Suggestions for In-Class Activities

"Language is a complex, specialized skill, which develops in the child spontaneously, without conscious effort or formal instruction, is deployed without awareness of its underlying logic, is qualitatively the same in every individual, and is distinct from more general abilities to process information or behave intelligently." Pinker, Steven. 1994. The Language Instinct. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.: 18.

This practical will test your intuitions about language at various levels. Examine the problems below and try to describe in your own words what may be interesting or strange about them.

Note: An asterisk ('*') marks an expression as ungrammatical, i.e. not in accordance with the native speaker's knowledge about the grammatical structure of the language. A question mark ('?') indicates that the sentence is strange.

A: Suggestions for self-guided content deepening and competence training:

Use the videos in the playlist and just follow the instructions:

B: Suggestions for in-class content deepening and competence training:

Use the following questions for in-class discussion:

  1.  Phonology
    • nbik, kzidakl, fsull
    • frish, groffer, plicky
    • knight - night; lead - lead

  1. Morphology
    • bow - bowed; go - *goed
    • available - unavailable;
    • possible - *unpossible

  1. Syntax
    • Visiting relatives can be boring.
    • ?Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.
    • the small bench next to the old elm tree by the river in the wood near the park of my home town
    • The student asked the question was asleep.
    • I gave back the car to him.
      I gave the car back to him.
      I gave him the car back.
      I gave him back the car.
      *I gave the car to him back.
      *I gave back him the car.
  1. Semantics
    • i. wide - narrow
      ii. pretty - handsome
      iii. face 
      (of a clock) - face (of a human being)
      iv. lend - borrow
      v. tulip - flower
    • ?Mary failed the exam, even though she did no work at all.
    • The German tourist took a picture of that lovely bank.
    • Last night, we arrived from Berlin.
    • There is a new gun in town.
  1. Pragmatics
    • ?The table is under the vase.
    • Do you know what time it is? - Yes.
    • Paul: Hi! How are you?
      Linda: Oh, my head is slightly sore, my blood pressure is 90/140, and my temperature has been rising all day.
    • I hereby name this ship "Queen Elisabeth".
      ?I hereby fall from this tree.
    • i. Can you pass the salt, please?
      ii. Pass the salt!
      iii. This soup would taste much nicer with some salt.
      iv. I wonder if there's some salt in this house!