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The scientific or systematic study of language is called linguistics.

Scientific is the kind of study in which one uses the methodology may
described as that one first makes hypothesis, then verify it and calls it
theory. In short, we follow the following orders.

1. Observation 2. Hypothesis formation 3. Verification

4. Codification or formation of theories.

However, that order may not be followed. Sometime we may have a theory
already in mind, which may lead us to same experiments.

What is Language?

The word "language" is used without any indefinite article. It shows that a
word "language" is applied not only to English, Chinese and Urdu etc. But it
is a variety of other systems of communication, notation, or calculation. This
is the same case as is in French the word "language" is applied to language
in general and the word "langue" is applied to particular languages.

There is other system of communication, with human and non-human which

are natural rather than artificial, but which do not seem to be languages in
the strict sense of the term. Even the word "language" is commonly used
with reference to them. Consider such phrases as "sign language", "body
language" or "the language of the bees" in this connection.

Language is God`s special gift to mankind. Without language human

civilization as we know it would have remained impossibility. Language is
ubiquitous. It is present everywhere- in our society thoughts and dreams,
prayer and meditations, relations and communications and religious rites.
Besides being a means of communication and a store-house of knowledge, it
is an instrument of thinking as well as source of delight e.g. (singing). It is
the use of language that that makes a life bitter or sweet. Without language
man would have remained a dumb animal. It is our ability to communicate
through words that makes us different from animals.

Thus, we can say that human language is the principal system of

communication used by particular groups of human-beings with in a
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particular society of which they are members.

Some definitions of language by various linguists:

There are so many other definitions of language as done by prominent


Def.: (1)

According to `E. Sapir`, "Language is a purely human and non-instinctive

method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of
voluntarily produced symbols.

(E. Sapir)

This definition suffers from several defects;

a) It says that language always communicates ideas but many times we

say things which we do not mean i.e. it does not convey our ideas, idea in
particular is inherently imprecise.

b) He restricts voluntarily produced symbols only to humans but in fact

there are other systems of voluntarily produced symbols i.e. gestures,
postures, eye gaze which can be produced by animals.

Def.: (2)

A language is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which a social

group co-operates.

(Bloch and Trager)

Defects: (Flaws and Faults)

a) They say only about the arbitrary vocal symbols and thus there is no
reference to written language. However, one cannot speak without using
language, but one can use language without speaking.

b) It tells only about the social function of language and about the
psychological function i.e. how a child acquires language.

Def.: (3)

Language is the institution where by humans communicates and interacts

with each other by means of habitually used oral-auditory arbitrary symbols.
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Defects: (Flaws and Faults)

a) Language is not habitual. It is used in time of need e.g. when we see a

bird, we do not utter the word bird but only in time of need.

b) Oral or auditory makes references to the speaker as well as to the

receiver of the vocal signals or language utterances and thus makes no
reference to the written language.

c) Language is a stimulus free. If we see or look at a thing, we do not

start communicating. In fact, there is no connection between the words and
situation in which they are used. Moreover, we use sentences which we
never heard before.

Def.: (4)

Language is a set of (finite or infinite) sentences each finite in length and

each constructed out of a finite set of elements.


Chomsky definition is a striking one because it covers more. But it too

suffers from several defects.

Defects: (Flaws and Faults)

a) Chomsky only talks about the structure of language and not about the
symbolic nature of language. He also does not make any reference to
communicative aspects of language.

Chomsky definition has two points.

Firstly, each natural language has a finite number of letters and its alphabets
if it has any alphabetic writing system.

Secondly there may be infinitely many distinct sentences in the language;

each sentence can be represented as a finite, sequence of these sounds or

Def.: (5)
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Language may be defined as the expression of thought by means of speech-


(Henry Sweet)

Similarly, anthropologist regards language as a form of cultural behavior,

sociologists as an interaction between member of a social group, students of
literature as an artistic medium, philosopher as a means of interpreting
human experiences, language teachers as a set of skills.

Truly, language is such a complex phenomenon that to define it in terms of a

single level as knowledge, behavior, skill, habit an event or an object will not
solve the problem of its definition. None of the above definition is perfect.
Each of them just hints at certain characteristics of language.

There are four main aspects of the study of language.


Structure Use

Sounds Grammar Meaning Pragmatics

Phonetics Phonology Morphology Syntax Semantics

Phonetics: The study of sounds how they are produced and described is
called phonetics.

Phonology: The study of the arrangement of sounds in a language or sound

pattern of language is called phonology.

Morphology: The study of how words are made i.e. (the shape of words) is
called morphology.

Semantics: The branch of linguistics that deals with the study of meaning is
called semantics.

Pragmatics: The branch of linguistics that deals with the study of the use of
a language in proper context. And also deals with the way people actually
used words in daily conversation.

Language Behavior and Language System:

Behavior: The activity of using language is called behavior.

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Language determines the behavior of the people. If we speak one language,

we have one sort of behavior but if we switch over to another language
there is a marked change in our behavior. Not only observed by participants
but also by observers who are not involved characteristically in interactive
and communicative behavior?

An external observer can observe the language behavior even when we do

not know the particular language that is being used and can interpret the
utterances that are the product of behavior.

We consider language from three points of views.

