"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more
To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.
This volume provides a new perspective on the evolution of the special language of medicine, based on the electronic corpus of Early Modern English Medical Texts, containing over two million words of medical writing from 1500 to 1700.
Semantic Structures, Communicative Principles and the Emergence of Language
How did human language become so structurally complex? This dissertation presents evidence that complex syntactic rules in modern human language emerged via a pre-syntactic stage that was governed by semantic principles. This dissertation investigates the influence of meaning in evolutionarily early language by looking at situations in which people cannot use or learn a language normally. The systems that arise in those situations are called restricted linguistic systems, and examples of such systems are the language of unsupervised adult second language learners and home sign. This dissertation relates observations from restricted linguistic systems to a novel approach taken up in the laboratory, in which participants are asked to communicate about simple events using only gesture and no speech: improvised communication. Together the two branches of evidence constitute a picture of evolutionarily early language in which semantic principles take a central position: they precede and ultimately drive syntactic rules.
Because of its interdisciplinary approach, this book targets a wide audience, and it will be relevant to linguists (and non-linguists) interested in meaning, language and evolution.