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Lecture

Chapter 6: Language Very detailed lecture notes!

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Department
Psychology
Course
PSYCH 211
Professor
Ori Friedman
Semester
Fall

Description
Chapter 6 Language Components of Language Phonemes Morphemes Syntax Pragmatics Meta-linguistic knowledge Phonemes Elementary units of meaningful sound Ex. /k/ is first phoneme in word cat Different languages have different phonemes (ex. some ESL people [ex. Japanese] have difficulties differentiating between /r/ and /l/, or aspirated [breathe out] vs. non-aspirated /p/) Morphemes Smallest units of meaning Ex. dog (1 morpheme) vs. dogs (2 morphemes) Childrens ability to learn morphemes is tied to semantics (meanings of words) Syntax Grammar Rules specifying how words from different categories (verbs, nouns) can be combined Ex. English adjective + noun, Spanish noun + adjective Very complicated Most people dont know all the syntax rules that they use (except linguists) If syntax is so hard, how can children learn it?? Syntax vs. Semantics Syntax without meaning (semantics) Ex. colourless green ideas sleep furiously Ex. Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe. Semantics without syntax Ex. all your base are belong to us We understand the meaning of the sentence, but it doesnt make grammatical sense Pragmatic Development Learning how language is used Considers context More to language than the phonemes/morphemes, everything else is lumped together into pragmatics Almost impossible to define, but...consider some examples: Ex. typical rule of pragmatics: you take turns in a conversation Ex. knowing how you should refer to people (Mr., Dr.) Chapter 6 Ex. Do you know what time it is? only requires a yes/no answer, but no one responds that way, they will answer with the time considering the speakers underlying intention (person responds to the intention, not just the words) Ex. Can you pass the salt? same as time example Metalinguistic Knowledge Understanding properties and functions of language Ex. people speak in sentences, sentences are composed of words, when we want to find out something we ask a question Two Related Properties of Language 1. Compositionality meaning of complex expressions can be derived from meaning of units (ex. deriving meaning of a sentence from the meaning of the words) 2. Generativity language lets us combine a finite (limited) set of words to generate and express infinite number of sentences and ideas What is Required for Language? A human brain Species universal the whole species (for the most part) has the ability to have language Species specific as far as we know, humans are the only species that have language Animals and training: o Researchers tried to teach language to chimpanzees o Sometimes chimpanzees would do things that were very language-like (ex. make a banana symbol if they wanted one) o Researchers then said that the chimpanzees had language o However, the evidence is quite bad o Syntax ordering the words, very little evidence that the chimpanzees would combine symbols in various orders (ex. banana want or want banana) o Chimpanzees wouldnt combine symbols into long strings (only 2 or 3 usually) o Symbols chimpanzees wouldnt learn more than 300 words/symbols, no matter how long they were trained, or how much reward they were given Brain-language relations Left hemisphere specialized (in the right-handed) for language Evidence o EEGs studied in children more activity in this hemisphere o Aphasias (defecits in language) in adults Brocas aphasia something goes wrong with syntax, not able to order words properly, non-content words (is, the, of) are not used as much, speech still has meaning! Wernickes aphasia syntax is retained, but semantics are messed up, makes no sense, however has fluency, will sometimes make up their own words Critical period for language learning Critical period an amount of time when the acquisition of something is possible (and will be better if learned during that time) Critical period for language ends between ages 5-12Chapter 6 Evidence 1. Wild Child cases o Child is never around people during childhood (kept in their basement, Tarzan) o Child cannot learn language later on as older children/adults o Possible that children would have problems learning language anyways o Possible that children were so badly malnourished that thats why they couldnt learn language 2. Brain damage in childhood and adulthood o If adults suffer from an aphasia, their language abilities will probably never completely go away o Children are able to completely recover from aphasias (plasticity) 3. 2 language learning and the brain o All languages learned as young children (1-3) are acquired by the left hemisphere o If people start to learn languages at an older age, learning becomes more bilateral 4. 2 language grammer proficiency o Young age (2 yrs.) you will learn the grammatical rules very well/easily o Older age might never acquire the subtle grammatical rules o Same thing happens with American Sign Language Beyond the brain...human environment is necessary to learn a language Infant directed talk (motherese) o When people talk to infants, they do not use normal language
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