1. Competence versus Performance


II. Language versus Parole

(F.D. Saussure)

III. Ideational versus Interpersonal


I. Competence Versus Performances:

The ability to be engaged in particular kinds of behavior. It is the native

speaker’s knowledge of his language, the system of rules he has mastered,
his ability to produce and understand a vast number of new sentences.
Competence is the study of the system actual sentences themselves, of the
actual use of the language in real-life situation. So, the speaker’s knowledge
of the structure of a language is his linguistic competence and the way in
which he uses it is his linguistic performance.

We can also explain it by this way when we say that someone speaks
English, one of the two things either;

(a) That the habitually or occasionally engages in a particular kind of

behavior or,
(b) That he has the ability (whether he exercises or not) to engage in this
particular kind of behavior offering to the former as performance and
the latter is competence. We can say that performance pre-supposes
competence whereas competence does not pre-suppose performance.
II. Langue and Parole:
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Ferdinand De Saussure made a sharp distinction between three main terms-

le langue, la langue and la parole, and then concentrated two of them. He
envisaged le language as (human speech as a hole) to be composed of two
aspects, which he called langue (the language system) and parole (the act of

Le language has no exact equivalent in English, it embraces the faculty of

language and all its various forms a manifestation.

Le language is the faculty of human speech present in all normal human

beings to heredity, but which requires the correct environmental stimuli for
proper development. It is our faculty to talk to each other. Taken as a whole
it is many sided and heterogeneous (differing in kinds) straddling several
areas simultaneously- physical, psychological and physiological.

According to F.D. Saussure langue is any particular language that is the

common possession of all those who acknowledge to speak the same

The language behavior of individual member of the language community is

called parole, e.g. different people speaking in different manner.

Ultimately parole is the set of all utterance that have actually been
produced, while langue is the set of all possible grammatical sentences in
the language from this. It follows that parole is a personal, dynamic, social
activity, which exists at a particular time and place and in a particular
situation as opposed to langue which exists apart from any particular
manifestation in speech.

III. Interpersonal versus Experiential or Ideational:

If one man speaks to another there must be a dialogue. You ask a question
and he give you an answer, so in it a person addresses another.

It must be according to the text. It is possible only when there is

background knowledge. It varies from culture to culture.

Ideational or experiential based on experience and therefore is called

experiential, it is called ideational because when one speaks there must be
same idea in one’s mind. The ideational level is determined by one’s
experience or exposure to society.
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Language System:

A social or institution which itself is purely abstract (comes out from brain)
i.e. it has no physical existence, but which actualized on particular occasions
in the language behavior of individual members of the language community.

When one speaks the language comes out of brain, thus it is abstract.

Language and Speech, Priority of spoken over written:

Language is the recurring in the mind of a speaker. It has the medium of

transferability i.e. it can be transferred from one medium to another such as
phonic (verbal), graphical and gestural (bodily).

Some linguists believe that written language is more important than spoken
language. They argue that spoken language is common. It is spontaneous. It
is used by ordinary people. Its only merit is that in it that you can rely on
gestures. They say that it is not polished and standard but it is substandard
and full of repetition.

The merits of written language:

I. It is a permanent record.
II. There is standard vocabulary in written language.
III. It is not spontaneous.
IV. There are complete sentences.
V. It is the product of gifted people.

Its only demerit is that it is limited. We cannot follow the rules of written
language in a spoken language, but there is validity in the fact that spoken
language is primary than written language. It is more genuine in scope. It
existed at that time when there was no written language. Had there been no
spoken language, there would have been no written language.

Spoken language is more basic than written language. This does not mean
that language should be identified with speech. Though there exists a close
connection between languages especially natural languages and speeches.
We cannot speak without language but we can use language without speech.

Speech is only a medium through which the language is conveyed. However,

we are concerned here to prove that spoken language is more important and
basic than written. We shall prove this fact through the following priorities.
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1. Historical Priority:

It shows the priority of speech over writing. The existence of a human

without speech seems impossible. There is no society to exist or to have
existed at any time in the past without the capacity of speech. There are still
some languages in South Africa which have no written shape. The advent of
education brought written language. The vast majority of societies have still
recently been either totally or largely illiterates.

2. Structural Priority:

Structural priority shows also the priority of speech over writing. The
structure of written sentences depends upon identifiable distinction of shape.
The structure of spoken sentences is upon the identifiable distinctions of

In theoretically ideal case of one to one correspondence holding between

spoken and the written and the written sentences of a language, each
written sentence isomorphic with (having the same internal structure) to
corresponding spoken sentences. For example, if the written sentences
make use of an alphabetic writing system, particular letters will stand in
correspondence with particular sounds and particular combination of letters
will be in one to one correspondence, as words or phrases with particular
combinations of sounds. Not at all letters are acceptable or all the
combinations of sounds. But there is an important difference between letters
and sounds in this respect. The potentiality that sounds (used in a particular
language) have for combining for one another depends in part upon the
properties of the medium itself (certain combinations of sounds either
unpronounceable or difficult to pronounce) and in part upon the more
specific restriction that hold for that language alone.

The potentiality that letters have for combining with one another is totally
unpredictable in terms of their shape.

It is predictable, however, to a greater or less extent, in all languages that

makes use of an alphabetical writing system. In term of the association of
particular shapes with particular sounds and of the potentiality that sounds
have for combining with one another in speech.

