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CHAPTER 10.docx

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Steve Joordens

CHAPTER 10 Speech and Comprehension  It has been long known that most species can communicate with one another but this doesn’t mean that they have language  Example: when female moth is ready to mate she will release a chemical that will bring the male moth from miles away  Psycholinguistics: a branch of psychology devoted to the study of verbal behaviour, are more concerned with human cognition than with the particular rules that describe language  Interested in how children acquire language; how verbal behaviour develops and how children learn to speak from their interactions with adults.  Phonemes: elements of speech – the smallest unit of sound that allows us to distinguish the meaning of the spoken word  Example: the word pin consists of three phonemes: /p/+/i/+/n/  Voice-onset time: the delay between the initial sound of a constant (such as the puffing sound of the phoneme /p/) and the onset of vibration of the vocal cords  Voicing is the vibration of you vocal cords  Distinction between voiced and unvoiced constants permits us to distinguish between /p/ and /b/, between /k/ and /g/ and between /t/ and /d/  Phonemic discrimination begins with auditory processing of the sensory differences, and this occurs in both hemispheres  However, regions in the left auditory cortex seem to specialize in recognizing the special aspects of speech  Scott, Blank, Rosen and Wise  Morphemes: phonemes are combined to form morphemes which are the smallest unit of meaning in language  The syntax of a particular language determines how phonemes can be combined to form morphemes  Example: the word fastest contains two morphemes: /fast/, which is a free morphemes because it can stand on its own and still have meaning, and /ist/ which is a bound morpheme (cannot stand on its own)  Recognition of Words in Continuous Speech: The Importance of Learning and Context  Larger units of speech are established by learning and experience  Sanders, Newport and Neville Experiment  Understanding the Meaning of Speech  The meaning of a sentence (or of a group of connected sentences telling a story) is conveyed by the words that are chosen, the order in which they are combined, the affixes attached to the beginning or end of the word, the pattern of rhythm and emphasis of the speaker, and the knowledge about the word shared by the speaker and the listener  Syntax: if we want a listener to understand our speech, we must follow the “rules” of language. Use words which the listener is familiar and combine them in specific ways  All languages have syntax or grammar and they all follow certain principles which linguistics call syntactical rules: for combining words to form phrases, clauses, or sentences  Our understanding of syntax is automatic o Our brains react differently to more complex syntax o Syntactical rules are learned implicitly (memory that cannot be described)  The syntactical rules for the English language are very complicsted and by themselves do not tell much about the psychology of verbal behaviour  HOWEVER: becoming acquainted with the types of cues we attend to in trying to understand things people say or write is useful  Syntactical cues are signaled by: word order, word class, function and content words, word meaning and prosody  Word Order: we say “The A Xs the B” we are indicating that the agent is A, the object is B and the action is X o Example: The boy hit the ball and The ball hit the boy word order tells us who does what to whom  Word Class: refers to the grammatical category (noun, pronoun, verb, adjective) o One does not need to learn to categorize these words deliberately in order to recognize them and use them appropriately  Words can be classified as function words or as content words o Function Words: a preposition, article, or other word that conveys little od the meaning of a sentence but is important in specifying its grammatical structure o Content Words: a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb that conveys meaning o Content words express meaning; function words express relationships between content words and thus are very important syntactical cues  Affixes: sounds that we add to the beginning (prefixes) or to the end (suffixes) of a word to alter their grammatical function  Word Meanings: or semantics, also provide important cues to the syntax of a sentence o Example: consider- “Frank discovered a louse combing his beard” the syntax of this sentence is ambiguous. Is Frank combing Frank’s beard? Is the louse combing Frank’s beard? Is the louse combing the louse’s beard?  According to the rules of formal grammar, the louse is doing the combing however our knowledge of the meanings of the words tells us that really Frank is doing the combing because lice cannot comb their beards o Just as function words help us determine the syntax of a sentence, so content words help us determine its meaning  Prosody: refers to the use of stress, rhythm, and changes in pitch that accompany speech o Prosody can emphasize the syntax of a word or group of words or even serve as the primary source of syntactic information o It is extremely important in language comprehension, because so much of our communication relies on spoken forms  The Relationship Between Semantics and Syntax  Deep Structure: the essential meaning of a sentence without regard to the grammatical features (surface structure) of the sentence that are needed to express it in words  In order to say the sentence the brain must transform the deep structure into the appropriate surface structure  Surface Structure: the grammatical features of a sentence  Psychologists agree that the distinction between surface structure and deep structure is very important o People with the language disorder known as conduction aphasia have difficulty repeating words or phrases but they can understand them. In other words they can retain the deep structure but not the surface structure of other people speech  Knowledge of the World  Script: the characteristics (events, rules, and so on) that are typical of particular a situation; assists the comprehension of verbal discourse Brain Mechanisms of Verbal Behaviour  Studies od people with brain damage and PET studies of people engaged in verbal behaviour suggest that mechanisms involved in perceiving, comprehending, and producing speech are located in different areas of the cerebral cortex  Speech Production: Evidence from Broca’s Aphasia o To produce meaningful speech we must convert perception, memories, and thought into speech o The neural mechanism that controls speech production appear to be located in the frontal lobes o Damage to a region of the motor association cortex in the left frontal lobe (Broca’s area) disrupts the ability to speak: Broca’s Aphasia o Broca’s Aphasia: severe difficulty in articulating words, especially function words, caused by damage that
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