Linguistics is a growing and interesting area of study, having a direct hearing on fields as diverse as education, anthropology, sociology, language teaching, cognitive psychology and philosophy. What is linguistics? Fundamentally, it is concerned with the nature of language and communication.
Some of the definitions of linguistics are as under:
1. “Linguistics observes language in action as a means for determining how language has developed, how it functions today, and how it is currently evolving.” (G. Duffy)
2. “Linguistics is concerned with the nature of human language, how it is learned and what part it plays in the life of the individual and the community.” (S. Pit Corder)
3. “Linguistics tries to answer two basic questions:
a. What is language?
b. How does language work.” (Jean Aitchison)
4. “The scientific study of human language is called linguistics”. (Victoria A. Fromkin)
Linguistics is the scientific study of language. By this we mean language in general, not a particular language. If we were concerned with studying an individual language, we would say ‘I’m studying French… or English,’ or whichever language we happen to be studying. But linguistics does not study an individual language, it studies ‘language’ in general. That is, linguistics, according to Robins (1985):
is concerned with human language as a universal and recognizable part of the human behaviour and of the human faculties, perhaps one of the most essential to human life as we know it, and one of the most far-reaching of human capabilities in relation to the whole span of mankind’s achievements.
Does this not sound a little abstract? It is, because there is no way of studying ‘language’ without referring to and taking examples from particular languages. However, even while doing so, the emphasis of linguistics is different. Linguistics does not emphasise practical knowledge or mastery of a particular language. Linguists may know only one language, or may know several, or may even study a language they do not know at all. What they are trying to study are the ways in which language is organised to fulfil human needs, as a system of communication. There is a difference between a person who knows many languages (called a polyglot), and a linguist, who studies general principles of language organisation and language behaviour, often with reference to some actual language or languages. Any language can be taken up to illustrate the principles of language organisation, because all languages reveal something of the nature of language in general. (Of course, it may he of help to a linguist to know more languages so that differences and contrasts as well as similarities between the languages can also be studied in a better way.) We can say that linguistics is learning about language rather than learning a language. This distinction is often explained as the difference between learning how a car works and learning how to drive a car. When we learn how to drive a car, we learn a set of habits and do some practice—this is similar to learning how to speak a language. When we learn how the car works, we open up its mechanism, study it and investigate the relationship of its parts to one another. This is similar to what we do in a scientific study of language, or linguistics: we investigate the mechanism of language, its parts and how all these parts fit together to perform particular functions, and why they are arranged or organised in a certain manner. Just as while driving a car, we are using its various components, while speaking a language we are using the sounds, words, etc. of that language; behind these uses is the mechanism which enables us to do so. We study language because it is important for us to understand this mechanism.
Linguistics As A Science
Linguistics can he understood as a science in both general and specific terms. Generally, we use the term ‘science’ for any knowledge that is based on clear, systematic and rational understanding. Thus we often speak of the ‘science of politics’ or statecraft, or ‘the science of cooking’. However, we also use the term ‘science’ for the systematic study of phenomena enabling us to state some principles or theories regarding the phenomena; this study proceeds by examination of publicly verifiable data obtained through observation of phenomena, and experimentation; in other words, it is empirical and objective. Science must also provide explanation after adequate observation of data, which should be consistent, i.e. there should be no contradictions between different parts of the explanation or statement; and economical, i.e. a precise and non-redundant manner of statement is to be preferred.
Let us apply these criteria of science to linguistics. Linguistics studies language: language is a phenomenon which is both objective and variable. Like natural phenomena in the physical world, it has a concrete shape and occurrence. In the same way as a physicist or chemist takes materials and measures their weights, densities etc. to determine their nature, the linguist studies the components of language, e.g. observing the occurrence of speech-sounds, or the way in which words begin or end. Language, like other phenomena, is objective because it is observable with the senses, i.e., it can be heard with the ear, it can be seen when the vocal organs are in movement, or when reading words on a page.