In this aspect spoken language is structurally more basic than written

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3. Functional Priority:

This largely shows the priority of spoken language over written language.
We can see that spoken language serves many functions than written. Even
today in the most literate of modern industrialized and bureaucratic
societies, the spoken language is used for a wider range of purposes than
the written. And writing serves as a functional substitute for speech only in
situations which makes vocal auditory.

Communication was impossible, unreliable or inefficient. Then the invention

of telephone and tape-recorder has made possible the use of the spoken
language in circumstances in which the written language would have been
employed in the part. It was for the purpose of reliable communication at a
distance and the preservation of important legal, religious and commercial
documents that writing was originally invented. Thus, it shows that spoken
language is more basic than the written language.

4. Biological Priority:

Human beings are genetically pre-programmed, not only the acquire

language, but also and as a part of the same process, to produce and
recognize speech-sounds. It has often been pointed out that what the
linguist commonly refers to as the speech organs (or vocal organs)- the
lungs, the vocal cards, the teeth and the tongue etc. All serve some
biologically more basic function than that of producing vocal signals. This is
indisputably the case; the lungs are used in breathing, the teeth in chewing
food and so on.

It has now been demonstrated experimentally that babies are capable, in the
very first week of life, of distinguishing speech sounds from other sounds
and are predisposed, as it were, to pay attention to them. Man’s nearest
relatives among the higher primates, though they have much the same
physiological apparatus, do not show the same predisposition to produce or
distinguish the sounds characteristics of human speech. This may be the
principal reason why attempts to teach spoken language to chimpanzees
have failed.

In the normal course of events, children acquire a command of the spoken

language naturally, whereas reading and writing are special skills in which
children are given special instruction based upon their prior knowledge of
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spoken language. It means that acquisition is an unconscious process of

learning is a conscious and fluency required in it.

So, biological priority also shows the priority of speech over writing.

Thus, the above priority shows that spoken language is prior to written

The Semiotic point of view of language:


It is the science of signs and symbolic behaviour of communicative systems.


It is the branch of study that deals with signs, symbols and system used for

There are certain concepts relevant to the investigation of all communication

systems. The sender of the message transmits signals to a receiver along a
channel of communication. The signal will have a particular form and will
convey a particular meaning or message. The connection between the forms
of the signal and its meaning is established by what is commonly referred to
in semiotics as the code. The message is encoded by the sender and
decoded by the receiver.

As the language has the property of medium transfer ability. So, both
spoken and written language can be transmitted along a variety of channels.
Spoken English can be transmitted in writing while written English can be
transmitted along the vocal-auditory channel (by means of speech).

The most striking property of language by comparison with other codes or

communicative system is its flexibility and versatility. We can express our
emotions and feelings, can ask questions, or make statements and
references to present, past and future. This is possible only in language and
not in any other communicative system.

Basic Properties of Human Language:

There are six basic unique and specific properties that contribute to the
flexibility and variety of tongue.

1. Arbitrariness:
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It means that there is no connection between words and objects or their

forms. It also means something like inexplicable. In terms of some more
general principles, there is no link between form and meaning and between
the signal and meaning. If given the form, it is impossible to predict the
meaning and if given the meaning, it is impossible to predict the form.

There are some words which are non-arbitrary such as “cuckoo” and “crash”
etc. But in majority of words the connection is arbitrary. The non-arbitrary
connection is called onomatopoeia.

From semiotic point of view arbitrariness have both advantages and

disadvantages. If on one hand it increases flexibility and universality of
communicative system by increasing its vocabulary. On the other hand, it
places a considerable burden upon the memory during language acquisition

It makes system more flexible and adoptable but it also makes it more
difficult to learning. The other disadvantage is that it makes the signals more
difficult to be interpreted by one who does not know the system. However,
the advantages of arbitrariness are more than the disadvantages, and
therefore this property of language cannot be over-looked.

2. Displacement:

This property is not present in animal communication system. Animal

communication system has no past or future reference. There is no
imagination involved in it, but human language is not restricted to time or
place. It has the capacity of displacement and the ability to refer to things
that do not exist like fairies, demons, devils etc.

In animal communication system this property is not present because in

that, signals are directly relevant to situation. In human language the case is
opposite, for instance a mother is very angry and scorns her children but in
her heart, she loves them. So, human says one thing but the invention is
other that is why this property does not restrict the language to limit but
widen it does not.

3. Discreteness:

Such as sounds in language are meaning fully distinct such as (IPI) and
(IBI) both are biblically not much different but when we form words like
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“pack” and “back”. They become totally different; this greatly makes one
word totally different from another is called discreteness of language. Other
example is that vowels (a, e, i, o, u,) are meaningless words but when they
are used along consonants, they give different meaning, e.g. (bit, bat, bet).
Discreteness is not only confined to words but also be extended to syntax
i.e. sentences and structures.

Thus, the meaning becomes totally different. Though discreteness is not

logically dependent on arbitrariness but it interacts with it to increase the
flexibility and efficiency of language system. In animal communication
system non-arbitrariness (continuous variation) is often associated with
discreteness. Language should have discreteness because it increases the
flexibility and efficiency of language system.

4. Cultural Transmission:

We inherit genetics qualities from parents but do not inherit language from
parents. Instead we acquire it from culture, from other speakers. We may
resemble in genetic qualities such as eyes, the colour of our eyes and hair
etc., to our parents but we do not acquire the language from parental genes.
If children are educated, there will be marked difference between their
language and the language of their parents if they are uneducated.

