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Anyone who's interested in linguistics?

  1. May 10, 2013 #1
    I know that this is a physics forum and that a physics forum might not be the best place to find linguistics enthusiasts. But I'll try anyway.

    Is there anyone on here who is genuinely interested in linguistics? I'm a linguistics nerd myself, and I'm particularly interested in neurolinguistics, cognitive linguistics and sociolinguistics. Would love to hear from others who share my interests!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 11, 2013 #2


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    Hi Doriana, Welcome to Physics Forums! Here in the Social Sciences section the subject of linguistics is perfectly acceptable; you could search this forum to find previous discussions.

    I am interested in linguistics. I was born in the USA and my first language is English. I’ve had the good fortune to have lived and worked abroad for over 30 years in 12 different countries, mostly for my work assignments for various companies. Also, I’ve been a Peace Corps Volunteer in two more countries where fluency in the languages was essential. Finally, I retired to Brasil in 2000 where I now speak Portuguese almost exclusively, but with a “North American accent”! I have spoken at least six languages, read and write many of them (some of them read from right to left), and can recognize and identify many more.

    I am interested in how we learn languages (There is no better way than to live with the natives. Learning to speak Arabic, for instance, would be nearly impossible in a classroom in Europe, because the spoken language requires careful listening to native speakers and then repeating in the appropriate context), how we store them in our mental “compartments”, how we assign meaning to phonemes, and how we gather meaning and syntax from reading written language. It is curious that our brains retain languages seemingly indefinitely; they just seem to get a little “rusty” from non-use, but come right back soon after renewing them. Even today I like to review and renew languages previously learned. I am especially interested in the cultural contexts language as they are used in different societies. This aspect of linguistics was brought to my attention when I served as Peace Corps Cross-cultural coordinator, responsible for guiding new Volunteers to adapt to and survive in a new society via language usage.

    I have no idea of what Neurolinguists is, but I did find the Wiki page on that, and it sure looks like I’d be interested in that, too!

  4. May 28, 2013 #3


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    Languages and linguistics is a recent interest of mine. I don't know all that much about it, but since taking up an interest in foreign languages, I have come to appreciate the nuances of English (my native tongue) a lot more, and I often find myself thinking about things that I hadn't thought of before (usually things related to grammar and syntax). For example, I had never previously thought explicitly about the irregularity of the English verb "to be" (am/are/is in the present indicative tense; unlike most other verbs, which have two conjugation forms), until I thought more about the use of "to be" in romance languages (where it is also highly irregular, such as Italian's "essere" or the French "être").

    I come from an Australian-Italian family and can speak Italian at what I would call an intermediate/conversational level. I have recently started learning French, mainly because I am very fascinated by it's similarities with Italian. One day when I get more time I'd like to start learning an Asian language.

    When I get a chance I will Google (interesting how a large tech. company has inspired the use of this verb :wink:) those terms that you mentioned to learn more :smile:

    For anybody who is interested, The Economist publishes a blog on language:

  5. Jun 6, 2013 #4
    I too find linguistics fascinating. Its study is a part of building a miraculous world where everything makes sense in terms of cause and effect so I am surprised that more physicists do not take an interest. It is a part of their world view in which the commonest matters of everyday life are understood at the deepest level.

    I deal with the real world psychological side, occasionally facilitating workshops on methodology for teaching English as a foreign language for the Mexican Department of Education. My real interest lies is the cultural psychological side of this because the complexity of the verb tenses in Spanish means that few really master the use of past subjunctives which are necessary in self-evaluation, feedback and problem solving. Those that can speak English to a high level report that they are using English for these matters rather than their first language.
  6. Jun 21, 2013 #5
    I'm interested in it, but only to the extent on how we learn it. Language learning follows basic learning theory (direct/indirect associations). Chomsky's LAD theory is wrong on this count and no evidence yet has turned up anything in the brain that would suggest LAD is viable. Also, nearly all (if not all) language courses that are taught in schools are done incorrectly. Anecdotal evidence: no one who ever takes a language course becomes proficient in the target language just from taking the course. All theories of language learning are faulty in this regard since not one can produce a student who becomes proficient.
  7. Jun 21, 2013 #6


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    Soclcielo L, Thank you for your comments regarding Linguistics. Since I've been both a student and the teacher in a variety of language courses I am particularly interested in what you've written here.

    Could you post a reference to "Chomsky's LAD theory" so that others here can follow your reasoning? Would you please also say why it is wrong?

    Would you also say why "nearly all (if not all) language courses that are taught in schools are done incorrectly."? Although you have offered some anecdotal evidence, that doesn't carry much weight here, as you must already know.