Observation leads to processes of classification and definition. In science, each observable phenomenon is to be given a precise explanation. Its nature has to be described completely. Thus, for example, the chemist classifies elements into metals and non-metals; a biologist classifies living things into plants and animals. In the same way, linguistics observes the features of language, classifies these features as being sound features of particular types, or words belonging to particular classes on the basis of similarity or difference with other sounds and words.
But while linguistics shares some of characteristics of empirical science, it is also a social science because it studies language which is a form of social behaviour and exists in interaction between human beings in society. Language is also linked to human mental processes. For these reasons, it cannot be treated always as objective phenomena.
In empirical sciences, the methods of observation and experimentation are known as inductive procedures. This means that phenomena are observed and data is collected without any preconceived idea or theory, and after the data is studied, some theory is formulated. This has been the main tradition in the history of western science. But there is an opposing tradition the tradition of rationalism, which holds that the mind forms certain concepts or ideas beforehand in terms of which it interprets the data of observation and experience. According to this tradition, the deductive procedure is employed in which we have a preliminary hypothesis or theory in our minds which we then try to prove by applying it to the data. This procedure was considered to be unscientific according to the empirical scientists because they felt that pre-existent ideas can influence the kind of data we obtain i.e. we search only for those pieces of data that fit our theory and disregard others and therefore it is not an objective method. On the other hand, it has been observed by some thinkers (such as Popper) that no observation can be free of some theory; it cannot be totally neutral.
We can, however, reconcile these two procedures. There are aspects of language which we can observe quite easily and which offer concrete instances of objective and verifiable data. At the same time, we need to create hypothesis to explain this data, so we may create tentative or working hypothesis to explain this data, which we may accept, reject or modify as we proceed further. With such an open attitude, we may collect more data. This alternation of inductive and deductive procedures may help us to arrive at explanations which meet all the requirements of science, i.e. they are exhaustive, consistent and concise.
Thus, linguistics is both an empirical science and a social science. In fact, it is a human discipline since it is concerned with human language; so it is part of the study of humanities as well. This includes the study of literature, and appreciation of the beauty and music of poetry. In understanding language, humankind can understand itself. Moreover, since every branch of knowledge uses language, linguistics is central to all areas of knowledge. In regard to linguistics, the traditional distinctions of science, art and humanities are not relevant. As Lyons puts it, linguistics has natural links with a wide range of academic disciplines. To say that linguistics is a science is not to deny that, by virtue of its subject matter, it is closely related to such eminently human disciplines as philosophy and literary criticism.
Scope of Linguistics
Linguistics today is a subject of study, independent of other disciplines. Before the twentieth century, the study of language was not regarded as a separate area of study in its own right. It was considered to he a part of studying the history of language or the philosophy of language, and this was known not as linguistics but as philosophy. So ‘Linguistics’ is a modern name which defines a specific discipline, in which we study language not in relation to some other area such as history or philosophy, but language as itself, as a self enclosed and autonomous system, worthy of study in its own right. It was necessary at the beginning of the growth of modern linguistics to define this autonomy of the subject, otherwise it would not have been possible to study the language system with the depth and exhaustiveness which it requires. However, now we acknowledge that while linguistics is a distinct area of study, it is also linked to other disciplines and there are overlapping areas of concern.
The main concern of modern linguistics is to describe language, to study its nature and to establish a theory of language. That is, it aims at studying the components of the language system and to ultimately arrive at an explanatory statement on how the system works. In modern linguistics, the activity of describing the language system is the most important and so modern linguistics is generally known as descriptive. But linguistics has other concerns as well, which fall within its scope and these include historical and comparative study of language. These differ from the descriptive approach in their emphasis; otherwise, these approaches also involve description of language.
