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PSY 274 lecture #3.doc

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Craig Chambers

270 – Human Communications Sign Language Icon, index and symbol are all signs. Sign is used in different ways. Linguistic communication 1.Vocal-auditory channel 2.Manual-visual channel (communicating using hands) All cultures use spoken language. What are the situations that make the vocal auditory channel dominant? Many evolutionary theorists argue that it is the manual visual channel that should be dominant. The ‘Academy Francaise’ prohibited any discussion of this stupid because it was so unscientific and speculative. A wolf howling etc was the origin of language. People said humans were imitating the sounds of the environment. We see so many cases in the animal kingdom where animals communicated through a visual manner. Was this what got linguistic communication on its way? Imagine gestural behavior was the origin of language. What would have driven the auditory channel? 1. Maybe it’s different with the manual system to communicate things. 2.Sometimes you could spend the entire day in darkness depending on where you are so the visual channel becomes useless. 3.What things are you doing simultaneously while trying to communicate? Like hunting etc. 4. It might be faster to use the vocal auditory channel. 5.Communicating information might be more effective through the auditory channel. 6.The person may not be visible so you might need to ‘voice’ it out. 7.Vocalization is a better strategy in terms of danger to get someone’s attention. The relative arrangement of the vocal cords, the windpipe and the food pipe in humans create a potential for choking. In non-human primates, the vocal apparatus is arranged in such a way that they can’t choke. The deer has a vocal apparatus similar to humans. How deep does this dominance of the auditory modality go? Are we pre-wired to use this format of communication? DO all humans possess some predisposition to use the manual-visual modality? Even if humans had the capacity to use this modality, by the time they’re adults, they’d be used to using the auditory modality. Best strategy is to look at young children, ones that are in the one-word stage. Namy & Waxman used young children from the ages of 18 and 24 month old. To what degree did the children accept unfamiliar word versus an arbitrary gesture referring to something? Did the child attach this sound pattern to this object? How likely are they pick the right object? How did it work in the gesture condition? The gesture is embedded in the utterance. Instead of saying ‘dax’, he just motions it out, puts his palm down etc. **In the case of the 18-month year olds, they were happy to have the spoken word or the gesture. **In the case of the 24-month year olds, they didn’t like using the gesture or mapping the gestures to the object. They weren’t inclined. They needed an incentive to do so. Does the gesture work in the same way as the spoken word? Can the effect be obtained with other kinds of perceptual patterns? Do all humans possess the predisposition to use the manual-visual modality? 1.Greater sensitivity in early childhood 2.Gesture accompanying speech *** Video of Sign Language Sign language has a fully-fledged grammar of its own. Charles De Leppe opened the institute of the deaf. He said what could be spoken could be communicated through signs as well. William Stotley went to this university and taught Chaucer to the deaf. Iconic: Charles made an important contribution to the study of signs. The word sign referred to what someone can use to represent something. There was a large group of signs which looked like what they were used to represent. Many of the signs have a translucent character. The more signs can free itself from the demands of resemblance, the more you can express through them. There must be a mental structure common in all languages. We enter the world mysteriously equipped to acquire any language. We find that the difference between languages is quite trivial as compared to the universal grammar they all share. 1. Sign language was initially not considered to be a real language. 2. Recognized as a language in the mid 20 century. Myths 1.Universality 2.Pantomime: you’re acting out imagistically, then it follow that sign language should be similar regardless of where you are. 3.Manual version of the spoken language: it is like taking the spoken language and coming up with an analog. It doesn’t make any sense because there are a lot of spoken languages in the world. If it is true then it should be the same as British sign language. But British sign language doesn’t look like (ASL). If you look at ASL, it evolved from France. French sign language is completely different from Quebec’s. Main design features and sign language: Semanticity: Potential of some perceptible signal to stand for something else. Arbitrariness: there is no necessary relationship between signs in sign language and a particular thing. This doesn’t mean there aren’t signs that are iconic. There are iconic symbols probably more of the vocabulary is iconic as compared to spoken language but it is still by far a minority. Different sign languages are mutually unintelligible. It is the very fact that signs often don’t resemble what they stand for that makes them unintelligible. Signs that did have iconic origins tend to reshape over time. Signs that did start as imagistically denoting something, they tend to evolve in a way where their iconic origins are less and less evident. Example: In ASL, signs that have to do with being a male, the ‘temple’ would be related. Signs that have to do with being a female, ‘the jaw’ would be related. In the 1800’s, men wore top hats. Women wore hats with strings. Hence, the concept of being male and female is articulated with the ‘temple’ and the ‘jaw’. **Many signs do not have an ic
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