New aspects of language; Linguistic Theory
New aspects of language using a language is so much a part of our everyday lives that we do not realize just how complex an activity it is. Is the science responsible for investigating this activity. We take so much for granted. During this series some of the tools and methods used by linguists to study the complexities of language will be demonstrated. The series is prepared and narrated by Dr. Frankel an associate professor of English and Linguistics at George Peabody college for teachers today. Dr. Eric and then a Baird professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and Dr. James Copland associate professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University joined Dr. Frankel in a discussion of linguistic theory. But today we're going to talk about some theoretical problems on so-called theory of language. I have two people with me here one a well-known biling West and the other went on cycling West and I guess it would be worthwhile to
clarify some of these terms before we do anything else. But then I'm back what is the by a linguist by linguists as somebody who is interested in language from a biological point of view and has a basic assumption namely that language is something that is specific to the species Homo sapiens. Therefore if only there's one species engages in this behavior then language must somehow reflect something specific to our biological nature and possibly to learn something about biology nature of man by studying language. There are not many people in this field and the stand I think invented it you invented it that's what I suspected. But what would you say should be the background by a linguist should be a good linguist and a biologist or a linguist and a psychologist. What is the best combination you can paint. I would basically oppose the notion that every time we have an interesting problem
you have a whole field you can turn out people who are educated to do just that. Yes problem. You mean you don't suggest establishment of pgm by linguistics. Certainly not enough to talk myself out of a job. Jim what does a cycling West compared with abiding West while cycling a star usually a trained psychologist will sometimes train as ling as linguistics and I did not definitely invent that it was invented some 20 years ago. Yes when psychologists and linguists first decided they had something to say to each other and exactly what they had to say to each other seem clear at that time. There are linguists who had some ideas about the formal nature of language and there were psychologists who are studying how children acquired language and the two of them got together and decided that there was much in common and the interdisciplinary psycholinguistics was formed. So these people increased in number during the last two decades and there is now a separate field
incredibly ending like a bio linguistics where they don't know field yet. It's almost a separate field now in psychology departments combined with linguistic faculties and various universities giving degrees that are almost special Ph.D.s and psycholinguistics at this time. Now you said that this developed in the past. What is a decade I'll start with 20 years after two decades. This is probably tied in very closely with the development of reason in linguistics there is because without them we can't really envisage any of these developments. So what would be interesting as the following question we know that there is something which is called structural linguistics. This is almost a tradition now if you talk about traditional. Linguistics in 1960 did you almost mean structural at all times rather than old school. There's transformational grammar stratification grammar Well can we speak about the structural psycholinguistics and structure by linguistics transformation and psycholinguistics sentiments from a spirit by linguistics and study cation of
psycholinguistics and study kids are battling with. Do these fields change under the impact of new linguistics there is but what you say about that with respect to psychology I think psychology is trains very much the impact particularly of the recent transformational idea and I have a feeling that the ideas embodied there probably have something to say for much of psychology in addition to the special field of Psycholinguistics in which they started. But I know that linguists changing the approach of radically within a very short time and the impact of one central thing. Do these linguists have the same kind of impact on the outside disciplines like psychology. Would you say that under the impact of stretch linguistic psychology you look differently from what it now looks at the impact of transformational grammar. Yes I think I look very much different. I would find it hard to explain exactly why. Yes. What would you say.
