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|Темы курсовых работ (рефератов) по лингвострановедению и страноведению для студентов 5 курса|
2. The functions of language
The descriptive function
The power of sound
Вопросы для контроля и самоконтроля
за усвоением материала курса:
Chapter 1.Language, its essence and its functions
1. What is language?
Interest in language, how it originated, how it works and develops, has existed from time immemorial. For a long time the word "language" was a general notion used to mean the entire communicative means of man. For many, this was the broadest way of regarding language. Whatever earlier approaches to the nature of languages there have been, we realize now that language is a product of human society and can exist only in human society.
There is no language outside society. Language can be understood properly if it is studied in close connection with the history of human society. Language reflects the character, mentality and social activity of the people who use it.
Language is human and only human. The latest research has shown that some species of animals also communicate, but they do not talk in the sense in which we usually use this word. People can also use other means of communication, such as red lights, or flags, but these signs are interpreted into language. Language is the normal form and means of communication and it is determined by the social, economic and cultural history of the people speaking it.
To define language with precision is far less easy than, for example, to define "acid" or other chemical terms. This is because many scientific researchers are interested in language—philosophers, psychologists, logicians, sociologists, as well as linguists. As language is closely connected with thinking and is considered a vehicle of thought it has fallen under the scrutiny of philosophers. Logicians study the laws of thinking and their reflection in language. Language is of social character by its origin and thus draws the attention of sociologists.
Here are some definitions of language that have been given by various scientists from several countries:
Hegel (1770-1831), the prominent German philosopher, said that "language is the art of theoretical intelligence in its true sense, for it is its outward expression."
F. de Saussure (1857-1913), the famous French linguist, defined language as a system of signs expressing ideas.
E. Sapir,(1884-1939), an outstanding American linguist, considered language to be a purely human and non-instinctive-method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of a system of voluntarily produced symbols.
The American linguist L. Bloomfield (1887-1949) stated that language enabled one person to express a reaction to another's stimulus. He considered language in terms of behavioral patterns like walking, eating, etc. According to this approach, this set of patterns can remain unused for a long period of time and then be called into operation by an appropriate stimulus.
Many definitions of language have been put forward, but those given above are enough to show that none of them are exclusive. They bring out different aspects of language and supplement on« another, but they do not give a comprehensive definition.
A correct understanding of the essence of language depends upon one's approach to the great fundamental questions of philosophy as a whole. The basis of all schools of philosophy is connected with the relation between thought and existence, spirit and nature.
Dividing the philosophers of all time into "two great camps",—idealist and materialist,- F. Engels showed that allegiance to one of these camps depends upon a correct solution of the question: "...in what relation do our thoughts about the world surrounding us stand to this world itself? Is our thinking capable of the cognition of the real world? Are we able in our ideas and notions of the real world to produce a correct reflection of reality?"
In Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, Engels declares the two main philosophic schools to be materialism and idealism. Materialism regards nature as primary and spirit as secondary; being is first, and thinking, second.
Philosophical materialism asserts that thinking, consciousness, being secondary in their character, nevertheless exist in reality in the same way, as different forms of movable matter. At the same time it indicates that just as one form of matter known as cerebrum stipulates the functioning of thought so this thought is accomplished in certain material form.
So, from the point of view of dialectical materialism secondariness of spirit, thinking, consciousness and primariness of matter is manifested in the fact that thinking, being closely connected with material physiological processes, can occur and occurs only by and with the help of language.
Alongside with the philosophical problem of the interrelation between thinking and language philosophical materialism; emphasizes the function of language as a kind of man's cognitive activity, as a means of transfer of experience, gained in the past, to the future generations.
Now the question arises why language is the most important means of human communication. The answer will become clear if we analyse non-linguistic means of communication.
The transmission of meaning, the conveyance of significant concepts, may be realized not only by language, but also with sign-posts, the Morse code, gesture language and signal fires, and so on, i.e., by devices that have nothing to do either with spoken language or with its written counterpart. African natives, for example, use drums as a long-distance telephone. The same goes for the smoke signals of the American Indians.
Some non-linguistic forms of communication come close to spoken language. The whistling language used by the natives of Gomera, in the Canary Islands, who can communicate in it over very long distances (about six miles), is one of these.
