Lecture 23: Historical Linguistics | Summary and Q&A

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January 27, 2023
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Lecture 23: Historical Linguistics

TL;DR

Language acquisition is influenced by both innate properties of the human mind and cultural factors, such as semantic shifts, which can change the meaning of words over time.

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Key Insights

  • ❓ Language is a complex system with both innate and learned elements.
  • 👶 Children acquire language by filling in linguistic details and making mistakes that are gradually corrected.
  • ⌛ Semantic drift is a common phenomenon, where words change meaning over time due to historical accidents, linguistic properties, or cultural influences.

Transcript

[SQUEAKING] [RUSTLING] [CLICKING] NORVIN RICHARDS: All right, so one of the things we've learned in this class is that language is complicated. At least, maybe you already knew that, but we've spent a semester looking at various ways in which language is more complicated than you might have-- than you might have realized before you came in here and... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How does language acquisition occur?

Language acquisition is a combination of innate linguistic knowledge and learning. Children fill in linguistic details based on their existing knowledge and often make mistakes that are gradually corrected.

Q: What is semantic drift?

Semantic drift refers to the evolution in meaning of words over time. It can occur due to historical accidents, linguistic properties of a language, or cultural influences.

Q: Are all aspects of language acquisition innate?

While some aspects of language acquisition are innate, such as the ability to construct language in a certain way, not everything is innate. Children learn language by interacting with their environment and filling in details based on linguistic input.

Q: Can semantic drift affect grammatical rules?

Semantic drift mainly affects the meaning of words rather than grammatical rules. However, changes in word meanings over time can also lead to changes in grammatical usage in certain cases.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Language is a complex system with various special properties and rules, which can be innate or acquired through cultural influence.

  • The acquisition of language involves both filling in details based on existing linguistic knowledge and making mistakes, as children often do.

  • Semantic drift, or the evolution in meaning of words, is a common phenomenon and can occur due to historical accidents, linguistic properties, or cultural influences.

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