I think individuals really have a very important in this picture. So people who because of the personality and charisma that they can manage to arouse interest to a much greater degree than some other people did. I think Chomsky is a good example. It's not because the early experiences and bad of a power is that I don't think that is what got everybody interested in him but it's partly because he is a very impressive person when you look at him you know. And one has the impression he is the greatest genius I don't understand a word of what he's saying. It must be because they don't understand it it must be a deep you know how about modern poetry book a master and psychologist and you know 1957 the early
ones practice yes. And it did not seem terribly important at the time I was in a graduate seminar at that point and we wrote it and said Well there are some ideas and that psychologists will have to turn over someday exact impact took several years or so and immediately Copernican Revolution is the same yeah. Some linguists I remember some didn't review but it came out in the review. Close friend and student of drums just so that it's not too surprising that it was not what I meant but I meant when I think it's characteristic that that book the Syntactic Structures was out of print very soon as it was not really spreading out then it wasn't reprinted for a long time and it was virtually unavailable because the interest was very minimal. Suddenly there was an explosion and revival but I sometimes say that Longfield language as the Old Testament of linguistics and Harris's book structure linguistics us the New
Testament and his book The Syntactic Structures the Apocrypha. I don't know how good the comparison is but it very much looked that way but I'm sorry if you're really saying something. OK. Now where do you stand with relation to a linguistic theory and its impact on questions of for instance language acquisition which we read to admit that structure linguistics as at all a theoretical approach which has such impact wouldn't you say. I think here is one area especially the Trump's approach has been misunderstood perhaps in some instances misrepresented because of the terminology that he uses other words words such as generative grammar here. This has given the impression that he has a theory that explains to us how people speak and if we learn generative grammar then we can go to the schools and use the
genitive approach. This is said all the time here these days. Just today I heard the very same thing being said with respect to the deaf. Somebody wanted me to comment on here refer to some studies teaching the deaf to speak in a structured approach generative grammar so we can we know how to teach. I would like to say a few more words about grammar later but let's clear this point of structural versus the transformation of the one really mix the two up. Structure as of the modern approach which was most rampant before all those years of Broomfield Ian and villian and which in my opinion was mainly an attempt to re structure allies language or to restage grammar and in fact it was very often used for this purpose the whole works which as in because restate remise. So that's why I wondered whether you would look upon this kind of restating a corpus of
restating material which you know of organizing something which we already had. Whether you would look upon that as this theory and upon and upon something which would help you with your when you just say well in the early period that I mentioned where psychologists and linguists seem to get along so well. Yes this was the case for structural linguistics was addressed to a kind of psychology that was common at that time where the idea of independence my explicitness vs where the idea that a sentence is a string of words one of falling upon another. Yes agreed very well with the kind of psychology that said the behavior of the organism is characterized by stimulus followed by a response. Yes and that is how the early kind of structural English ticks agree very well with the kind of psychology. There was something that was total corporation. Yeah. In a way interaction between behaviorists in psychology and linguists those two terms would fit well together and a psychologist were characterized as behaviorists.
Yeah and as this or these early conferences indicated they had much to do with applauding each other and patting each other on the back and it was this kind of thing which Chomsky's book began to infringe upon. Yes and then led later to certain drastic developments in both. Because if I'm not mistaken the cooperation between linguists and psychologists is not entirely new it has been something like psychology of language for a long time. Oh yes. Would you care to explain for months the difference between psychology of language and psycholinguistics. Well I can't really explain the difference I think that psycholinguistics as is common came to be a term once the two of them began to work more closely together and more people were associated with. Yes I think a psychology of a person in the early days who would be studying the psychology of language might be studying things like the effectiveness of communications written in various styles. Yes and this sort of thing which is not really related to linguistic analysis of language would you like to add something to that.
Well come back to the question posed in the unfinished business whether structuralism is a theory with or rather now with the advent of generative grammar. We could go through the same procedure that people in fact did go through at the time that linguistics became popular here. There was a real writing of grammar was done based on the corpus of language. You could actually look at Latin grammar once more and state this now in the new terminology and with new concepts. It seems to me it's clear that generative grammar does not do that should not be used in the same way because generative grammar is really only language knowledge. So something that goes on in the brain that they are not the cause is almost of no interest and I think it is a mistake and a misuse of
transformational notions to go to. The extent of rewriting the grammar of some exotic language in transformational terms this is being done all the time these days and I think wonder how it can be done frankly every person that you do this is really very much against the spirit and the spirit of transformational grammar in a sense it's a different preoccupation in the old days there was an attempt to write grammars systematize linguistic material that is written up in a in a book but transformational grammar seems to be aimed at is to make prediction on how a given frame of mind would work with respect to a sentence will they be able to accept the same as possible or not possible. Impossible question. Therefore it just doesn't seem to be possible to apply transformational grammar to the task of rewriting grammars in that spirit.
