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McKenzie Millican Linguistics 101 Writing Assignment 1 The first chapter of Contemporary Linguistics addresses the role language

plays in our daily lives, and defines linguistics as the study of language and its role in the world. Human anatomy has adapted to accommodate our capacity for language: body parts that originally had physiological and survival-oriented roles expanded in use to include speech functions. For example, the teeth, used at their most basic level to break down food, also provide articulation for certain consonants. In addition to our ability to produce such a wide range of sound, our body, even from infancy, has the ability to differentiate between subtle sounds and is especially attuned to the human voice. However, language cannot solely exist as the ability to produce and process certain sounds: there must also be a system of organizing the sounds using certain rules to create comprehensible communication. This mental system is known as the grammar of a language, and can be broken down into five components: phonetics, phonology, morphology, semantics, and syntax. Grammar, in a linguistics setting is vital: it allows us to understand new sentences we havent heard before based on a system of knowledge. Understanding this system is one of the steps to define what a language truly is, and how we learn them. Grammar has five main points that help understand the structure and importance of grammar: generality, parity, universality, mutability, and inaccessibility. Generality assumes that all languages must have a grammar. This is clear: without a grammar to organize and interpret, the sounds produced by humans would just be a jumble of nonsense. Even slightly more atypical languages, such as ASL, must have a grammar to create

order and meaning. Parity claims that all grammars are equal. This is difficult for some people to accept: for example, nonstandard colloquialisms in English are often regarded as incorrect or sloppy, such as aint or yall. However, these particular words are not incorrect in the eyes of a linguist, as they simply reflect the grammar of a particular dialect. On this note, linguists are often describes as descriptive rather than prescriptive: they are attempting to describe and understands all the facets of a language, not fit it to a set of prescribed rules. Linguists also present the universality of grammars: they all have basic traits in common. Languages all employ similar differentiations between sounds in order to distinguish between certain words: for example, the p, t, and d sounds. Languages also often reflect similar word orders and contain many patterns spanning location and time. Next, we assume that grammars are mutable: that is, they change. It is important as a linguist not to assume that a language attains a most favorable state at some point in time: it is better to accept that a language is not better or worse at different stages, but rather just different. Last, but not least, it is clear that grammatical knowledge is inaccessible, and occurs subconsciously. Unlike many other systems of knowledge, one could not write down all of the rules of a particular grammar and how they came to know them. Speakers of a particular language will immediately be able to identify whether a certain sentence sounds correct or not, but would not be able to explain how or why they know that. Ultimately, the complexity and intricacy of human language is mirrored in no other species. Linguistics, the study of languages, attempts to understand languages, acquisition, and other facets of language, without defining one set of grammar or vocabulary as correct or ideal.