Learner's Diary



Gratis bloggen bei

Learner's Diary

Learner's Diary 16.01.2008


Today we talked basically about the requirements for the course, especially concerning our learner’s diaries.

But first, Dr. Gibbon told us what topics are not going to be relevant for our final test. These topics include interdisciplinary topics (e.g. sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics).

Then, we talked about our portfolios, the function they have and the deadline for them.
Dr. Gibbon stated that his goal is to get feedback for his class. In addition to this, it is evidence for our active participation (a condition for our total of three points).
In addition to this, we talked about some technical aspects concerning our homepages that are based on the university servers.

Furthermore, we talked about the content of our portfolios should have (i.e. the requirements for this course).

Today we did not got to learn any new things, we only talked about technical aspects concerning this class.


16.1.08 14:43

Learner's Diary 09.01.2008


In this session, we began to discuss pragmatics.

At the beginning, however, Dr. Gibbon gave us an overview about the semantic type of conjunctions. For instance, the sentence “If it rains, it is cloudy” can be understood in three different ways. In order to define, how conjunctions like this one work, a truth-table is very helpful.

A truth-table for the sentence above could look like this:

p   ---> q
(if)  (then)
T   T   T
F   T   T
T   F   F
F   T   F

The letters “p” and “q” stand for the two parts of the conjunction, while arrow shows that the conjunction in question is an if-clause. The letters “T” and “F” signify whether the two constituent parts, as well as the entire if-clause, actually happen to be true, or not. Hence, if it rains, it is cloudy. Due to this, the entire sentence is true (or plausible), which is shown by the letter “T” under the arrow.

This truth-table shows that conjunctions, in fact, do have a meaning: they help to construct the meaning of sentences.

After this part of the lecture that was concerned with semantics again, we got to learn more about pragmatics. In contrast to semantics, a field dealing with signs and their interpretation, pragmatics deals with signs in connection to their interpreters.
Charles Pierce, one of the first philosophers in the 19th century dealing with semantics, distinguished between syntax, pragmatics and semantics.

The earliest models of how signs relate to their users was made by de Saussure, one of the first linguists. In contrast to previous linguists, who dealt mostly with the history of language, de Saussure was more concerned with a synchronic view of language.

According to him, language consists of signs that exist in our subconsciousness and in our memory. Since signs are shared by a community, this community shares a colllectice subconsciousness. Hence, de Saussure was the first person to use a socially-oriented model of language, putting language into its communicative concept.

Bühler, a linguist and a psychologist, introduced a slightly more complex model. Like de Saussure, Bühler’s model also involves a speaker and a hearer. However, he identified three different functions of language: a speaker-oriented function, a hearer-oriented function, and a context-oriented function. According to his “instrumental theory”, signs are instruments with which the speaker can do various things (thus, Bühler’s model is a very idealistic type of model), the sign itself is more implicit than in de Saussure’s model.

According to Roman Jakobson, who taught at Harvard University,the three most important functions are the expressive function (Ausdrucksfunktion), the representational function (Darstellungsfunktion) and the conative function (Appellfunktion). These imply the relationship between signs and the sender, signs and the context, and between signs and the hearer. Therefore, the main constitutive factors are the same as de Saussure and Bühler used.

However, Jakobson added 2 functions: the contact and the code.
The relationship between the message and the code is called a metalingual relationship (for instance, if you are talking German and you are using a certain word, you are using metalingual knowledge).

Secondly, the relationship between message and contact is called “phatic function”. Phatic functions are used, for example, to keep social contacts (such as in the context of small talks; or if you are on the phone, trying to get the channel work (by using expressions such as “Bist du noch da? Ich hör nix!” ) .

Moreover, there is the relation between the message itself: this is called the “poetic function”. It is a reflexive aspect, for instance, if a text (such as a poem-hence the name) refers back to itself. In other words, this is the reflexivity of a text.

In addition to this, we learned about the traditional distinction of syntax, pragmatics and semantics, which was introduced by Rudolf Carnap:
-syntax: the relation of signs to each other
-semantics: the relation of signs to the world
-pragmatics: the relation of signs to their users

Moreover, we analyzed three texts: an English fairy tale, a recipe and a FCC warning, in order to work out how the different constitutive factors and functions mentioned above actually work in the context of these texts.