The proof that language is acquired from culture and society and not from
parental genes is that. If a Pakistani in fact is brought by English speakers in
English society since birth. He will resemble in physical appearance to his
parents but will speak English like the native speakers of English.

Human beings are born with innate pre-disposition to acquire language, but
they are not born with the ability to produce utterances in a specific

Whether our thinking is primary or action is primary with promote our

thinking i.e. we learn language from culture and society.

5. Productivity:

It is the property of a communication system which makes possible the

construction and interpretation of new signals, i.e. of signals that have not
been previously encountered and are not to be found on some list or which
makes possible the construction and interpretation of new signals i.e. signals
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that have previously neither heard nor used. It is also called creativity.
Human language has the property of productivity i.e. we can come up with
utterances and expressions that we have never heard before. Chomsky also
stressed the importance of productivity. He gives the example of children
who acquire language in a certain age. The child hears only the name of
things but still he learns the complete language. It is all because of

In most animal communication system there is a limited number of different

signals which can be send and receive by its users. They are strictly
restricted to it. But on the other hand all the language systems enable their
users to construct and understand many utterances that they have neither
heard nor used. Before we come up with new utterances and sentences
according to the new situation e.g. when we are caught at something, we
say let us think and then we come up with the help of uttering some

6. Duality:

Languages are dual; they are dual in the sense that they have two levels of
structure or organization. These levels are phonological and grammatical.
E.g. in the production of speech we have primary (physical level) to produce
individual sounds such as n, b,i. They may be called phonic symbols. Now if
we combine them in a particular fashion, they give meaning nib, bin, etc.


n, b, i one level (elements of sounds or phonic)

Nib second level (units)

Most animal communication systems do not have this property. They have
units but are unable to combine them with one another and thus cannot
form sentences or phrases like human languages.

The advantage of duality is obvious large number of different units can be

formed out of a small number of elements _ many thousands of words, for
example, out of thirty or forty sounds. If these primary units can be
combined systematically in various ways, the number of distinct signals that
can be transmitted and consequently the number of different messages is
increased enormously.
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The above six properties which have discussed briefly are all interconnected
in various ways. They are not only present on all languages but present to a
very high degree. These properties make the language, the most scientific
and efficient mean of communication.

The Fiction of Homogeneity:

The fiction of homogeneity means the belief or assumption that all members
of the same language community speak exactly the same language. It is of
course possible to define the term language community in such a way that it
is made a matter of definition that there should be no systematic difference
of pronunciation grammar or vocabulary in the speech of its members but
we know that even in the same region the people from different social
classes speak different languages and in a different manner communities.

In all the language communities of the world there are differences of accent
and dialect. Accent refers to the way in which the language is pronounced or
it deals only with pronunciation and is not concerned with grammar and
vocabulary etc. Dialect is broad than accent and it refers to every aspect of
language including pronunciation. The two native speakers of a dialect can
use the same dialect but well speak with a different accent e.g. all Pashto
speakers speak the same dialect but with different accent as the word
Peshawar. Some are using (Peshawar) while some are using (Pekhawar).
Another word some are using Nowshera as (Noshar) and some as (Nokhar).
Thus the assumption is falsified that all the people living in the same
language community speak exactly the same language.

We broadly divide dialect into the following branches.

1. Regional Dialect:

The people of different regions speak the same language in different

manner. In fact, we do not speak language, we speak dialect. Even in the
same region the people from different social classes speak also different
dialects. Northern people speak northern dialect while southern people speak
southern dialect.

2. Social Dialect:

The same is the case with social dialect. Social people speak in special
manner while simple people speak in in a simple manner. So we can say that
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there is no such thing as language. We speak dialects. Dialects are reality

while language is abstraction.

There is always a dialect in every region which acquires the status of a

regional or national standard, which is called standard language. Standard
language is also a dialect, because the dialects are the subtitle of a
language. Then even thus standard language is a dialect.

Standardizing a language means fixing spelling and vocabulary. To be

standardized a language pass through various ways some of which are as

a) Selection:

A particular dialect is selected out of a number of dialects. It is selected

because of its political and commercial importance. The dialect which is
spoken in the capital city is usually selected as a choice of a standard
language. Dialect is a matter of great political and social importance. The
standard dialect which spoken is of great importance but it does not mean
that it is superior to other dialects of the same language. Non-standard
dialect is no more or less systematic than the regional or national standard.
They also do a lot of function in the daily life of the locality or social class in
which they operate open.

b) Codification:

It means some academic are assigned to write dictionaries, to fix the

vocabulary and grammatical rules.

c) Acceptance:

Standard variety has to be accepted by relevant population as their national

and official language.

d) Elaboration of Function:

The selected or standard dialect is used in all the important functions the
state machinery such as parliament, in courts of law, in bureaucracy, in
higher education etc. It is also accepted the language of science and

Standard language have some functions, two functions are as follow:

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1. It is a strong unifying force. It brings the various communities together.

2. It is a symbol of independence and shows the identity of a social class or

a nation.

As we know that all dialects are equal and having similar structures.
Moreover there is no scientific base for the superiority or the interior of
dialect to another. However the standard dialect functions as a unifying force
because it has very large vocabulary.