    One more request: will you also please elaborate on your conjecture that "All theories of language learning are faulty in this regard..."? Maybe you could cite some alternate language learning theories that work better.

    Thank you, Bobbywhy
  8. Jun 21, 2013 #7
    Yes, very interested. I have never full learned a second language, but seem to pick them up pretty easily. I live with a native Spanish speaker and am taking German. I also know a little bit of Pali and Sanskrit from my Buddhist studies.

    I've always been able to dissect words very easily and see the structure of language.

    I am studying math now and there's an area called computational linguistics that looks interesting. But I seem consistently unable to narrow down the things I'm interested in to one or two..
  9. Jun 21, 2013 #8
    This is info about Chomsky and his Langauge Acquisition Device
    Chomsky came up with LAD, an innate linguistic structure in the brain, based on observations that children universally pick up on language without formal instruction. This contradicted the prevailing behaviorist theory at the time which states that a person is a blank slate, learning anything as s/he gains experience. His LAD theory gained quite a lot of traction, and remained for almost 50 years. He's since rejected his own theory in favor of another of his theories, the Universal Grammar theory which states that the ability to learn grammar is hardwired in the brain. UG does have scientific evidence to support it based on neuroimaging while LAD has yet to show anything.

    To contradict the LAD, there have been case studies about individuals who never acquired language, those who were born deaf and never interacted with others who knew sign language. They also didn't know they were deaf. These people never developed language. Instead, they used mime. What would normally take a deaf or hearing person to sign or speak in few seconds, it took these non-language people 45 minutes to mime.
    Here's a podcast from RadioLab, "Words", which is about language and mentions these deaf people.

    According to Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching, 2e by Diane Larsen-Freeman, there are multiple methods of language teaching such as Grammar-Translation, Direct Method, Audio-Lingual, the "Silent Way", "Dussuggestopedia, Community Language Learning, Total Physical Response, etc. This book describes these various approaches to teaching language. However, all of these methods ignore one crucial point: how people actually learn language.

    According to this article, language learning is iconic.
    "Road to Language Learning is Iconic"
    This follows direct/indirect associations of classical learning theory.

    The point about these methodologies is that it totally focusses on the role of the teacher. Somehow, the knowledge of the teacher can be transferred to the students through direct instruction. If the goal is for students to learn to speak in a language, this goal can easily be met. ("Bonjour, je m'appelle Solcielo.") But if the goal is for them to communicate using that language, then there is a huge failing. ("Sorry, I don't speak French, just English.") Why is that?

    Because language learning falls within the social domain; it's a direct consequence of social learning. Albert Bandura stated that children observe the environment around them, pick up cues, and imitate them. This work was seminal in the area of child development because it went against the grain at the time and suggested that children learn from interacting with others, both other children and adults. If you think about this, then all those methodologies where the teacher instructs just won't work because that's not how language learning takes place. Language is learned through interactions with others who already hold that language. This is why a person with English speaking parents, growing up in France, learns French and speaks English without a French accent. Whereas his/her French peers who do learn English do so with a French accent.

    Sorry, I meant all methods of language learning do not work.
  10. Jun 22, 2013 #9


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    Necessary to distinguish between formal language teaching/learning and instruction for language acquisition. These are NOT the same.
  11. Jun 30, 2013 #10
    I have been interested in linguistics for quite some time. I am especially interested psycho semantics, "psychosomatics" is the closest spelling available via the spelling correction technology on this computer. In relation to psychosomatics, I feel obliged to confess I have the condition referred to as "social anxiety disorder. I tend to be very self-conscious, partially due to the fact that my linguistic abilities fall way short of communicating ideas that are running thru my mind. Due to the fact that the dictionary I have is old and does not have the word "psycho-semantics", I will briefly define in my own words; The sum total psychological/sociological effect that the use of various words and expressions have on an individual or group of people.
    As an example of trying to put all of the above into context: We all have talents, abilities and problems, disabilities. When I took my S.A.T. exam, I scored poorly in English/Literature but very high in mechanical reasoning. It is totally human that we all like to share that which we value with someone who has similar interest. It is also quite human to experience a degree of disappointment when others have a different set of values. Because of my condition, I am rather lonely. Therefore I would like to establish some connections with others. Do to my disabilities regarding communication skills, etc., I feel rather awkward which feeds my condition. Further, I do not want to come across as being too self-centered. Therefore, I feel obliged to seriously censure what I would like to say long before I have even begun to share something that am really interested in. This seems to create an endlessly repeating causality loop.
    All that being said, I don't mean to be too abrupt, but thank you for listening (reading). You may now continue on your previous heading without further interruption on my part. P.S. if you feel so inclined, please also feel free to comment. Peace be with you, may joy surround you and may truth be your reward, sincerely; stepson
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