Hence, the sender of such a fairy tale is mostly a parent, the receiver is the child, the context is the content of the story, the code is the language it is written (with several typical features), the message is the fairy-tale itself and the contact (the channel) is a one way (assymetrical) channel.
The poetic function is the memory function (both for the sender and the receiver), and the conative function is mostly moral.

Furthermore, we heard about the different pragmatic meanings of appraisals, taboo words, cooperation and politeness.
Concerning appraisals, for instance, one has to distinct between subjective judgements and descriptive judgements. Subjective judgements concern attitudes of the speaker and the hearer (appraisive expressions, taboo expressions), while descriptive judgements concern properties of persons, places, things,…(any concrete object or any abstract entity).
The utterance “We had a Christmas tree”, for instance, is a descriptive judgement.

Another aspect of judgements are taboo words. It is important to state that there are differences of the usage of these words. The word “shit”, for example, is used differently in America and Britain in relation to the German word “Scheiße”. In Britain, most educatd women would not use this word, because it is a much stronger word in Britain. In America, it is less stronger, though it occurs more often in “Black American”.

Though the occasions these taboo words are used in general don’t have nothing to do with these words semantically, taboo words in certain relations are used pragmatically.

Concerning the pragmatic meaning of cooperation and politeness, Paul Grice and Geoffrey Leech introduced several maxims: the former introduced four maxims of cooperation (maxim of quantity, maxims of quality, maxim of relation, maxims of manner), while the latter introduced several politeness maxims.

Politeness is expressed by:
-style (formality)
-directness vs. indirectness (indirect speech acts)
-avoidance of commitment (hedging)
-positive expression of negative judgment (euphemism)
-modification of utterance by tone of voice (prosody)
-body language (posture, position, gesture)

Finally, we talked about speech acts. The concept of speech act was introduced by J.L. Austin and extended by J.R. Searle (and many others). Every speech act is three-dimensional: it is a locutionary act, an illocutionary act and a perlocutionary act. The locutionary act is the propositional meaning of an utterance, the an illocutionary act is the interactive status of an utterance within a dialogue, and the perlocutionary act concerns the effect of an utterance.

Though especially Jakobson's model seemed to be a bit confusing at the first glance, Dr. Gibbon managed to explain to us the details concerning his, and the other theories as well, in an appropriate way. It was also good that we applied Jakobson's model in the context of different text, since it gave us an idea how his theory in fact works.

15.1.08 15:16

Learner's Diary 19.12.2007


In this lecture we revised the basic facts about semantics again.

First, Dr. Gibbon showed us a recipe for Christmas pudding. In relation to this recipe, we got to know the descriptions for several semantic relations, such as hyponyms, hyperonyms or antonyms.
The semantic relation between the terms scientist and linguist would be as follows:
Scientist is the generalisation (hyperonym), while linguist is a specialization (hyponym). The hyponym (linguist) implies the hyperonym (hyponym).
Antonyms, on the other hand, could be opposite, complementary or inverse. Thus, hot and cold are antonyms.
Co-Hyponyms are hyponyms of the same superordinate term.

Then, Dr. Gibbon ran quickly through the first slides of his presentation, reminding us of what we did last time: we were talking about the different properties of signs. These are:
-the internal (morphology) and external (part of speech, valency) structure
-rendering in terms of phonology and orthography
-sense and reference

Afterwards, we analyzed grammatical and lexical words in terms of sense and reference. Grammatical words basically have a sense, but no reference (excluding glue categories). In contrast to this, lexical words do have a reference, but there are also certain lexical words with sense, but no reference, such as imaginary book characters like Harry Potter.

Then, Dr. Gibbon came up with the word “devil”: to those, who think he does not exist, this word has a sense, but no reference. On the other hand, to those people who believe in his existence, this term has a sense and a reference.

