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PSYCH 211 (210)
Lecture 15

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University of Waterloo
Mattieu Lecorre

Lecture 14 Children learn from their parents - “the English language, and other languages, are institutions like country dancing or the game of cricket: cultural creations that individuals may learn during their lifetimes, if they happen to be born into the appropriate cultures, but to which no one is innately predisposed.” Nativism - “(…) specially designed to do this” o Humans are born with brain system dedicated to solving problem of language acquisition  Language Acquisition Device (LAD) Key Differences between views - Nativism o Learning device that is uniquely human, and uniquely dedicated to language acquisition o Knowledge of language that is available without any experience - Imitation/interaction o Leanring driven via “operant conditioning”  Child says a sentence that is grammatical and/or appropriate to a situation, child is reinforced  Child says a sentence that is not grammatical and/or inappropriate, child is given negative feedback o Operant conditioning not uniquely human: rats can do it o No knowledge without experience: only get knowledge by imitating/interacting with someone else Testing between views - Is the acquisition of capacity to form sentences(syntax) uniquely human? - Is there a piece of our brain that is dedicated to learning syntax and nothing else? - Are there universals in language acquisition? - Do children simply reproduce what they hear? - Is experience necessary to acquire syntax Is syntax uniquely human? - Battle of the apes - Summary: o Apes are quite good at learning words (might they have the same biases we have?) o But there are few convincing examples of their learning a system where words are combined to express relations between meanings o Most of the apes did not actually learn language, they simply imitated the actions of the researchers (chimps are very good at imitating)  Not clear that chimps can make their own sentences o What is clear though, they are able to learn symbols o Easier for humans to get a syntax language than apes o Chimps have great manual dexterity o B
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