Tag Archives: Noam Chomsky

Studies in English 1, week 4: May 11th, 2012

productivity in linguistics means the ability to create new words and concepts
productivity in linguistics means the ability to create new words and concepts

Today, we

  1. read chapter 2, “What is Language?” of “General Linguistics”, and summarised the following sections:
    1. Variety of message, Organization of sounds and Human Language versus Animal Communication.
  2. We answered the following questions:
    1. What does “productivity” mean?
      1. A:  “Most animals have a very limited number of messages that they can give or receive. A human can produce an incalculable number of new combinations from the elements of his language. Language can cope with entirely new situations by adding new items. Only human language is capable of dealing with unforeseen and novel situations.”
    2. What does “duality” mean?
      1. A: “Most animals can use each basic sound only once.  The number of messages an animal can send is restricted to the number of basic sounds. Each human language has a stock of sound units or phonemes which are similar in number to the basic sounds possessed by animals, between thirty and forty. These phonemes are in themselves meaningless, but they are combined into larger meaningful units or morphemes. The number of possible morphemes is enormous- an educated man might use up to 100 000, according to one calculation. This organisation of sounds into two layers, one of phonemes and one of morphemes, is known as duality or double articulation. Duality means that language is a much more powerful tool than animal communication systems, since the mathematical possibilities of combinations of morphemes are incalculable.”


  1. Find a famous book by these two famous linguists and their Japanese translation, and write their details down using the MLA format in the handout provided.
    1. Ferdinand de Saussure
    2. Noam Chomsky

      Duality of Patterning, from http://www.uni-due.de/DI/REV_Linguistics.htm
      Duality of Patterning, from http://www.uni-due.de/DI/REV_Linguistics.htm


Research in English (Linguistics) A session 14: July 22nd, 2011

Today, we had a presentation from Ms. Aoki about Universal Grammar (普遍文法), a theory of grammar and language acquisition developed by Noam Chomsky (ノーム・チョムスキー). You can read a short introduction to Universal Grammar (普遍文法) in Japanese on Wikipedia here.

After the presentation, I mentioned an exhibition in Germany which shows the faces of various human ancestors. You can see a slideshow here: Faces of our Ancestors.