I fully agree with you on that. Now you have personally been working very close with non homes in various stages of your work. Oh I say I have but you have also been doing research to get there. Yes well we've published together would be started on the same day and had a desk next to each other or close friends. So your thinking was very largely influenced by Hans gears and I think it's also wrong. I was just going to ask that I would like you to explain a little bit in how far the findings of psychology have influenced the linguist we are talking all the time wildly opposite. But there must be some reverse trend too. I think there was very definitely at the time that we both started. We each sat on one side of the theoretical table as it turned out today with positions almost reversed times sitting on opposite sides again. As far as some of our aims are going here and
he now is very much interested for instance in philosophical aspects specially. Idealistic philosophy here in Germany and when I arrived he met first at Harvard he was always pulling my leg a little bit you know all this funny stuff of going back to how interesting my manager so this ride is his mentor at Harvard was a magician Quine rice and gradually gave great extremes in fact doesn't see eye to eye at all with Quine and in fact wrote a book as you know which is largely based on the idea that idealistic philosophy of the 18th century. That's right. It doesn't do anything to your kind of work. Jim this confusion linguistics does it influence your approach. I use the approach of the book Cartesian linguistics that's where I had least influence of writing what had most of my life. Well the general pattern of what he's
trying to say is have more influence than any specific thing I said about language because it really does tell you I think something about. The nature of the general information processing kind of attributes the human organisms have. And it might have implications for perception and all other fields of psychology and I think in looking at it that what he had to say was influential as a general pattern and probably indicates to me that in studying language we have picked the most difficult problem of all to look at the principles that are embodied in Chomsky's work and that we may have to you know reduce our aims considerably. To go back to study simpler features of behavior and probably simpler organisms in and come back as the final step in some millennia to zero you analyze language again. Do you feel that in the aspects of serious syntax He has gone beyond what the psychologist can subscribe to. Certainly not we can subscribe to something that would be very difficult to employ in
any kind of present experimental work that we do means beyond anything which can be experimentally proved today in our rational construct Yes it certainly and you have to ask them certain basic questions about philosophy of science again. Yes as to what constitutes understanding an organism that can employ things that have the theoretical features that Chante grammar has interest in it and can almost not speak about the theory of language these days without devoting most of the time to home school but I would like to ask the general question what is the theory of language as against the method of linguistic analysis. You know I don't think. I think the notion of a theory of net of language is tremendously ambitious one. So much so that we have difficulties in deciding what would be the aims of such a theory the theory of language really theory after this is not at all obvious like asking Can you think of
a theory of nest building for a bird and I think Ordinarily we don't think along these lines one doesn't have a theory. Theory is for an animal. If you choose nest building because nesting has become a thing with me ever since. So I think we could say we shall come back to that in a moment but historically speaking we could say that of course historical linguistics are comparing West they say is not a new theory it is a new practice on the basis of usually acquired knowledge of languages and language structures. The near-great Marion's where not theoreticians reality. Neither of these structural less indeed theoreticians of language. These are the people who are interested in methods of rewriting description descriptions and their main purposes where rigor and description vs pretty scription and the possibility to take down chromatic
units for languages which they hadn't known before and which had no written work and so on. So who really harms key is the first of at least of the modern linguists who rightfully can be called a theoretician. So our main question then here has to be what does this new theory contribute to various areas of knowledge and of course we know there are so many hyphenated areas in our cycling was a stressed one of them and many of them have sprung up just under the impact of this kind of generative transformation of women. Yes you will be you know profitable to narrow down the notion of theory of language for instance when you can have different theories on how a child learns to speak or why he begins to speak in the first place motivation as well as the particulars. Skills that he must have in order to cultures. Everything is everywhere. There's sort of thing and I think those come much closer to our
common knowledge of the theory of something. I think Chomsky has something to add to that although his material directly itself to a different problem and yet possibly could be some use of his writings with respect to speculating or theorizing on how it should be him to speak his own approach was very simple because he said there are some innate factors that is not learned that is if you read theoretical position today. But it's more of a battle cry then than if you do we have any way of predicting what may be considered so his greatest contribution in this area. Are there certain things that are marginal or which already have proved not to be a foremost important where they are certain who are areas where his main impact will last. Or is it too early to do that.
