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Learner's Diary

Learner's Diary 14.11.2007

Summary:

In our fifth session we revised the basic facts concerning phonology and phonetics.

These two fields include two views of speech sounds.
Starting with phonetics, it has to be said that phonetics is concerned with the way how sounds are produced, transmitted and received. Phonetics is mostly interested in a detailed material analysis and description of sounds (in this context, these sounds are called phones). For instance, every sound that occurs in the languages all around the world can be represented by using the IPA-chart.

Phonology, on the other hand, is concerned with the functions of sounds in our language system. Phonology analyzes sounds in a language by means of distinguishing different words. In this context, sounds are phonemes, the smallest unit distinguishing meaning.

The variants of a phoneme are called allophones. In British English, for example, the phoneme /r/ has a different kind of allophone than in American English: In British English, allophones often occur in the form of a schwa /@/.
However, speaking of allophones, it has to be mentioned also that the voiced an voiceless plosive sounds are allophones as well (/p/ - /b/, /t/ - /d/, /k/ - /g/). For instance, the velar plosive in the word skin almost sounds like a /g/-sound.

Another example for allophones are the bright and the dark /l/. Phonetically, these sounds differ to a great extent. Nevertheless, in the English language, these two sound do not have a difference in meaning, henc both are allophones of the phoneme /l/.
Moreover, we discussed the fact that in the IPA chart, there are many sounds that might sound strange to us. However, they are part of other languages. In fact, it is a symmetrical relationship: sounds that are known to us, might sound exotic to speakers of other languages.
Thus, Welsh for instance has a so-called “Welsh double l”, a sound that we tried to produce together in class.
Furthermore, once again we discussed articulatory, auditory and acoustic phonetics.

Concerning articulatory phonetics, we laid emphasis on the source filter model.
Air is released form the lungs over to the vocal cords. Thus, the vocal cords are the source of speech sounds. Then, the air passes the vocal tract, where the facilities in our mouth (glottis, tongue, etc… ) have the function of a filter. Each sound involves the modification of air with the help of the respective articulatory organs.

The following picture (Gasser 2006) displays in detail the vocal tract:



The source filter model is related to acoustic phonetics as well: since the vocal chords are the sound source, an analysis of speech sounds has to focus on this facility, thus, the acoustic signal is viewed as a source signal that is filtered. Acoustic phonetics require special equipment, such as the program Praat, for instance.
Programs such as Praat allow us to analyze our sounds in terms of their fundamental frequencies or their formants (resonances) of the vocal tract.

Finally, we learned more about the anatomy of the ear (in the context of auditory phonetics). The ear basically consists three parts: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. Each part fulfils different functions, which are described in below in detail.

Homework:

Take a look at models of the ear: summarise the functions of the outer ear, the middle ear, the inner ear.

Outer ear: The outer ear functions as some kind of microphone. The pinna (the visible part) collects and focuses sound waves. “From the pinna the sound pressure waver move into the ear canal, a simple tube running to the middle ear.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outer_ear)

Middle ear: “The middle ear consists of the tympanic membrane (TM) and three ossicles, namely, the malleus, the incus and the stapes, respectively. The stapes footplate is attached to the base of the cochlea.” (Wada Labratory 1999)
The acoustic sounds that go through the external ear canal, vibrate the tympanic membrane (ear drum). This vibration is transmitted to the three ear bones and then eventually to the cochlea. Meanwhile, the ossicles have converted mechanically the vibrations of the tympanic membrane into amplified pressure waves in the fluid. Hence, the middle ear is also called amplifier.

Inner ear: The main parts that the inner ear consists of are the cochlea, the auditory nerve and the semicircular channels. The latter are responsible for sensing movement and maintaining balance. The core element of the cochlea is the organ of Corti: it contains “between 15,000-20,000 auditory nerve receptors. Each receptor has its own hair cell.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organ_of_Corti). Moreover, it “detects pressure impulses and responds with electrical impulses which travel along the auditory nerve to the brain.” (Nave, Carl Rod 1999)

Evaluation:
In my opinion, today's lecture was rather difficult to follow, especially when the source filter model was introduced to us. Apart from this, it was good to revise the basic facts concerning phonology and phonetics, however, as stated above, we should have taken a closer look at the source filter model, and in how far this model concerns programs such as Praat.

18.11.07 16:33


Learner's Diary 7.11.2007

Summary:

The main topics of our fourth lecture were phonology and phonetics.

