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Lecture Summary (11/09/2006)

The topic of this week's session was named "History of English: From Old English to Modern English".

First of all we talked again about the Celts and their influence on the English language and Mr Gibbon presented us some Celtic vocabulary (e.g. many place names (toponyms) like London).

Concerning the ancient East Germanic languages there is one major document: the Gothic Bible, a translation of the Holy Bible into Gothic made by Bishop Wulfila about 500 AD. This document has an immense scientific value because it allows us to reconstruct the Gothic language by comparing the Gothic Bible to the Greec original used by Wulfila.

The most important relic of the North Germanic languages are the famous Horns of Gallehus. Unfortunately the real horns do not exist anymore but they were reconstructed on the base of paintings.

After that we concentrated on the English language, starting with Old English. It was spoken about 600-1000 AD and strongly influenced by Old Norse. Then we went on to Middle English. As an example Mr Gibbon used "The Canterbury Tales" written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century. In the following we tried to translate a little bit of Middle English into Modern English. Mr Gibbon presented a glossary with words of Middle English and their Modern English equals. Further he showed us some pictures displaying the different kinds of dialects in Old English, Middle English and Modern English. We also looked at the colonal language spread of some nations and the spread of English.

30.1.07 14:32


Lecture Summary (11/16 & 23/2006)

These sessions were held by Mr Trippel because of Mr Gibbon's absence. The topic was called "Words and their parts". This includes the different components of words as well as word formation (consisting of simplex words, derived words and compound words).

At the start we tried to define the word "word" wich was a really hard task. We dealt with many different hypotheses and finally concluded that words make up sentences, are pronounced with speech sounds and carry meaning (including the fact that they have a meaningful strcuture).

We moved on to the definition of morphology. Morphology is the study of the formation of words. Morphemes are the smallest meaningful units of a language. One or more morphemes form a word.

After this general introduction we dealt with the basic concepts in morphology. A simple word consists of only one morpheme (e.g. boy, man, house, book, etc.). A complex word contains at least two morphemes (e.g. boys, bookshelf, etc.). A free morpheme can occur as a simple word (e.g. boy, man) whereas a bound morpheme can only occur in connection with other morphemes (e.g. suffixes like the plural -s). An allomoprh is a variant form of a morpheme (e.g. a - an).

Next we analysed the different parts of a word. The root carries the meaning (for example: the root of unbelievable is believe). Affixes are bound morphemes wich occur in most cases before the root (prefixes) or after the root (suffixes). In the word unbelievable "un" is a prefix while "able" is a suffix. Other forms of affixes are circumfixes and infixes.  The form to which an affix is attached is called base.

The next aspect were the different kinds of word formation, especially compounding and derivation (we also mentioned inflection but did not analyse it explicitly). Compounds consist of at least two roots. The second part is the head of the compound and defines its word class whereas the modifier specifies the compound. Derivation is the process of adding a morpheme to a base by which the meaning and/or wordclass of the base changes (e.g. write (verb) plus -er becomes writer (noun)).

Finally we discussed the zero derivation, a special phenomenon in English. In this case words can change their class by adding an empty morpheme (e.g. house (noun) -> to house (verb)).

31.1.07 12:13


Lecture Summary (11/30/2006)

In this session Mr Gibbon was back to talk about morphology.

We were told that English words consist of a stem plus an inflection. On the one hand a stem carries lexical meaning, on the other hand an inflection has grammatical meaning and relates a word to its syntactic and semantic contexts.

Further we took a closer look at inflexions. In the English language suffixes or stem vowel changes are used to adapt a word to person, number or case. Other languages contain prefixes (e.g. many African languages), circumfixes (e.g. German) or superfixes.

Basically there are two kinds of stems to be considered: the simple and the complex variant. The simple one means that the stem is just a root (lexical morpheme). The complex version has three main forms: derivations (a stem plus a derivational affix; e.g. beauty + ful = beautiful), compounds (a stem plus another stem; e.g. foot + ball = football) or both. These constructs are called synthetic compounds (a derivation plus a stem; e.g. steam(stem) + roller (derivation) = steam-roller).

In the course of the session Mr Gibbon introduced the three different kinds of compounds to us:

  • endocentric compound: consists of a head which carries the biggest part of the semantic meaning and determines the grammatical category of the compound plus a specifying word; e.g. armchair (chair is the head and arm the specifier)
  • bicentric compound: there is no head, both parts are equal; e.g. whisky-soda
  • exocentric compound (also called bahuvrihi): refers to something that is not specified by any of its parts by themselves; e.g. redskin (the term does not refer to a red skin but to an Indian)

Mr Gibbon explained that roots and affixes are morphemes. Morphemes are defined as the smallest meaningful parts of words. They can be divided in two main types. Lexical morphemes (content morphemes, roots) are an open set including free words like boy, girl, man, etc. Grammatical morphemes (structural morphemes) are a closed set and either free (prepositions, conjunctions, auxiliary verbs) or bound (affixes in word formation and inflection).

Finally we talked about allomorphs. Allomorphs means that one morpheme is realized in different variants. As an example we chose the plural morpheme of nouns. In this case the same morpheme can be realized for example with an -s (e.g. dog -> dogs) or -en (ox -> oxen) or a stem vowel change (man -> men).