I think the formalization is really great in my opinion the great innovation. They're not used to thinking about behavior human brain power rather than the What Is that what you are trying. It's comparable to devising a formal system such as a mathematics that describes what you can observe naturally. There may be various possible theoretical mathematics algebra and his great contribution was I think to try to shore which of these possible brass fits very nicely and allows us to describe it form a purely formal terms but be can study impurity. This is obvious on occasion because of course many formal constraints which one has to talk about I'm speaking about home skew things which he himself claims. So to save the borderlines to what can be done then how do we evaluate these borderlines
Fred that would be going too far at the moment I would like to ask another question so our Connectors hums and that of our names universals. You as a psychologist and. By a wing West what is your idea about language universals in the home skin sense as it ties in. Interestingly enough as many of the searches for universals which are age old and which were conducted by philosophers How do you feel about that Jim. I haven't had much to do with that kind of work myself so I look with great interest on it and it certainly has been a case where atrocities theoretically oriented talk has led to certain actions that people have taken in the methodological domain and that is to look for universals and all sorts of semantic and syntactic systems. Has any progress been made outside of his own little circle. I don't know of any particular progress in any case maybe I do but there is one book called language universals it is a big green book. Yes but there's literally skinned yes it's not directly know it existed at the same time you know history was rather
interesting. There was a period in which anybody who talked about language universals would have been shocked at some rights that just didn't exist and that was the legacy from us. That's right and everybody was totally convinced that there's something. Arbitrary in languages and you just cannot compare Kwakiutl with this verse the for the original sin. I was brought up in this tradition for areas like that type ology and language universal That's right. I still feel very strongly along those lines here. Then there was a period during which nobody talked about language universals in 1956. I got interested in biological aspects and was asked to write a play before radio who was an anthropologist Yes yes. And at that time I
came to the conclusion that there are underlying all languages some very definite constancy and variance as I try to outline those time. Which point if you did you were taken purely biologically from not so much of your article but contract of a point of view of common sense in writing writing systems with languages. Then it turns out that language is very different from art from writing systems writing systems have been invented. They have a history right. Many people don't have any writing systems. In effect you can see writing systems if you over the surface of the road they have one or the alphabet has only one origin. That's right probably just one. In addition to that have been many attempts at graphic representation on totally different principles.
Think of language it turns out that that is completely different. All societies that have language and what is more of a narrow range of principles are probably only one principle. This could be a detail at that time. This was the year before Syntactic Structures was published and in Syntactic Structures it is not. Then I was invited to the conference felt there probably are some universals of a revolutionary many people who came to the conference were not favorably disposed in fact of my article. This was the beginning of a more general acceptance of the universe.
Now the Trump people have changed it further and I think rightly so pointing out that probably those aspects which are universal are the most interesting aspects and what they are talking about refers to those universal aspects run into particularly interesting and we have only two more minutes left so we cannot possibly talk about the whole history of this kind of theoretical development and I would like to do one thing perhaps in one minute ASK YOUR about the performance and competence question and in how far this is a theoretical construct. And then we will end by trying to define what is a theory of language. Is that defined about so what has the performance and. Competitions model to do with theoretical constructs that distinction is very important to psychologists because what the linguist is usually talking about from our point of view is the competence model which is the formal system that
Americans talk about is characterizing it as almost like a form of algebra. And we say that the structuralist is interested in performance and the generative is interested in competence with it. The thing it might be reasonable to say the structuralist did not separate the two and make and he's saying to you I know there are no such things right. And that distinction has been very important for the psychologist here because when you see the nature of the competence model which is what Chomsky has been working on you then you must ask well how does a human organism employ this and it's fairly obvious that the relationship between the two is terribly subtle and very very hard to take out of behavior and discover what relationship really is the existence of a theory of language a nexus of competence model of interrelated one couldn't exist without the other. Well on that basis could be perhaps defined with a theory of languages competence model of course being for those who are not fully familiar with it. Everything which human being can systematically produce in his own language system by which he may never have produced during a whole lifetime. Performance model of course what he actually does.
Well let's end by trying just to give a definition of what is the theory of Life After People of language you can have a question specific question and how to answer that question. But it would never do to have a general question you could possibly. So we have I think not a theory of language. Dr. Eric professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and Dr. James Kopp an associate professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University have joined Dr. Frankel in a discussion of linguistic theory. The program for next week will be urban dialect new aspects of languages prepared and narrated by Dr. GERD Franco associate professor of English and Linguistics at George Peabody college for teachers and is produced in the
- New aspects of language
- Linguistic Theory
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- Nashville Public Radio
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- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- For series info, see Item 3622. This prog.: Linguistic Theory
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Producing Organization: WPLN
Producing Organization: Nashville Public Radio
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Identifier: 68-36-11 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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- Chicago: “New aspects of language; Linguistic Theory,” 1968-11-15, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 25, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-j9609v20.
- MLA: “New aspects of language; Linguistic Theory.” 1968-11-15. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 25, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-j9609v20>.
- APA: New aspects of language; Linguistic Theory. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-j9609v20