Levels of Linguistic Analysis
In studying language which is the subject-matter of linguistics, we mark or sub-divide the area in order to study it in an analytical and systematic way. Language has a hierarchical structure. This means that it is made up of units which are themselves made up of smaller units which are made of still smaller units till we have the smallest indivisible unit, i.e. a single distinguishable sound, called a phoneme. Or we can put it the other way round, and say that single sounds or phonemes combine together to make larger units of sounds, these combine into a larger meaningful unit called a morpheme; morphemes combine to form larger units of words, and words combine to form a large unit or sentence and several sentences combine or interconnect to make a unified piece of speech or writing, which we call a text or discourse. At each stage (or level), there are certain rules that operate which permit the occurrence and combination of smaller units. So we can say that rule of phonology determine the occurrence and combination of particular phoneme, rules of word-formation cover the behaviour of particular morphemes; rules of sentence-formation determine the combination and positioning of words in a sentence. Each level is a system in its own right. It is important to remember that, because of the existence of rules at each level, we can analyse each level independently of the other. This means that if we study one level, e.g. phonology or the sound-system, we need not necessarily study another level, say that of sentence-formation. We can study phonology on its own, and syntax on its own. Although these levels are linked in that one is lower in the hierarchy and another is higher in the hierarchy, and the higher level includes the lower, still each level is independent because it has its own rules of operation that can be described, analysed and understood.
We can represent these levels in the following manner, with each level of analysis corresponding to each level of the structure of the language:
Levels of Analysis Levels of Structure
Phonetics and Phonology SOUND
Morphology WORD FORMATION
Discourse CONNECTED SENTENCES
A careful look at the above diagram will show that the levels of language structure are not completely separate from one another. In fact, there are important and vital linkages between the levels. In earlier studies, it was supposed that phonology, the level of sound structure, had no link whatsoever with semantics or the level of meaning structure. Now we know that links between these levels are far more complex than we had earlier accepted. With regard to discourse, we can see that it is made up of all the levels of language working together, while semantics incorporates analysis of meaning at the level of both words (word-meaning) and of sentence-meaning.
However, we can study these links only after we describe and analyse structure at each level separately. Thus Phonetics studies language at the level of sounds: How sounds are articulated by the human speech mechanism and received by the auditory mechanism, how sounds can be distinguished and characterised by the manner in which they are produced. Phonology studies the combination of sounds into organised units of speech, the formation of syllables and larger units. It describes the sound system of a particular language and the combination and distribution of sounds which occur in that language. Classification is made on the basis of the concept of the phoneme, i.e. a distinctive, contrasted sound unit, e.g. /m/, //, /p/. These distinct sounds enter into combination with others. The rules of combination are different for different languages.
Though phonology is considered to be the surface or superficial level of language (as it is concrete and not abstract like meaning), there are some aspects of it such as tone which contribute to the meaning of an utterance.
Morphology studies the patterns of formation of words by the combination of sounds into minimal distinctive units of meaning called morphemes. A morpheme cannot be broken up because if it is, it will no longer make sense, e.g. a morpheme ‘bat’ is made up of three sounds: /b/ /æ/ and /t/. This combination makes up the single morpheme ‘bat’ and if broken up, it will no longer carry the meaning of ‘bat’. Words can be made up of single morphemes such as ‘bat’ or combinations of morphemes, e.g. ‘bats’ is made up of two morphemes: ‘bat’ + ‘s’. Morphology deals with the rules of combination of morphemes to form words, as suffixes or prefixes are attached to single morphemes to form words. It studies the changes that take place in the structure of words, e.g. the morpheme ‘take’ changes to ‘took’ and ‘taken’––these changes signify a change in tense.
The level of morphology is linked to phonology on the one hand and to semantics on the other. It is clear in the above example of ‘take’ that the change to ‘took’ involves a change in one of the sounds in this morpheme. It also involves a change in meaning: ‘take’ means the action ‘take’ + time present and ‘took’ means the action ‘take’ + time past. So morphological changes often involve changes at the levels of both sound and meaning.
