related to a shared set of social norms. —Gumperz (1964)

Atkinson, J. Maxwell and Heritage, John (eds) (1984). Structures of Social Action: Studies in
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Levinson, Stephen C. (1983). Pragmatics. pp 284–370. Cambridge University Press.

Studying Linguistics


The Science of Linguistics

Linguists bring a scientific perspective and scientific methods to the quintessentially human phenomenon of language. Whether it is formal study of sound structure, grammar or meaning, research into the history of language families, the mechanisms of language acquisition, or the manifestation of language n the brain, linguists catalog observations, make and test hypotheses, and work to build explanatory theories. And linguistic science is multidisciplinary, sharing concerns and method with all of the human sciences from psychology and neurology to anthropology and sociology.


Linguistics is the study of language, not just particular languages, but the system of human communication. Some of the basic issues of this field are?

What is language? How is it organized?
How is it analyzed? How are its units discovered and tested?
Where is language stored and processed in the brain? How is it learned?
What do all languages—including nonvocal systems of communication (e.g. writing and sign languages)—have in common? What do these properties show us about human cognition?
How did language originate? What does it have in common with animal communication? How is it different?
How many distinct families or stocks of languages are there in the 6000 or so known languages today? What original languages did they come from? How have they changed over time?
What does dialectal and social variation show us about the use of language? How has this diversity affected issues of social, political, and educational policy?
What is the relationship between language and culture? Language and thought?
What are some of the branches of linguistics?
applied linguistics: application to areas such as speech pathology, reading, social work, missionary work, translation, dictionary compilation, language teaching, error analysis, computer language processing.

dialectology: investigation of regional variation in language.

ethnolinguistics (anthropological linguistics): investigation of the relation between a people’s language and culture.

historical (diachronic) linguistics: study of language change and evolution.

morphology: study of word formation and inflection.

neurolinguistics: research into the specific location of language in the brain.

paralinguistics: study of nonverbal (auxiliary) human communication.

philology: study of how language has been used in literature, especially in older manuscripts.

phonetics: description of how speech sounds are articulated and heard.

phonology: study of how languages organize the units of speech into systems.

pragmatics: study of the strategies people use to carry out communicative business in specific contexts.

psycholinguistics: investigation of language as cognitively-based behavior; how it is acquired and processed.

second language acquisition (SLA): study of how older learners acquire language, and of ways to improve it.

sociolinguistics: study of social variation in language: the relation between social structure and language usage, and of social issues involving language.

semantics: study of word and sentence meaning.

syntax: study of the structure of sentences and of underlying principles for generating and processing them.

How is linguistics applied?
Many students find linguistics useful because it broadens and deepens their understanding of related fields: languages and literature (English and foreign), social sciences (especially anthropology, sociology, and psychology), education, philosophy, communication… Those who obtain degrees in linguistics often proceed to careers in:

foreign language teaching
instructional technology
ESL (teaching English as a second language)
teaching and research in general linguistics (phonology, syntax…)
translation (human and machine-assisted)
speech pathology and audiology.


Language as a Formal System
Linguistic structure can be studied at many different levels. The sounds of language can be investigated by looking at the physics of the speech stream and by studying the physiology of the vocal tract and auditory system. A more psychological approach is also possible, namely considering what physical properties of the vocal tract or muscalature are used to make linguistic distinctions, and how the sounds of languages pattern.

Words, phrases, and sentences have internal structure. Many words are made up of smaller meaningful units, such as stems and suffixes; for example, stem ‘happy’ + suffix ‘-ly’. Linguists investigate the different ways such pieces can be put together to form words, a study called morphology. Likewise, words cluster together into phrases, which combine to make sentences, and linguists explore the rules governing such combinations. The scientific study of word structure and sentence structure is what modern linguists mean by the term grammar; this is quite different from the sort of ‘normative’ grammar instruction aimed to teach ‘proper usage’ common in primary and secondary school, which linguists call prescriptivism. Words and sentences are used to convey meanings.

Linguists study this too, seeking to specify precisely what words mean, how they combine into sentence meanings, and how these combine with contextual information to convey the speaker’s thoughts. The first two of these areas of investigation are called semantics, and the third is called pragmatics.


Seven Functions Of Language :

Halliday (1975) identifies seven functions that language has for children in their early years. For Halliday, children are motivated to develop language because it serves certain purposes or functions for them. The first four functions help the child to satisfy physical, emotional and social needs. Halliday calls them instrumental, regulatory, interactional, and personal functions.

Instrumental: This is when the child uses language to express their needs (e.g.’Want juice’)
Regulatory: This is where language is used to tell others what to do (e.g. ‘Go away’)

Interactional: Here language is used to make contact with others and form relationships (e.g. ‘Love you, mummy’)
Personal: This is the use of language to express feelings, opinions, and individual identity (e.g. ‘Me good girl’)
The next three functions are heuristic, imaginative, and representational, all helping the child to come to terms with his or her environment.

Heuristic: This is when language is used to gain knowledge about the environment (e.g. ‘What the tractor doing?’)
Imaginative: Here language is used to tell stories and jokes, and to create an imaginary environment.
Representational: The use of language to convey facts and information.

According to Halliday, as the child moves into the mother tongue, these functions give way to the generalized “metafunctions” of language. In this process, in between the two levels of the simple protolanguage system (the “expression” and “content” pairing of the Saussure’s sign), an additional level of content is inserted. Instead of one level of content, there are now two: lexicogrammar and semantics. The “expression” plane also now consists of two levels: phonetics and phonology.

Halliday’s work represents a competing viewpoint to the formalist approach of Noam Chomsky. Halliday’s concern is with “naturally occurring language in actual contexts of use” in a large typological range of languages whereas Chomsky is concerned only with the formal properties of languages such as English, which he thinks are indicative of the nature of what he calls Universal Grammar. While Chomsky’s search for Universal Grammar could be considered an essentially platonic endeavor (i.e. concerned with idealized forms), Halliday’s orientation to the study of natural language has been compared to Darwin’s method.

source: Wikipedia