Chapter 1: Human Language and Language Science

1.6 Exercise your linguistics skills

Exercise 1. The terms first language and L1 (or sometimes, native language) refer to the language you learned from the people around you from your very early childhood. Many people have more than one L1. What is your L1? Do you have more than one? Make two scientific observations about your L1. Remember that scientific observations are descriptive, not prescriptive.

Exercise 2. Pretend you’re working for a start-up that has developed a cool new product. Your company turns to you, the in-house linguist, to come up with a name for this new product. It has to be a unique name that doesn’t already exist. What will you name your company’s cool new product?

Now, look at this list of product names generated by other students. Which of them are good product names and which aren’t?  What makes something a good name? How do you know?

mentocular swoodiei torrix baizan
jibberdab keerild euquinu tuitionary
kzen zirka hbiufk fluxon

Exercise 3. One of the many ways that mental grammar is generative is that it is always possible to create new words in a language. English often allows the creation of new verbs from existing nouns, even from proper names like in the following sentences:

      • We’re Megabussing to Montreal this weekend.
      • You can find out the answer by Googling.
      • The kids got Pfizered before going back to school.

Create three new verbs from English nouns (common nouns or proper names), and put each one in a sentence to illustrate its meaning.

Exercise 4. Think of a word that has only recently entered English, so it’s not yet in mainstream dictionaries. Observe some examples of the word being used in context, either in your regular conversations or by searching online.  Based on your observations of the word in context, write a dictionary definition of the word.

 

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Essentials of Linguistics, 2nd edition by Catherine Anderson; Bronwyn Bjorkman; Derek Denis; Julianne Doner; Margaret Grant; Nathan Sanders; and Ai Taniguchi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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