PSYC 101 Lecture Notes - Noam Chomsky, Steven Pinker, Operant Conditioning
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Language – our spoken, written or gestured works and the way we combine them to
Basic language requirements:
Language is interpersonal: it is designed for exchange of meanings and information in a
Language is meaningful: elements express meaningful concepts such as “rabbit”, “red”
Language is structured: specific combinations and sequences alter the meaning
Psycholinguistics: study of mental mechanisms that make it possible for people to use language.
Study of sounds – Phonetics:
What sounds do languages use?
What sounds “make a difference”?
Phonology: How do the sounds fit together in particular languages?
Phoneme: shortest segment of speech, which, if changed, would change the meaning of a
spoken word; Bit, bait, beet. Only 60 phonemes necessary to account for all worlds’ languages.
English requires 48 phonemes. Hawaiian requires only 11. F in fire, s in sit, e in eat, e in help, m
in my, gh in enough.
How many phonemes does the world “Thinks” have? 5! TH, I, N, K, S
Prosody (inflection): “Give him some help” can have a lot of different meanings depending on
the way it is said. Depends on where the emphasis is put.
Next branch of psycholinguistics: rules for relating sounds and meaning
Morphology: Principles for constructing complex words (inflexional and derivational)
Syntax: how do words get put together into larger groups?
Laws of Combination:
Can occur together: a tree, an elephant, many wolves
Do not occur together: an tree, a elephant, one wolves
Implicit grammar: we talk like this
Next branch: study of meaning
Semantics: what do words mean? What do sentences/passages literally mean?
Pragmatics: what messages are actually conveyed?
Morpheme: The shortest unit of spoken or written language that carries meaning. Some
morphemes are phonemes (ex. “I” and “a”). Some morphemes are words (ex. “bat”)
Some morphemes are word “parts” (ex. “est” or “er” as in “fastest” or “faster”)
How many morphemes does the word “THINKS” have? 2! THINK, S
What does the word “sharp” mean? Sharp knife, sharp shooter, sharp dresser, sharp mind,
Kernel sentence: John committed the crime
Negative: john did not commit the crime
Passive: the crime was committed by john
Passive negative: the crime was not committed by john
Question: did john commit the crime?
Question negative: did john not commit the crime?
Passive question: was the crime committed by John?
Passive question negative: was the crime not committed by John?
Chomsky’s concepts of surface structure and deep structure. Surface structures may seem
different, but the deep structure is the same. Mary was given a dog by Alex. Alex gave a dog to
Mary. They both mean the same thing (deep structure), but are structured differently (surface
Surface structure: “Smoking Volcanoes can be dangerous”