PSYA02 - Chapter 9 .docx

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Environmental Science
Silvija Stefanovic

Chapter 9: Language and Thought - COGNITION is composed of distinct abilities - 5 key higher cognitive functions: a. acquiring and using language b. forming concepts and categories c. making decisions d. solving problems and e. reasoning Language and Communication: From Rules to Meaning  - social species have systems of communication that allow them to transmit messages to each other. For eg: Honeybees communicate the location of food sources by means of a “waggle dance” that indicates both the direction and distance of the food source from the hive. Vervet monkeys have 3 different warning calls signaling main predators like leopard, eagle, and snake. Leopard call provokes them to climb higher into a tree while an eagle call makes them look up into the sky. - LANGUAGE => a system for communicating with others using signals that are combined according to rules of grammar and convey meaning - allows individuals to exchange info about the world, coordinate group action and form strong social bonds - GRAMMAR => a set of rules that specify how the units of language can be combined to produce meaningful messages - 3 DIFFERENCES that distinguish human language from animals (monkeys) a. the complex structure of human language distinguishes it from simpler signaling systems. Humans can express a wider range of ideas and concepts that are found in the communications of other species, animals don’t have this capacity. b. humans use words to refer to intangible things, eg: unicorn, democracy. These words could not originate as simple alarm calls (in this case: monkeys) c. we use language to name, categorize, and describe things to ourselves when we think, which influences how knowledge is organized in our brains The Complex Structure of Human Language - approx. 4000 human languages - despite the difference, all of the languages share a basic structure involving a set of sounds and rules for combining those sounds to produce meanings Basic Characteristics - PHONEMES=> are the smallest units of sound that are recognizable as speech rather than as random noise - These building blocks of spoken language differ in how they are produced - For eg: when you say ba, your vocal cords start to vibrate as soon as you begin the sound, but when you say pa, there is a millisecond lag b/w the time you start the p sound and the time your vocal cords start to vibrate. Therefore B and p are classified as separate phonemes - PHONOLOGICAL RULES => every language has these rules. They indicate how phonemes can be combined to produce speech sounds - Sound differs for different languages - people learn these phonological rules w/o instruction and if the rules are violated, the resulting speech sounds so odd that we describe it as speaking w/ an accent - Phonemes are combines to make MORPHEMES => the smallest meaningful units of language - For eg: your brain recognizes the p sound you make at the beginning of pat as a speech sound, but it carries no particular meaning. The morpheme pat, is recognized as an element of speech that carries meaning - All languages have grammar rules that fall into 2 CATEGORIES: a. MORPHOLOGICAL RULES => indicate how morphemes can be combined to form words - some morphemes can stand alone as words - there are 2 kinds of morphemes: 1. CONTENT morphemes => refer to things and events. For eg: cat, take 2. FUNCTION morphemes => serve grammatical functions, such as tying sentences together (“and”, “but”) or indicating time (“when”) - half of the morphemes in human language are function morphemes - they make the human language grammatically complex enough to permit us to express ideas - content and function morphemes can be combined and recombined to form an infinite number of new sentences which are governed by syntax b. SYNTACTICAL RULES => indicate how words can be combined to form phrases and sentences - simple rule in English is that every sentence must contain one or more nouns, which may be combined with adjectives or articles to create a noun phase. Sentence must also contain a verb. Meaning: Deep Structure vs. Surface Structure Misunderstanding results from differences between the deep structure of sentences and their surface structure. - sounds and rules are ingredients of language that allow us to convey meaning - DEEP STRUCTURE => the meaning of a sentence - SURFACE STRUCTURE => how a sentence is worded . (example, dog chased a cat and cat was chased by a dog have the same deep structure, yet different surface structure). - to generate a sentence, you begin w/ a deep structure and create a surface structure - when you comprehend a sentence, you process the surface structure first and then deep Language Development - 3 characteristics of language development a. children learn language at a rapid rate – average 1 yr old has a vocabulary of 10 words b. children make few errors while learning to speak and the errors they do make usually result from applying, but overgeneralizing, grammatical rules they have learned c. children’s passive mastery of language develops faster than their active mastery - they understand language better than they speak Distinguishing Speech Sounds - infants can distinguish among all of the contrasting