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Modern Languages Society

Robin Hamlyn on Linguistics

The Modern Languages Society welcomed Mr. Robin Hamlyn to talk on the subject of Linguistics. With such a wide-ranging topic an hour and a half was never going to be enough time, but Mr. Hamlyn was able to discuss many aspects of linguistics, ranging from the origin of London street names to complex sub-branches of the subject that included psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics. He was keen to point out that linguistics is not just speaking the language or appreciating the culture but the study and description of language as it is today and how it has evolved over time.

Mr. Hamlyn’s informative and engaging talk introduced the audience to new concepts such as phonetics, phonemics and syntax- aspects of everyday speech that native speakers of a language often fail to notice or indeed appreciate themselves.  His point that you often only ever hear what you want to hear was reinforced by his question that fooled much of the audience: ‘If I have twenty six sheep and one dies, how many do I have left?’ The answer was in fact nineteen, because what he had actually asked was ‘If I have twenty sick sheep and one dies, how many do I have left?’ This left several Etonians both confused and embarrassed, but conveyed his point across poignantly. Clearly then, when used to full effect the science of linguistics is a versatile tool that has proven itself to be extremely useful in improving education techniques, communication style and helping those in need of speech therapy.

On behalf of the society we would like to thank Mr. Hamlyn for such an insightful and thought-provoking talk.
  Franck Brown (DMG) and Alex Kohen ME (ITB)


DATE POSTED: 05 February 2009

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