Knowledge About Language for IOL

If you’re preparing for the IOL, it would be helpful to know something about how languages work. Here are some leads for you to consider.

  • How linguists divide the study of language structure:
    • Graphology (writing systems)
    • Phonology (sound systems)
      • built on phonetics:
        • articulatory phonetics (physiology: how sounds are produced, e.g. voiced/voiceless)
        • acoustic phonetics (acoustics: how sounds sound – probably not relevant to IOL)
    • Grammar
      • morphology (word structure; how word-parts combine)
        • inflection (same word, different grammar, e.g. singular/plural)
        • derivation (different words, e.g. farm – farmer)
      • syntax (sentence structure; how words combine)
    • semantics (meaning directly read off words)
    • pragmatics (meaning that we read between the lines)
    • lexis (vocabulary – really straddling all the above).
  • Different ways of studying language structure:
    • Descriptive (how one language works)
      • Contrasted with ‘prescriptive’
    • Historical (how a language has changed)
    • Comparative (how languages are similar or different)
      • Typological (general ‘types’ of language)
    • Psycholinguistics:
      • Child language (how we learn language)
      • Production, perception (how we use language)
      • Neurolinguistics (language in the brain)
      • Language disorders
    • Sociolinguistics
      • Language variation (dialects, styles, etc)
      • Language interaction (politeness, etc)
      • Language and culture
    • Theoretical (main focus on general theory applying to all languages)
    • Applied linguistics
      • Linguistics applied, e.g. to education, language loss, …
  • Useful source books:
    • David Crystal: The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language.
      • For example, the 2nd edition, 1997, has a useful summary of grammatical terms and categories on p. 93, in Chapter 16 on Grammar.
    • David Crystal: Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics.
 

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