Moreover, we talked again about Chomsky, who distinguishes between competence and performance. Competence in a language, for instance, involves the knowloedge of meta-information about the language I acquired. Performance of a language describes the way you are actually using this language.
The next aspect we talked about was again semiotic terminology: we defined the terms index, icon and symbol.
-an index is a sign with a relationship of physical proximity with its meaning
-an icon is a sign with a relationship of similarity with its meaning (this similarity can be, for example, acoustic (as onomatopoeia) or visual)
-a symbol is a sign with an arbitrary relationship with its meaning.
Finally, we went through our homework again.

Today's lecture gave us again a good overview about semantics. Moreover, it was very helpful that we went through our homework again, because, as I mentioned already, the differences between the different sign remained rather unclear.

15.1.08 14:38

Learner's Diary 12.12.2007


In the first part of this lecture, we revised paradimatic and syntagmatic relations, as well as syntax. In second part, we began to discuss semantics.

At the beginning, the tutors stated that some students apparently did not comprehend the connection between paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations. Thus, Mr. Gibbon explained to us again the basic facts concerning these topics, taking the transport system as an example: Cars, bicycles, trams and trains are all classes of vehicles; they only have different kinds of engines, but there functions still remain the same. Hence, the relations between these vehicles are paradigmatic. On the other hand, the syntagmatic relations between these items are the particular relations between roads, traffic lights, i.e. the whole structure of the transport system, showing that the syntagmatic relations are larger structures composed of smaller items.

Then, Mr Gibbon ran quickly through syntax again, explaining to us some facts about glue categories such as conjunctions or interjections. While interjections put different parts of dialogues together (“Du wolltest es ja wohl doch machen” ), conjunctions such as “and” brings two items of the same category together.

Moreover, we talked about the dual category, which English used to have. However, there are only a few words distinguishing dual and plural number, such as “both” or “either”, for instance.
In the second part of the lecture, we discussed semantics. In terms of semantics, we have to distinguish between the sense (Sinn) of a word and the reference (Bedeutung)/ denotation of a word. The term sense describes the meaning of the word in the context itself, or what it means when we hear the word. The term reference, on the other hand, describes the word referring to something real. Mr. Gibbon in this context gave the example of the planet Venus: there are several other terms for Venus, including for instance “evening star”, “evening star” or “second planet from the sun”. While the senses of these expressions are different, the reference is the same.

The first person making the distinction between sense and meaning was the German mathematician and philosopher Gottlob Frege in the late 19th century. Ludwig Wittgenstein later on, staring 1915 until just before 1940, developed precise notions of meaning.

The best-known contemporary linguist, Noam Chomsky, worked on semantics, too. He distinguishes the between intern and extern language, i.e. between competence (implicit knowledge of a language) and performance (actual use of a language in concrete situations).

Finally, we talked about the three semantic sign types that were introduced by Charles S. Pierce: According to him, sign types can be divided into indices (signs with a relationship of physical proximity with their meaning), icons (sign with a relationship of similarity with their meaning) and symbols (signs with an arbitrary relationship with their meaning).


Analyse these signs:

1)      border -shares paradigmatic relations with the sign
2)      background – also shares paradigmatic relations with the sign
3)      the word “keep” : symbol - no similarity to meaning
4)      the word “right” : symbol - no similarity to meaning
5)      arrow: index – relation of physical proximity of the sign and a particular arrow going into that direction

1)      border
2)      background
3)      picture: icon – shows a similarity, which is related to the meaning

1)      border
2)      background
3)      T: symbol

1)      border
2)      background
3)      P: symbolic

1)      border
2)      background
3)      the word “STOP”: symbol

1)      border
2)      background
3)      arrow: index

1)      border
2)      background
3)      white line: symbol

1)      border
2)      background
3)      reindeer: icon

1)      border
2)      background
3)      arrow: index, but since it also gives you a certain shape, it also has iconic properties

1)      border
2)      background
3)      the word “right”: symbol
4)      the word “turn”: symbol
5)      the word “only”: symbol

1)      border
2)      background
3)      arrow: index, but since it also gives you a certain shape, it also has iconic properties

1)      border
2)      background
3)      the word “Yield”: symbol

1)      border
2)      background
3)      bicycle: icon
4)      the word “bike”: symbol
5)      the word “route”: symbol
6)      arrow: index


Today's lecture gave us a good overview about semantics and the different theories and approaches concerning semantics (Chomsky's or de Saussure's approaches, for example). Moreover, it was good that Dr. Gibbon revised the basic facts concerning syntagmatic and pragmatic relations again, because sometimes it was rather difficult to state whether a relation was syntagmatic or paradigmatic. Unfortunately, today's homework was also very difficult, since it was not easy to state if a sign was an icon, a symbol or an index.

