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PSYC 100
Elaine Power

Week 13 Key Properties of Language - Semanticity: the extent to which a form of communication can meaningfully represent ideas, events, and objects symbolically - Generativity: the ability to use a limited number of words and a few rules to combine words into virtually an unlimited number of sentences - Displacement: Refers to the ability to use language to convey messages that are not tied to the immediate context (can use language to communicate about events in the past or the future or at other location) o Vervet monkeys do not display this as they can only communicate about the here and now and can not talk about the python they scared off last week What Comprises Language? - Phonemes: the minimum unit of language that conveys meaning in a particular language o About 200 in the world, English uses 45 o Phonological rules govern how phonemes can be combined in a given language o One month olds can detect phonemes in all different languages but at twelve month can only recognize them in their native language - Morphemes: the smallest unit of meaning in language o Phonemes are combined to from morphemes o The word fastest contains two morphemes, /fast/ and /ist/ o Fast- is a free morpheme (because it can stand on its own and still have meaning) and ist is a bound morpheme (because it must be attached to other morpheme to have meaning) o Morphemes are NOT syllables, happy has one morpheme, unhappy two, and unhappiness three o Mean length of utterance (MLU) is the average number of morphemes that a child uses (also important in looking at grammar development) Syntax - All languages have syntactical rules (grammar) which are certain principals that allow us to combine words into phrases, clauses, or sentences - Syntactical rules are learned implicitly (they can not be described verbally) - Signaled by word order (very important in English but not all necessarily all languages), word class, function and constant words, affixes, word meanings (semantics), and prosody o Class refers to the grammatical categories (noun, verb, etc.) o Function words are quantifiers, articles, and prepositions (at, to, the, a, and, but, when) whereas constant words are nouns, verbs, more adjectives, and adverbs (apple, rug, went, caught, heavy) o Affixes are prefixes or suffixes o Prosody refers to the changes in pitch, stress, and rhythm that accompany speech - Pragmatics is the social use of language (talk to a police officer and your friend differently, irony, sarcasm Semantics - Prince William put the wedding band on Kates finger - No one is concerned about Kate-s hand under the weight of all those musicians - Understanding of semantic rules can be attributed to that, and therefore have a great impact on the compensation of a language Levels of Language Analysis - Comprehension of an utterance requires the listener to: recognize the sounds (phonemes) in the utterance, identify the words in the message and associate them with their meanings, analyze the syntax of the message, and interpret the utterance in its context Speech Production - Articulators: the mouth and structures that make speech sounds - Co-articulation: articulators not involved in the current sound are free to take up positions to get ready for the next sound they are involved in - Speech sounds are not sequentially produced, but the system must anticipate and accommodate upcoming sounds in motor programming at the same time as current sounds are being articulated Categorical Perception - Christopher is a language savant, and converse fluently in 16 languages. However he has autism spectrum disorder and lacks the skills needed to look after himself. This suggests that cognition is composed of distinct abilities and that language is somehow qualitatively different from other abilities - Categorical perception: language is somehow special and different from other cognitive abilities - Our ability to discriminate far exceeds our ability to label. For example, most people would call all these colours orang. If pushed, you might also suggest tangerine, ochre and amber but you probably couldnt apply those labels with confidence, the way you can apply the label orange to all of them. However, you can easily tell pairs of these apart you can discriminate them. - The development of categorical perception depends on experience. Written Language - A visual symbol system that is imposed on top of an auditory symbol system (oral language) - Phonetic reading: sounding out - Whole-word reading: reading by sight - Phonemic awareness: analyze phonemes in ways that are not required for language comprehension Eye Tracking - When we view a scene, our saccades are not random we tend to fixate on the interesting features of the image. Interesting depends on both the context of the scene and out specific interest in that scene (For example, eye movements in the cafeteria will depend on if you are hungry or if you are looking for your friends) Language Development - Child directed speech/infant directed talk (IDT) is characterized by clear pronunciation, exaggerated intonations, careful distinctions between similar-sounding phonemes, relatively few abstract words and function words, and a tendency to isolate constituents - Tends to refer to tangible objects the child can see, to what the child is doing, and to what is happening around the child - At around 8-10 weeks infants begin cooing, making their first speech like sounds - At around 7 months, infants begin babbling, when infants begin to mix consonants and vowels together - The Two-Word Stage occurs around 18 to 20 months of age when children start putting two words together, and their linguistic development takes a leap forward o Grammar of childrens language at the two-word stage appears to be universal o Young children do not form complex sentences because of their small vocabulary, because of their limited working memory capacity, and because their cognitive development has not reached a stage in which they can learn the complicated rules of syntax - Children beginning to use words will often overextend words, generalize the words they know to a wider variety of contexts than is appropriate for those words. For example, a child might refer to any man he or she sees as dad. Infants at this time also underextend, in that, for example, the word ball may mean specifically the ball that they own and not refer to any other spherical toys. Nativism - Noam Chomsky was a linguist who proposed that the development of language encompasses a process simply too complex to be the product of environmental learning alone. - Newly formed sentences are represented in the brain in terms of their meaning, which he called their deep structure o Represents the kernel of what the person intended to say - In order to say a sentence, the brain must transform the deep structure into the appropriate surface structure: the particular form a sentence takes - Believes children are born with an innate knowledge of universal grammar, the basic features that are part of all of the worlds languages. - According to this perspective, there is no learning involved in out early language acquisition; we have no more control then we do over the growth of our bodies (though we require exposure to words like the body requires food) o The fact that the vast majority of people will develop a high competency for their native language (that no members of any other species are capable of) is a big point in favor of the nativist point of view. o This difference between humans and non-human animals may be the result of a pair of genetic mutations in a gene called FOXP2 - Other evidence for the nativist theorists is found in the existence of critical periods. Critical periods are times in development during which the brain is extremely responsive to learning a specific type of knowledge. These seem to occur for language development in the first years of life (Genie) Interactionist - These theorists view language acquisition either as a product of either the childs social environment, or as a learning experience guided by the infant themselves. - Recognize that there are biological factors involved in language development, but place much more emphasis on environment and learning than do the nativists. - View grammar as being a property that emerges from the complexity of a growing vocabulary rather than the biologically endowed universal grammar supported by nativists. Speech Production and Brocas Aphasia - The frontal lobes of the brain are responsible for speech production - Damage to a region to the motor association cortex in the left frontal lobe (Brocas area) disrupts the ability to speak - Characterized by slow, laborious, and no
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