Both Ferdinand de Saussure contribute their popular theories on linguistics. The research centres on the popular linguistic theories of Ferdinand de Saussure. The research includes research on the similarly popular linguistic concepts of Noam Chomsky. The two linguistic concepts of Ferdinand de Saussure and Noam Chomsky complement each other to explain how humans communicate with one another.
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Linguistic pertains to both language and communication. Douglas Robinson (2003, p. 26) emphasized “Linguistics is the study of language: even etymologically this is an obvious fact. In the twentieth century, however, the term came to signify a single fairly narrow approach to language and to exclude everything else of interest that might theoretically be included within it.
Ferdinand de Saussure and Noam Chomsky were linguists. Emile Benveniste was a linguist; Jacques Derrida was not.” The quote clearly shows that some quarters have devoted much of their time and effort to study how the language of one community evolved. The linguists have focused much of their time to understanding language growth.
Ferdinand de Saussure. Ferdinand de Saussure emphasized that both language and speech are both composed of a system of signs (Saussaure, 2011, p. 17). The language and speech both precipitated from the social environment. Ferdinand de Saussure also insisted that language was not an innate act. Ferdinand de Saussure theorized that the person’s language and speech are learned while the person is interacting with other persons and influences.
Language learning is biological in nature (Andenson & Lightfoot, 2002, p. 3). For example, the Japanese person learned to speak the Japanese language while growing up in a Japanese community.
Likewise, the British Child learned United Kingdom English from conversing with one’s relatives and friends. The Arab child could speak fluent Arabic because the Arab person had grown up in a community where Arabic is the official language. In addition, the Chinese child will learn the Chinese language from his close relatives and friends.
In terms of signs, Ferdinand de Saussure emphasize that different individuals have different signs for an object. For example, the Japanese have a different Japanese word for a tree. Similarly, the Chinese have a different word for the same tree. The German child has a different sign or word for the same universal tree (Kistner, 2008, p. 3).
Further, Ferdinand de Saussure insists that linguistics is a co-dependent act. The person learns the meaning of signs by conversing with another person.
For example, the Japanese person will inform the British citizen the Japanese word for a car. Likewise, the Chinese person will inform the British visitor the Chinese word for a car. The Egyptian resident will teach the British visitor the Egyptian word for a car. The example indicates that British visitor learns the different words for a car by conversing with the individuals from different countries (Saussaure, 2011, p. 20).
Furthermore, Ferdinand de Saussure insists that language and speech is a learned language. The child first learns the alphabet. After learning the alphabet, the child learns to read words by joining two or more letters. After the child learns to read words, the child learns to read sentences. The child learns to identify an object by a word. For example, the child learns that the picture of an apple should be written “apple”. The child learns that the picture of a bus should be written as “bus”.
In addition, Ferdinand de Saussure also teaches that people learn to obey instructions through learning. The child learns the word “stop” means the child should halt actions that are meant to be stopped. The child also learns that the word “sleep” means that the child should go to his or her room to go to sleep. The child learns the word “eat” means that the child must gobble a morsel of food. The example clearly shows that Ferdinand de Saussure was right in emphasizing that language is learned, not inherited (Saussaure, 2011, p. 20).
Likewise, Ferdinand de Saussure insists that linguistics includes professionals learning their trade by studying. The engineers must pass the licensure exam for engineers. The lawyers must pass the licensure exam for lawyers. No one can pass the engineering board exams without first enrolling in an engineering course.
Further, Ferdinand de Saussure emphasized that linguistics includes a body of special knowledge. The engineers have their own set of engineering technical language. The doctors will be at a lost if they listen to engineers talking about the topic “strength of building materials”.
In the same light, the engineers will be confused when they hear medical doctors talking about “surgical terminologies”. The engineers will not understand the doctors when they speak about the different parts of the human body. The engineers do not have an idea as to where the body’s “posterior” part is.