18.12.07 19:18

Learner's Diary 05.12.2007


Today we talked about the structure of language and about syntax.

We learned that the constitutive relations of the structure of language are structural relations, semiotic relations and the different ranks.
Syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations form the structural relations. Syntagmatic relations are combinatory relations, building bigger units (signs) from smaller units (also signs), while paradigmatic relations are classificatory of similarity and difference between signs.
Semantic relations on the other hand are concerned with the realisation and interpretation of signs.

We have discussed especially the fact that syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations occur in all kinds of ranks (positions in the hierarchy of signs), including for instance phonology, morphology and syntax. One example are the structure and the syntagmatic relations of syllables, which consist of an onset (the front part of the syllable), and a nucleus and a coda, forming the rhyme.

Moreover, we focused on the above mentioned sign hierarchy. The positions in this hierarchy are referred to as ranks, the main ranks being dialogue, monologue / text, sentence, word, morpheme and phoneme All signs at each of these ranks have an internal and external structure, as well as semiotic relations (acoustic representation, meaning,… ) .

In addition to this, we discussed the topic syntax. There are nine categories that form the different parts of speech These are: nouny categories (determiners, adjectives, nouns, pronouns), verby categories (verbs and adverbs) and glue categories (prepositions, conjunctions and interjections).

Identify the syntagmatic relations in the following constructions:

-/frIdZ/, /streIts/, / prE@r /

onset nucleus coda

f         rI        dZ
str      eI        ts
p        rE        @r

– “three people saw a woman and her dog in the shop”

subject : three (quantifier) people
verbal: saw
object: a woman
conjunction: and
object: her dog
localizing adverb: in the shop

Identify the paradigmatic relations in the following sets (describe similarities and differences):

– {/p/, /t/, /k/}
-all are voiceless plosives, but with different places of articulation (/p/ is bilabial, /t/ alveolar and /k/ is velar).

– {“object”, “furniture”, “chair”, “table”}
“chair” and “table” are hyponyms of “furniture”, which is a hyponym of “object”

– {“walk”, “drive”, “run”, “ride”}
-all words connotate movement at different speed Moreover, “walk” and “run” are antonyms.

Analyse the components of the following item into units of
different ranks:

-her step-mother bought her a pre-paid phone card

sentence: her step-mother bought her a pre-paid phone card
word: her, step-mother, bought, her, a, pre-paid, phone card
morphemes: her, step, mother, bought, her, a, pre, paid, phone, card
phonemes: /h/ + /@/, /s/ + /t/ + /e/ + /p/, /m/ + /a/ + /D/
+ /@//, /b/ + /O/ + /t/, /h/ + /@/, /@/, /p/ + /r/ + /i/, /p/ + /e/
+ /I/ + /d/, /f/ + /o/ + /U/ + /n/, /k/ + /a/ + /r/ + /d/

Today's lecture was easy to follow, and the topics were very interesting. So far, I only had the opportunity discuss syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations within literature classes, thus, it was fascinating to hear in how far these relations are applied to syntax specifically.

9.12.07 13:52

Learner's Diary 28.11.2007

Summary: Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the lecture.


Find at least 20 simple words:
-dog, cat, tree, man, woman, boy, girl, thing, road, free, luck, plan, paper, chair, table, sand, beach, water, room, class

Find at least 20 complex words:
-girlfriend, boyfriend, roommate, classroom, teacher, boys, girls, structural, phonology, morphology, government, determination, cell-phone, infiltration, humanity, freedom, lampshade, bathroom, timetable, reading

Which of them are similar?
girlfriend, boyfriend: both are compound nouns
girls, boys: both underwent the same kind of inflection
phonology, morphology: both underwent the same kind of derivation
classroom, bathroom: both are compound nouns

Can you find a relation between some of your simple words and some of your complex words?
Some complex words consist of two of the simple words (thus, they are compound nouns, like classroom, for instance), others consist of one of the simple words and an additional affix (girls, boys).

