PHGY 313 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Phoneme, Pragmatics, Frontal Lobe
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Speech and Comprehension: Perceiving Verbal Behaviour, Understanding Verbal
Behaviour and Brain
Mechanisms of Verbal Behaviour
•An orderly system of communication from a finite number of rules in a
language, a normal adult can produce an infinite number of sentences
•Most complex ability that humans possess equips our species in a unique
way from other species. We can benefit from others experiences and our
own. As well, we are able to store our language ( the temporal and spatial
boundaries are limitless).
•Most impt. Of all social behaviours (apart from sexual)
Perceiving Verbal Behaviour Recognition of Speech Sounds
•Phonemes (basic): smallest unit of sound that contributes to the meaning of a
spoken word (e.g. syllable)
•Context affects the perception of phonemes (e.g. sounds that precede and
follow each phoneme)
•Experiment by Ganong: He created a novel speech sound that lies between
the sounds of the “k” and the “g” phoneme and carried now linguistic
meaning in the English language. He presented it in two situations. When it
was presented preceding –iss, people claimed the word as kiss, when
presented preceding –ift, people perceived the word as gift.
Understanding Verbal Behaviour: Syntax (i.e. grammar), semantics (i.e. reference)
and pragmatics (i.e. world knowledge, shared experiences)
Syntax: Important syntactical cues
•Word order who says what to whom (i.e. subject then verb then predicate).
•Word class grammatical categories (e.g. verbs and nouns content words;
and & but function words)
•Affixes prefix/suffix, meant to alter meaning of the word (e.g. gift; re-gift;
•Prosody stress, rhythm, changes in pitch (alters meaning)
Semantics: maps of meanings, representation of the world states
•Noam Chomsky (famous linguist) – made critical distinction between surface
and deep structure language. It is parallel in meaning to the distinction
between syntax and semantics.
•To be meaningful a sentence must be grammatically correct. Thus, syntax is
necessary not sufficient for semantics and in turn, semantics is necessary but
not sufficient to understand.
Pragmatics: to understand a sentence one requires a relationship to the world.
Brain Mechanisms of Verbal Behaviour
•Aphasia: loss of language (recognition or comprehension)
•Broca’s area (left frontal lobe) in connection with the motor association
cortex conducts motor activities to produce speech.