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Lecture 11

Cognitive Psychology – Lecture 11 - Lecture Notes.docx

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Simon Fraser University
PSYC 221
Richard Wright

PSYC 221 Fall Semester 2013 Cognitive Psychology: Lecture Eleven Language - There are a lot of Amateur Linguists  Amateur Linguists: People who don’t even realize, but that they have pretty strong views about language.  Especially the people that have learned a new language as an adult. - There was a time when people thought that language wasn’t really that different from other sorts of cognitive abilities that we have  But now we know that they in fact are different. Part I: Language is Universal - Some aspects of language are universal across all different languages and cultures. - All languages are legitimate fully-fledged, syntactically, and semantically equivalent - The Discovery of Gold in Papua New Guinea  This was a time when this part of the world hadn’t be mapped out completely yet  Some Australian prospectors found some gold out in the stream in Papua New Guinea and they decided to climb the mountain, so they could find when the gold is  At the top of the mountain, they were surprised to see that in fact that there were two mountain ranges with a fertile valley in between them  It was exciting, until it got dark and they saw that they weren’t alone  They decided to build a crude bomb as some sort of weapon to protect themselves  when they met face-to-face with the “Mountain Highlanders” (Natives)  The next day, the Papua New Guinea Highlanders and the Miners met  awkward situation.  The children and the elders were more shocked because they’d never seen such people with lighter “pale” skin before  Point of the Story: The Australians were listening to the language of the Highlanders and thought that were speaking gibberish, some sort of primitive, Stone Age language (that wouldn’t be that useful)  But, there are no primitive Stone Age languages anywhere  There have never been a group of people that didn’t speak  Everyone has a language  Languages are something (argued by Chomsky and Pinker) that is based on instincts that we have.  Sometimes when people hear a foreign language for the first time  their first thoughts is: “What is this?” and that they sound like animals (birds, monkeys or gibberish) PSYC 221 Fall Semester 2013 - But that’s not true at all! - There are no primitive languages anywhere on the planet - There are no primitive languages that large groups of people use - You’re not going to find some region in South America or Africa – where people are using “Stone Age” language, that is limited – no language like that exists - Is Language a Generic Cognitive Ability? NO!  Language is not a limited or generic cognitive ability  We have specialized language areas in our brain  Language is unique  Some People Believe that Language is an Instinct  If we are around people speaking when we are babies  We soak up languages because we are “carnivores for information” (for spoken languages)  Learning to speak  When people are exposed to other people speaking, language is picked up much more efficiently  We learn to speak just through exposure to our native language  Learning to read  People need to be shown how to read (need to be taught – cannot be picked up)  This is why some countries don’t really put that much support in education because of high-rates of illiteracy  There are some countries that are being criticized for being backwards - E.g. Cuba: North of the Border = No one is illiterate in Cuba, everyone’s being taken care of and people know how to read. - South of the border = there are high percentages of illiterate people - Behaviorist Explanation of Language (1930s, 1940s, 1950s)  Didn’t touch a lot of topics that are presented in this course  They did have a primitive account of language – it would be hard not to because its such an important thing and it was very simplistic.  It had to so with learning associations between adjacent words and the more frequently those words were used together in adjacent positions in a sentence – the stronger the associations between those words would be over time.  Based on the idea of Linguistic Expectancies  Idea was wrong - B.F. Skinner: Had a debate with Noam Chomsky (Linguist) in the 1950s PSYC 221 Fall Semester 2013  Chomsky showed all the weaknesses of behaviorists account of language  Chomsky was able to point out things that other people who were following the debates said: “Yeah, that makes a lot of sense”  Behaviorist account is way too simplistic, there are words that are not adjacent to other words in a sentence, they are connected in meaning  People can understand novel sentences – sentences that we’ve never heard before with words they’ve never heard before and still make sense of them  Language comprehension is too complex for Behaviorist Theory  Chomsky was responsible for people dismissing the Behaviorist theory and developing the Cognitive Psychology way of thinking Part II: The Structure of Language - Chomsky’s Ideas: 1) Phonemes: The most basic unit of sound.  