Notes on Linguistics

General Language

Language Quotes

18/11/09 Field Trip (Rotherham to Sheffield)

What did De Landa teach us?


A cultural idea transmitted from one person to another through imitatable phenomena (eg. speech)


Behavioural constraints

• Language – Splits into Spoken and Written Language

- referred to as ‘vulgar’
- replicated with variations continually – which then generates a new structure
-minor language

- at the top of the hierarchy – ‘superior’
- ‘frozen body of norms’
- ‘sterile’
- ‘incapable of giving birth to new languages’ – pg. 187
- superior does not translate to ‘linguistic productivity’
- complete – so therefore becomes redundant
- linguistic engineering
- standards - formal
-major language

‘The development of written forms of the various vernaculars, in turn, acted as a conservative pressure on urban dialects, reducing variation and hence slowing down their evolution.’ Pg 189

‘The very existence of a writing system exerts a homogenising influence on a language and acts as a brake on linguistic change.’ Pg. 208

‘Given that non standard speakers show a greater creativity in the coining of new words and syntactical constructions, the contact between standard and non standard speakers prevented standard languages from becoming ‘dead tongues’.’ Pg. 246

- By standardising the formal language, the vernacular could triumph over it.

• Dialect continuum – constantly evolving and changing in a horizontal manner
- At what point do ‘diverging dialects’ become different languages? Pg 188

• Not all languages are defined by a name, not all groups of people have ‘linguistic self awareness’ – pg 188
- A language appears to need a level of stability in order for it to be nameable – still have variation though.

• ‘Closed Networks’

– these are high density groups of people that live with minimal interaction with other more ‘socially mobile’ groups that surround them.
- These still exist in working class and ethnic communities in modern cities. Pg 192

‘Density itself allows a network to impose a normative consensus on its members.’ pg 192

- This is how local dialects survive despite the pressures of an institutional standard, and why…

‘Language communicates information not only about the world but also about the group memberships of its human users.’ Pg 184

-shows solitary and loyalty to a group

‘Large cities contributed not only to a defocusing of the norms but also to the creation of new closed networks and hence, new focused ethnic variants.’ Pg 212

-but language can also be stigmatised

• Masses vs. the Elite.

- languages part of a hierarchy
- At the top the standardised language of the elite, at the bottom the constantly evolving dialects of the masses.
- Major languages – those rising to the top of the hierarchy – written?
- Minor languages – ‘forming a meshwork of dialects.’ – spoken?

‘The more a language has or acquires the characteristics of a ‘major language’, the more it is affected by continuous variations that transpose it into a ‘minor language’…’pg. 198

‘The source of linguistic change is not the idiosyncratic habits of an individual but the variant pattern shared by a group and used to communicate with other groups.’ Pg. 193

‘While prestige determines the relative position of a dialect in a hierarchy, and hence its short term destiny, the sheer weight of numbers decides its ultimate fate.’ Pg. 201

- Written text cannot complete with spoken vernaculars.
- Minority languages continue to thrive alongside the standards.

‘Hierarchical structure superimposed on the meshwork of dialects.’ pg. 207

• Control of the Dialects. Control of the people. Power.

- 'Unification and uniformation' of language.

‘Dialectal variation came to be seen not as a question of inferior rationality relative to the standards, but as a problem of the state: an obstacle to unification and national consolidation, a potential source of local resistance to integration into the larger social body.’ Pg. 220

‘A national language was felt necessary because only through linguistic unity could the emerging elites mobilise the masses for peace and for war.’ Pg. 231

‘Uniform means of communication was needed to transmit the new political ideals.’ Pg. 231

- Standardisation of language leads to efficiency – in business and global terms.

• Barriers that recreate isolated pockets of replicators:

1 distance and geographic inaccessibility
2 emotional – loyalty to local variant
3 Mechanical – hard to pronounce foreign words
4 Conceptual – no word that translates

• Newspapers

• Education

‘Universal schooling, colonialism, and early mass media, while extending the reach of the standard, also bought it into contact with other languages, codes, or registers, ensuring that it would be re-injected with heterogeneous elements and set into variation again.’ Pg. 246

• Internet

‘the many to many delivery system’ pg. 252

‘a largely self organised meshwork of computers which formed over the past two decades’ pg. 252

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