Week 13: Language
Language: a means of communicating information, including ideas, thoughts and emotions
Testbook definition: language can be defined as a socially agreed upon rule-governed system
of arbitrary symbols that can be combined in different ways to communicate ideas and feelings
about both the present time and place and other times and places, real or imagined
Semanticity: The extent to which a language can use symbols to transmit meaningful
Generativity: The idea that we don’t need a word for everything, but instead we combine a few
words and rules to convey ideas
Displacement: The ability to convey a message that is not tied to the current time and place.
Psycholinguistics: A branch of cognitive psychology devoted to the study of the acquisition,
comprehension, and production of language.
Phonology: The rules that govern the patterns of sounds that are used in a language - which
sounds are used, and how they're combined.
Phonemes: The basic distinctive speech sounds in a language that distinguish one word (e.g.,
rice) from another (lice).
• Phonemes can be combined to form morphemes
Morphemes: the smallest unit of meaning in language.
• There are two types of morphemes:
Free morphemes: are meaningful on their own and can stand alone as words ex.
Bound morphemes: only meaningful when combined with other morphemes to form
words ex. “ment” (together=engagement)
Semantics: The relationship between words and their meanings.
• Crucial for comprehension
Syntax or Syntactical Rules: Grammatical rules of a particular language for combining words
to form phrases, clauses, and sentences.
Pragmatics: The social rules of language that allow people to use language appropriately for
different purposes and in different situations. Requirements of Comprehension:
• Recognition of sounds (phonemes)
• Identification of words and ability to associate them with meanings (using semantic and
• Analysis of syntax of message
• Speech production is incredibly complex done by
• Articulators: mouth structures that make speech sounds (jaw, tongue, lips, and soft
Coarticulation: Speech sounds for words are not produced in a discrete sequence. Instead, the
articulators are effectively shaping multiple sounds at any moment in time, so that different
instances of a particular phoneme (e.g., "b") are acoustically different, depending on the sounds
preceding and following them.
Development of Speech: If a sound in a person’s native language is not relevant, a person
maybe lose the ability to distinguish between 2 sounds (ex “l” and “r” in Japanese)
Categorical Perception: The tendency of perceivers to disregard physical differences between
stimuli and perceive them as the same, such that a continuous change in a physical attribute is
perceived not as continuous, but as a discrete change at a category boundary.
Categorization: discriminating between adjacent items in a set of stimuli that you perceive
categorically depends on when you perceive these adjacent stimuli as the same thing or as
It`s harder to perceive differences between stimuli that you classify as the same thing, even
though the differences between each stimuli are the same (ex. Male vs females example)
Written language: a visual symbol system that is imposed on top of an auditory symbol system
(oral language) (309-312)
Eye tracking: when we view a scene, our eye movements are not random, they fixate on the
most “interesting” part of the scene.
When we read, we don’t read in a continuous fashion, but rather in fits and starts, lingering on
unfamiliar words and going back over confusing sentences
Learning language: Language acquisition is made easier for infants by those that surround
them, who often use Infant-directed talk (IDT): Exaggerated expressive verbal and nonverbal
communication used with infants.
• Infants preferentially respond to IDT especially when interacting with strangers
• The heavy use of tone in IDT helps infants distingu