Relevance of Linguistics to English as a Second Language

Topics: English language, Language, Linguistics Pages: 8 (2743 words) Published: September 19, 2013
Rachel A. Hattaway
SPLP 4044
July 2, 2013
Relevance of Linguistics to English as a Second Language
The characteristics of linguistics in relation to English as a Second Language (ESL) are varied and particularly focused. Some of the areas crucial to this field include language variation (bilingualism, multilingualism, and dialect variation), phonology, morphology, semantics, syntax, and pragmatics. Each of these areas signifies some important detailing in the makeup of the ESL curriculum and its bond with linguistics. Further insight to each one very specifically explores the components of the characteristics and methods in which they are applied.

In order to understand the methodology behind English as a Second Language, one must first understand the ideal of linguistics. To begin, linguistics is described as “the scientific study of the phenomenon of human language.” In Laymen’s terms, this basically indicates that linguistics evaluates a person’s speech as it is. Linguistics is not concerned with how one should talk; rather, it focuses on the current pattern with which people do speak. With this information at hand, this brings to light possibly the most important element (and conceivably the most difficult to define) in linguistics: language. This is a complex system used to express ideas in words, and it includes many different combinations that affect the way “language” actually works: sounds, words, grammar, rules (prescribed and described), vocabulary (lexicon), dialects, phonology, pragmatics, styles, jargons, functions, and even writing. All of these different components work together to create what is known as “language,” which is the most recognized element of linguistics. These factors, especially linguistics as a general overview, are relevant to English as a Second Language. English Language Learners (ELL) expect to learn an entirely new language, but they must first witness how linguistics plays into their education. ESL must demonstrate how the English language is broken down into specific speech patterns and written arrangements in order for the ELL to comprehend the L2 (second language) better. Linguistics is the first step to opening up an entirely new world to those who want to explore a second etymological experience.

Following linguistics is another key constituent in effective comprehension of English as a Second Language, and it is known as language variation. The first rule to recall in language variation is that language and dialect are not the same thing. In fact, “dialects are simply language varieties.” Dialects occur as differing speech patterns based on the origins of the speaker. The second rule involves dimensions of variation, which states that “people who speak together tend to speak alike.” This is especially true if two people are around each other in the same time (in history), the same space (region), and the same group (gender, race, or ethnicity). The third rule is based on absolutes versus relatives: the correctness of a word or speech pattern is relative to each individual speaker; there’s no absolute correct language variety; some varieties are more socially appropriate than others; there are standard dialects, such as those used in formal settings, school settings, or business settings; and there are non-standard dialects (less formal contexts). The fourth and final rule is that there are levels of language variation: lexical (word choice), phonemic (phonetic/accents), phonological (dialects), morphological (rule use of same word with different form across dialects), and syntactic (how to form sentences and phrases). The entire element of language variation focuses on three different parts: bilingualism, multilingualism, and dialect variation.

Bilingualism is simply the ability one has to speak two languages. It is highly recommended both job-wise and everyday-wise for people to at least attempt to learn a second language, especially since more people are moving into...
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