Concerning phonology, it is important to state that words are encoded either witht the help of phonemes (acoustic encoding) or with the help of graphemes (visual encoding), i.e. a phonetic and an orthographic interpretation of word structures. Moreover, there are several variants of writing systems: while some writing systems are closely related to their sound system (e.g. Serbian, to a certain extent German), some are hopelessly different from their sound system (e.g. French, English). On the other hand, there do also exist graphic writing systems, such as Chinese, having thousands of symbols not related to any sound.

Moreover, we discussed the internal structure of speech sounds. There are of course physical differences between sounds (for instance, /i/ is obviously differently realized than /a/). However, there are even more differences. Allophones, for example, are variants of the same phoneme (the letter “I” in “spin” is differently realized than in “in".

Furthermore, we talked about the prosodic structure of the representation of sounds and about the basics of the English syllable structure. The English language corpus possesses for example approximately 30,000 syllables. Not all of them are actually used, but they are still possible combinations of phonemes.

In the second part of our session, we discussed phonetics.
First of all, we have to distinguish between the conceptual world and the real world. In the The former is the world of mind, i.e. we plan in consciously or subconsciously what we want to talk about. The latter concerns the “real world”, denotatations, utterances and inscriptions.

The field “phonetics” deals with the utterances in the “real world” in three ways:
It deals with productions (articulatory phonetics), transmission (acoustic phonetics) and reception (auditory phonetics) of sounds.
Articulatory phonetics is concerned with the place where different signs are produced; Acoustic phonetics with the physical properties of speech sounds (e.g. speech waves" ) and Auditory phonetics deal with the way how signs are transmitted through the air.
Since all topics are closely related to each other, it is referred to them as the “Phonetic Cycle”.

Tasks:

Define “syllable”:

“A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. It is typically made up of a syllable nucleus (most often a vowel) with optional initial and final margins (typically, consonants). Syllables are often considered the phonological "building blocks" of words. They can influence the rhythm of a language, its prosody, its poetic meter, its stress patterns, etc.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syllable) The basic syllable structure in English is CCCVVCCC.

Define “phoneme”:

A phoneme is the smallest meaning distinguishing unit of speech. The use of phonemes is indicated with the help of oblique strokes (/). In order to identify phonemes, minimal pair tests are used. The words pin and bin, for instance, are a minimal pair. Through the sound change, a change concerning the meaning results.

Find 5 not to short words, transcribe them and divide them into syllables:

Phonology pho-no-lo-gy /f@’nOl@dZi/
Homework home-work /’h@Umw3:k/
Decadent de-ca-dent /’dek@d@nt/
scandalous scan-da-lous /’skaend@laIz/
comprehension com-pre-hen-sion /,kOmprI’henSn/

English and German: Tasks


List

-the consonants of German which do not occur in English: /ç/, /x/
-the consonants of English which do not occur in German: /ð/, /w/, /θ/,
-the vowels of German which do not occur in English: /o/, /ø/, /y/, /oə/, /ү/,
-the vowels of English which do not occur in German: /з/

List
-the characters of German which do not occur in English: ä, ö, ü, ß
-the characters of English which do not occur in German: all English characters occur in German
-5 English graphemes containing more than one character: wh (where, when), kn (knee), ck (luck, rock), ph (phonology, phonetics), sh (should, she)
-5 German graphemes containing more than one character: ck (Rock), ch (ich, mich), ph Phonologie, Phonetik), ch (machen, lachen), sch (Schule, Schuld)

Evaluation:
From my point of view the lecture today was rather easy to follow. Furthermore, it was helpful to deal within the homework with the different phonemes in the English and the German language, and how they are realized as graphemes.

13.11.07 19:14


Learner's Diary 31.10.2007

Summary:

In our third lecture we discussed again the origins of the Germanic languages, as well as the different stages of English (Old English and Modern English).

Since English is a West Germanic language, it underwent, alongside with all Germanic languages, the major sound changes that are described in Grimm’s Law.

The Germanic languages eventually became more isolated from each other, thus grammar and pronunciation changed relatively rapidly.

The most important sound change that concerned only the English language is the Great Vowel Shift, starting in the 15th century. As an example for this change, the word make was given. Originally, it had been the same word as the Low German variant maken; it was even pronounced in the same way. However, it was diphthongised in Modern English to [ei].
Moreover, we discussed the Gothic Bible, which is the first manuscript written in East Germanic. In the 17th century then, the Horn of Gallehus was discovered. It is the oldest evidence of all Germanic languages.