Syntax is the level at which we study how words combine to form phrases, phrases combine to form clauses and clauses join to make sentences. The study of syntax also involves the description of the rules of positioning of elements in the sentence such as the nouns/noun syntax phrases, verbs/verb phrases, adverbial phrases, etc. A sentence must be composed of these elements arranged in a particular order. Syntax also attempts to describe how these elements function in the sentence, i.e. what is their role in the sentence. For example, the word ‘boy’ is a noun. However, in each of the following sentences, it functions in different roles:
(a) The boy likes cricket
(b) The old man loved the boy.
In sentence (a), it functions as the subject of the sentence
In sentence (b), it functions as the object.
A sentence should be both grammatical and meaningful. For example, a sentence like ‘Colourless green ideas sleep furiously’ is grammatically correct but it is not meaningful. Thus, rules of syntax should be comprehensive enough to explain how sentences are constructed which are both grammatical and meaningful.
Semantics deals with the level of meaning in language. It attempts to analyse the structure of meaning in a language, e.g. how words similar or different are related; it attempts to show these inter-relationships through forming ‘categories’. Semantics tries to give an account of both word and sentence meaning, and attempts to analyse and define that which is considered to be abstract. It may be easy to define the meanings of words such as ‘tree’ but not so easy to define the meanings of words such as ‘love’ or similar abstract things. This is why semantics is one of the less clearly definable areas of language study.
An extension of the study of meaning or semantics is pragmatics. Pragmatics deals with the contextual aspects of meaning in particular situations. As distinct from the study of sentences, pragmatics considers utterances, i.e. those sentences which are actually uttered by speakers of a language.
Discourse is the study of chunks of language which are bigger than a single sentence. At this level, we analyse inter-sentential links that form a connected or cohesive text. Cohesion is the relation established in a sentence between it and the sentences preceding and following it, by the use of connectives such as ‘and’, ‘though’, ‘also’, ‘but’ etc. and by the manner in which reference is made to other parts of the text by devices such as repetition or by use of pronouns, definite articles, etc. By studying the elements of cohesion we can understand how a piece of connected language can have greater meaning that is more than the sum of the individual sentences it contains.
In addition to these levels of linguistic analysis, we also study Graphology which is the study of the writing system of a language and the conventions used in representing speech in writing, e.g. the formation of letters Lexicology studies the manner in which lexical items (words) are grouped together as in the compilation of dictionaries.
Linguists differ according to what they consider as included in the scope of linguistic studies. Some consider the proper area of linguistics to be confined to the levels of phonology, morphology and syntax. This can be called a Micro-linguistic perspective. However, some take a broader, or macro-linguistic view which includes the other levels of analysis mentioned above, as well as other aspects of language and its relationship with many areas of human activity.
Branches of Linguistics
The core of linguistic studies is the study of language structure at different levels as discussed above. In the growth of modern linguistics as an autonomous field of knowledge, it has been necessary to emphasize this aspect of linguistics, since no other field of study describes language structure systematically and completely.
However, there are many areas of human activity and knowledge in which language plays a part and linguistics is useful in these areas. The study of language in relation to the many areas of knowledge where it is relevant, has led to the growth of many branches of linguistics. Thus the scope of linguistics has grown to include these branches.
Like other sciences, linguistics has a ‘pure’ or ‘theoretical’ aspect which is concerned with the building of theories about language and with description and analysis of particular levels of language such as phonology and syntax without regard to any particular applications that these may have. It also has an ‘applied’ aspect which is concerned with the application of that knowledge in areas such as the learning and teaching of languages, or correction and improvement of speech disorders, or in helping us to appreciate the use of language in literature. Thus, ‘applied linguistics’ covers many of the branches of linguistics that explore the practical application of the theories, concepts and analyses provided by linguists. All the applications are first and foremost based on a thorough description of languages. As Pit Corder writes:
Whether it is speech therapy, psychiatry, literary criticism, translation,… what all these fields of application have in common is the necessity for descriptions of the various languages involved.
Various branches of linguistics have grown because language is intimately related both to the inner, world of man’s mind and to the outer world of society and social relationships. Each of these aspects has led to the study of psycho-linguistics and sociolinguistics respectively.
