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Introduction to Linguistics 2. Introduction to Linguistics. Teacher: Simon Smith ( 史尚明 ) This semester’s course: the next steps of linguistic analysis the study of meaning language change language in society language acquisition and learning computers and linguistics . About me….

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Introduction to linguistics
Introduction to Linguistics

  • Teacher: Simon Smith (史尚明)

  • This semester’s course: the next steps of linguistic analysis

    • the study of meaning

    • language change

    • language in society

    • language acquisition and learning

    • computers and linguistics 

About me
About me…

  • I first came to Taiwan in 1991

  • BA in Linguistics and Chinese, Leeds

  • MSc in Machine Translation, Manchester

  • PhD in Statistical Language Modeling, Birmingham

  • Post-doctoral year at Academia Sinica

  • This is my fourth year at Ming Chuan

Why study linguistics
Why study Linguistics?

  • Linguistics: related to your English studies

  • But also a science

    • The scientific study of language

  • You will get a good grasp of linguistic principles

  • You will understand more about how languages (including English and Chinese) work.

  • Linguistics asks such questions as

    • Why do languages change over time?

    • Why is it easy for kids to learn their first language, but difficult for adults?

Why take this course
Why take this course?

  • It’s taught (mostly) in English

    • Your English reading, writing, listening and speaking will all improve

  • It’s taught in a Western way: you will

    • think critically

    • discuss issues with classmates and teacher

    • question what classmates, teacher and even famous linguists say

  • You will learn to

    • describe your own ideas, and others’ ideas, in a logical way, by giving presentations to the class

    • write a medium-length essay, in the Western tradition

Course grades written work
Course grades: written work

  • In-class or homework exercises every two weeks or so

  • There will be one or two short quizzes

  • You will write one medium length essay (about 2000 words)

    • details later

Course grades discussion presentation
Course grades: discussion & presentation

  • Discussion

    • You will discuss Linguistics and Language in small groups

  • Presentation

    • You will get extra credit for presenting your discussion for the whole class

Class rules
Class rules

  • Attendance is mandatory

    • Assistant class leader please take attendance at break time

    • More than 4 missed classes (whether for sickness, sports, laziness, 病假, 公假, or any reason) – 0%!

  • If you arrive late, you must apologize and explain the reason

  • Please don’t eat hot food

  • Please switch off your phone

  • Please don’t chatter while I’m speaking

  • Work only on class material during class time

Class website
Class website


  • Here you will find

    • These PowerPoint slides

    • Syllabus, recommended reading and websites

    • Your grades

      • Check grades on-line after quizzes and exercises are returned to you


  • Yule, The Study of Language (Cambridge, 2006)

  • You must buy a copy if you haven’t already

  • You must bring the book every week

This semester
This semester:

  • We finish the study of the different linguistic levels

  • We will look at some other topics

    • Psycholinguistics

    • Sociolinguistics

    • Computational linguistics

    • Corpus linguistics

我覺得這個教室太熱! - syntax

  • We can also say

    • 這個教室,我覺得太熱!

  • I don’t think we can really say

    • ?我把這個教室覺得太熱, because it sounds very strange

  • And we certainly can’t say something like

    • *我覺得太熱這個教室, although we might understand it if someone said it

  • But if someone said

    • *教室這個,太熱覺得我, we would probably have no idea what they were talking about

  • This is because of syntactic rules governing Mandarin.


  • You can choose different words, and get more or less the same meaning

    • Like 好熱, or 非常熱, or 熱得不得了

  • But some lexical choices (=possible words) are not available:

    • 我覺得這(*位)教室太熱

    • 我覺得這個教室太(*燙)

    • This is because the classifier 位 selects a human noun

    • And because 燙 modifies substances like liquids, not spaces like rooms

In pragmatics
In pragmatics

  • 我覺得這個教室好冰喔!

  • Is it only a comment on the temperature?

  • Or does it really mean something like

    • Please can you turn the air-conditioning on?

  • In English, I’m not sure can mean No

    • And 我可能不去 generally means “I’m not going”

  • Pragmatics tells us to look beyond the sentence to find the real meaning

Historical linguistics
Historical linguistics

  • How languages are related

    • Language families

      • Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan…

    • Areal linguistics

      • Greek, Bulgarian

    • Mostly borrowed words; also shared grammatical features

      • Chinese, Korean, Japanese

  • How language changes over time

    • sounds: poor vs paw, suit.

    • vocab: 咖啡, 颱風. Calque: 摩天大樓, skyscraper, gratte-ciel

    • grammar: Did you eat yet? Adversative passive 被


  • Diglossia: “high” and “low” prestige languages

    • The role of Mandarin and Taiwanese in a bilingual society

    • The changing role of English in Taiwan society: borrowing, or showing off?

    • case and size: code-switching, or lexicalized Chinese words?




Applications for linguistics
Applications for linguistics

  • Speech disorders

  • Forensic linguistics

    • Accent detection

    • Style verification (eg police style)

  • Language teaching

  • Computational applications

    • Machine translation

    • Speech recognition and synthesis

    • Language identification

Starting semantics
Starting semantics

Read the end of chapter 9, beginning of chapter 10

Look at these



Write three more pairs like these

Describe the roleof the verb in each case