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Lecture 6

2650 Lecture 6: PSYCH 2650 - Language

Course Code
PSYC 2650
Dan Meegan

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Monday, March 9, 2015
PSYCH 2650
Lecture: Language
-some of these topics interest people from other fields as well such as economics and
*view the questions asked by cognitive scientists
-studies the structure of natural language … rather than its every day use (such as
how it differs among others)
-the study of language behaviour
-everyday use of language does not always correspond to linguistic theory
History: Behaviourism (recap of something already learned)
-empiricism/nurture: our language abilities are learned (they are not innate)
Mental (cross out): our language abilities are nothing but stimulus response
-evidence for innate constraints on language (nature) - Chomsky
-the brain is ready to go and is built for language and needs little help for development
(few cases of where kids were neglected from language) -jeannie example
-atrophy exposure to language during the period of fast learning - the other one will be
slower to learn than your first one (map the first one with the second one) phonemes
in the second language that do not exist in the first one. 12-14-24 months have a
hard time to distinguish the distinctions of the languages.
what is the relationship between language and thought?
1. “thought” = language (biproduct of language - speaking to yourself) activating that
speech system to that degree to which the muscles are working - such as actual
speaking. Internal and not external.
-how did behaviourism explain the subjective experience of thought?
evidence: recordings of subvocal speech activity while subjects are engaged in thought.
against: people still think completely even when they are paralyzed.

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Monday, March 9, 2015
-memory for meaning rather than exactly what was said - not the details, it is detached
from the linguistic matter - there is something beyond.
-non human animals seem to think (ex: animals are doing things that are hard to
describe without doing thought) - not as rich but (thought without language if you
think that they cannot think)
2. language determines thought
-linguistic determinism: language determines the way a person thinks of perceives the
world. thus, every culture and the word envy (schadenfreude) does not go for
-if you language does not have a word to describe something then you do not know
everything and we may not fully appreciate its distinction. (such as envy and
*rich terminology causes change in perception - such as the inuits (snow)
*benajmin worf -> someone in this culture would appreciate it based on the language
and knowing the distinctions ex: types of snow.
Evidence Against
-people seem to think of the same way about things despite language differences
ex: english has many colour words, papua new guinea does not but their perception is
the same.
language arose as a tool whose function was to communicate thought. - corresponds to
what came first.
language has been shaped to fit the thoughts it must communicate
thought first, language second - this would make sense of the ordering of things
Evidence ^
-the thinking ability appeared earlier than language (non linguistic animals)
-thinking ability occurs sooner developmentally than language (pre linguistic children)
in languages with many color words, words correspond to colors to which the visual
system is maximally sensitive. - our thought helps us internalize what we are going to
say with language/
Language and Thought are Independent
ex: thought can constrain language or one could come before but this does not mean
that they are independent
Modularity: language functions independent rom other cognitive functions
Language acquisition: learning unique principles
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