…An abstruse discipline, based on Stone Age cultures is applied to our own language…
The primary interest of the linguistician, however, is the sound of language; and it is in the field of phonetics- or, more specifically, phonemics, that Structural Linguistics erected its most elaborate methodological edifice. The starting point of linguistic analysis, as noted above, is the phoneme. But the curious fact is that no two Structural Linguists define it in the same way.
The reason for the apparent confusion surrounding these definitions is that the phoneme is both an entity and a composite of lesser entities. Thus the initial sounds of both pit and bit are different phonemes. The initial sounds of keep, cool, and coal, as well as the final sound of rock are all varieties of the phoneme /k/, although they are physiologically and acoustically different. Such varieties of the same phoneme are called allophones. The possible number of allophones for a given phoneme is far greater than the untrained ear ever discerns.
One of the component phonemes of a language have been distinguished and classified, the next step in linguistic analysis is to discover how the phonemes are built into morphemes. A morpheme is the smallest unit of lexical meaning- which is not to say that a morpheme is necessarily a word. In the terminology of Structural Linguistics a morpheme was defined by Bernard Bloch and George Trager as “any form, whether free or bound, which cannot be divided into smaller meaningful parts.”
The key terms here are “free” and “bound.” Words like cat, book and home are examples of single free morphemes. Words like cats and catty, books and bookish homes and homely contain two morphemes, of which the secondary morphemes-s,ty,ish, and ly- are bound, for they cannot appear alone and have lexical meaning.
The total store of morphemes in any language is its lexicon. A lexicon in itself, however, complete,tells little about a language unless it is augmented by understanding of the meaningful arrangements of its component forms. To understand how morphemes are arranged in larger patterns, the linguistic analyst must listen attentively for a variety of small and subtle signals, particularly with regard to the matter of juncture: the difference between an aim and a name, I scream and ice cream, night rate and nitrate.
More important than these sound signals, however, is the question of order- the sequence of elements in a larger form. Linguisticians are fairly firm in their insistence that grammar has nothing to do with meaning- a grammatical statement need not be meaningful or significant in a semantic sense. Noam Chomsky in his early incarnation as a linguist cited two word strings: (1) Coloreless green ideas sleep furiously, and, (2) Furiousl
(see link at end)…Many conservatives regard Chomsky as a linguist who falters out of his field. Unfortunately, they are giving Chomsky too much credit. Chomsky’s linguistics are as warped as his politics.
As someone with a PhD in linguistics, I think I am qualified to judge his professional credentials.
Prior to Chomsky, linguists engaged in a lot of data collection to understand the diversity of human language. I’m vehemently anti-PC, but in this case, I think the word ‘diversity’ is justified. There’s a lot out there, and someone’s got to catalog it.
However, Chomsky rejected this approach. He wanted to look into something ‘deeper’ (academese for ‘pretentious and nonexistent’). So he invented something called ‘universal grammar’ which is somehow programmed into us at birth. Now it is obvious to anyone who’s studied a foreign language that there is no such thing as ‘universal grammar’: there are a lot of differences between any two languages’ structures. How does Chomsky account for these differences? He claims that we formulate ‘deep structures’ in our heads using ‘universal grammar’. Then we use ‘transformations’ to change these (invisible, nonexistent) ‘deep structures’ into ‘surface structures’ (which are what we actually say and write). There are innumerable problems with this. For starters:
1. Where did this ‘universal grammar’ come from, and how did it end up becoming part of our biology? Not many Chomskyans are interested in evolutionary biology. ‘Universal grammar’ simply IS. (I myself suspect that there may be a universal grammar sans scare quotes, but I doubt that it has much in common with Chomskyan ‘universal grammar’.)
2. How can we see this ‘universal grammar’ and ‘deep structures’ if they are hidden behind ‘transformations’?
3. How can we see the ‘transformations’?
4. How can any child learn the ‘transformations’ (which are extremely complex and often counterintuitive, even to university graduate students in linguistics)?
Since no one can see ‘universal grammar’, ‘deep structures’, or ‘transformations’, one can imagine ANYTHING and create a maze of rules to convert ghost forms into what is actually being said and written. The Chomskyan approach to grammar is oddly English-like, even though many languages are UNlike English. This has absurd but dangerous consquences:
1. As a friend of mine pointed out, Chomsky, the enemy of “AmeriKKKa”, is actually an ethnocentric advocate of imposing an English-like structure on all of the languages of the world.
Imagine if some professor said that there was a ‘universal religion’ programmed into us at birth. What if this person were, say, Buddhist? How would he explain the diversity of faiths around the world? He would say that all deities are ‘transformations’ of the ‘underlying Buddha’, all religious codes (e.g., the Ten Commandments, Sharia) are ‘transformations’ of the ‘underlying dharma (Buddhist law)’, etc. But, you then ask, how could a Muslim knowing nothing of Buddhism be an ‘underlying Buddhist’? The professor would answer: ‘Underlying religion’ just IS.
Ridiculous? But that’s how Chomskyans approach language. Read More:http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/865339/posts