Since language is a mental phenomenon, it is mental processes which are articulated in language behaviour. Psycholinguistics studies these mental processes, processes of thought and concept formation and their articulation in language, which reveal a great deal about the structures of human psychology as well as of language. ‘Cognitive’ psychology is the area which explores how meanings are understood by the human brain, how syntax and memory are linked, how messages are ‘decoded’ and stored. Psycholinguistics also studies the influence of psychological factors such as intelligence, motivation, anxiety etc. on the kind of language that is understood and produced. For instance, in the case of errors made by a speaker, there may be psychological reasons which influence comprehension or production that are responsible for the occurrence of an error. Our perception of speech sounds or graphic symbols (in writing) is influenced by the state of our mind. One kind of mental disability, for example, results in the mistakes made by children in reading when they mistake one letter for another (Dyslexia). Psycholinguistics can offer some insights and corrective measures for this condition.
Psycholinguistics is concerned with the learning of language at various stages: the early acquisition of a first language by children and later stages in acquisition of first and other languages. Psycholinguists attempt to answer questions such as whether the human brain has an inborn language ability structured in such a way that certain grammatical and semantic patterns are embedded in it, which can explain how all human beings are capable of learning a language. This exploration may lead us to determining whether all the languages in the world have some ‘universal’ grammar that lies in the mind of every human being and is transformed in particular situations to produce different languages. Psycholinguistic studies in language acquisition are very useful in the area of language teaching because they help teachers to understand error production and individual differences among learners and thus devise appropriate syllabi and materials for them.
One specialized area within psycholinguistics is neurolinguistics that studies the physiological basis of language and language disorders such as aphasia, loss of memory, etc.
Another relation of language with mind is that of logic. It was held by some ancient philosophers that the human mind is rational and capable of thinking logically and, therefore, language too is logically ordered and rational. Others held that, just as irrationality is present in the mind, irregularity or anomaly is present in human language. Since then there has been a debate about the nature of language and the relation between language and logic. One of the problems discussed by philosophers of language is whether language can be an adequate medium for philosophical inquiry. Since all our thoughts are known to us through language, we must examine the kind of language we use when we approach philosophical issues and analysis.
The branch of linguistics that deals with the exploration of the relation between language and society is known as sociolinguistics, and the sociology of language. Sociolinguistics is based on the fact that language is not a single homogeneous entity, but has different forms in different situations. The changes in language occur because of changes in social conditions, for example, social class, gender, regional and cultural groups. A particular social group may speak a different variety of a language from the rest of the community. This group becomes a speech community.
Variation in language may occur because the speakers belong to a different geographical region. Taking the example of English, we find that it is not a single language but exists in the form of several varieties. One kind of English is called R.P. (or Received Pronunciation). This kind of English is used in the south west of England and particularly associated with the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and the BBC. It is an educated and formal kind of English. But there are other varieties of English, such as the English that is spoken in the north of England, in Yorkshire and Lancashire; in Scotland (Scottish English); Wales (Welsh English), etc. A less educated variety of English is that spoken by working class people in London often called Cockney English. Then there are the varieties of English spoken by people of different countries around the world, e.g. American English, and Australian English.
Sociolinguistics is the study of language variation and change––how varieties of language are formed when the speakers belong to a geographical region, social class, social situation and occupation, etc. Varieties of a language that are formed in various geographical regions involve a change in the pronunciation as well as vocabulary. Such changes result in the formation of a distinctly different variety of the language or a dialect. Sometimes these changes may be present within the same geographical region due to the social differences between different economic sections, e.g. working class and aristocracy. These changes result in class-dialects.
