In the Théories avancées en communication course taught by Professor Lévy, we look in-depth at the theories related to communication in addition to paradigms and communication systems. I really enjoy how Professor Lévy teaches challenging material to students with students through Twitter. This allows for communication among peers and also enables a more in-depth understanding of terms/theories. In the content we have learned so far, I found the fundamental aspects of grammar particularly intriguing. I have never broken down and understood the very basic aspects of the language and communication patterns that we typically analyse theoretically in a communication program. Most classes skip the basics and get into deeper theoretical assumptions right away. I think it is important to address the basic formation of sentences and grammatical rules so we can better understand communication systems and patterns at a basic level…then we can build into theoretical approaches. We have to walk before we can run!
What I learned with the help of Professor Lévy Pierre and my peers is that grammar and language are complex and unique. Grammar represents a common corpus which includes the knowledge and understandings of writing, reading and linguistics. It is described as a fundamental set of skills or a code that people must learn and master to be able to effectively read, write, convey meaning and understand others. Grammar is also crucial to generate, analyse and understand meaning as well. What I found specifically interesting were the systematic and multi-layer aspects of language itself.
Firstly, phonemes are unique to each language, and represent a specific sound which does not have meaning when it is isolated. We can only produce one phoneme at a time, and they must be strung together in a linear manner. Different languages have different types of phonemes, but the conventional sounds of the language are limited.
Next, we discussed morphemes, or words, which are small units of language that are the results of combined phonemes with signified signifiers. Morphemes create a relationship between subjects, verbs, objects, etc. For example, the word ‘petite’ is two units of meaning ‘petit’ and ‘e’; separate they have different meanings, but when they are put together we have the word small and the feminine gender relationship (also known as a sense unit) about the subject.
We then discussed the basics of a sentence, which requires all of the aforementioned aspects of grammar combined together to make meaning in a contextual environment. A sentence becomes true or false only once it is a part of a context with multiple words. A syntagm is the topic, sentence and super-sentence within a sequence of words. This includes multiple morphemes that describe and relate words and other sentences together that cannot be described out of context, without referents or described in a single word.
We also discussed how a piece of language or text can be understood both physically (sequence of phrases) and semantically (meaning made up of networks of smaller sense units). It is a combination of sentences (or syntagms) but also a representation of an intentional meaning made out of complex features. Thanks to Professor Lévy’s blog post, the “signification of a text comes from the application of grammatical rules by combining its signifieds” (Lévy, 2017), with temporal, spatial and social contexts attached (referent). These aspects allow us to understand the variation in languages. In order to effectively communicate with someone or in another language, we must understand and apply their cultural grammatical codes to their sentence structures.
Though this may seem odd in terms of what I found to be interesting, I think it is crucial to understand the foundation of language. I now know how structures vary, how every aspect of grammar is interdependent with the other, and how we cannot have meaning or communication without a grammatical code people can use to decode meaning. It also allows us to see that not all languages are the same or have the same grammatical codes. With Professor Lévy’s innovative use of Twitter and students’ active feedback, we can understand the fundamental creation of their sentences through grammatical structures now too! So far, this type of teaching method has helped in understanding complicated course content like this, but also allows me to apply and remember it more effectively by actively responding, discussing and questioning on Twitter. Thank you Professor Lévy!