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Lecture 16

PSYC 2650 Lecture Notes - Lecture 16: Inuit Languages, Critical Period, Language Acquisition

Course Code
PSYC 2650
Dan Meegan

of 6
Tuesday, November 8/2012
PSYC 2650
Lecture 16
Start of Exam Material
There is a desire by many cognitive psychologists (including John Jonides) to resolve the problem of
ecological validity
Lab 7
Deadline soon
There are only 2 labs in this part of the course
Related to imagery
Review Lab 7 results next Thursday, November 15
Of interest to many subdisciplines of psychology
Very important in research in education
What do linguists find interesting about language and how do they investigate it?
How do cognitive psychologists approach language?
Some Questions asked by Cognitive Scientists
Is language a uniquely human ability?
What are the relative roles of nature and nurture in language development?
Major topic in many areas of development, not just language
Language development story is very fruitful because we know a lot about the roles of nature
and nurture in language development (particularly nurture is important)
What is the relationship between language and thought?
eg. Linguistic determinism
Many disciplines are interested in language
Computer Science
Previous to our generation, there was very little cross talk between disciplines about language
There is now a lot more interrelation between the disciplines
Particularly, students are very open to evaluating many theories of language and applying
methods of value from many varying fields
The major difference between linguistics and psycholinguistics is captured by the study of the
structure of natural language rather than its everyday use
Some fields are very theoretical in orientation, and they approach problems from the
perspective of “theoretcally, this is how it should be”
Psychology is on the practical side, asking not “what should people be doing” but rather “what
are people doing?”
Linguistics is a theoretical field
Economics is also a theoretcial field
People are often systematic in our behaviour (though somewhat random) but not always
systematically rational
The study of language behaviour
Everyday use of language does not always correspond to linguistic theory
Psycholinguistcs has something unique to bring to the table because everyday use of language
does not always match linguistic theory
Linguistic Competence vs. Performance
Competence: a person's abstract knowledge of a language
The domain of linguistics
Performance: the actual application of that knowledge in speaking or listening
The domain of psycholinguistics
Does competence underlie performance?
Psychologists suggest no: making linguistic judgements has little to do with everyday language
If I asked you about the rules of English vs. Asking you to use language and inferring what
you know based on how you've used the language
History: Behaviourism
Empiricism/Nurture: our language abilities are learned (not innate)
Mental: Our language abilities are nothing but stimulus-response associations
Red circle around mental with a slash through
Criticisms of Behaviourist Account of Language
Evidence for innate constraints on language (nature)
Chomsky (1959)
Skinner came out with an account of language that was behavioural and Chomsky criticised it
Key point was evidence for language being innate
If you look at all the world's language, what you find is that all the languages have
something in common
You can have 2 linguistic cultures that were never exposed to each other, but have
Current theory is that we have a genetic endowment to learn language, even though our
experience determines which language we learn when we are young
Relationship Between Language and Thought
Theories relevant (not all mutually exclusive)
1. “Thought” = Language
2. Language determines thought
Thought = Language
According to this view there is no such thing as thought
How did behaviourism explain the subjective experience of thought?
Thought was considered “magic” because it was unobservable
Yet, thinking was a common occurence and everyone experiences is it even if behaviourists
deny that thought can be studied
The answer to them was that thinking is a form of subvocal speech
Speech is a vocal-motor phenomenon
Thinking, then, is merely a speaking phenomenon without converting the thought to motor
movements (ie. Out-loud speech)
Evidence for:
Recordings of subvocal speech activity while subjects are engaged in thought
Placed on muscles that are involved in speaking
Record electrical activity that has not reached the threshold of movement
Shows that when a person is thinking, there is below-threshold activity in the muscles that
are normally involved in talking
Evidence against:
People can still think when completely paralyzed
Is this really evidence against?
There is a lot of understanding now that there is a level of activation in the brain that
plans vocalization even without activation of the muscles
Evidence for pre-motor planning before issuing commands to the muscles to speak?
Memory for meaning rather than exactly what was said
If we were purely linguistic beings, then you would assume that what you would
remember is the literal words that were spoken to you
However, when we remember, we do not remember the specific words but
remember the semantic meaning behind the communication
Non-human animals seem to think
Increasing comfort among individuals who study cognition that thinking is not a
uniquely human trait
Animals often perform behaviours that we cannot explain without the inclusion
of thought in our explanations
Most scientists agree that most animals are not capable of learning language, but
are able to think despite this fact
Language Determines Thought
Linguistic determinism: language determines the way a person thinks or perceives the world
Similar to the thought=language theory in that you are unable to conceive of a thing or think of
that thing without there being a word to describe it
Inuit/Snow example: Rich terminology causes change in perception
Back in the 70's there was a large debate and it has recently resurfaced
In the Inuit language there are many different words that describe snow
Suggestion was that when you are raised in a linguistic culture that has such a rich
vocabulary changes your depth of perception about that subject