Knowledge of Language
Рахмонова Н., Исакова З. З. Knowledge of Language // Молодой ученый. 2016. №3.1. С. 53-54. URL https://moluch.ru/archive/107/25692/ (дата обращения: 17.01.2018).
Uzbekistan is the multinational country. Our government pays more attention to the learning foreign languages. Knowing any foreign language is very important process in our society. When two or more people communicate with each other in speech, we can call the system of communication that they employ a code. In most cases that code will be something we may also want to call a language. We should also note that two speakers who are bilingual, that is, who have access to two codes, and who for one reason or another shift back and forth between the two languages as they converse by code-switching are actually using a third code, one which draws on those two languages. The system (or the grammar, to use a well-known technical term) is something that each speaker ‘knows,’ but two very important issues for linguists are just what that knowledge is knowledge of and how it may best be characterized. In practice, linguists do not find it at all easy to write grammars because the knowledge that people have of the languages they speak is extremely hard to describe. It is certainly something different from, and is much more considerable than, the kinds of knowledge we see described in most of the grammars we find on library shelves, no matter how good those grammars may be.
Anyone who knows a language knows much more about that language than is contained in any grammar book that attempts to describe the language. What is also interesting is that this knowledge is both something which every individual who speaks the language possesses (since we must assume that each individual knows the grammar of his or her language by the simple reason that he or she readily uses that language) and also some kind of shared knowledge, that is, knowledge possessed by all those who speak the language. It is also possible to talk about ‘dead’ languages, e.g., Latin or Sanskrit. However, in such cases we should note that it is the speakers who are dead, not the languages themselves, for these may still exist, at least in part. We may even be tempted to claim an existence for English, French, or Swahili independent of the existence of those who speak these languages.
Today, most linguists agree that the knowledge speakers have of the language or languages they speak is knowledge of something quite abstract. It is a knowledge of rules and principles and of the ways of saying and doing things with sounds, words, and sentences, rather than just knowledge of specific sounds, words, and sentences. It is knowing what is in the language and what is not; it is knowing the possibilities the language offers and what is impossible. This knowledge explains how it is we can understand sentences we have not heard before and reject others as being ungrammatical, in the sense of not being possible in the language. Communication among people who speak the same language is
possible because they share such knowledge, although how it is shared — or even how it is acquired — is not well understood. Certainly, psychological and social factors are important, and genetic ones too. Language is a communal possession, although admittedly an abstract one. Individuals have access to it and constantly show that they do so by using it properly. As we will see, a wide range of skills and activities is subsumed under this concept of ‘proper use.’
Confronted with the task of trying to describe the grammar of a language like English, many linguists follow the approach which is associated with Chomsky, undoubtedly the most influential figure in late twentieth-century linguistics.
Chomsky has argued on many occasions that, in order to make meaningful discoveries about language, linguists must try to distinguish between what is important and what is unimportant about language and linguistic behavior. The important matters, sometimes referred to as language universals, concern the learn ability of all languages, the characteristics they share, and the rules and principles that speakers apparently follow in constructing and interpreting sentences; the less important matters have to do with how individual speakers use specific utterances in a variety of ways as they find themselves in this situation or that.
Chomsky has also distinguished between what he has called competence and performance. He claims that it is the linguist’s task to characterize what speakers know about their language, i.e., their competence, not what they do with their language, i.e., their performance. The best-known characterization of this distinction comes from Chomsky himself in words which have been extensively quoted: Linguistic theory is concerned primarily with an ideal speaker–listener, in a completely homogeneous speech-community, who knows its language perfectly and is unaffected by such grammatically irrelevant conditions as memory limitations, distractions, shifts of attention and interest, and errors (random or characteristic) in applying his knowledge of the language in actual performance. This seems to me to have been the position of the founders of modern general linguistics, and no cogent reason for modifying it has been offered. To study actual linguistic performance, we must consider the interaction of a variety of factors, of which the underlying competence of the speaker–hearer is only one. In this respect, study of language is no different from empirical investigation of other complex phenomena.
From time to time we will return to this distinction between competence and performance. However, the knowledge we will seek to explain involves more than knowledge of the grammar of the language for it will become apparent that speakers know, or are in agreement about, more than that. Moreover, in their performance they behave systematically: their actions are not random; there is order. Knowing a language also means knowing how to use that language since speakers know not only how to form sentences but also how to use them appropriately.