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Language-cog mar 12.docx

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Christine Burton

Language March 12, 2013 Today’s Goals  Introduce the universal language requirements and different questions researchers ask about language  Examine language comprehension at 3 levels o Words o Sentences o Texts and stories Key Themes 1. Modular vs. Domain general processing**  Major theme when we talk about language- modular was first proposed to talk about language 2. Bottom-up vs. Top down processing  If something is modular, then it is not affected by processing  Is context always influencing language or does it only affect it sometimes, after the fact Language  Language, very broadly, is a set of rules used to communicate  Tacit for linguists, lingulism for psychologists  Can be spoken or written (or signed) o Spoken is innate, written is learned- a human invention that came much later than spoken language o Thus, they use different brain mechanisms and spoken processes  Language is a very complex skill that we master effortlessly Hockett’s 6 universal characteristics of language- same in textbook but different name in textbook- it’s within brackets  Semanticity – language must convey meaning  Arbitrariness –signal doesn’t resemble what it represents  Regularly structured –language has rules for what is acceptable within a language- not universal, but within a language there’s a regular set of rules  Duality of patterning (hierarchical)- signal can be broken down into smaller units-  Productivity (Generative) – we can create an infinite number of new meaningful utterances from a finite number of meaningful signals- limited number of basic units, but an unlimited ways of combinations to say something, but only according to certain rules- it’s possible to go your entire life without saying the same thing as you have before or that anyone has said before  Displacement – we can communicate about things that aren’t present- things that aren’t in the here and now-plan for the future and how to achieve those goals- consider hypothetical situations We can study language at different levels  Phonology- the study of sounds  Morphology- the study of the units that make up words- can be bigger than individual letters or sounds  Semantics- the meaning of language  Syntax- the rules of language- similar to grammar, but it’s technically not the same as grammar o Prescriptive grammar- basic grammar rules- proper English rules o Descriptive grammar- described general rules that all languages follow- much more broad o Syntax- rules of language that language users recognize- tacit rules, but not as strict as prescriptive rules of grammar  Eg- which train did you ride on?- doesn’t follow the rules, but English speakers understand what it means- not fine for prescriptive grammar but follows syntax vs. train which on ride?- doesn’t follow syntactic or prescriptive grammar rules  Pragmatics- how we use language on a daily basis- conversations, turn taking, what is appropriate in a context, formality, sarcasm and humour  Focus on phonology, morphology and semantics to understand words  Focus on semantics and syntax to understand sentences  Focus on semantics, syntax and pragmatics to understand stories Understanding words: Phonology  A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound that makes a difference to meaning  e.g. cat vs. bat: c – a – t – b are each phonemes- if you change one of the phonemes then you can change the meaning of the word  they can affect meaning, but they do not have meaning themselves  Phonemes can be consonants or vowels  Phoneme is physically indistinguishable from any other sound, but they seem different perceptually- sh vs. a siren Are phonemes special?  Lack of invariance problem:  Invariance- constancy- no variability- call it the variability problem to understand it better o Speech sounds vary depending on the context they’re in- co-variation o Because your lips are in a different position, but we don’t hear the difference- lack of invariance- there is variability there but we don’t hear it- if it were a different sound then we’d hear it, but it’s something special about phonemes o Phonemes sound different depending on the context they’re in o Phonemes are nearly always co-articulated (articulating two sounds at the same time) o Accent, speed, facial expression, physical differences, carefulness all affect the speech stimulus  Segmentation problem: We hear clearly separated words, but there aren’t any clear breaks between words in the acoustic signal o The physical breaks in the acoustic signal isn’t the actual breaks in the sound in the words o We cannot understand where the breaks are in other languages o We use vision to help us hear o The McGurk effect is an example of the importance of vision in speech Voicing  Whether or not the vocal cords vibrate when we make a sound  When vocal cords vibrate when you say a phoneme, it is voiced o e.g. /b/  When vocal cords don’t vibrate when you say a phoneme, it is unvoiced o e.g. /p/  When vocal cords start to vibrate is called Voice Onset Time (VOT) o When the vocal cords begin to vibrate o /ba/ has VOT of ~ 0ms; /pa/ has VOT of ~45ms- delayed because p is unvoiced Categorical perception  /ba/ and /pa/ differ only in VOT  ba=0, pa=45- what do we get when we vary that signal between ba and pa- if it were anything besides speech then we’d be able to hear the spacing- but for phonemes, do we hear the change?  Identification task: o Vary VOT in equal intervals o “What sound do you hear?”  at 0 ms, everyone says ba, at 10 ms, everyone says ba,…30 ba, at 40 everyone thinks its pa, 50 pa, 60 pa- there’s a boarder- it’s separate categories, NOT a continuum- there isn’t a continuous change but each fit into an allotted slot Understanding words: Morphology  A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit in language- morphemes often correspond with a word, but they do not have to be a word o e.g. “table” is a morpheme “snowman” contains 2 morphemes  Morphemes are not the same thing as words Understanding words: Morphology  Types of morphemes: o Free morphemes have meaning on their own- it stands on its own,  eg table o Bound morphemes contribute to word meaning, but aren’t words by themselves – it has a meaning, but it must be attached to another word  e.g. “quickly” contains 2 morphemes – one free and one bound “birds” contains 2 morphemes – one free and one bound Understanding words: Semantics  The meaning of words are store in the mental lexicon o The mental dictionary in LTM that stores words, their meanings, and relation to other words  Lexical access depends on bottom-up and top-down processing o Bottom up- need a signal, top down- need context  People respond more quickly to high frequency words than low frequency words o Faster to access meaning of dog vs. hippotimus  People recognize letters better in context than in isolation WORK _ _ _ K  Context allows the disambiguation of ambiguous words “You should put on another coat” – painting a room vs. going outside in winter and only wearing a blazer  Swinney (1979) demonstrated that the effect of context isn’t immediate o Participants listened to the passage- didn’t read it o Looked at the ambiguity of bugs- do we access all possible meanings of the word, or does context tell us which term it is- the living bugs instead of the spy bugs Rumour had it that, for years, the government building had been plagued with problems. The man was not surprised when he found several spiders, roaches, and other bugs in the corner of the room  Swinney used lexical priming and a lexical decision task: o Lexical decision task- presented visually with a string of letters- is it a word or not- accuracy is not a concern, but response time is o Lexical priming makes some responses faster than others- we respond faster when we’re primed- comfortable with the term because we saw cat first so we’ll be able to respond to dog quicker than umbrella after the word cat o Priming effects  slow for ank and sky before bug, and ant allowed for a quick response so it increase response due to priming effects 
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