Monday, September 2, 2013

Language and literature

a. Communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures, or written symbols.
b. Such a system including its rules for combining its components, such as words.
c. Such a system used by a nation, people, or other distinct community; often contrasted with dialect.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Ed., 2000
  • Deals with spoken and written words and the systems for their use
  • Linguistics: the scientific study of language
The study of language as a branch of knowledge includes:
  • Morphology: study of the historical development of speech patterns
  • Syntax: study of use and forms of the language and of the parts of speech and their various forms
  • Etymology: study of the origin of the words
  • Semantics: historical and psychological study of the meaning of and change of meaning of words
Dictionaries are the major aids in the study of language and linguistics and include:
  • General word dictionaries
  • Dictionaries based on the historical development of words
    • Oxford English
  • Etymological dictionaries
  • Dictionaries of usage
    • Fowlers
  • Dictionaries of slang, dialect and colloquialisms
    • Partridge
  • Dictionaries of synonyms and antonyms
    • Roget’s
  • Specialized dictionaries
    • Abbreviations
    • Acronyms
    • Foreign words and phrases
    • Pronunciations
1. The body of written works of a language, period, or culture.
2. Imaginative or creative writing, especially of recognized artistic value: “Literature must be an analysis of experience and a synthesis of the findings into a unity” (Rebecca West)
3. The art or occupation of a literary writer.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Ed., 2000

  • Comprises writing that captures ideas
  • That class of writing which is notable for imaginative and artistic qualities, form or expression
Major forms of literature
  • Prose
    • Novels
    • Short stories
    • Essays
  • Poetry
  • Drama
Dividing literary works into genres is a way of classifying them into particular categories. At the highest level literature is classified as either fiction (about things, events and characters which are not true) or nonfiction (about things, events and people which are based on fact).
We classify fiction according to technique (layout) and style. For example, we have:
  • Picture books (contains words and pictures)
  • Game books (require the reader to problem-solve and actively engage in an activity while reading)
  • Novellas (short novels)
  • Short stories (much shorter than a novella)
  • Graphic novels
We also have books that are classified by content and theme. For example:
  • Adventure stories
  • Science fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Crime and mystery
  • Horror
  • Romance
  • Historical fiction
  • Fictionalised
  • True crime
Organizational approaches
  • Two basic approaches: by language or by form
  • By language in which written may need further subdivision, e.g. English literature, American literature, Canadian literature, etc.
  • By form: poetry, prose
  • Also historical periods or movements e.g. The Romantic Movement
“Literature” of literature
  • Works of literature and works about literature
  • Works of literature primary source, e.g. Novels, plays, short stories, poems. Common characteristic: creative
  • Works of literature secondary source. Factual as opposed to creative. Used for what they say about other works
  • Primary/descriptive: physical description of the work
  • Secondary: works about the writings of a specific writer or groups of writers or of forms (genres), periods or subjects
    • Most useful source for majority of literary reference questions
    • Research guides a specialized type of secondary bibliography
Reference sources
  • Reference sources in literature more numerous than in any other subject field
  • In general either
    • To identify literary works or
    • To identify works about literature
  • Undergrads need plot summaries, critical analyses, dictionaries of literary terms
  • Grad students as above but at a more advanced level
  • Faculty: bibs., dictionaries, or sources to verify complex citations
Typical reference tools
  • Primary & secondary bibliographies
  • Dictionaries
  • Encyclopaedias
  • Handbooks
  • Biographical sources
  • Directories
  • Indexes/abstracts
  • Concordances

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