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9. Language.docx

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McMaster University

Language Introduction to language Natural Language: Regular  3 criteria that outline “true” language o language is regular  it is governed by rules & grammar  a sentence can be reorganized and still retain its meaning because a system of rules details how each word fits with the ones around it o language is arbitrary  specific sound assigned to represent a concept is completely arbitrary  nothing about the sound refers to the meaning o language is productive  limitless ways to combine words to describe objects, situations, and actions Language  why language is so important to the human experience The Whorf-Sapir Hypothesis  languages influences our thoughts and the way we perceive and experience the world  use language to communicate with the world; but also to form your thoughts  Piraha o Three counting words corresponding to one, two and many o This tribe should have trouble understanding fine numerical concepts because the language lacks words for these fine distinctions o Performance worsened when tested with sets greater than three objects  Wyoming Arapaho o Use a single word to describe a senior male relative (bro, father, uncle…) o Clearly understand the difference between these individuals Structure of language Morphemes  The smallest unit of sound that contains info  often a word, but some words contain multiple morphemes  Each language uses different words formed by combining sounds in different ways, all human language contain some similar features  All languages use sounds or words, symbols  Symbols  morphemes Table  1 morpheme Tablecloth  2 morphemes Tables  2 morphemes (table)(s) – plural  Can break morphemes apart into its constituent sounds  phonemes Dog  3 phonemes /d/ /o/ /g/ Syntax & Semantics  Syntax: the rules hat govern how sentences are put together (grammar) o Different for languages (French assign gender to words)  Semantics: meaning of each individual word o Sentence may have perfect syntactical structure but no meaning Development & the Segmentation Problem Language Development  Increases systematically throughout infancy and childhood  Early activities  smiling o Babbling  Drawn-out sounds made up of a variety of combination of vowels and consonants  May sound like a real sentence or question because of the use of inflection and rhythm in the production of babbling  Combinations progress to become real words Language Explosion  1 ½ - 6 yrs. of age, children enter the ‘language explosion’  vocab increases rapidly and most children have mastered the major aspects of language  throughout childhood the complexity of they syntax continues to improve Language Comprehension  production & comprehension limited by cognitive development o vocal anatomy o may have comprehension but unable to express it o analyzing children’s behavioral responses to verbal stimuli The Segmentation Problem  learning another language o don’t understand the meaning of the words o difficult time separating the individual words apart o think they are speaking very quickly  illusions caused by the difficulty you have segmenting the speech stream into word units  Newman o Familiarizing infants with target word dog o Could later detect dog in stories or language? o Determined if they could segment the familiarized word from the speech stream Implications  Predict later problems in language development, and allow for early treatment interventions Infant-Directed Speech  the tendency for mothers to use higher pitch and exaggerated changes in pitch when speaking to infants o may help infants learn to segment speech Universal phonetic Sensitivity Different Phonemes  young infants can actually discriminate more phonemes than adults can  different languages have different phonemes Universal phoneme sensitivity  the ability of infants to discriminate between any sound they’re tested on (includes sounds from native languages)  head-turn procedure: o training phase: infant learns to discriminate 2 different phonemes, and turn his head towards the speaker  when he does so to a new sound he is presented with a doll o a particular phoneme becomes habitués by playing it over & ov
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