31.1.07 19:20


Lecture Summary (12/07/2006)

The topic of this session was "Phonetics: realising sounds".

First of all Mr Gibbon presented once more his famous model of signs and their position and relations in the conceptual and the real world. He told us that phonology is part of the conceptual world whereas phonetics deals with the utterances themselves and by consequence is part of the real world.

After that we looked at the different aspects of speech: production, transmission and perception. This led to the different domains of phonetics: articulatory phonetics (production), acoustic phonetics (transmission) and auditory phonetics (reception). The three domains of phonetics are also called phonetic cycle.

Mr Gibbon started of course with the articulatory branch. He showed us some pictures displaying the midsaggal section of the head. The articulatory organs are the lungs and the vocal chords in the larynx. Another very important aspect are the articulatory positions: uvula (with back of tongue), pharynx (with velum (nasals)), velum (soft palate) (contact with tongue: velars), palate (hard palate) (with tongue), alveolar ridge, upper teeth (with tongue; with lower lip) and upper lip (with lower lip). In this context we took a closer look at the midsaggital section and the saggital section.

Then we dealt with the description of sounds which contains of two levels. On the one hand there is the general pronunciation representation in the lexicon. The phonemic transcription gives just enough detail to distinguish words. On the other hand if you need detailed representation of speech pronunciation you have to use phonetic transcription based on articulatory phonetics.

 

31.1.07 20:40


Lecture Summary (12/14/2006)

The heading of this class was again "Phonetics: realising sounds". After dealing with articulatory phonetics in the previous meeting this week's session was about acoustic and auditory phonetics.

We entered the field of acoustic phonetics with the source-filter-model. It starts with the sources larynx (resonant source) and constrictions (noise sources). After that the sound goes through various filters. First in line is the pharyngeal filter followed by the oral and nasal filter (the sound from the noise sources also goes directly to the oral filter).

Mr Gibbon then told us about the speech waveform which shows the amplitude. He used the text "a tiger and a mouse were walking in a field..." for the purpose of illustrating this concept. For the next step, the spectral transform, he only used the word "tiger".

Afterwards we spent a lot of time with the phonetics software "Praat". Mr Gibbon tried to explain the programme and showed us the different windows of Praat, the objects and methods, how to edit a waveform, how to select a segment of a waveform, the different properties of sounds (spectogramme, formants, pitch track), how to copy the segment, how to create a new waveform object and how to save it.

To get started with auditory phonetics we looked at the anatomy of the human ear. We devided it in three main parts: the outer ear (function: microphone), the middle ear (function: amplifier) and the inner ear (function: spectral transform).

31.1.07 21:40


Lecture Summary (12/21/2006)

The topic of this week was "Syntax (parts of speech categories & subcategories)". This topic is basically about structural relations (syntagmatic relations and paradigmatic relations) and sentence structure (syntactic categories: parts of speech, subcategories, phrasal categories).

The structure of language was the first aspect to deal with. It is determined by two kinds of constitutive relation:

  • structural relations: including syntagmatic relations as well as paradigmatic relations
  • semiotic relations: including realisation and interpretation

Further we took a closer look at paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations. Paradigmatic relations can be called relations of "choice". They are about similarities and differences of internal structure (simple stems vs. complex stems), external structure (functions in different word orders), meaning (synonymy, antonomy, hyponymy, etc.) and appearance (distinctive features). To point out that syntagmatic relations are combinatory relations Mr Gibbon called them "linguistic glue". They create larger signs from smaller signs. For example in phonology consonants and vowels form syllables.

Afterwards Mr Gibbon presented the syntactic categories which can be divided in lexical categories and glue categories. The lexical categories are nominals (nouns, pronouns, adjectives, determiners) and verbals (main verbs and auxiliary verbs). The glue categories contain prepositions, conjunctions and interjections.

Then we dealt in more detail with the different parts of speech.

First of all the noun categories, starting with determiners. The branches of determiners are articles, possesives, demonstratives, relatives/interrogatives and quantifiers. Adjectives can be scalar, polar, appraisive and ordinal. The special feature of scalar adjectives is that they can be modified by "adverbs" of degree like "very" or "extremely". There are basically two types of nouns: proper nouns (names of persons, products, places, etc.) and common nouns which are either countable or uncountable. The next category was pronouns. It contains personal pronouns, possesive pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, quantifier pronouns and relative pronouns (which are in fact more like conjunctions).

We moved on to the verb categories. The first part of speech to be considered in this respect is of course the verb itself. A verb is either a main verb (with finite and non-finite forms) or a periphrastic verb (auxiliary verb + non-finite main verb). The different kinds of periphrastic verbs are modal, aspectual or passive. The second verb category is formed by the adverbs. In this context we have to consider five types of adverbs: adverbs of time, adverbs of place and direction, adverbs of manner, adverbs of degree and deictic adverbs.

Last but not least we analysed the glue categories. The basic function of prepositions is to turn nominal expressions into adverbial expressions. The have almost the same categories as adverbs. The exception is the word "of" which is multi-functional phenomenon. The second glue category, namely conjunctions, consists of co-ordinating conjunctions and subordinating conjunctions. Interjections are words like "hi" or "wow". They link parts of a dialogue together but the can also be (as in the case of "wow" ) an expression of subjective reactions.

31.1.07 22:18





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