Changing Use of Language
I chose to find the entomology of a word that most people can usually not go through a day without using at least once, computer. With the explosion of the personal computer in the last ten years, most households in America own at least one. However, the meaning of the word "computer" has changed in the last century. The word itself is found in text as far back as 1646 when Sir T. Brown said, "The calendars of these computers." The use of "computer" in this sense, as defined by the OED, is one who computes; a calculator, reckoner; a person employed to make calculations in an observatory, in surveying, etc.
Then, around 1897, the use of "computer" began to change. In the January 22 edition of Engineering, this usage appeared: "This was a computer made by Mr. W. Cox. He described it as of the nature of a circular slide rule." This usage began the change of the definition. In the supplement to the OED, "computer" is now defined as a calculating machine; an automatic electronic device for performing mathematical or logical operation.
The word "computer" stems from the verb "compute" which came from the French comput-r and the Latin computa-re. It was formed by adding com - together and putare - to clear up, settle, reckon. Together, "compute" means to estimate or determine by arithmetical or mathematical reckoning; to calculate, reckon, count. Then from the word "compute", the suffix "er" was added giving us the definitions we have for computer today.
2) In an effort to further understand language, the field of psycholinguistics formed to study the psychological side of language. Language has many different functions such as communication, expressing emotion, explaining ideas, to create relationships, and recording ideas. Without the use of language, it would be nearly impossible to explain the history of anything. Language allows for the communication that is necessary for survival. It is not only humans who benefit from language either. Bees use a complex system of a dance and buzz to show the hive where to find food, and birds use different chirps to communicate.
One psycholinguistic, Hockett, said that all languages have some aspects that are the same at some level which he called Linguistic Universals. One aspect of Linguistic Universals is the broadcast transmission, which says that language is public and that anyone around the message will pick it up. Another aspect of language is that it is rapid fading, or if you don t get it right away, you won t get it at all. Hockett also said that language is arbitrary. An object could actually be called anything anyone wants to call it. In all, Hockett came up with nine aspects that all languages have in common.
In order to understand language, Chomsky believed that there were four levels needed. The first of his four levels was the Lexicon. He described the Lexicon as a mental dictionary. It allows for recognizing words in context, knowing how to pronounce the word in its context, and how the word is used in different parts of speech.
Chomsky s second level was called the Phonemic level. This described the phonemes or the smallest unit of sound in the language. For every language there are a countable number of sounds that make it up. For example, the Chinese language has no sound for the English L or R. The English language is made up of 40 to 50 distinct sounds while the Hawaiian language has only eleven.
His third level needed for understanding language is the Morphemic level. This level consists of morphemenes, which are the smallest unit of meaning of an utterance. This explains the usage of prefixes and suffixes such as the use of an "s" to make a word plural.
The last level Chomsky used to understand language was the Syntactic level. This level consisted of the syntax or the structure of the utterance. This level was used to explain the understanding of how a sentence was put together. Chomsky said that there were two parts to every sentence, the surface structure and the deep structure. The surface structure contains the words that are used to create the utterance and syntax. The deep structure was the meaning of the utterance. Chomsky said that a sentence can consist of two different surface structures and still have the same deep structure. The meaning of the sentence is transcendent of the words used to make it. So, for a sentence such as, "The horse raced past the barn fell", is still understood as "The horse that was raced past the barn fell."
I think that the levels of linguistic approach to understanding language does help explain and breakdown language. It makes sense that all these parts are necessary to understand the usage of language in general. Chomsky s four levels for understanding language breakdown and map out language pretty good. Hockett s Linguistic Universals do show the aspects that language has in general. Together, the two theories do seem to show an appropriate framework.