sounds that occur in all human languages - within the first 6 months of life, they lose this ability and can only distinguish among the contrasting sounds in the language they hear being spoken around them - for eg: 2 distinct sounds in English are the l and r, but these sounds are not distinguished in Japanese - Japanese adults cannot hear the difference, but American adults and Japanese infants can - infants cannot produce sounds reliably - b/w the ages of about 4 & 6 months, they begin to babble speech sounds - all infants go through the same babbling sequence - deaf babies babble sounds they have never heard and they do so in the same order as hearing babies do - this is evidence that babies aren’t simply imitating the sounds they hear and suggests that babbling is a natural part of the language development process - in order for vocal babbling to continue, babies must be able to hear themselves - delayed babbling or the cessation of babbling merits testing for possible hearing difficulties - babbling problems lead to speech impairments Language Milestones - at about 10 – 12 months of age, babies begin to utter their first words - by 18 months, they can say about 50 words and can understand several times more than that . By the th time they start school, they know about 10,000 words. By 5 grade, 40,000 and by college, they know about 200,000 words. - toddlers learn nouns before verbs – about this time vocabularies undergo explosive growth - FAST MAPPING => children map a word onto an underlying concept after only a single exposure, enables them to learn at this rapid pace - around 24 months, children begin to form 2-word sentences, for eg: “more milk, throw ball” - these sentences are referred to as TELEGRAPHIC SPEECH => because they are devoid of function morphemes and consist mostly of content words - despite the absence of function words, such as prepositions or articles, these 2- word sentences tend to be grammatical; the words are ordered in a manner consistent with the syntactical rules of the language children are learning to speak The Emergence of Grammatical Rules - evidence of ease with which children acquire grammatical rules comes from some interesting errors that children make while forming sentences - For eg: 2 or 3 year old will use the correct past – tense versions of common verbs while speaking such as, “I ran”, “you ate” - but by the age of 4, these same children start using incorrect forms of the verbs such as, “I runned”, etc. - the reason for this is that very young children memorize the particular sounds (words) that express what they want to communicate - as children acquire the grammatical rules of their language, they overgeneralize - for eg: if a child overgeneralized the rule that past tense is indicated by –ed, then run becomes runned - language acquisition is not simply a matter of imitating adult speech - instead, children acquire grammatical rules by listening to the speech around them and using the rules to create verbal forms they have never heard - they manage this w/o explicit awareness of the grammatical rules they have learned - by 3 years of age, children begin to generate complete simple sentences that include function words - by 4 – 5 years of age, many aspects of the language acquisition process are complete Language Development and Cognitive Development - all infants begin with 1-word utterances before moving on to telegraphic speech and then to simple sentences that include function morphemes - but there are some infants that launch directly into speaking in sentences - this progression results from general cognitive development that is unrelated to experience w/ a specific language - For eg: some infants begin w/ 1 or 2-word utterances because their short term memories are so limited that initially they can hold in mind a word or two and for these infants additional cognitive development might be necessary before they have the capacity to put together a simple sentence - the orderly progression might depend on experience w/ a specific language Theories of Language Development - 3 DIFFERENT approaches: Behaviorist, nativist and interactionist a. Behaviorist Explanations - B. F. Skinner’s approach states that, we learn to talk in the same way we learn any other skill: through reinforcement, shaping, extinction and the other basic principles of operant conditioning - as infants mature, they began to vocalize - the vocalizations that are not reinforced diminish and those that are reinforced remain in the developing child’s collection - maturing children imitate speech patterns they hear - then parents shape those speech patterns by reinforcing ones that are grammatical and punishing those that are ungrammatical - this theory cannot account for many fundamental characteristic of language development such as => parents respond more to the truth content of their children’s statements than to the grammar example, when a child says “nobody like me”, his parents will respond “why?” or “I like you” rather than correcting it to “Nobody likes me”. => children generate many more grammatical sentences than they ever hear. This shows that children don’t just imitate; they learn the rules for generating sentences => the errors children make when learning to speak are overgeneralizations of grammatical rules. This