PSYCH211 Lecture Notes - American Sign Language, Jabberwocky, Wabe

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Published on 16 Oct 2011
School
University of Waterloo
Department
Psychology
Course
PSYCH211
Professor
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)
Children’s 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 don’t 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 doesn’t 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.)
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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 speaker’s 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 wouldn’t combine symbols into long strings (only 2 or 3 usually)
o Symbols chimpanzees wouldn’t 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
Broca’s 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!
Wernicke’s 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 5-12
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Chapter 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 that’s why they
couldn’t 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. 2nd 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. 2nd 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
o Intensely emotional tone
o Exaggeration, higher pitch, and lots of intonation changes
o Slow, clear, elongated pauses
o Exaggerated facial expressions
o Babies would still learn language if adults do not speak this way to the babies
(not necessary for the acquisition of language)
o Occurs in almost all other languages (even sign language), but not all
Process of Language Acquistion
Acoustic signal vs. what you hear (hearing language is somewhat like an illusion)
Very easy to take what is in front of you as what is there
Ex. optical illusions not actually moving, but sometimes looks like it is
Speech perception
Ex. clip hear “bah” when eyes are closed, but hear “gah” when you see the man talking
(McGirk effect)
Categorical perception
o Voice onset time one of the ways in which sounds differ that people make
o Objectively measured differences
o Ex. people will not hear the in betweens of /ba/ and /pa/, one will be one, and
then they will all of a sudden change (must belong to one of the categories, no
“in between”)
o Acoustic signals can vary a lot, but people hear signals as being in a category
o Infants show categorical perception (1 and 4 months) using habituation
release from habituation, they heard a difference between old sound and new
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