If we carefully examine the matter, we will find a certain amount of

systematic varieties in the speech of those who are known to be the speaker
of the same dialect. So we can say that every individual has his own dialect
called idiolect. Idiolect is the way an individual speaks a language. Every
person has his own idiolect because he speaks the same dialect in his own
way. Every idiolect differs from every other in vocabulary, pronunciation
perhaps even in grammar.

We discussed the terms language, dialect and idiolect. To this list of

language-dialect, idiolect, another dimension of systematic variation in the
utterances of the members of the language community which is style. Every
individual has various styles i.e. he is multi-lingual because he speaks to
everyone in separate way. He talks to his teacher in a different way from the
way he speaks to his mother, sister or friends. So again the concept of
homogeneity is falsified. Our style change according to situation like the
person we are addressing or the place where we are speaking i.e. in a
mosque a person does not talk about films, there are simply religious talks.

Stylistic choice is an important part of using language correctly and

effectively. Every native speaker keeps on changing his style according to
situation to take the broader, rather than the narrower, view of the structure
and functions of languages. This is why some authors have incorporated
what is here called macro linguistics with in applied linguistics.

Is linguistics a science?

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It has been a matter of great

controversy whether it is a science or not, subjects whose scientific status is
unquestioned need not so much discussion to prove their scientific status.
But such is not the case with linguistics. There have been many debates to
prove whether it is a science or not.
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Before justifying its claim to science we must know what science is and what
arts are.

Aristotle defines arts as the imitation of life. Different people imitate life in
different ways. Dancer imitates life through the various gestures of body;
painter imitates it through canvas and painting. Musician imitates it through
composition, while the writer imitates it through words. Some imitates
serious and tragic aspects of life and writes tragedies, while other imitates
the non-serious aspects and writes comedies.

Dialogues Tragedy


Narration Epic


Dialogues Comedy

Narration Mock-Epic

Now we come to science. The word science in English has a narrower

courage, than many of its conventionally accepted translation-equivalents
other languages. Such as “wissenehalf” in German, nauka in Russian and
even science in French.

When science is mentioned such disciplines as physics, chemistry and

biology comes directly in our mind. Although such phrases as ‘the social-
sciences’, ‘the behavioural science’, and even ‘the human science’ are
frequently heard yet science is thought to be restricted only to the above to
the above mentioned subjects. So we can say that science is the systematic
presentation of a thing or it can also be called properly constituted academic

Linguistics are in general agreement about the principal differences between

the scientific and non-scientific study of language. These points of
agreement as under.

Empirical and Objective:

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These are two authentic distinctive features of science. Scientific study is

empirical i.e. which can perceived through five senses, observation and
experiment and objective i.e. which has its own independent existence
outside our mind. These two points are also present in linguistics. Linguistics
is empirical rather speculative or intuitive. The data can be obtained by
observation and experiment.

It is also objective, objectivity is closely related to empirical. Language is

something with which we are familiar from childhood in a practical,
unreflecting manner. This practical familiarity helps in its objective
examination. Objectivity either rejects or explain, the social, cultural and
nationalistic prejudices and beliefs associated with the layman’s view of
language and of particular language.

What is empirical is always objective. So linguistics is empirically based

science, because subject matter is observable. Through senses i.e. we hear
speech and can perceive the sensation of speaking.

Linguistics is also a social science because its subject matter is part of the
behaviour of men and women, when they are interacting with each other.

As a science or scientific study of language it has a special place because

linguist is simultaneously the observer and producer of the language.
Therefore, a linguist can adopt the position of external observer or
interpreter of data supplied by him or by others in speech and writing. Or
internal observer i.e. what is involved in when we are analysing the speaker
and hearer when they know language. So when we go into mind that is
internal approach and when works on external elements that is external
approach. Let's examine the problem from external and internal points of

1. External or Empirical points of view:

From external points linguistics is a science because a linguist treats his

material like other scientist. He construct hypothesis to be tasted. Linguistics
in this position is equal with other sciences like physics, biology and
chemistry etc. because scientists are viewing materials from outside. All
phenomena are potentially accessible to any other observer. Bloomfield is a
staunch representative of the school of thought. He is an imperialist.

2. Internals’ or Rationalist's point of view:

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From internal point of view he or she is observing only himself or herself.

And what is involved in his or her brain. The linguist as speaker-hearer has
an access not only to materials but also personal reaction and judgments,
whether well found, correct or incorrect. Such data is available to other
speakers also but in each case they are private phenomena, not directly or
publically observable. So from internal point of view it is not a science.

Linguists either favours external point of view or internal point of view. Now
all the linguists are divided in those two groups. However at the 20th
century this contrast has become very sharp. Bloomfield insisted on external
point of view while Chomsky insists on cognitive or internal point of view.

If by science we mean the logical and systematic presentation of things then

it is science. So linguistics is an empirically based science. The whole
controversy whether it is a science or not started from proper's notion of
theory-laden observation. It was a reaction by logical positivists to
imperialist’s point of view.

Logical positivism means scientific outlook.

Empiricism refers to the view that knowledge comes from experience. The
Greek word “empeiria” means experience or more particularly from
perception and sense-data.

