I’m taking an intro to linguistics class right now, and i’m not gonna lie: i am OVER THE MOON excited about this. I’ve been hoping to take more college classes for about 10 years and it’s almost a dream that it’s actually happening.
Maybe, to help my brain digest each class’s reading, i’ll write a bit about the readings here? The text is Language Files (11th Edition). The 1st reading was 1.1 – 1.3.
The 1st thing that was interesting to me is that this text actually uses the phrases “grammatical”/”ungrammatical”. The text i had for the intro to linguistics class i took when i was an undergraduate for real used “standard”/”non-standard”. I might dig out that old text and see if i’m remembering correctly, and if there’s an explanation for why the text chose that. The other thing that jumped out at me, having done the readings after the class (on account of being a late add and thus not having received the syllabus beforehand) is that the instructor left off pragmatics in the list of what linguistics, as a discipline, is interested in (phonetics/phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics — no pragmatics). I’m going to assume this is because this particular course won’t be covering it and not that the instructor made some gross oversight.
What excited me about this 1st reading was how it explained what linguists do: linguists are interested in describing linguistic competence by observing linguistic performance. Or, to put it the way my brain read that phrase, linguists are basically attempting to describe an unseen phenomena by observing the visible manifestations of that phenomena. For one thing, it reminds me of how exo-planets are (currently) being discovered by observing the regular, periodic fluctuations in the light of distant starts. But, for another thing, there’s a poetic inexactness about what linguistics is doing — since linguists are not truly able to directly observe, and thus describe, an individual’s linguistic competence — that attracts me.
I realized, as i wrapped up this reading, that the other thing that attracts me to linguistics is that it attempts to look at language free of the social biases and class issues inherent in prescriptive grammars (e.g., grammar such as we’re taught in schools). Naturally, i’m interested in seeing just how successfully linguistics maintains this distance from issues of social class — because, in the end, i always expect there to be some failure.
Onward to tonight’s readings!