In sociolinguistic studies, we consider the linguistic features of these dialects, e.g. syntax variations such as ‘I’ve gotten it’ or ‘I ain’t seen nothing’ and lexical variations such as ‘lift’ (British English) to ‘elevator’ (American English). The study of the demarcation of dialect boundaries across a region and of specific features of each dialect is called dialectology. One dialect may be demarcated from another by listing a bundle of features which occur in a particular region. The point at which a certain feature (of pronunciation or vocabulary) ceases to be prevalent and gives way to another feature is a dialect boundary or ‘isogloss’. Dialects may acquire some importance and prestige and evolve into distinct languages. This usually happens when they are codified, e.g. in written and literary forms, and their grammar and lexicon is standardized. Usually this happens when the dialect is given political and social importance. That is why it is said ‘A language is a dialect with an army, and navy’. Sociolinguists chart the evolution of such changes.
Variation in language may also be due to the specific area of human activity in which language is used. Again taking the example of English, this language is used in different fields—of law, religion, science, sports etc. In each of these areas there is a specific vocabulary and manner of use of English, which defines the legal language, the scientific language etc. This variety of language according to its use, is called register. Sociolinguists examine the particular characteristics of different registers, i.e. legal register, scientific register, etc., to see how these differ. This kind of study is useful because it enables us to understand how language-use is tied to a social context. The notion of register is important in showing that language use in communication is not arbitrary or uncontrolled, but is governed by rules of situational and contextual appropriateness.
The sociology of language includes the study of attitudes to language held by social groups, for instance, they may consider some languages or dialects as more (or less) important. It includes the planning of language education, e.g. which languages should he the medium of instruction, which language should be taught as second language; and language policy, i.e. which languages are legally and constitutionally recognised and what status they are given. The sociology of language is thus linked with other aspects of our social world, the political, economic, educational, etc.
(c) Anthropological Linguistics
The evolution of language in human society and its role in the formation of culture; is another aspect of language society and culture, this is studied in anthropological linguistics. The structure of language has a social and cultural basis in the same way as other customs, conventions and codes such as those related to dress, food, etc. Each culture organises its world its own way, giving names to objects, identifying areas of significance or value and suppressing other areas. Language becomes a way of embodying the world view and beliefs of a culture, and the things that culture holds sacred; for example, a culture in which family relationships occupy the most significant position will have many kinship terms in their language, with each relationship specified by a particular term. If you compare the kinship terms in English such as grandfather, grandmother, uncle, aunt, etc. with kinship terms in Urdu, you will find that there are many more such terms in Urdu specifying particular relationships such as a paternal / maternal grand-father.
Similarly, terms specifying colours, emotions, natural phenomena, and so on are differently organised in every culture, and reveal a great deal about that culture. The study of these specific cultural elements is called the ethnography of a culture. A specific way of communication in a culture is thus studied as the ethnography of communication.
Anthropological studies have explored the relation between language and culture. Language is invented to communicate and express a culture. It also happens that this language then begins to determine the way we think and see the world. Since this language is the means by which we understand and think about the world, we cannot go beyond it and understand the world in any other way. This is the view expressed by the linguist Whorf whose hypothesis is that we dissect nature along the lines laid by our native language. There is still a debate about this, but it is true that to some extent we are hound to see the world according to the terms specified by our own language. These aspects of language and culture are still being discussed by anthropological linguists, philosophers of language and ethnographers.
(d) Literary Stylistics
The study of variation in language and the use of language in communication has also led to new ways of studying literary texts and the nature of literary communication. If you consider again the notion of register discussed above, you may realise that register is in fact a kind of language that is considered appropriate for a particular subject matter, e.g. the style of a religious sermon, the style of sports commentary. Similarly we may use this notion to describe the style of a literary work. That is, we may describe its features at the levels of phonology, syntax, lexis, etc. to distinguish it from other texts and to appreciate how it achieves some unique effects through the use of language. This kind of study is called literary stylistics.
Literary writers use the system of language in their own way, i.e. they create a style. This is done by deliberate choice (e.g. out of a whole range of words available, they choose one which would be particularly effective), sometimes by deviation from or violation of the rules of grammar (e.g. ‘he danced his did’ in Cummings’ poem). Poets and even prose writers may invert the normal order of items in a sentence (e.g. ‘Home is the sailor…’) or create a pattern by repetition of some items (e.g. the sound /f/ in ‘the furrow followed free’). By these and other devices, they arc able to manipulate language so that it conveys some theme or meaning with great force and effectiveness.
