After this week’s reading on linguistics, I think I am finally starting to understand the idea of the human mind as OS Alpha. Just as computers process code, humans process language (among other things) and create meaning out of it. Our assigned readings and video proved to be helpful in many ways, but thanks to the visuals/diagrams in the readings, I could finally cement the idea of language as code (mostly because I could process the images [ex. images 252 & 253 in Redford reading] but I’m not quite sure I understood what they meant…).
Something that stood out during the readings was the topic of dialect. I appreciated Ray Jackendoff’s example, given early on in the reading, regarding the School Board of Oakland’s proposal that Ebonics be employed as part of class instruction (Jackendoff, 10). It highlighted the fact that language is tied with social identity, and that linguistic issues can oftentimes be considered social issues, too. Furthermore, incorporating the information shared in Steven Pinker’s video, I was able to sort out the differences between dialect and language and the fact that the rules of both language and dialect differ from one another – I didn’t really understand that before the reading. As I read though each of the readings, I kept asking myself the simple question of “Who made up all of these rules (grammar, sentence structure, etc.)? Why are there so many rules associated with something that seems to come so naturally to us?” While I still don’t really have a concrete answer, I appreciated Steven Pinker’s explanation of the dialect that was used in – and ultimately chosen from – the south of England. I’ve always thought of the phrase “I can’t get no satisfaction” as “bad English” or improper language, but I never realized that it’s really no worse than “I can’t get any satisfaction” (both serve as a double negatives); it’s simply the dialect that was chosen based off of geography – There’s nothing that makes a culture’s chosen dialect special (am I correct in thinking that?).
Continuing on the topic of dialect, to second/bounce off from Katie’s question, could we consider “text speak” a new” dialect? John McWhorter, who teaches linguistics at Columbia, gives an interesting TED talk on the concept and proposes that texting is a “fingered speech.” Much of the language & sentence structure used in texting does not sound or look correct, yet I find myself using it in my speech, as well as receiving it from others in conversations. However, I only speak words I would text with when I’m in conversatio with someone who texts. I wouldn’t speak in “text dialogue” with my grandmother, or someone else who does not know how to text, because s/he would not understand what I was saying. This brings me back to the idea of language, or dialect, being connected to a social identity, or the “communication environment” stated on page 3 of Dr. Irvine’s Linguistics, Language, and Symbolic Concepts. McWhorter also seconds the fact that language is not writing, but speech (like Pinker mentioned). However, the rules mentioned in Radford and Jackendoff’s readings do not necessarily seem to apply to text/instant messaging – in fact, this new kind of messaging seems to be based on a loose assumption that the rules are irrelevant. Could this then be reflected in the way we speak out loud – our language? I don’t seem to hear it as much as I read it, so perhaps this idea of text dialog is far fetched. For example, it seems as though many new words and terms have been created since we began using sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. It is evident when we read the posts, but do we speak these terms out loud? It seems as though we’ll sometimes incorporate hashtag “slang” into spoken language, but do we say it enough for it to become a dialect?