CLS Speaker Series - Jessi Aaron (University of Florida) Greater than any one of us, yet nothing without us: On the role of perception and everyday life in language
Oct 09, 2015
from 09:00 AM to 10:30 AM
|Where||127 Moore Building|
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“Greater than any one of us, yet nothing without us: On the role of perception and everyday life in language”
The apparent dual nature of language, ephemeral and deeply social on the one hand, and highly structured and long-lived on the other, suggests an interesting paradox. How are our everyday interactions, perceptions, prejudices, and affiliations integrated into our language—a structure in flux that is both greater than any one of us and nothing without us? Quantitative analysis of language use can provide empirical evidence regarding the role of the powerful yet elusive social and cognitive forces that shape the way we use language, as well as how our language changes over time. These often have to do with perception. First, our language may reflect our perceptions of social groups. Second, our usage patterns may demonstrate our perception of what is sociolinguistically appropriate in our local communities, including the use of regional features and code-mixing. Third, broad patterns of language change may reflect how we perceive—and create—orderliness in our language through mechanisms such as analogy. Simply put, humans, as cultural and social minds, are builders of dynamic systems, including language. After all, life itself, and everything in it, is in constant motion. As the French Modernists pointed out, we can only perceive the world through our personal experiences within it. With this hodge-podge of disparate experiences, we construct a concrete reality, much like the linguistic structure we codify and study—both transient and eternal.