Psychology Language Review 10/9/2011 6:16:00 PM
Section One: What Sets Language Apart from Other Forms of
Criteria that outline a “true” language:
Language is symbolic
o To communicate using language, a user must understand that
various language stimuli represent different meanings and
concepts. Words are not necessarily concrete examples of the
concept but rather, represent the concept as a whole. This
allows for communication of abstract and hypothetical
concepts as well as ideas, things, etc that are not present.
Language involves arbitrary associations
o One consequence of the symbolic nature of language is that
words we use for concepts are arbitrarily assigned.
Language is productive
o Language is designed to use a small number of components
to produce and understand a wide range of symbols. For
example language has a limited set of rules that can be used
to combine a limited set of symbols in infinite ways.
Language is regular
o Each combination must follow a defined set of rules in order
to make sense. It is important to note that different
languages have different rules about how symbols can be
o Meaning that it is governed by rules and grammar.
Language influences our thoughts and the way we perceive and
experience the world.
Evidence in support comes from the Piraha of Brazil.
The study of the Arapacho has brought counterevidence though:
although they had one word for a number of family members, they
could still discriminate their relations to each member.
English and Indonesian were considered distance languages, and
Spanish and Greek were considered quantity languages.
The Structure Of Language Morpheme
The smallest unit of sound that contains information.
Often a word, but some words contain multiple morphemes.
In sign language, morphemes are identified in units of signs rather
When you break up a morpheme into its constituent sounds.
Various languages typically use a set of between 30-50 phonemes.
A given letter will always make the same sound. Children learning
to read languages with transparent orthographies tend to have a
much easier time than children learning to read English and master
reading relatively quickly.
The rules that govern how sentences are put together (aka
Differences in syntactic rules between languages are common.
This includes gender assignment, the order of types of words and
Refers to each individual meaning to each word.
May follow syntax, but may have to semantics.
Characterized by drawn-out sounds made up of a variety of
combinations of vowels and consonants.
May sound like a real sentence or question because of the use of
inflection and rhythm in the production of the babble.
Combinations progress to become real words.
Production Vs. Comprehension
Language production and comprehension may be limited by
Language production may be limited by factors such as vocal
anatomy. An infant who does not yet speak, may still have some
comprehension but be unable to express it.
Universal Phonemic Sensitivity
Present in infants; the ability to discriminate virtually all phonemes
even before they learn language. This is an ability that is lost into
Includes sounds from non-native languages.
Can be tested by using the head turn procedure.
Infants can discriminate non-native sounds that are absent from
the language of the culture they are being raised in.
This ability disappears after the first year of life.
The process of losing the ability to distinguish between contrasts in
sounds not used in native language.
The tendency for mothers to use higher pitch and exaggerated
changes in pitch when speaking to infants.
May help infants learn to segment speech.
Can help 6-month-old infants discriminate between different vowel
sounds present in their native language.
When the cerebellum (part of the brain that deals with motor
control) is affected, this can cause the individual to sound as
though they have an accent. This is because a lack of fine motor
coordination can affect the individuals ability to pronounce
phonemes specific to their native language. This is called Foreign
Accent Syndrome (FAS).
When the Broca’s area (a small area in the left frontal lobe) is
affected this leads to difficulty in speech production.
Damage to the Wernicke’s area (located in the left temporal lobe)
allows individuals to speech fluently but their speech makes no
An adult looks at an infant while maintaining a non-responsive
neutral facial expression. Infants who are only 2-3 months old will become distressed during
this procedure indicating that even at this young age, they have