We can make different sounds just by the position of our teeth, tongue and lips  E.g. “OO”, “Kuh”, “Ba”  Different languages have different numbers of phonemes  English has about 45 phonemes, but we tend to use 9 of them most of the time  Other languages have fewer phonemes  Some languages have as fewer as 15 phonemes – not a lot of variability  Some Scandinavian Countries have many phonemes - Swedish has about 85 phonemes McGurk Effect: - Visually making a phoneme that looks different to what we hear (E.g. “Bah”  “Gah”  “Dah”) - The way we perceive phonemes can be influenced by what we see - This effect goes away if the person just closes their eyes 2) Morphemes: The basic unit of meanings that are made from a combination of phonemes.  E.g. Prefixes, Suffixes  “joy-ful”, “chem-ist”, “un-friend-ly”  Morphemes are used to make words and then words in turn are sure to make sentences  Grammatical Structure of a Sentence = Syntax (where the World’s many languages differ) PSYC 221 Fall Semester 2013  The Underlying Meaning of a Sentence = Semantics (this is what’s the same across all languages according to the people who think that there are things about language that are universal) Difference between Syntax and Semantics - Surface structure (the syntactic level)  Syntactic component  Phonemes “Phonological” - Deep Structure (semantic level)  Semantic Component  Morphemes “Meaning” (universal across languages) - Sometimes at the syntactic level “Surface Structure” two sentences could look quite different, but at the semantic level they could mean exactly the same thing  “The dog chased the cat”  “The cat was chased by the dog” - Sometimes the meaning of the sentence in the deep structure can be ambiguous  “Flying planes can be dangerous”  This can mean different things:  The act of flying a plane can be dangerous  A flying plane that is flying by can be dangerous – it can drop something on you or crash on top of you Physiological Evidence for Distinguishing between Syntax and Semantics - Trying to specialized brain areas, and that there are specialized language areas  Broca’s area: An area in the Frontal Cortical Area  Based on Syntax  When damaged people have difficulty producing speech  Aphasia: When people have a speech deficit  Broca’s Aphasia: Impaired speech production  A person with Broca’s Aphasia  it’s the production of words by trying to make out what they are saying clear to the other person = very difficult, but with some patience you can kind of make out what they are trying to say  Broca - Credited with doing an autopsy of his patient and identifying the area that’s associated with speech production (Frontal Cortex) - When that area is not functioning properly, people have difficulty producing speech  Wernicke’s Area: An area in the Temporal Cortex Area that is closer to the Primary Auditory Cortex “The Production Area”  Based on Semantics  Wernicke’s Aphasia: Difficulty understanding speech and speaking in a meaningful way PSYC 221 Fall Semester 2013  People with Wernicke’s Aphasia can speak, but what they say doesn’t make a lot of sense - “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously” - It is syntactically correct but it is the void of meaning Usefulness of PET Scans - Language areas in right-handed people  Left hemisphere in 95%  Right hemisphere in 5% - Languages areas in left-handed people  Left hemisphere in 70  Right hemisphere in 15%  Both hemispheres in 15% Some models have been proposed by how the two language areas work together - Someone speaking a word that they just heard repeating them: 1. Auditory cortex is activated as you just heard the word and repeating it 2. Wernicke’s area sends signals to Broca’s area (the production area) 3. Broca’s area sends signal to the motor cortex to cause the lips, tongue, mouth and other areas associated with sounding out the word - Someone reading aloud: 1. Input comes from primary cortex to another area in the temporal parietal area of the angular gyrus into Wernicke’s and then into Broca’s area. Data and PET Scans - Important areas of the brain  Motor cortical area  when people are generating verbs, you can see the two language areas  People were very excited about the usefulness of PET for studying language There is a sex difference in aphasia - Men usually have Wernicke’s Aphasia (more serious case, you can’t understand what people are saying to you and they can’t understand you when you generate speech because it doesn’t mak
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