Rationalism from the Latin word, ratio meaning in this context mind or
reason. The rationalists emphasize the role that mind plays in the acquisition
of knowledge. In particular, they hold that there are certain a priori concepts
or propositions (a priori means, in its traditional interpretation, “known
independently of experience”) in terms of which the mind interprets the data
of experience.

Positivism is secular and anti-meta physical in outlook and rejects any

appeal to non-physical entities. Logical positivists were aiming at a single
system of unified science in which the whole body of positive knowledge
would be represented.

For this purpose they adopted two principles.

a) Verification Principle:
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According to this principle no statement was meaningful unless verified by

observation or standard scientific methods applied to the data provided by
observation. This principle totally based on observation and calculation.

b) Reductionism:

This principle tells that some sciences are more basic than others – physics
and chemistry being more than biology, biology being more basic than
physiology or sociology, and so on - and that in the great synthesis of
unified science the concepts and propositions of the less basic science were
to be reduced to (i.e. reinterpreted in terms of) the concepts and
propositions of the more basic sciences. The verification principle has now
been abandoned and the principle of reductionism is far less generally
accepted by scientists and philosophers of science. Than it was when
Bloomfield wrote his classical textbook of linguistics in 1933.

Reductionism, and more general positivism, is no longer as attractive to

most scientists as it was. It is now widely accepted on all discipline of

Secondly diverse approaches should be tolerated. Therefore whether a

discipline is or is not scientific cannot be satisfactory answered, especially
when we consider the so called scientific method. Every well-established
science employs its own characteristic, theoretical constructs and its own
methods of obtaining and interpreting the data.

All that has just been said about empiricism, position and the current status
of the so-called scientific method is intended to be more or less factual and
uncontroversial we are now turn to point out controversy.

First Controversy:

The first controversy was that what proper (Austrian, British philosophers
and professors) said that observation is Theory-Laden. While logical
positivists said that it is theoretically natural. Proper attacked the sharp
distinction which logical positivists had drawn between observation and
theory construction. It is held to be a matter of inductive generalization.
There are two points of view, inductive which is from specific to general or
from narrower to broader while deductive is from general to specific or from
broader to narrower.
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Proper attacked the view because he believed that observation and data
collection cannot proceed in advance of the formulation of hypothesis that
the scientists wishes to test.

The main point of miss-understanding between proper and logical positivist

is that. According to logical positivist there is a distinction between pre-
theoretical and theoretical concept. They believed to put under the term
“theory” all preconception and outlook this point of positivists. So it is led to
the first controversy.

Second Controversy:

It is an attack on rationalist of which Chomsky is permanent member.

Rationalists maintain that intuition plays an important role in linguistics.
Intuition is a speaker’s spontaneous an unguided judgment to accept or
reject utterances. Both logical positivist have an idea that linguistics is a
science. The logical positivists say that we take data and information from
corpus (a collection of written or spoken text) while rationalists say that
there is no need for corpus. But we should rely on native speaker’s intuition.
Logical positivists say that you should have a data in front of you, but
rationalists say that data can never become over. The corpus is always

There was a time when some linguists thought that it was in principle
possible to escape from the necessity of asking native speakers to make
such intuitive judgments about their language, by simply collecting a large
enough corpus of naturally occurring data and submitting it to an exhaustive
and systematic analysis. However, this school of thought is no longer in
fashion. But the linguists appeal to intuitive evidence remains controversial.
There are two aspects to controversy.

The first aspect relates to the question whether the intuition that the linguist
make reference to some part of the native speaker’s linguistics competence.
If so, on Chomsky’s definition of competence and his formulation of the
goals of linguistics, the intuition themselves become part of what the
description of any particular language most directly account for. Most
linguists do not consider nature speaker’s intuition as data.

The second part of the controversy has to do with their ability of the native
speaker’s judgments. Most linguists believe that meaningful analysis of data
is possible through intuition. However, there is another school of thought
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who believe that neither data nor intuition alone sufficient, one should
supplement the other. Non-native speakers know more but he cannot speak
like a native speaker.

For proficient non-native speaker data need is much greater than native
speaker. Because they have unreliable intuition about what is possible in a

The rationalist reliance on intuition means ideal native speaker/hearer. In

practice of invalid variety of the languages in question, but socio linguists
now highlight the variability of the competence of different native speakers
belonging to different social groups and even the dialectal variability of a
single native speaker’s language. Once non-infirmity of the language is
accepted as normal than it is evident that native speakers knowledge of their
language as social and cultural phenomena is incomplete.

When native speaker speaks different dialects they disagree with one
another. The judgment of native speakers are highly unreliable. Sometime a
native speaker rejects something (utterance), unarupt but he himself on
other occasion produces that expression. Therefore we cannot solely rely on


Linguistics whether placed in one faculty or in another is a matter of great

administrative convenience and is both a social science and natural science
as for as its methodology is concerned.

Linguistics is Descriptive not Prescriptive:

Description means to describe or discover rules or interpret language

whereas prescription means imposition of rules or establishment of norms of
correctness. Prescriptive is also called normative. The contrast between
descriptive and prescriptive is that the former describes how things are and
the latter how things ought to be. Both have different kinds of rules which
are called immanent and transcendent (extremely great, suppress
respectively). The most important distinction between these two rules is that
in descriptive grammar (do and do not) are just statement while in
prescriptive grammar they are commands.
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The whole controversy started from traditional grammar because it was

strongly normative in character. It wanted to formulate standards and rules
of correctness, and then to impose them. If somebody violated these
standards and rules, they were making serious mistakes. Prescriptive
grammarian believe that language change is corruption. They also
mentioned that there were certain percepts or norms which principles should
be used by all educated people. They wish to prescribe rather than describe
the rules. Some of them are as under.

