Ways of Scope Taking (Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy)

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These garden path sentences provide insight into how sentence parsing occurs in the brain. Sociolinguists might look at attitudes toward different linguistic features and its relation to class, race, sex, etc. For example, one of the fathers of sociolinguistics, William Labov, carried out an experiment in New York City in which he visited three department stores--a low end one S.

The study also had implications for the ability in different communities to code switch to a prestige dialect.

Computational linguists might use programming to model linguistic structure or change or for practical applications, such as Natural Language Processing, which has implications both for figuring out and modeling how language acquisition works as well as for translation software. Historical linguists may work in language specific areas, carrying out what is called reconstruction.

Just as evolutionary biologists compare features of related organisms to reconstruct their common ancestor, historical linguists do the same with related languages, under the important fact that languages change regularly. Using reconstructions, historical linguists will try to trace migration patterns and make inferences about the prehistoric culture, triangulating with results by geneticists, anthropologists, and archaeologists. Historical linguists might also look at what patterns exist in language change and seek to explain why these patterns exist.

An applied linguistic will likely work in fields such as such as language education, translation, or language policy. For example, an applied linguist may also carry out research in first and second language acquisition in order to figure out effective and efficient ways to teach language in school settings. As for what you can do with a linguistics degree? But, that deserves a post all for itself! Interested in learning more about Linguistics from Tyler?

Shanaya Stephenson ’19

The main purpose of the study of Linguistics in an academic environment is the advancement of knowledge. However, because of the centrality of language in human interaction and behavior, the knowledge gained through the study of linguistics has many practical consequences and uses.

Applied Linguistics in the 21st Century

Graduates of undergraduate and graduate programs in Linguistics apply their training in many diverse areas, including language pedagogy, speech pathology, speech synthesis, natural language interfaces, search engines, machine translation, forensics, naming, and of course all forms of writing, editing, and publishing. Last modified: August 4, UC Santa Cruz. Calling areas problems fosters the attitude that there is something wrong with them.


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Bilingualism is no more intrinsically a problem to be solved than is monolingualism. Applied linguists have to be clear that they are solving problems within an area of language acquisition or use, not regarding the area itself as a problem except in the research question sense. Language teaching is not itself a problem to be solved; it may nevertheless raise problems that applied linguists can resolve. A perpetual controversy has surrounded the relationship of linguistics to applied linguistics. Contemporary applied linguists feel free to draw on almost any field of human knowledge; the authors in the present book for instance use ideas from philosophy, education, sociology, feminism, Marxism, Conversation Analysis, and media studies, to take a small sample.

David Block in this volume p. The question is whether applied linguists have the polymathic ability to carry out such an amalgamation of diverse disciplines, or indeed diverse approaches within these disciplines, when the disciplines themselves are incapable of making this synthesis. It seems inherently unsafe or indeed arrogant when the applied linguist redefines the human mind, human language or language learning to suit the needs of an applied linguistic problem.

Linguistics nowadays plays a minimal role in applied linguistics whether in terms of current linguistic theories or descriptive tools. Linguistic theories of the past twenty years are barely mentioned by applied linguists.

What is linguistics?

With the exception of Chomsky and to some extent Jackendoff, the theories come from postmodernism, psychology, or sociology rather than linguistics. Indeed some practitioners radiate hostility towards linguistics, preferring to draw on almost any other area. One cause may be that the enthusiastic selling of the s generative model by its supporters led to the view that linguistics has nothing practical to contribute and to a lack of interest in the many other approaches to linguistics practised today, say the recent developments in phonetics and phonology. The reason was a clause in its lease that prevented the new owners from changing the name.

If language disappears from applied linguistic research, the applied linguistics shop is selling toys. It should relabel itself as teaching methodology or applied sociology or whichever discipline it uses as its source. So what problems does applied linguistics solve? If your country is torn by civil war between people who use two scripts, you ask for a United Nations Peacekeeping Force.

If you are drafting a new law, you go to a constitutional lawyer or a civil servant. The problem-solving successes of applied linguistics have included devising orthographies for languages that have no written form and inventing simplified languages for mariners; applied linguists have played a part in EU projects on translation and on linguistic diversity. Most successes have, however, had to do with language teaching, such as the syllabuses and methods that swept the world from the s onwards, particularly associated with the Council of Europe. At a general level we can draw three implications from this.

Needless to say, these personal interpretations are not necessarily shared by all the contributors. Since applied linguistics is interdisciplinary, the applied linguist is expected to know a little about many areas, not only of language, but also of philosophy, sociology, computer programming, experimental design, and many more. An applied linguist who only does syntax or discourse analysis is an applied syntactician or an applied discourse analyst, not a member of the multidisciplinary applied linguistics profession. In other words multidisciplinarity applies not just to the discipline as a whole but also to the individual practitioner.


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The problems that applied linguistics can deal with are complex and multi-facetted. As consultants to other people, applied linguists can contribute their own interpretation and advice. But that is all.

What is Linguistics?

The client has to weigh in the balance all the other factors and decide on the solution. Some areas concerned with the description of language are regarded as applied linguistics, others are not. Overall making a description is not in itself solving a problem, even if it may contribute to the solution. But they have had little impact on public debate or decision-making for most language problems, the honourable exceptions being the work of David Crystal and Debbie Cameron, who may not even consider themselves primarily as applied linguists. Problems are not solved by talking about them at applied linguistics conferences; the solutions have to be taken out into the world to the language users.

Take the political correctness issue of avoiding certain terms for reasons of sexism, racism and so on. Yet applied linguists have been reluctant to contribute their expertise to this debate, despite the extensive research into linguistic relativity of the past decade. Public discussion of language issues is as ill-informed about language as it was fifty years ago at the dawn of applied linguistics. A recent theatre piece by the Canadian director Robert Le Page called Lipsynch was crucially concerned with language. The dialogue took place in three languages with the aid of subtitling running along the front of the stage; it took for granted the multilingualism of the modern world.

The heroine was attempting to recover the voice of her father who had died when she was young. All she had was a silent home movie. In another scene an elderly aphasic patient delivers a monologue, judging by audience reaction the first time that most of them had encountered this kind of discourse. At a dinner-party, film actors and agents attempted to converse simultaneously in three languages, to comic effect.