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The lawyers also have their own set of linguistics jargons. The lawyers speak in terms of legal terminologies like “rejoinder”. The medical doctor will be confused when the lawyer talks about the word “respondent” in a conversation with another lawyer. Ferdinand de Saussure is right is stating that language is a learned affair, not an inherited one (Saussaure, 2011, p. 20).
In the same light, Ferdinand de Saussure reiterates that the pronunciation of words influenced by the linguistic sense of the speakers (Harris & Taylor,1997, p. 182). The British English sound for the word “government” is different from the American pronunciation of the same word.
The Chinese person will pronounce the same word “government” using the Chinese intonation. The Japanese individual will definitely use Japanese influence in pronouncing the same word “government”. Ferdinand de Saussure was right in stating the each individual adopts’ one’s cultural background in pronouncing the same word.
Further, Ferdinand de Saussure is right in stating that different cultures influence how a sentence is done. Language is the key ingredient to understanding teh human thought process (De Beaugrande, 1991, p. 124).Eating with chopticks in China is a normal linguistic message. Language is a social contract among the members of the community (De Saussure, 1959, p. 14).
Eating with spoons and forks is linguistically okay in another country. In Canada, people do not use spoons and forks to eat their food, another linguistic situation. In some countries, people customarily eat with their bare hands. Ferdinand de Saussure shows that each group has its own linguistic interpretation of how proper eating should be done (Saussaure, 2011, p. 8).
However, Ferdinand de Saussure does not explain how two strangers can communicate with each other. A visiting Japanese visitor cannot understand the British language. However, the Japanese visitor can use utterances to indicate to the British person that the Japanese is angry at the British person. In addition, the German visitor cannot understand the British language. However, the German male bachelor can smile at the beautiful British girl who is passing by the world famous London Clock.
The girl will understand the smile to mean the German visitor is interested in the girl. The girl may respond favourably or unfavourably to the German visitor’s overtures favourably. In terms of favourable terms, the British girl may smile back to the German visitor. The response will surely encourage the German visitor to move closer to the British girl and get to know her better. On the other hand, an unfavourable response may include not noticing the German visitor.
This way, the girl sends a message to the German visitor that she is not interested in the German visitor’s overtures. In turn, the German visitor may not give up on his love interest, the British girl. The German visitor may give the British girl a lovely rose to show that he is serious in his overtures. The British girl may accept the rose or reject the rose. Again, there are sign language words passed from the girl to the German visitor.
In the same manner, there are sign language words passed from the German visitor to the British girl. Ferdinand de Saussure did not include this type of language, the innate universal grammar language, in his theories. The innate universal grammar language is espoused by Noam Chomsky in the next paragraphs.
NOAH CHOMSKY. Geoffrey Huck (1996, p. 5) theorised Noam Chomsky believes that language is innate. Noam Chomsky believes that each child is born with a universal language, an infinite number of grammar sentences (Chapman & Routledge, 2005, p. 130). For example, the baby will cry if he or she is hungry.
The child will laugh if he or she is happy. Noam Chomsky is correct in this way. The Japanese child will cry when hurt. The Chinese child will cry when it is hungry. The Arabian child will cry when he is in pain. The British child will cry when is hungry. The Eskimo’s child will cry when in pain. Clearly, Noam Chomsky is right in emphasizing that each child has an innate language which can be understood by different persons from any part of the world.
Noam Chomsky explains that humans are like animals, having an innate language. Language is a system of rules (Joseph, Love, & Taylor, 2001, p. 122). During the dinosaur age, the human beings learned to communicate with one another. The humans of that prehistoric age learned that showing an angry face will stop the other person from pestering the angry person.
The facial expression of the person is enough to convey a message that the person is angry. In turn, the other person will stop what one is doing in order to avoid having a fight or disagreement with the angry person.
Just like animals, Noam Chomsky states that humans show through sign language their true feelings. The person can use hand signals to ask the other person to come closer. The person can also use the hand signals “ a stop sign” to indicate to the approaching person to stop walking towards the person making the stop sign. Noam Chomsky calls this language learning activity as Language Acquisition Device (Huck, 1996, p. 13).