They argue that one should never use double negatives in a sentence such

I don’t want nothing.

I don’t have nothing.

Don’t end a sentence with a preposition such as

I saw the boy I was talking about.

He was moving about.

Which class do you read in?

Do not split an infinitive such as

I want you to clearly understand me.

Many of these rules of prescriptive grammar were based on Greek and Latin
languages and traditional grammar as influenced by it. The explanation of
the traditional grammarian for double negatives was that according to it

becomes positive ( - + - = +). But descriptive grammar explain that

nothing is wrong with double negative if the sentence is properly stressed.
Moreover the philosophic logic is different from the logic of the language.
The double negative construction can be found in so many familiar modern
European language. It can be found even in the classic Greek, the popular
dialect of ancient Greek which was used by great writers such as Aristotle,
Plato etc. in their writing. And it must be noted that traditional grammar had
its origin in the description of literary dialects of ancient Greece. So how the
traditional grammar proves that wrong.
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As for split infinitive is concerned again there is a difference between

infinitive form of Greek and English languages. In Greek and Latin languages
infinitive forms were one word which could not be split. But in English they
are two words which can be split.

Therefore nothing is wrong with split-infinitive.

It is said that linguists change necessarily involves a debasement or

corruption of the language. This view is indefensible because all living
language are subject to change and a number of factors are responsible for
it. For example fashion plays an important role in it. Interruption between
languages and assimilation (when one language absorb other) are also
responsible for it. Sometime for the sake of ease and comfort we change the
form or the existing words as ten pence - tempence etc. Similarly in
vocabulary, social and cultural influences are obvious.

Neither logic nor the grammar of Latin provides us with a guidance of

correctness. All languages are subjects to change. This is a matter of
empirical fact, and it is the task of historical linguistics. To investigate the
detail of language change. If change is corruption or debasement of
traditional standards. Then early changes of the same kind which the
traditionalists consider as unalterably correct are baseless because what is
condemned at any one time as a corruption or debasement of traditional
standards of usage that traditionalists themselves treat as unalterably

In descriptive linguistics it is believed that there are no absolute standards of

correctness in language. We can say that a foreigner has made a mistake, if
he says something that violates the rules immanent in the usage of native
speaker. We can also say if we wish that a speaker of a non-standard, social
or regional dialect of English has been spoken ungrammatical if his
utterances violate the rules immanent in Standard English.

While commenting somebody we have a particular standard dialect in mind

which appeals to us. However what we consider in correct is not something
inherently incorrect. It is incorrect in relation to some standard. We know
that a form becomes standard for common or educational reasons, but it
does not mean that in terms of its structure, it is superior to some other
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While drawing a distinction between description and prescription, the linguist

is not saying that there is no place at all for the establishment and
prescription of norms (standard norms) of usage. There are obvious
administrative and educational advantages, in the modern world, in
standardizing the principal dialect that is employed with in a particular

Standardizing is essential and we will have to agree with certain rules and
regulations as a language. The problem of selecting, standardizing and
promoting one particular language or dialect at the expense of others is
fraught with political and social difficulties.

Ultimately from the above discussion we conclude that linguistics is

descriptive though it has place for prescription also regarding its advantages.

Semantics and different kinds of Meanings:

Semantics is the study of meaning but what is meaning. The answer is not
easy, philosopher have been trying to answer it. Two assumptions, related
to semantics, have been controversial. These assumptions are

a) That meaning has some kind of reality or existence.

b) That everything referred to as meaning is similar in nature.

We can call these respectively; the assumption of existence and the

assumption of homogeneity. These pre-suppositions are misleading. They
encourage us to think that meaning exists independently of language and is
homogeneous in nature.

To think of meaning in this way is traditional. According to the traditionally

accepted theory of semantics meanings or ideas or concepts which can be
transferred from the mind of the hearer in the form of one language or

This concept-meaning relation, does not answer the question that we asked
in the first paragraph the term concept requires a bit explanation and
definition. This term is vague in this conceptualist theory of meaning. Let us
take a few words they are the, for, I, first, year, little, write three schools
boy, development, name, anything, with some words in this list we can
associate the concept of a visual object/image but what about words like,
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the, for, anything or name. So this approach to the study of semantics is

unsatisfactory for modern linguists.

Words that we use for certain concepts/ideas do not mean that in contexts.
The words that we use in our daily life do not have a single clear-cut
meaning. Let us look at the following examples.

a) My love is like a red, red rose.

b) My love of money is the root of all evil.

c) God is live.

d) I believe in God.

e) I believe in democracy.

The above underlined words prove that the pre-supposition of homogeneity

is false. Words have different meanings in different situation and context.

Kinds of Meaning or Aspect of Meanings:

1. Lexical Meaning:

Words have a number of meaning. It will be a mistake to associate a single

meaning to a word. For example the word "bank, help" does not mean
"assist" only. It can also be used in the same of the check or hinder. Till
recently linguists have given attention to the importance of words and their
meaning. But now they are paying attention to meaning of words in

Words as a separate entities with meaning may have worth but it is in a

sentence that the meanings of words can be known and understand. The
words kill, man, bear do not give a meaning unless they are written in
meaningful order under the rules of grammar. Modern linguists have
reached the conclusion that words and sentences are interrelated. None
would function without the presence of the other.

