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Lecture 2

Lecture 2 - Spoken Communication
Lecture 2 - Spoken Communication

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Craig Chambers

Last time: Design features for language - Semanticity - Arbitrariness - Discreteness - Quality of patterning - Productivity - Displacement “Language Matters” – other Criteria - Rules that constitute a grammar - Innateness o This refers to the blueprint for understanding how language works is in our genetics - The ability to refer to abstractions o Related to semanticity and displacement o Ie. Specifies some of the kinds of things we can denote with symbols - Cognitive processing Design features: - Provide criteria to evaluate naturally-occurring animal communication systems* - Notes: make sure you understand design features o Are used to evaluate communication systems, not animals o Are not about attempts to teach animals language…. - Take home point: there seems to be a big gap between our linguistic abilities and the communicative abilities of other species Spoken Communication Topics for today: - Evolution of spoken language - Information conveyed by speech o Linguistic o Paralinguistic - Aging and speech communication - Relationship to written language (if time) Evolution of Language - Often criticized as being overly speculative - In 1866, influential Societe de linguistique de Paris banned discussion on this topic! o They thought it was so outrageous o Research on this topic was banned o So why is the evolution of language such a questionable topic? - The problem: what are the data? o There are no “fossils” that can give us nature to human communication Maybe the Ban was justified at the Time… - Bow-Wow Theory o Refers to the idea that human language evolved from us imitating environmental sounds o These sounds somehow evolved into language o Evidence = onomatopoeic words (ie. Swish) o Problem: not very many words were onomatopoeia - Pooh-Pooh Theory o The origin of language had to do with reflexive noises that we make o Ie. You’re in a cave and then a rock falls on your hand, and you yell out “OW”, which is the start… o Evidence: universal use of sounds as interjections o Problems: there aren’t many words in the language that has these characteristics o Another thing is that sounds in human interjections, don’t sound look very much like the way bow-wow theory does - Yo-He-Ho Theory o The claim is that language evolved from a rhythmic sound activity that we might engage in when we are doing something o Ie. Rowing across a river, you chant “row” where the chanting activity evolved into language o Evidence: use of rhythmic features in language (ie. Stress), similar to another account, the La-La theory (language evolved from singing behavior) o Problem: it is a big leap to go from chanting, into the language and words we have today More Mordern (Yet Still Speculative) Ways to think about the evolution of language… - (1) Consider the link between vocal abilities and language o There was some evolutionary link for the ability to make sounds o Compared to great apes, humans appear poorly adapted for swallowing  We have a high a capacity to chock to death o Reasons: positioning of components in vocal tract o But, this positioning enables production of wide range of speech sounds  Vocal apparatus of apes do not have the ability to make speech sounds So, a trade-off situation, where benefits outweigh costs? - If so, anthropologists could estimate which human ancestors used vocal communication by evaluating vocal tract physiology in fossil hominids - Homo erectus vs. Homo neanderthalis, etc. - BUT: how secure is the link between the ability to make lots of sounds and naturally occurring linguistic systems? o It is true that there is this lack of ability to make a lot of noises, and comparative absence of language ability in apes o It is also in the case of parrots, where they are able to produce a lot of sounds, but we cannot just connect communicative abilities and ability to make sounds Another Approach - (2) Consider the evolutionary relationship between intelligence and language - One view Came from Bickerton  Early humans had “protolanguage” o Use of this system spurred the fast evolution of the brain, making more complex thought (and then more complex language) possible o So increases in language ability in evolution led to increased cognitive ability - Evidence?: So according to Bickerton… o Again, the no-fossil problem o Human infants basically use a protolanguage. Some theorists argue that infants’ emerging language ability spurs on their cognitive development o The Theory of Recapitulation: “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny  The development of single organism is kind of like a fast motion replay of that organisms evolution over the course of history o Therefore, in human evolution, linguistic and cognitive abilities likely emerged in the same way - Problem: o The notion that humans get smart in the course of their lifetime due to language (this is a controversial claim) o For the theory of recapitulation, it is largely discredited Language and Human Intelligence, the Opposite Position… - Increases in cognitive ability across evolution led to increased in linguistic ability - This is strongly associated with Stephen Jay Gould o According to Gould, language is a by-product of other evolutionary processes that triggered the increase of human intellectual abilities - A “Spandrel” is a termed that is borrowed from architecture o A space that is coordinates how a column makes its way up to the ceiling o Initially these were things that were purely functional o Overtime, they became fancy, and a architectural flourish of their own o It is a by-product that had to be there, but their emergence was accidental Another Type of Association to Consider: - (3) The Link between social structure/ practices and the need for language o Play? o Bonding? o Kinship structures? o Grooming?  Reciprocal relationship - Argument: As social group size got larger, humans needed a bigger brain to keep track of social knowledge - Language evolved as bonding device for social interactions Finally: - (4) Consider an evolutionary relationship between manual gestures and language - Shift to bipedalism  frees up the hands o The hands are available to communicate (gestures) - Existence of sign language today o If the vocal auditory channel is unavailable to you, you can still communicate by using hands - Good vocal apparatus isn’t sufficient o The link between language and speech is not that strong? - Association between the brain hemisphere that controls dominant hand and that controls language - Brain areas in monkeys that correspond to language areas in humans: argued to respond to gesture Regardless of how spoken language evolved, how does it “work” as a communicative system? The Kinds of Information Conveyed by Speech - Assigned reading: points out broad range for the function of different communicative messages and how the transmission process occurs from start to finish - Speech stream contains two kinds of information o Linguistic information  Words and their meaning in sentences  Prosodic information (stress, intonation) o Paralinguistic information  Conveyed by speech, but is not language in nature Linguistic Information - Words and their meaning in sentences - Inventory of words - Rules of combination o Morphology o Syntax - Prosodic information o Intonation, stress patterns o They way you can convey meaning by changing tones of stress A Closer Look at Linguistic Info: WORDS - Paring words with concepts - At broad level of analysis: o Considerable UNIFORMITY across human languages o Example: all have different classes of words for things, properties, actions - At fine-grained level of analysis: o Variations in precisely which things we have stand-alone words for Examples: Cross-Linguistic Differences in the Lexicalization of Concepts - Busker o A person who performs music or performance art in a non official audience - Day
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