From suffixes and syntax to the sexes
Ryan Summerlin April 28, 2009
Words, their sounds and the way people use them are to be addressed at this week’s Cafe Scientifique meeting in Frisco on Thursday evening.
“Language is always fascinating no matter what you’re dealing with ” whether the sounds or grammatical form,” said Daniel Taylor, professor emeritus of linguistics.
He’s studied language more than 50 years and taught at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis. for 34 years.
Thursday’s discussion, “What is linguistics? Language, sound and meaning” is to include a wide spectrum of topics, from suffixes and syntax to the sexes.
“I’m trying to have fun while we do this,” Taylor said.
He said he plans to explain some of the differences between the way men and women speak. For example, he asks who can describe the color, mauve, and “nine females and one male, who’s probably a house painter,” raise their hands.
“Normally males don’t know mauve,” he said.
He may discuss the human language acquisition device, a function enabling children to acquire language.
“A normal child cannot be prevented from speaking the language of (his or her) environment,” Taylor said.
He also examines the use of particular words, such as how “shall” and “will,” which are mostly interchangeable. But in a particular instance they take on different meanings.
“There’s only one way to ask a woman to dance,” he said, adding that saying, “Will we dance?” won’t be interpreted as “Shall we dance?”
Taylor said the study of linguistics aims to define language as a science.
“You’re not trying to become a speaker of many languages,” he said, “or a language guru who tells everybody how to write and speak.”
Dr. Elmer Koneman, who organizes the Cafe Scientifique meetings, said the discussion with Taylor should be worth attending.
“It’s going to be an interesting session because he’s got quite a story behind him,” Koneman said.
Taylor has lived in Frisco two years. He and his family lived three-and-a-half years in Italy while he conducted research.
He has a master’s and a Ph.D. in classics ” Greek and Latin ” from University of Washington in Seattle.
Taylor continues to do some writing and research. He also enjoys skiing.
Robert Allen can be contacted
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