In literary stylistics, we read the text closely with attention to the features of language used in it, identifying and listing the particular features under the heading of ‘lexis’, ‘grammar’, ‘phonology’ or ‘sound patterns’. When we have obtained a detailed account of all these features, we co-relate them or bring them together in an interpretation of the text. That is, we try to link ‘what is being said’ with ‘how it is being said,’ since it is through the latter that writers can fully express the many complex ideas and feelings that they want to convey. Stylistic analysis also helps in a better understanding of how metaphor, irony, paradox, ambiguity etc. operate in a literary text as these are all effects achieved through language and through the building up of a coherent linguistic structure.
Nature of Linguistics
Linguistics is not a difficult subject. There are several points which at times put the beginners into trouble. These troubles are nothing, but the terminology. The beginners have to do with the difference between the lay attitude towards language and the orientation of the specialist.
When the linguist distinguishes between language and writing, the beginner at the elementary stage confuses the two. He feels that the “spoken language” and the “written language” are nothing, but two different manifestations of something fundamentally the same.
He also thinks that writing is more important than speech, when the reverse is true. Man has been speaking for millions of years but writing is a recent invention. Even today there are a, large number of people who are illiterate. But there is perhaps no human community without language.
We know from our experience that a child learns to speak his language at an earlier stage than he learns to read and write. He gradually develops his vocabulary for saying things.
The relationship between writing and language is close. A child is to transfer the vocabulary fitted to writing. Spoken words can be heard, but not seen. When they are composed of letters, they can be seen, but not heard. The teacher helps the child to develop those abilities.
In teaching English much of the time is taken for the problem of “correctness.” The linguist is not particularly interested in such questions. In using language, he may be a purist or not, but his ‘special concern is analyzing language. As an analyst of language, he is bound to observe and record ‘incorrect’ forms as correct ones if the language with which he is working makes such distinction.
The bond between language and literature is very close. The literary artist works in the medium of language “just as the painter works in the medium of colours and the composer in that of sounds.” Therefore the study of the language must not be confused.
There is a false notion of the relationship between language or grammar and logic. According to this any usage which is not “logical” is wrong. For example “he don’t” is; illogical and “he does not” is logical. From this point of view grammar and logic are close.
So far as linguistic is concerned the “logical” approach to languages is quite narrow. We do not use language only to know the facts. We use it for lies as well as truth, for non-sense as well as for sense, for persuasion a well as for instruction, for entertainment as well as for business, for making war as well as for making love. “Language is as broad and deep as the whole fabric of human existence.” Therefore, our approach to language should be comparably Catholic.
The following are some important natures of linguistics:
(i) Like human body, language is a complex system. A human body functions because of different organs like the heart, lungs, brain etc.
Similarly the language system functions because of words, structures, sound etc.
These are the most important parts of a language. We cannot express ourselves by the help of only one of the elements of language, i.e., sounds, words of structures. All these are inter-linked.
(ii) In language learning speech is the fundamental thing. Reading and writing are secondary.
(iii) Language works through symbols, which are the words. For example, the word “pen” is not a “pen,” it stands for a “pen.” Therefore the symbols used in a language must be known to both the speaker, the listener, the reader and the writer.
(iv) Language is not an inherent biological function of man. It is acquired through learning.
(v) Language is learnt through practice and habit formation. Rules and definition of grammar cannot help for the development of language of a child.
(vi) According to Ben Jonson, “speech is the instrument of society.” A society cannot b thought of without language. Hence the important purpose of language is communication.
(vii) Language does not remain in a vaccum. It exists in the speakers. It is related to the culture of a particular society.
(viii) Language is flexible, changes from time to time go on in respect of speech sounds, grammatical features, vocabulary etc. Therefore, in language teaching, we should not be rigid.