Реферат на тему:
The Subject of Linguistics. Language and Other Communication Systems
The nature of language
Widdowson H.G. Linguistics. – Oxford
University Press, 1996. – pp. 3-5.
Linguistics is the name given to the discipline which studies human language. Two questions come immediately to mind. Firstly, what is human language? How, in general terms, can it be characterized? Secondly, what does its study involve? What is it that defines linguistics as a discipline?
Clearly, the two questions cannot be kept completely separate. Whenever you decide to study anything, you have already to some degree defined it for your own indents and purposes. Nevertheless, there are a number of very general observations about the nature of language that can be made, and which will be the concern of this first chapter. These will then lead us into more specific issues in linguistics which will be taken up in subsequent chapters.
In the beginning...
According to the Bible: 'In the beginning was the Word'. According to the Talmud: 'God created the world by a Word, instantaneously, without toil or pains'. Whatever more mystical meaning these pieces of scripture might have, they both point to the primacy of language in the way human beings conceive of the world.
Language certainly figures centrally in our lives. We discover our identity as individuals and social beings when we acquire it during childhood. It serves as a means of cognition and com-munication: it enables us to think for ourselves and to cooperate with other people in our community. It provides for present needs and future plans, and at the same time carries with it the impression of things past.
Language seems to be a feature of our essential humanity which enables us to rise above the condition of mere brutish beings, real or imagined. Shakespeare's Caliban in The Tempest 'gabbles like a thing most brutish' until Prospero teaches him language. In the play he is referred to as a monster, but that is better than being an ogre, who, according to W. H. Auden, is quite incapable of speech:
The Ogre does what ogres can,
Deeds quite impossible for Man,
But one prize is beyond his reach,
The Ogre cannot master speech.
About a subjugated plain,
Among its desperate and slain,
The Ogre stalks with hands on hips,
And drivel gushes from his lips.
We might note in passing, incidentally, that it is speech that the ogre cannot master. Whether this necessarily implies that language is also beyond his reach is another matter, for language does not depend on speech as the only physical medium for its expression. Auden may not imply such a distinction in these lines, but it is one which, as we shall see presently, it is important to recognize.
It has been suggested that language is so uniquely human, distinguishes us so clearly from ogres and other animals, that our species might be more appropriately named homo loquens than homo sapiens. But although language is clearly essential to humankind and has served to extend control over other parts of creation, it is not easy to specify what exactly makes it distinctive. If, indeed, it is distinctive. After all, other species communicate after a fashion, for they could not otherwise mate, propagate, and cooperate in their colonies.
The design of language
Other species communicate after a fashion. The question is after what fashion? Birds signal to each other by singing, bees by singing, and these song and dance routines can be very elaborate. Are they language? One can argue that they are not in that they are indeed routines, restricted repertoires which are produced as a more or less automatic response, and so reactive to particular states of affairs. In this respect they lack the essential flexibility of human language which enables us to be proactive, to create new meanings and shape our own reality unconstrained by the immediate context. As Bertrand Russell once observed: 'No matter how eloquently - a dog may bark, he cannot tell you that his parents were poor but honest'.