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Learn Language and Linguistics with John Lyons: Free PDF Book

Language and Linguistics by John Lyons: A Comprehensive Introduction to the Study of Language

If you are interested in learning more about language and linguistics, you may have come across the name of John Lyons, one of the most influential and respected linguists of the 20th century. His book Language and Linguistics, first published in 1981, is a general introduction to the subject that covers a wide range of topics, from the nature of language to the main sub-fields of linguistics. In this article, we will give you an overview of what this book is about, why you should read it, and how you can download it as a PDF for free.

language and linguistics john lyons pdf download free

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What is Language and Linguistics?

Language is one of the most fascinating and complex phenomena in the world. It is a system of communication that humans use to express their thoughts, feelings, intentions, and knowledge. It is also a social and cultural phenomenon that reflects our identity, history, values, and beliefs. Language is both universal and diverse; it is shared by all humans but also varies across time, space, and groups.

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It aims to describe, explain, and understand how language works, how it is acquired, how it changes, how it interacts with other aspects of human cognition and society, and how it can be applied to various domains and purposes. Linguistics is a broad and interdisciplinary field that encompasses many sub-fields, each focusing on a different aspect or level of language analysis.

The Nature and Scope of Language

In the first chapter of his book, John Lyons gives a general account of the nature of language and some basic definitions and concepts that are essential for linguistic theory. He discusses questions such as:

  • What are the main characteristics of human language?

  • How does language differ from other forms of communication?

  • How does language relate to speech?

  • How does language function as a system of signs?

  • How does language vary across individuals and groups?

  • How does language evolve and change over time?

Some of the key points that he makes are:

Language Behaviour and Language Systems

Language is a type of behaviour that involves the production and perception of sounds, gestures, or symbols. However, language is not just a random or arbitrary behaviour; it is governed by rules and patterns that form a system. A language system is an abstract and idealized representation of the linguistic knowledge that speakers have in their minds. Linguists try to describe and explain the structure and organization of language systems, as well as how they are used in communication.

Language and Speech

Language and speech are two related but distinct concepts. Language is a system of signs that can be used to communicate meaning. Speech is a physical manifestation of language that involves the articulation and perception of sounds. Speech is one of the main modes of language use, but not the only one. Language can also be realized through writing, sign language, or other media. Speech is also influenced by factors such as dialect, accent, style, register, or context, which may cause variation or deviation from the language system.

The Semiotic Point of View

Language is a semiotic system, which means that it consists of signs that convey meaning. A sign is a combination of a form and a meaning. The form can be a sound, a gesture, a symbol, or anything else that can be perceived by the senses. The meaning can be a concept, an idea, a feeling, or anything else that can be thought of by the mind. The relationship between form and meaning is arbitrary, which means that there is no natural or logical connection between them. For example, there is no reason why the sound /kæt/ should mean a small furry animal; it is just a convention that English speakers agree on. The arbitrariness of language allows for creativity and diversity, but also requires learning and agreement.

The Fiction of Homogeneity

Language is often treated as a homogeneous and stable entity, but this is a fiction or an idealization. In reality, language is heterogeneous and dynamic; it varies across time, space, and groups. There are many different languages in the world, each with its own system and history. Even within a single language, there are variations based on geography (dialects), social class (sociolects), gender (genderlects), age (agelects), or situation (registers). Language also changes over time, as new words, meanings, sounds, or structures emerge or disappear. Language variation and change are natural and inevitable phenomena that reflect the diversity and adaptability of human communication.

There are No Primitive Languages

Language is often associated with culture and civilization, and sometimes used as a criterion to judge the level of development or sophistication of different peoples. However, this is a misconception and a prejudice. There are no primitive or inferior languages; all languages are equally complex and expressive. All languages have the same basic functions and properties; they can communicate any kind of information or emotion, they have a system of sounds, words, and sentences, they have rules of grammar and meaning, they have ways of creating new expressions or modifying existing ones. All languages are also equally worthy of respect and preservation; they are part of the human heritage and diversity.

The Aims and Methods of Linguistics

In the second chapter of his book, John Lyons introduces the aims and methods of linguistics as a scientific discipline. He discusses questions such as:

  • What are the goals and principles of linguistic theory?

  • What are the tools and techniques that linguists use to study language?

  • What are the sources and types of linguistic data?

  • What are the criteria and standards for linguistic analysis?

  • What are the main schools and movements in linguistics?

Some of the key points that he makes are:

Is Linguistics a Science?

Linguistics is a science in the sense that it uses empirical methods to observe, describe, explain, and predict natural phenomena. Linguists collect data from various sources, such as speech recordings, written texts, dictionaries, grammars, corpora, experiments, surveys, etc., to test hypotheses and formulate generalizations about language systems and language use. Linguists also use formal methods to represent and manipulate linguistic data, such as symbols, notation, diagrams, models, algorithms 71b2f0854b


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