Gesticulation as an aid to spoken language is universally used by all human communities on Earth, but to different degrees and with different symbolic meanings-' Differences in the meanings of gestures are often striking, and are governed by social convention. To the Russians, for instance, a downward nod of the head means "yes", and a shaking of the head from side to side, "no". On the other hand, the modern Czechs express "no" by a downward jerk of the head. The question why the language of gestures did not become universal instead of spoken language may be explained by the fact that it occupies the hands, while spoken language leaves the hands free for other tasks; it also requires light and a clear view, while spoken language can be used in the dark and through obstacles. Some Soviet linguists admit that there are common features between language and other sign-systems. These common features are the following:
(a) they serve as a means of expression, conveying ideas or feelings;
(b) they are of a social character, as they are created by society with a view to serving it;
(c) they are material in essence though their material form is different (sound-waves, graphic schemes, the Morse code, and so on);
(d) they all reflect objective reality.
But the differences between language and these sign-systems are more essential. They are as follows:
(1) Language is the total means of expressing ideas and feelings and communicating messages from one individual to others, used by all people in all their spheres of activity. All other sign-systems are restricted in their usage and limited in their expressive capacity. For instance, music conveys emotions, but it does not name them; it cannot express concepts and judgments, or transmit ideas. It embraces only those people who understand it and is limited to those musical works which have actually been created by composers. Other people can perceive this "sound system", but they cannot use it actively.
(2) Language conveys not only the essence of the facts, but the speaker's attitude towards them, his estimation of reality and his will. Language is connected not only with logical thinking, but with psychology of people too.
(3) All sign-systems apart from language are artificial, and they are created and changed by convention. They are made not by the people as a whole, but by a relatively small group of representatives of the given speciality.
The development of language does not depend upon the will of the members of society. Each generation adopts the language it is given historically, and the development of language may be characterized as a historical process with its own objective laws.
To sum up. All sign-systems are subsidiary to language. Each of them has its own advantages over language, such as precision, brevity, abstraction, clarity and so on. But none of them can replace language as the universal means of communication of people in all fields of activity, conveying ideas, thoughts, and emotions, and they cannot be called important for those reasons.
A great contribution towards solving this problem was made by I. P. Pavlov, the distinguished Soviet physiologist and psychologist. His discovery of conditioned reflexes and his description of the animal's new nervous connections with its conditions of life represent a great step forward in the development of the theory of reflexes. Pavlov regarded conditioned or temporarily acquired reflexes as a function of the animal organism specially adapted to achieve a more and more perfect equilibrium between the organism and its environment. Pavlov said: "When developing animal world reached the stage of man, an extremely important addition was made to the mechanism of nervous activity. In the animal, reality is signalized almost exclusively by stimulations and by the traces they leave in the cerebral hemispheres, which come directly to the special cells of the visual auditory or other receptors of the organism. This is the first system of signals common to man and animals. But speech constitutes a second signaling system of reality which is peculiarly ours, being the signal of the first signals. On the one hand numerous speech stimulations have removed us from reality, and we must always remember this in order not to distort our attitude to reality. On the other hand, it is precisely speech which has made us human... However it cannot be doubted that the fundamental laws governing the activity of the first signaling system must also govern that of the second because it, too, is activity of the same nervous tissue."
These theoretical generalizations of Pavlov's revealed the nature of higher nervous activity and led him to the concept of the first and second signaling systems, of which he regarded the latter as peculiar to the human brain.
But it was labour alone that created a new element, the appearance of which marked the birth of fully-fledged man, namely, society. And language, a doubly important medium having a close relationship to thinking and an essential social function, makes man human and fundamentally distinguishes him from the animals.
Language is one of the natural organic semiological systems, the basic and the most important means of communications between the members of a given speech community, for whom this system is a means of developing their thinking, of passing on their cultural and historical traditions from generation to generation This what the natural human language is for as our contemporaries understand it. It is necessary to add, that language as the medium of the literature as well as the history of ideas, is a vibrant, living phenomenon. It is subject to constant growth, change and decay which characterize all forms of life. When a language ceases to change, such as Latin did, we call it a dead language. Most of our languages, however, are in state of flux going in harmony with the dynamics and evolution of their respective users. Similar ideas on the evolution of a language were expressed by Russian philosophers, great thinkers of the XX century. According to J. Brodsky “language is the human being, particularly the poet that is the tool of language”. He stresses the role of literature and especially of poetry in gradual language development, shows relationship between language and literature highly praises poets and writers for their contribution to the language “maturity”.
The question "Why we use language?" seems hardly to require an answer. But, as is often the way with linguistic questions, our everyday familiarity with speech and writing can make it difficult to appreciate the complexity of the skills learned. This is particularly so when we try to define the range of functions to which language can be put. "To communicate our ideas" is the usual answer to the question and, indeed, this must surely be the most widely recognized function of language. Whenever we tell people about ourselves or our circumstances, or ask for information about other selves and circumstances, we are using language in order tо exchange facts and options. The use of language is often called "referential", "propositional", or "ideational". But it would be wrong to think of it as the only way in which we use language. Language scholars have identified several other functions where the communication of ideas is a marginal or irrelevant consideration. For instance, in “Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching” language is described as having three main functions: descriptive, expressive and social.