2. Sentence Meaning:

The meaning of sentence is dependent upon the words which are there in a
sentence. Look at the following sentence.

John has caught a thief.

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Some words are given meaning by sentences in which they occur. "Love"
means "affection" but look at the following sentence where love has been
given a different meaning.

The score was forty-love.

Sentences have varied meaning. For example a declarative sentence may


Look at the following sentence.

Stress ----- (You) met him last Saturday (?)

Similarly a declarative sentence can be used for request which is expressive

and imperative sentence. Look at the following sentence.

It’s cold in here.

It can mean close the window please. This relationship between a sentence
and its meaning is called the characteristic use of the sentence.

3. Utterance Meaning:

Some linguists have drawn a distinction between sentence meaning and

utterance meaning. The former is identified with competence; the latter with
perform once.

Sentences are said to be out of context abstract entities not tied to any
particular time and place. A complete string of words used in context will be
a sentence.

An utterance is a setting of words used in context. This is what we do in

every day conversation. These are utterances because they are not full
sentences. These utterances are elliptical. Let us look at the following

1) Next Friday, if I can manage it.

2) How about Subhan’s?

These are the typical examples which can described as utterances and
incomplete or elliptical sentences by the traditional grammarians. The
meaning of utterances are the same as that of the full sentences from which
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they are said to derive on particular occasions. So an utterance-meaning is

the product of context. In a sense, utterance-meaning is richer than the
meaning of a sentence let us look at the following sentence.

It’s cold in here.

Out of context, it may mean a statement, a fact. But in a context, it may

mean differently for a listener. He will draw his own conclusions in the light
of the relevant contextual factors.

4. Grammatical Meaning:

Grammatical meaning is the component of sentence-meaning. This meaning

of a sentence is dependent on both lexical meaning and grammatical
meaning. I put it in other words, its meaning is the product of both the
meaning of the constituent form of words and of the grammatical
constructions that relate one lexeme (word), syntax grammatically to

The grammatical meaning can be clearly seen in the following two


a) The dog bit the postman.

b) The postman bit the dog.
These two sentences differ in meaning. However the difference cannot be
attributed to any of the constituent words. The difference of meaning
between the sentences is that in (a) the dog is subject and the postman is
object, whereas in (b) these grammatical roles are reversed, and hence

Grammar is syntactic, morphological is the proper order of words and the

form of words. In the example recorded above we have mentioned as to how
order of words change in meaning. Now let us look at some other examples.

a) Riaz killed a snake yesterday.

b) Riaz shall kill a snake.

In these sentences the form of words “killed” and “shall killed” give a
grammatical meaning to the sentences. The former word i.e. killed tells us
that killing of a snake occurred in the past. The latter word i.e. shall kill
refers to future time.
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5. Descriptive Meaning:

The traditional assumption is that the role or basic function of language is

that of communicating propositional or factual information. It is descriptive
function of languages. Making statement that either true or false according
to whether the situation that purport to describe does or does not obtain
factual information (or what we call propositional information or statements)
is expressed in only one speech act i.e. declarative sentences. In other
words proposition in a statement can be identified with descriptive meaning.
Now descriptive meaning is not expressed in two kinds of speech-act i.e.
interrogation and imperative sentences. Let us look at the following

a) John gets up late.

b) Does John get up late?

The first sentence i.e. (a) has descriptive meaning because it asserts and
describes particular situation. It has a definition worth-value i.e. the
proposition is either true of false. The second sentence is not statement but
a question. It has non-descriptive meaning.

6. Expressive Meaning:

Non-descriptive meaning is commonly referred to as expressive. The

difference between descriptive meaning and expressive meaning is that the
latter is non-propositional in character and cannot be explicated in terms of
truth. For example, if a person says ‘Zafar is surprised’, it has descriptive
meaning. Expressive meaning is present where a speaker or writer
expresses his feelings, attitudes, beliefs and personality. It is self-expression
of the speaker or writer.

What a hot day!

It has expressive meaning. One kind of expressive meaning is emotive (or

affective meaning).

7. Social Meaning:

This means the role of a language. Much of our language has as its principal
purpose. We have utterances for greeting, apology, insrtation etc. Besides,
we have utterances which make us continue our conversation on other
topics. Even scientific and much used utterances have the value to win
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friends for us influence others. Therefore, we can say that language

behaviour is purposive.

8. Figurative and Literal Meaning:

Lexical words can be used in utterances either in literal or figurative meaning

(or what we also call metaphorical meaning). When we use a word in its
literal sense, sometimes we add a phrase literary speaking (or writing). Look
at the following sentence literally speaking, he is mad. Mad means that he is
actually mad on a does not mean “angry” etc.

Words can be used in figurative or metaphorical sense. Let us look at the

following sentence. The student could not speak to the teacher and stood
like a statue. He was statue.

The word “statue” does not mean literally its meaning is figurative.

Idioms, clichés, and fixed collections are also used in a language for
figurative meaning. “Put up with”, “round pig in a square hole, leave no
stone unturned, have figurative meaning in sentences.
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