 Furthermore, in our third session it was referred to the oldest loan words in the Germanic languages, such as soap (Latin sapu) or wine (Latin vino). These words reflect the culture ot that time, so that certain assumptions can be made about it.
In addition to this, we found out about the different migrations to Britain. The Saxons, for instance, originally came from today’s Niedersachsen, while the Jutes came from Jütland.
The Vikings, settling in South-East Britain owned a huge trading empire, reaching even North Africa. Many toponyms in the British Isles depict the spread of the Vikings all over Britain (e.g. Edingborough, meaning “castle of Edin".

Moreover, it was referred to the most known literature in Old and Middle English. Beowulf, an epic poem from around 700AD, was the most prominent literature in Old English, while The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer were the most famous work in Middle English (written in the 13th century).

Homework:

Development of English


What are the most important stages?
Basically, there are five stages concerning English dialect: Anglo-Saxon, Old English, Middle English, Early Modern English and Late Modern English. Each of them was influenced by different languages; hence the most important stages are the different invasions of Britain.

What is the significance of Celtic/Latin?
Both the Celtic and the Latin language had major influences on the English language, since both were the first languages spoken in Britain. In fact, there are many word of Celtic and Latin origin that are used in the English language (e.g. street, coming from Latin strata).
Today, Celtic is spoken only in some parts of Britain, mostly in Scotland and Wales, but also in Ireland or in the Bretagne.
Which major changes happened between

-Old English and Middle English

The Normans invaded Britain, and thus, Norman French had vast impacts on the English language. During the Norman Rule, Anglo-Norman borrowings had contributed roughly 10,000 words to English, of which 75% remain in use (cf.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_language)

-Middle English and Modern English
During the English Renaissance, mostly the old antique languages influenced the English language. Many words were borrowed directly from Latin and from Greek. Moreover, the Great Vowel Shift transformed Middle English in the 15th century, eventually leading to what is called the Early Modern English.
 
English today

What are the main dialects in Britain?

English English: (Northern English, East Midlands English, Corby English, West Midlands English, East Anglian English, South East English, West Country Dialects
Other parts of the British Isles:
Scottish English, Highland English, Glaswegian, Buchan Doric, Welsh English, North East English, Pembrokeshire dialect, Hiberno-English, Yola dialect, Mid Ulster English, Ulster Scots English, Manx English, Guernsey English, Jersey English
 
Where is English spoken today as a native language?
Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, USA, South Africa (cf. Viereck, W. & V./Ramisch 2002, 238)

Why is English spoken all round the world?
The main reason for the fact that English is spoken all around the world lies in the colonization. English had the possibility to spread all over the different continents, eventually becoming the native language for people in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America and South Africa (where it has the status of a co-official language only, cf. Viereck, W. & V./Ramisch 2002, 238).

Evaluation:
It was very interesting to get to know more about the dialects spoken in Britain. Moreover, it was helpful to hear something about the different language periods in Britain, and in how far these language periods are connected to th different rulings (e.g. the Normans); hence,it was goog to learn more about the historical background of the English language.

13.11.07 19:01


Learner's Diary 24.10.2007

Summary:

In our second lecture, we discussed mainly the structure of the English language. Moreover, the lecture dealt with the influences of other languages on English and with the High German Sound Shift.

However, at the beginning, general remarks were made, especially concerning the development of language: concerning the fact that we have to face 150,000 years of human existence, it is remarkable that the first pieces of writing are only a few thousands years old.

Interesting enough, it only since the late 18th century that people actually started thinking about language, i.e. language as an object of scientific study, not only as a tool. This time period also coincided with colonialism, which brought about new economic, military and merchant missions. In the context of these missions, new varieties of different unknown languages were discovered (in present day Pakistan, or India, for instance).
In this context the Sir William Jones could be mentioned, who lived in the 18th century and who travelled to India (and other Asian countries), finding out eventually that there are many similarities between the Indian and the Greek and Latin language.
Other famous linguists who worked for instance on the dialectology of the German language were the Grimm brothers. With the help of their collections of different German folk/fairy tales, they tried to construct a family tree of the different German dialects, as well as of other European languages (Jacob Grimm was for example the editor of the German translation of the “Serbian Dictionary” ).
In order to achieve this, they knew that they had to find out more about the history of language in general, thus they started comparing different European languages.

