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Gameli Afagbegee

February 24, 2010

Linguistic Competence Exercise

http://www.funny-poems.co.uk/kids/odes-ends/m02-hear.asp

Hear Here

I've heard a mouse squeak


and I've heard a lion roar.

I've heard a door creak


and I've heard my Granny snore.

But I've never heard a tree bark,


nor heard a willow weep.

1st Level
Semantics: the study of meaning in language (primarily words and phrases)

Example 1: I've heard a mouse squeak


Example 2: I've heard a lion roar

The above examples belong to this level because the reader is trying to understand what
is going on in each word as well as in the sentence overall.

The semantics of the all the words used in the poem appear to be regular. Each word used
has a definition that is understood and accepted universally within the English language.
When put together in the fashion presented in the poem, everything makes sense.

The examples could be made irregular by using a different word for squeak.

2nd Level
Syntax: word order in sentences. How sentences and phrases are constructed from
words.

Example 1: I've heard a door creak


Example 2: I've heard my granny snore

The above examples belong to this linguistic level because each word is being used to
form an idea of what is taking place. It is a simple matter of putting each word in the
sentence in the correct or an acceptable order.
The syntax of these sentences is regular. Each line of the poem follows the rules of what
is considered grammatically correct English. Almost every line takes the basic format of
Subject + Verb + (article or possessive pronoun) + adjective.

The examples could be made irregular by re-arranging the order each word appears. My
Granny snore I've heard, or “A door creak I've heard” Doing so changes the meaning of
each sentence.

3rd Level
Pragmatics: the study of how context affects interpretation or meaning

Example 1: I've never heard a tree bark


Example 2: I've never heard a willow weep

The above examples belong to this level because it takes a slightly deeper understanding
of the English language to understand the play on words here. By themselves, these
sentences make sense and can be read by non-native speakers and make sense as
sentences. But in my opinion non-native speakers might not have enough experience with
English to understand the word play taking place between 'tree' and 'bark', and 'willow'
and 'weep'.

Based on my understanding of pragmatics I would conclude that this text is irregular. The
reason is that the last two lines would not make sense unless one had an intimate
understanding of English. Even though trees have bark (the outer 'skin' found trees), they
do not bark (as in make the sound associated with dogs). This is very ambiguous. The
same is true of 'weeping willows'. A non-native English speaker might be confused as to
why trees would be crying. The meaning in both phrases is ambiguous.

I do not know what would make this regular except to replace the words in question with
more understood terms.