Author and summary: This is chapter 2 of Diaz-Rico and Weed's The Crosscultural, Language, and Academic Development Handbook. It covers several langauge structures including phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics.
Thoughts: I personally really like learning about this stuff. I particularly like the pragmatics part as it is interesting to note differences between cultures and languages. Certain aspects of syntax and semantics are really interesting as well. This area of second language acquisition or TESOL is much more scientific in nature than the rest and I am naturally more drawn this objective material.
At last count, 6,809 languages are spoken in today's world. (p. 32)
No languages are "primitive". All languages are equally complex, capable of expressing a wide range of ideas, and expandable to include new words for new concepts. (p. 33)
All human languages use a finite set of sounds that are combined to form meaningful elements or words, which themselves form an infinite set of possible sentences. Every spoken language also uses discrete sound segments, such /p/, /n/, or /a/, and has a class of vowels and a class of consonants.
The number of phonemes in a language ranges between twenty and fifty; English has a high average count, from thirty-four to forty-five, depending on the the dialect. (p. 34)
Native speakers are seldom if ever taught explicitly the phonological rules of their language, yet they know them. Phonological knowledge is acquired as a learner listens to and begins to produce speech. The same is true in a second language. A learner routinely exposed to a specific dialect or accent in English views it as the target language. (p. 37)
Making charts of English words that English learners use in their first language and words English has borrowed from the students' native languages increases everyone's vocabulary and often generates interesting discussions about food, clothing, cultural artifacts, and the ever-expanding world of technology. (p. 38)
Whereas syntax refers to the internally constructed rules that make sentences, grammar looks at whether a sentence conforms to as standard. An important distinction, therefore, is the one between standard and colloquial usage. Many colloquial usages are acceptable sentence patterns in English, even though their usage is not standard - for example, "I ain't got no pencil" is acceptable English syntax.
Every situation carries with it the expectations of the speakers involved and a script that carries out those expectations. (Note: When linguists use the term script, they mean a predictable sequence of events, not a written dialogue that actors follow.) (p. 44)
This nonverbal system, estimated to account for up to 93 percent of communication, involves sending and receiving messages through gesture, facial express, eye contact, posture, and tone of voice. (p. 45)