Language Has Structure

The flow of language can be compared to music. Imagine listening to a beautiful piece of music, or listening to someone speak who “has a way with words.” We don’t usually think about the underlying structure that makes up this pleasing “whole.” However, it is precisely because the various elements of the structure are placed together in just the right way that creates their appeal. Two elements that comprise musical structure include rhythm and the particular key in which the melody is written. Let’s take a look at the structure of language.
phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics
These five structures of language—phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics—are universal. How they interact and the importance and prominence of particular elements are language-specific.
This information is so useful for a teacher. Your English learners bring a vast amount of knowledge about language structure in their first language to the process of learning English. They rely on familiar linguistic rules that govern their first language to help them learn and navigate English. Linguists refer to this as transfer. Your students’ knowledge and reliance on the first language can be very helpful, particularly for older English learners. For example, an older student will know there are ways of expressing concepts such as past tense, relationships, time, and so on. This general knowledge helps the older learner to specifically seek ways to express these concepts in English. Sometimes, however, influence from the first language may cause difficulty, or interference, with English. For example, if adding the morpheme –s or –es to make a noun plural is not a rule in the first language, it will be difficult for the student to internalize and use this rule in English. Knowing something about the structure of a student’s native language can help you predict specifically challenging aspects he/she may have in learning English.

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