Week 5 – Yanjun Liu

“The major perspective we adopt in this book regards a language as a cognitive system which is part of any normal human being’s mental or psychological structure.” (Radford, et al, 2009) 

“In linguistic terms, a “natural language” is any human language acquired ‘naturally’ by being born into a language community. “(Irvine, 2020)

According to Stevin Pinker, language includes words and rules. From my personal understanding, a language is a specific phonetic system conveys meaning and can only be understood within the same cultural context. 

(parsed result of XLE-Web)

It is very interesting to find out that we are speaking according to particular rules and sequences without actually knowing it. Also, I find that human being has the instinct of reordering words according to the rules that imbedded in our heads, which enables us to interpret meaning of a sentence without correct word orders. For example, ”吃了吗您?“ is a way to greet people in northern areas literally meaning “Did you eat?” (“how are you”, in fact”). However, the correct sentence order should be “您吃了吗?“(the verb “吃” should be placed in the second position). When people are saying that without correct order, everyone understands. When I am speaking English, sometimes I don’t follow the particular orders but native speakers can always understand. These are proofs of a cognitive interpretation system that related to Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area.


Steven Pinker, “Language and the Human Mind”

Martin Irvine, “Introduction to Linguistics and Symbolic Thought: Key Concepts” (intro essay)

Steven Pinker, Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language. New York, Basic Books, 1999. Excerpt, Chapter 1.