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Information in this page copyright 2001 Brigham Young University Department of Linguistics. Permission to duplicate this material for non-commercial academic purposes is freely given, provided BYU is noted as the copyright holder.

This page last updated March 22, 2001 at 10:45 p.m. MDT by Daniel Roundy, dqr@ttt.org


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Definitions for The Senior Seminar (Linguistics 490)

International Auxiliary Language (IAL): Language spoken by a group of different language communities as a second language for use in trade and international relations. It is not meant to replace the languages of the various groups, but to be used to communicate with others who do not speak their same language. At various times in history, Latin, Aramaic, Koine Greek, Swahili (in East Africa presently), and English (also presently) have been used as IAL's.

Kabbalism: A Hebrew method of analyzing text. While the Greeks (as well as us generally today) saw language as signifying the universe, the Hebrews saw language as the universe. Kabbalism was a way of interpreting language, or the universe. Kabbalism included notariqon, gematria, temurah, and eventually mystical kabbala. Notariqon (or acrostics) was reading the first letter of each word together to make a new word. (This was often a valid way of reading Hebrew texts, as many authors wrote it into their texts). So, for example, the first letters of the statement "Who shall go up for us to heaven?" in the Torah are MYLH YHWH. The first four letters taken together mean "circumcision" and the last four mean "Jehovah", thus coming up with the meaning that the circumcised will go to God. Gematria (numerology) was a process of assigning numbers to each letter and then adding up the letters of a word to find the number value of the word. Then words with the same number were compared. (For example, Moses' serpent and the Messiah both add up to be 358, indicating that Moses' serpent is a symbol of the Messiah.) Temurah (or anagrams) was the process of taking the letters in a word or statement and placing them in a different order to create new words or statements. Mystical kabbala combines the other three types, and also assigns a meaning to each letter. It says that as the letters are combined, they tell us more about the universe. (Mystical kabbala came to be associated with black magic, because people would put letters together to curse other people, and since they saw language as being the universe, they believed that putting the letters together made it happen).

LAD (Language Acquisition Device): The name for the mechanism that some linguists suggest all people have that allows them the ability to acquire language.

Occam’s Razor: Principle that states that we should always opt for the simplest explanation that is valid and accurately explains the data. There is no reason to hypothesize a more difficult explanation if a simpler one is sufficient to explain the data.

Semiotics: Study of anything that can be invested with meaning, and how it is interpreted. For example, in music, it is how we get meaning from a certain scale that keeps appearing. In dance, it is how we get meaning from dance. In linguistics, it refers to how we get meaning from our language.

Volapük: Proposed international auxiliary language that combined elements of German and English. It died out early after its creation.

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