^ of language is to convey factual information. This is the type of information which can be started or denied and in some cases even tested, for example: It must be well below ten degrees outside.
The expressive function of language is to supply information about the speaker, his or her feelings, preferences, prejudices, and past experiences. For example, the utterance: "I'm not inviting the Sandersons again" may, with appropriate intonation, show that the speaker did not like the Sandersons and that this is the reason for not inviting them again. The social function of language serves to establish and maintain social relations between people.
For example, the utterance: "Will that be all, Sir?" used by a waiter in a restaurant signals a particular social relationship between the waiter and the guest. The waiter puts the guest in a higher role relationship.
Naturally, these functions overlap at times, particularly the expressive and the social functions.
The British linguist Halliday considers language as having three main functions:
a) the ideational function is to organize the speaker's or writer's experience of the real or imaginary world, i.e. language refers ю real or imagined persons, things, actions, events, states, etc.
b) the interpersonal function is to indicate, establish, or maintain social relationships between people. It includes forms of address, speech function, modality, etc.
c) the textual function is to create written or spoken texts which cohere within themselves and which fit the particular situation in which they are used.
A famous English linguist D. Chrystal has identified the following functions of language in his “Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language”.
Mr. X carefully leans his walking stick against a wall, but it falls over. He tries again, and it falls a second time. Mr. X roundly curses the walking stick. How should we classify this function of language? It cannot be "communication of ideas", for there no-one else in the room.
Here we have one of the commonest uses of language-a means of getting rid of our nervous energy when we are under stress. It is the clearest case of what is often called an "emotive" or "expressive" function of language. Emotive language can be used whether or not we are alone. Swear words and obscenities are probably the commonest signal to be used in this way, especially when we are in an angry or frustrated state. But there also many emotive utterances of a positive kind, such as our involuntary verbal reactions to beautiful art or scenery, our expression of fear and affection, and the emotional outpourings of certain kinds of poetry.
The most linguistic expressions of consist of conventional words or phrases (such as By Gosh! Darn it! What a sight) and the semi-linguistic noises often called interjections (such as Tut-tut, Ugh, Wow, and Ouch). Also, an important function of the prosody of language is to provide an outlet for our attitudes while we speak. At a more sophisticated level, there are many literary devices of grammar and vocabulary which convey the writer's feelings.
However, in these more complex cases it becomes difficult to distinguish the emotional function of language from the "ideational" function described above.
Mrs. P sneezes violently. Mrs. Q says "Bless you!" Mrs. P says "Thank you." Again, this hardly seems to be a case of language being used to communicate ideas, but rather to maintain a comfortable relationship between people. Its sole function is to provide a means of avoiding a situation which both parties might otherwise find embarrassing. No factual content is involved. Similarly, the use of such phrases as Good morning or Pleased to meet you, and ritual exchanges about health or the weather, do not "communicate ideas" in the usual sense.
Sentences of this kind are usually automatically produced, end stereotyped in structure. They often state the obvious (e.g. ^ or have no content at all (e.g. Hello). They certainly require a special kind of explanation, and this is found in the idea that language is here being used for the purpose of maintaining rapport between people. The anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942) coined the phrase "phatic communion" to refer to this social function of language, which arises out of the basic human need to signal friendship-or, at least, lack of enmity. For someone to withhold these sentences when they are expected, by staying silent, is a sure sign of distance, alienation, even danger.
In 1952, children skipping in a school playground were heard to chant:"Shirley Oneple, Shirley Twople, Shirley Threeple... " and so on up to "Shirley Tenple" (i.e. Temple). The instance clearly illustrates the "phonetic" character of children's rhythms and games. It is largely nonsense, and yet it performs an important function: the repetitive rhythms help to control the game, and the children plainly take great delight in it. "I like coffee, I like tea, I like radio, and TV..." - a typical ball-bouncing monologue.
There are many situations where the only apparent reason for a use of language is the effect the sound have on the users or listeners. We can group together here such different cases as the rhythmical litanies of religious groups, the persuasive cadences of political speechmaking, the dialogue chants used by prisoners or slaves as they work, the various kinds of language games played by children and adults, and the voices of individuals singing in the kitchen or the bath. Perhaps the clearest cases are the lyrics of popular songs and the range of phonetic effects which can be encountered in poetry. Unintelligible words and phrases are commonplace in the oral poetry of many languages, and can be explained only by a universal desire to exploit the sonic potential of language.
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