PSYCH Lecture Week 13
What is language?
It is more than communication.
What makes something language?
1) It is symbolic
2) It can be used to communicate novel ideas
3) It can be used to communicate about something not happening here and now
These three criteria can be referred to as 1) semanticity, 2) generativity, and 3)
Types of Linguistic Knowledge
1) Phonology – the sounds that a language uses. A phoneme is defined as the shortest
segment of speech that, if changed, changes the meaning of a word. Eg: sip vs.
zip, bit vs. pit, chop vs. shop.
5000+ Living Languages
Hawaiian – 5 vowels, 8 consonants
English – 40+ phonemes (many vowels)
Some languages – 100+ phonemes
2) Morphology – meaningful unit in a language
Help, helping, helps, helped, helpful, etc. Establish (base morpheme),
3) Syntax – refers to grammar, the way words are combined. Eg: The girl kicked the
ball vs. Girl kicked ball, ball girl kicked.
4) Semantics – similar or same meaning, different words. Eg: Joe broke up with
Mary; Joe dumped Mary; Joe and Mary are no longer a couple.
5) Pragmatics – Knowledge of the world, what makes sense. Social rules of
language. Comprehension of the intended meaning. Eg: Stop smoking, please!
Whew, this room could use an air purifier. Perhaps you’d like to step outside?
All five types of linguistic knowledge interact, some overlap like morphology and
syntax for example.
Form idea and decide to speak > Choose meaning > Apply syntax and morphology
> Map words onto motor sequence > Move mouth, teeth, tongue, vocal folds, etc >
Acoustic signal > Analyze acoustic signal > Map sound onto phonemes/syllables >
Recognize words and associated meanings >Analyze syntax > Comprehend
utterance Brain and Language
Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area.
Which hemisphere of the brain is usually dominant for language? Left hemisphere:
Symptoms of patients with focal brain lesions (tumours/strokes)
Results of language tests after a ‘reversible lesion’ is induced in the right or left
Perceptual data from normal people
Mapping of speech cortex during neurosurgery
Images of brain activity while performing speech tasks
Speech Lateralization – most people are lefthemisphere dominant, but lefthandedness is
somewhat associated with righthemisphere dominance in language
Patients with different types of speech production (and perception deficits)
Lesion studies can be used to make inferences about:
1. Organization of cognitive functions
2. Brain localization of functions (i.e. associations between anatomy and function
Some area involved in language
Wernicke’s area: adjacent to primary auditory cortex
Broca’s area: left inferior frontal gyrus
These areas are connected to one another by a bundle of fibres (arcuate fasiculus) as well
as other connections.