explanation will not predict these overgeneralizations if children were learning through trial and error b. Nativist Explanations - Linguist Noam Chomsky states that, language - learning capacities are built into the brain which is specialized to rapidly acquire language through simple exposure to speech - humans have a ability for language that is separate from general intelligence - NATIVIST THEORY => language development is best explained as an innate, biological capacity - the human brain is equipped w/ LANGUAGE ACQUISITION DEVICE (LAD) =>a collection of processes that facilitate language learning - GENETIC DYSPHASIA => a syndrome characterized by an inability to learn the grammatical structure of language despite having otherwise normal intelligence - For eg: a child says, “Yesterday, I watch T.V” and she is corrected with “Yesterday, I watched T.V.” but then when she is asked again about what she did she says, “I watched T.V and I wash clothes” - although she had memorized that watch in past tense end w/ -ed, she could not generalize the rule for the past tense for wash. -Language can be acquired only during a restricted period of development. Acquiring language becomes difficult after puberty. - studies of people with genetic dysphasia suggest that normal children learn the grammatical rules of human language with ease in part because they are “wired” to do so - this biological predisposition to acquire language explains why newborn infants can make contrasts among phonemes that occur in all human languages even phonemes they have never heard - if we learned language through imitation, infants would only distinguish phonemes they have actually heard c. Interactionist Explanations - native theories explain why language develops not how - this approach states that although infants are born w/ an innate ability to acquire language, social interactions play a crucial role in language -Example, Parents speak slowly, enunciate clearly, and use simpler sentences with children than they do with adults. - for eg: first children in Nicaragua who developed the sign language used gestures as a single movement to describe something in motion, but younger groups of children who have developed the sign language further, used separate signs to describe the direction and the type of movement - the above example suggests that a predisposition exists to use language to dissect our experiences Language Development and the Brain - as brain matures, specialization of specific neurological structures takes place, and this allows language to develop - language processing becomes more and more concentrated in 2 areas: Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area – also called the language centers of the brain - damage to these area result in APHASIA: difficulty in producing or comprehending language - Broca’s area is located in the left frontal cortex and is involved in the production of the sequential patterns in vocal and sign languages =>patients with this damage understand language well although they have increasing comprehension difficulty as grammatical structures get more complex => their real struggle is w/ speech production => they speak in short phrases that consist of content morphemes but lack function morphemes - Wernicke’s area is located in the left temporal cortex and is involved in language comprehension => Patients w/ Wernicke’s aphasia differ from those with Broca’s aphasia in 2 ways: they can produce grammatical speech, but it tends to be meaningless and they have difficulty comprehending language => in normal language processing, this area is highly active when we make judgments about word meaning - 4 kinds of evidence indicate that the right cerebral hemisphere also contributes to language processing – especially language comprehension =>when words are presented to the right hemisphere to the participants using divided visual field techniques, the right hemisphere shows some capacity for processing meaning => patients w/ damage to right hemisphere sometimes have subtle problems w/ language comprehension => a number of neuroimaging studies have revealed evidence of right-hemisphere activation during language tasks => Some children who have had their entire left hemispheres removed can recover many of their language abilities Can other Species Learn Human Language? - early attempts to teach apes to speak failed dismally because their vocal tracts cannot accommodate the sounds used in human languages - later attempts resulted in success as they included teaching apes to use American Sign Language and computer- monitored keyboards that display geometric symbols that represent words - apes can acquire sizable vocabularies, string words together to from short sentences and process sentences that are grammatically complex - there are some limitations that apes exhibit when learning, comprehending and using human language => first is the limitation of the size of the vocabularies, its very small => second is the type of words they can master, primarily names for concrete objects and simple actions. They will have a problem understanding the word economics => third is the complexity of grammar that apes can use and comprehend. They can string signs together, but their construction
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