The Germanic languages were originally a part of the Proto-Indo-European. The Indo-European language split up about 5000-6000 years ago, whereas the Germanic split up approximately 2000 years ago into West-, North- and East-Germanic (however, the East Germanic languages existed only until about 1500 years ago)

Concerning the structure of the English language, it can be stated that there are basically three dialects which can be distinguished: Old English (spoken around 800AD), Middle English (1200-1500) and Modern English, the dialect which started to be spoken around Shakespeare’s time. Within all these periods, there were many foreign influences/languages shaping the English language; French had for example vast impacts on it during the Norman Rule. But there are still also Saxon influences present: the Scots refer for instance to the English with the word sasunnach, referring with this word to the Saxon invaders who migrated to Britain 1500 years ago.

It was then, in the context of the West Germanic migration at about 400AD that Roman influence declined rapidly. On the other hand, with the Roman migration, Celtic tribes were forced to move west. There are indeed many facts showing that already the Celtic tribes were advanced civilizations. In fact, many toponyms all over Europe have Celtic origins (e.g. the Danube, Galata (part of Istanbul), or Galicia). Moreover, there are many counting rhymes that originally go back to the Celts, and which were passed on from generation to generation.

Other influences on the English language were coming from the Vikings. Their presence is still apparent in many (originally Old Norse) toponyms (for example the suffix –by indicates Viking settlements).

Actually, the French Normans, as the first syllable of the word “Norman” might already predicate, were also originally Viking intruders, who adopted French only a couple of hundred years ago before invading France.

Concerning the split of the Germanic languages, it has to be mentioned that it is not possible to know the exact dates. The roots of sound changes can only be estimated.
The most important language phenomenon that distinguishes the German language from the other Germanic languages (Dutch, English, etc… ) is the High German Sound Shift.
With the help of this Sound Shift, it can be explained for instance how it is possible that the English word town and the German word zaun derive from the same etymology: originally one word, soon a semantic change occurred, accompanied by a change of the alveolar plosive consonant /t/ to the affricate /ts/. This change occurs only at the edges of a word, whereas after vowels, the alveolar plosive /t/ changes to the alveolar fricative /s/.
Other vocals that were confronted with such a change were /p/, changing to the affricate /pf/ (at the edges of a word) and the labiodental fricative /f/ (after vowels), and /k/ changing to /kch/ and /x/. However, the last example given here was carried out completely only in the alemanic dialects (spoken in Switzerland, for instance).

Quiz 2:

Where did the Celts originate?
The Celts had an indigenous polytheistic religion and culture. During the Iron Age Celtic culture was spread from the Iberian Peninsula to Turkey and ancient Iberia at Caucasus, but their ultimate origin is a subject of controversy. Traditionally, scholars have placed the Celtic homeland in what is now southern Germany and Austria. However, modern linguistic studies seem to point to a north Balkan origin. The expansion of the Roman Empire from the south and the Germanic tribes from the north and east spelt the end of Celtic culture on the European mainland where Brittany alone maintained its Celtic language and identity.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celts)

Name 3 Celtic names in the area of modern Germany and give their meanings
Kirch-: originates in the Celtic word Ceirch, meaning “oats”. Thus, places with the affix “Kirch” originally had been places where oats had been planted.
(cf.: http://iudex-geri.de/01/1103737162)
Eis-: originates in the Celtic word heidd, meaning “barley”. Thus, places with the affix “Eis” originally had been places where barley had been planted.
(cf.: http://iudex-geri.de/01/1103737162)
Offenbach-: the first part of the word, offen, originates in the Celtic word afon, meaning “river”.
(http://www.heinrich-tischner.de/22-sp/8namen/1ort/sn05/orte/o/offenbac.htm)

Where do the Celts live now?
Descendants of the Celts live mostly in today’s Britain, Ireland, France and the Iberian peninsula. However, as it was stated above, other areas had Celtic populations as well, for instance the Balkans or today’s Italy.

What is their significance for English studies?
Historically: Historically, the Celtic language is very important, since it had influenced the English language to a great deal. Moreover, it is very in order to find out where today’s languages derive from, it is necessary to compare them to other languages. Thus, a knowledge in Celtic etymology is very important for our studies.
Currently: Celtic dialects are still spoken in Britain, for instance in Scotland and in Wales. Hence, we have the possibility to analyze them in terms of comparisons with other Indo-European languages.

Evaluation
Since I am studying German Studies as well, it was very helpful to talk about things such as the High German Sound Shift. Moreover, it was great to talk about the Indo-European language, toponyms, and etymology in general, again.

6.11.07 18:30


Learner's Diary 17.10.2007

Summary:

In our first season we have discussed the properties of signs.

A text structure could stand here as a possible expression of a sign. The sign, treated as a complex object with its own meaning, contains a certain sense, which can be deconstructed through a semantic interpretation. This interpretation is very situational and pragmatic, depending on semantics as well.

