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LANGUAGE AND SPEECH

The distinction between language and speech, which was first introduced by Ferdinand de Saussure in his book on general linguistics, has since become one of the cornerstones of modern linguistics. Though differences of opinion still persist in the exact delineation of the boundaries between the two spheres, its general idea has been accepted by most scholars.

Language, then, is the system, phonological, lexical, and grammatical, which lies at the base of all speaking. It is the source which every speaker and writer has to draw upon if he is to be understood by other speakers of the language.

Speech, on the other hand, is the manifestation of language, or its use by various speakers and writers of the given language. Thus what we have before us, in oral or in written form, as material for analysis, is always a product of speech, namely something either pronounced or written by some individual speaker or writer or, occasionally, a group of speakers or writers. There is no other way for a scholar to get at language than through its manifestations in speech.

As we are here concerned with grammar only, we will not dwell on the problem of a language system in phonology, orthography, and lexicology, but we will concentrate on the system of grammar and of its manifestations in speech, where of course it can never appear isolated from phonology and lexicology.

Thus, in stating that English nouns have a distinction of two numbers, singular and plural, and that there are several ways of expressing the category of plural number in nouns, we are stating facts of language, that is, elements of that system on which a speaker or writer of English has to draw.

Similarly, the statement that in English there are phrases of the pattern "adverb + adjective + noun", is certainly a statement about language, namely, about the syntactical system of English on the phrase level. Thus, in building such concrete phrases as, very fine weather, extremely interesting novel, strikingly inadequate reply, etc., a speaker draws, as it were, on the stock of phrase patterns existing in the language and familiar to its speakers, and he fills the pattern with words, choosing them from the stock of words existing in the language, in accordance with the thought or feeling, etc., that he wants to express. For instance, the concrete phrase, strikingly inadequate reply, is a fact of speech, created by the individual speaker for his own purposes, and founded on a knowledge, (a) of the syntactical pattern in question, and (b) of the words which ho arranges according to the pattern.

It may perhaps be said, with some reservations, that the actual sentences pronounced by a speaker, are the result of organizing words drawn from the language's word stock, according to a pattern drawn from its grammatical system.

So it appears that the material which a scholar takes up for investigation is always a fact of speech. Were it not for such facts of speech, whether oral or written, linguistic investigation would not be all possible. It is the scholar's task, then, to analyse the speech facts which are at his disposal, in such a manner as to get through them to the underlying language system, without which they could not have been produced.

 


Date: 2015-02-28; view: 1597


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