What can the study of language tell us about ourselves?
What do YOU think are the most important attributes of language?
List four, and explain each one carefully, with examples.
Discuss possible reasons for studying linguistics. You can argue
for or against reasons that you know about, and/or think up other reasons.
Give examples of each of the levels of language in English, Mandarin, or
nay other language that you know. Explain your examples.
Give examples from your own life and experience to show that language is
social and cultural. See if you can find examples in which language
form is affected by social factors.
Below are some common, thought probably mistaken, ideas about language.
What do you think about each one? What kind of linguistic evidence
would we need to disprove (or prove) each one?
is the most beautiful language.
B. British English is better than American English.
C. Some languages are primitive, with simple vocabulary and grammar.
D. Mandarin has no grammar.
E. The Japanese language came form Chinese.
F. Women generally speak better than men.
How do people comprehend spoken language? What is happening when
you listen and comprehend?
How are comprehension and speaking different? How are they similar?
What are the Four Rules and Universal Operating Principles all about?
Why are they important?
What effect does the rule BE EXPRESSIVE (RHETORICALLY) have on language?
Try to give some examples from English and Chinese showing how this rule
may compete with the other three rules. Why is this rule necessary?
What is happening when children learning Mandarin use Ó for
all measure words? What other Mandarin forms do you think children
may overgeneralize? Why?
In learning another language -- English, for example - what gave you the
most trouble - pronunciation, vocabulary, syntax, or something else?
Can you say why? Is there a "best age" for learning a foreign language?
(This is an issue now in Taiwan, with many parents sending their primary
school-age children to learn English in language schools several years
before the official beginning of English instruction in junior high.)
If there is a best age, how can it be explained?
How do we know that comprehension is not passive? What are all the
things you have to "DO" in order to comprehend?
How do we know that language "grows" to meet the Four Rules?
If you speak more than one language fluently, when do you speak each language?
Who do you speak each language with? What language do you use to
think; to dream; to count? What language feels more intimate to you
when you speak it? More efficient? How can you account for
these differences? Is the native language of your future spouse and
his/her family a factor to consider in marriage? To you think a language
like Taiwanese should be used in schools in any way? On public occasions?