Moreover, we talked about the different languages in the world and their position within this world. English, for example, is spread over a very wide area. Generally saying, these language processes (“settling in a country and bringing a certain language to this new ‘colony’” ) has not started only in 1492, but already 10,000 years ago, when the first people passed the Bearing Strait, reaching America and then settling there. Another example is New Zealand: the indigenous language that is spoken there differs by great means from the language of the Aboriginees in Australia. The reason for this can be found in the fact that this Polynesian language derives originally from Taiwan, a process that lasted until 700 years ago.

Furthermore we discussed the centum-satem division within the Indo-European language family, a division that is related to the development of the k-sound. The terms themselves derive from the respective representation for the number “100” in Latin and in Avestic.
The Indo-European language community is with approximately 900 million speakers one of the biggest language families (cf. König 1978, 37). The term “Indo-German” is a nominal composition taken out of the borders of this speech community: on the one hand, the Germanic tribes and on the other hand, the Indian tribes (or languages).

Quiz 1

Why is a portfolio important?
A portfolio gives an overview about the topics that are discussed in class. Moreover, it goes very deep into the strucure and the content of a topic, which is very helpful having in mind that at the end of the semestre there is going to be a test.

What should a portfolio contain, and how are these components defined?
A portfolio should consist of a learner's diary (i.e. a summary of the lecture), a glossary with the important terms and of the quizzez and tasks on the slides.

Why should the portfolio be on a website?
The portfolio should be on a website in order to make it possible to everybody to get an access into the discussed topics. However, it is also very helpful for the lecturer, since he can control the students' efforts more easily. Furthermore, it is very helpful for the student, too, since he can get familiar with electronic media. Thus, it is a form of "applied linguistics" itself.

How do you make a website?
Basically, there are three ways how to create your own website. You can use for instance your own website on the server of the University Bielefeld. The second way would be to create your own website (including the use of a web editing software). However, since this is more time consuming, I decided to do it the third way: by creating a blog.

Tasks 1:

What are the following, and how old are they?

Indo-European
Linguists started in the 19th century to analyze the “original” Indo-European language, and it is believed, that this Proto-Indo-European language started to split up into different varieties in the 3rd millennium BC.
By comparing the different Indo-European languages, linguists tried to make certain conclusion about the original Indo-European root of these word “varieties”.
The word *sal- (salt) is for instance one root form, which has resulted from comparing and analyzing the following forms:

Germanic: *salt-
Old Greek: háls
Latin: sal
Old Slavic: sol

Proto-Germanic
The process of building an independent, proto-Germanic language out of the Indo-European started approximately in the second millennium BC. As the Proto-European, the Proto-Germanic language has been constructed mostly by comparing the different existing Germanic languages. The most important linguistic change that these languages underwent is formulated in Grimm’s law:


Deaspiration
bh -> b
dh -> d
gh -> g
Devoicing
b -> p
d -> t
g -> k
Fricativisation
p -> f
t -> th
k -> h

Old English:
The Old English period lasted from about 600 AD up to 1000 AD (approximately up to the establishment of the Norman Rule of England. “Christian monks began writing in the vernacular which we call Old English about 700” (Lopičić 2003, 49) Many influences shaped the Old English language: Latin (due to the Romans and the Christian monks), Anglo-Saxon, and Old Norse (the language of the Vikings).

Middle English:
The Middle English period began in 1066, with the Norman invasion, and lasted up to the 15th century. Norman French had the greatest influence on Middle English, leading eventually to a greater variety in the lexicon.

Early Modern English:

The Early Modern English period lasted from the latter half of the 15th century up to 1650.
One of the main historical events marking the division of the preceding Middle English Period and the Early Modern English Period is the Great Vowel Shift.

Provide examples of similar words in each of these:
Indo-European: wódr, sal, piter
Proto-Germanic: watraz, salt, fadar
Old English: wæter, sealt, fæder
Middle English:water, salt, father
Early Modern English: water, salt, father

What are the main differences between English and German?
The main difference between the English and the German language lies in the fact that the German language underwent the High German Soundshift (p-> pf/f; t->ts/s; k->k[kx]/h) in the 4th and 5th century AD on the one hand, while the English language underwent the Great Vowel Shift somewhere between 1200 and 1600.

Evaluation:
Since already the first lecture covered many aspects that I always thought to be interesting (etymology, for instance), I am very excited about the beginning of this course. The lecture was easy to follow.

6.11.07 18:28


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