Make a list of 20 free morphemes:
-tree, fish, lamp, door, kitchen, piano, dish, tall, pig, ball, radio, mouth, lip, shirt, skirt, saw, mother, father, hole, answer, talk

Find bound morphemes:
-ing, -ed, -s, -ish, -ly, -ness, -ize, un-, de- dis-, in-, ir-, re-

Find other compounds in English with a head that is a
-noun: football, timetable, road-trip
-verb: heart-broken, lip-reading, highlight
-adjective: ice-cold, reloaded, misleading

Find other compounds in English with a modifier that is a
-noun: heart-breaking, God-given, shock therapy
-verb: drive-through, drive-in, lead singer
-adjective: good-looking, far-reached, wide-open
-preposition: outbreak, income, upstairs

Select of the following parts of speech 3 of each:
-verbs: talk, sleep, watch
-nouns: girl, book, man
-adjectives: dark, cold, low

Derive as many words as possible from them!
watch: watch (noun), watches (plural noun + 3rd person singular simple present), watched, watching
talk: the talk (zero-morpheme), talks (plural noun + 3rd person singular simple present), talking, talked, talker, talkable, talkability
sleep: sleep (noun), slept, sleepful, sleeplike, asleep, sleeps, sleeping, sleepy
girl: girls, girlfriend, girlhood, girly, girlish, girlishness,
book: books, bookish, bookless, booklike, booking, bookshelf, booker
man: manly, unmanly, manhood, manless, manlessly, manlessness, manness, manned, manning, mankind
dark: darken, darker, darkest, darkish, darkly, darkness, darkened
cold: cold (noun), colder, coldest, coldish, coldly, coldness
low: lower, lowest, lowish, lowness

Evaluation: Unfortunately, I was not able to attend this lecture.

8.12.07 23:06

Learner's Diary 21.11.2007

Summary: Unfortunately, I was not able to attend this lesson.



A morpheme is the smallest meaningful part of a word.

-lexical morpheme:

The smallest unit in the grammar of a language which has a lexical meaning (e.g. boy, girl, car,... ) .It is also called content morpheme or root. Moreover, there is an open set of them, which means that the number is not limited.

-grammatical morpheme:
The smallest unit in the grammar of a language which has a grammatical meaning, hence grammatical morphemes are also called structural morphemes.
It is a closed set with a limited number, but it is important to differentiate between free and bound grammatical morphemes. Free morphemes are for instance prepositions, conjunctions or auxiliary, whereas bound morphemes are suffixes and affixes (in the context of word formation and inflection).

A stem is either a root (a lexical morpheme), a derived stem (i.e. stem and a derivational affix) or a compound stem (a stem consisting of two or even more stems). A stem does not allow inflectional affixes.

-derived stem:
a derived stem consists of a stem and at least one derivational affix. However, a derived stem can also be a root that underwent zero-derivation.

-compound stem:
a word consisting of two or more stems, i.e.
-a derived stem or a word + a derived stem or a word OR:
- a compound stem + a compound stem

What is the difference between inflection and derivation?
Inflection involves the addition of new linguistic information (e.g. tense or person), while derivation changes the word class by the addition of affixes to a stem.

What is the difference between derivation and compounding?
Derivation includes the addition of affixes (bound morphemes) to a stem in order to create a new word, whereas compounding describes the process of putting two stems/free morphemes together in order to build a new word.

Collect 5 longish words and
-divide them into morphemes:

antisocialism: *anti*social*ism
antidisestablishmentarianism: *anti*dis*establish*ment*arian*ism
unfrightening: *un*fright*en*ing
ownership: *own*er*ship
speechlessness: *speech*less*ness

-show construction of a word from their stems as tree diagrams:


Unfortunately, I was not able to attend this lecture.

30.11.07 19:06

 [eine Seite weiter] s

Verantwortlich für die Inhalte ist der Autor. Dein kostenloses Blog bei! Datenschutzerklärung