No one can question Noam Chomsky’s theory that sign language is a universal language among the people around the world. For example, one person shouting unfamiliar words to a complete stranger gives a message to the other person that the shouting person is trying to convey a message to the other person. The next step is for the two persons to communicate in a more vivid manner. The second person can give a sign language asking the shouting person to clarify his message (Huck, 1996, p. 12).
However, Noam Chomsky’s theory is not 100 percent accurate. There is a slight probability that the sign language in one community may be different from the sign language from another community. For example, a complete stranger smiling to a beautiful girl may infuriate the girl’s husband, a person belonging to a conservative society.
The girl’s husband mistakes the smiling as flirting with his wife. The jealous husband will either hide his wife from the eyes of the stranger or confront the stranger. A possible fight may occur when the girl’s husband confronts the stranger. The innocent stranger tries to pacify the girls’ husband by using his own body language techniques.
One possible end to the body language exchange is a peaceful settlement between the girl’s husband and the stranger. The stranger may offer a gift to pacify the angry girl’s husband. The giving of a gift is another sign language that the girl’s husband can easily understand (Huck, 1996, p. 23).
Noam Chomsky proposes that each person has an innate set of transformational grammar words (Barsky, 1998, p. 174). People will understand the different and unfamiliar utterances because of their innate language. The strong person will push the weak person to indicate the strong person does not want the weak person beside him. In addition, the husband points his wife to the kitchen to indicate the husband is hungry. The wife will understand the husband’s sign language and start cooking the husband’s food.
In addition, Noam Chomsky proves that the average person has an innate language. Noam Chomsky states that the growing child has the capacity to learn a new language. The child’s capacity to learn a new language is one of the child’s survival weapons. Children will adapt the new language to understand the world around the child (Barsky, 1998, p. 100).
Further, the child must quickly learn the language of the parent in order to survive. The Japanese child has the capacity to learn the Japanese language in order to understand the vivid messages of the parents. The Chinese child has the capability to comprehend the Chinese language in order to understand the parent’s instructions. The British child has the ability to understand the British language in order to survive in the world.
Noam Chomsky explains that the secret to the innate language is syntax. Noam Chomsky states that the children use syntax to learn the language of their parents quickly. The child uses the universal grammar approach effectively. Noam Chomsky insists that child’s use of universal grammar bridges the gap between linguistic stimuli of the child and rich linguistic language that the child learns from his or her parents or relatives (Barsky, 1996, p. 157).
However, many individuals claim that Noam Chomsky is too discriminating. Noam Chomsky insists that all children use the universal grammar. The universal grammar is grounded on the English language. The syntaxes only concern the English language. This is understandable because Noam Chomsky’s native tongue is the English language.
For example, Alastair Pennycook (2001, p. 46) insists “Since applied linguistics always has to do with language in some form, the development of a political vision of language must indeed form a backbone to critical applied linguistics. I have already alluded to a possible distinction between looking at the politics of language in terms of how forms of power affect language use.”
Further, Noam Chomsky did not explain why different societies or countries have produced their own set of unique languages. Sarah Taub (2001, p. 8) proposes “As we have seen, iconic linguistic items are related to their meanings through physical resemblance. We should note, however, that there are many different possible iconic representations of a single visual or auditory image; for example, one could represent different parts of the image or use different perspectives”.
Applying the scientific process, Noam Chomsky should perform more experiments to validate his universal grammar claim. Noam Chomsky should visit Germany to study how each child learns the German language quickly. The other languages have their own sets of syntaxes that may not be in the same plane as the English language syntaxes.
Based on the above discussion, Both Ferdinand de Saussure contribute their own versions of linguistics. The linguistic theories of Ferdinand de Saussure focus on learning as a prerequisite for understanding language. The linguistic concepts of Noam Chomsky focus on a child having innate universal language, using syntax grammar. Indeed, the two linguistic concepts of Ferdinand de Saussure and Noam Chomsky complement each other discussing how individuals communicate with one another.
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Barsky, R. (1998). Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent. London: University Press.
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