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Lecture 7

PSYC 354 Lecture 7: March 02 Lecture Notes on Chapter 8

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PSYC 354
Jeremy Carpendale

Psyc354 – March 02/17 1 Psyc354: Cognitive Development Language Development Part II:  Final exam: o How is it that words have meanings?  Seems that children’s learning is constrained (constraint approach)  Could very well be socially constructed (social pragmatic approach)  How are both constrained? Is it learned socially, is it innate? Is there something about the social situation that leads us to the right meaning of the word (social pragmatic approach, social context)? o Role of the input (page 16 in chapter 8):  Chomsky: from his perspective, language isn’t learned. They acquire or mature it, like the way they grow an arm or leg. It’s biologically based. He wasn’t concerned about the biology; his argument was purely logical. The way he described language, he didn’t see any possible way kids could learn it especially because their stimulus isn’t sufficient to learn language and they get inadequate correction by parents. Thus, they must know it in some sense (because kids overregulate and parents don’t teach them to say words like ‘fighted’ instead of ‘fought’)  Parents may recast the utterances so that they are grammatically correct without straight up correcting it.  But what if kids don’t pick up on the responses? Kids need to learn when there is an irregular verb.  Negative evidence (correction in some form) vs. positive evidence (sentences that they hear)  Implicit corrections would be recasting Chomsky:  Kids can learn a whole set of languages. How would he explain that?  Chomsky (top-down approach): language is an innate ability  Chomsky says that children aren’t born with a specific language. They are born with a universal grammar  What a baby has is a universal grammar (UG), something that fits all possible human languages Psyc354 – March 02/17 2  As child is exposed to the language, the UG is set to the parameters of the language; supposed to be a passive process  With a set of parameters, one learns a language by setting ‘switches’ or parameters of the universal (innate) grammar  Problems with Parameters: o No agreement on parameters; on how many there are o Parameter with most agreement is the Head Direction Parameter:  The main word in the sentence would be the head. In English, it is last. In Spanish, it is first  Ex: The big house (English), or la casa grande (Spanish, the house big) o Linking problem: what is the head? One must know the head in order to set the parameter, therefore the UG cannot help in learning the language o People that agree with the UG say that the parameters will become set through exposure to the language, but somehow they must recognize the head in the language they are learning (15) o Tomasello: In order to set the head direction parameter, it is necessary to know which word is the main word in a sentence (15)  We don’t know which word is supposed to be the head in the language until we are proficient in the language, but at this point, the child wouldn’t need the parameter. This is a paradox  Ex: In an Aboriginal language, an utterance “T’eere li ráreyihi’u.” has no identifiable head, and if the child knew where the head was in this language, then they wouldn’t need to set a parameter (15)  Research on child language for Chomsky is either trivial, wrong, or absurd. His views say that it HAS to be innate, since it follows logically that it is not learned Modularity:  Language and cognition o Is language linked with cognition? o Williams syndrome as evidence of an innate module; language separate from regular intelligence (general intelligence)  Pinker: Someone can have a very low IQ, but have complex language Psyc354 – March 02/17 3  Ex: someone with Williams syndrome might not know why Vampires like to bite necks, but knew that vampires had ‘an inordinate obsession with necks’ o Williams syndrome as evidence against innate module or together with general intelligence  French people with Williams syndrome do make mistakes with language, in fact Language Creation:  Pidgin: very simple language that arises when people with no common language must communicate (18) o No clear order of words, little grammar, and is a makeshift jargon for communication o As a language acquires more grammar, it undergoes creolization  Creole: development towards more complex language; pidgins move to creoles, a process in which new languages get created, a claim that language is innate  Evidence of language creation? o Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL); school for deaf kids in 1980’s had their own way of communicating with their parents, a ‘home-sign’ language o Sign language eventually got more and more complex in the kids, gradually over a long process. Over a series of generations, in fact. These kids would begin to socialize with each other, and each generation would make the language more complex after mastering the older people’s language (18) Language and the Brain:  What role does biology play in language development?  Language Localization: Idea that specific limited areas in the brain are responsible for language o Broca’s Area: word meaning o Wernicke’s Area: word comprehension, grammar, fluency  Evidence towards language localization: o Wada test: anesthetize one hemisphere.  In 88% of right handed people, language appeared to be in the left hemisphere, 6% of right handed people in right hemisphere Psyc354 – March 02/17 4  In 60% of left handed people, language is in the left hemisphere, 30% of left handed people in right hemisphere o Aphasia  Development of left hemisphere specialization: o Invariance hypothesis: language is in the left hemisphere from birth  Counter evidence: kids can have their entire left hemisphere removed and just develop language in right hemisphere (19)  Brian plasticity allows the other hemisphere to pick up the slack o Equipotential hypothesis: both left and right hemispheres have equal potential for acquiring language  Different areas of brain have a different density of cells and neurotransmitters, and the left hemisphere appears to be better at processing language so it usually develops there. Therefore, language localization is the product of development Critical Period Hypothesis:  Children under five appear to recover language after a brain injury better than adults do o Might be an issue of plasticity of the brain, as non-language areas of the brain would need to takeover the slack  Children not exposed to language do not appear to be able learn language after they are older o Jeanie: was not allowed to learn language or make sound when she was a child, and was locked in a room with minimal interaction or chance to learn language  Had a lot of difficulties with syntax, but was able to pick up some words and build a vocabulary o These are ‘forbidden experiments’ since they are not real experiments; we are not able to manipulate or control he child’s previous experiences, or know what the child knew before they were being tested. All we can know is the outcome for sure (20)  Deaf children: 5 to 10% of children are born to deaf parents, so they are exposed to sign language in infancy; some however are not taught sign language until later in development, typically when they go to school at ages 4-6 years-old Psyc354 – March 02/17 5 o Chelsea: did not get hearing aids until age 30, and was not exposed to much language (since she was deaf). Was able to learn some vocab, but not syntax. Otherwise, she was able to live a regular life  Newport (1990): Deaf children vary on their ability to produce language depending on their age of exposure to American Sign Language o Three groups over 30 years of exposure:  Native learners (from birth), Early Learners (4-6 years), and Late Learners (over 12 years of age)  Sign language was not taught, but picked up with other kids as a means of communicating o Results: no difference in the groups ability for word order. Morphology (changing tense like bounce, bounced, bouncing, etc.) however was poor in older children. Thus, it seems that early exposure to language is especially important for aspects of syntax (20)  Possible mechanisms for the critical period: o Deterioration of the LAD  If we agree with Chomsky, then perhaps the LAD allows language learning up to a point  Newport: More is less  Because kids have a lower cognitive ability, they tend to focus on the smaller parts of language; not even the whole word, but just parts of the word. This is an approach we want to take if we learn a language, as morphemes are added to change a word (Kick -> kicked)  Brain Organization (most l
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