HMB320H1 Lecture Notes - Phoneme, Pragmatics, Noam Chomsky
Lecture 2 PSYA02 Notes
Speech and Comprehension: Perceiving Verbal Behaviour, Understanding Verbal
Behaviour and Brain
Mechanisms of Verbal Behaviour
•An orderly system of communication from a finite number of rules in a
language, a normal adult can produce an infinite number of sentences
•Most complex ability that humans possess equips our species in a unique
way from other species. We can benefit from others experiences and our own.
As well, we are able to store our language ( the temporal and spatial
boundaries are limitless).
•Most impt. Of all social behaviours (apart from sexual)
Perceiving Verbal Behaviour Recognition of Speech Sounds
•Phonemes (basic): smallest unit of sound that contributes to the meaning of a
spoken word (e.g. syllable)
•Context affects the perception of phonemes (e.g. sounds that precede and
follow each phoneme)
•Experiment by Ganong: He created a novel speech sound that lies between the
sounds of the “k” and the “g” phoneme and carried now linguistic meaning in
the English language. He presented it in two situations. When it was presented
preceding –iss, people claimed the word as kiss, when presented preceding –ift,
people perceived the word as gift.
Understanding Verbal Behaviour: Syntax (i.e. grammar), semantics (i.e. reference)
and pragmatics (i.e. world knowledge, shared experiences)
Syntax: Important syntactical cues
•Word order who says what to whom (i.e. subject then verb then predicate).
•Word class grammatical categories (e.g. verbs and nouns content words;
and & but function words)
•Affixes prefix/suffix, meant to alter meaning of the word (e.g. gift; re-gift; re-
•Prosody stress, rhythm, changes in pitch (alters meaning)
Semantics: maps of meanings, representation of the world states
•Noam Chomsky (famous linguist) – made critical distinction between surface
and deep structure language. It is parallel in meaning to the distinction
between syntax and semantics.
•To be meaningful a sentence must be grammatically correct. Thus, syntax is
necessary not sufficient for semantics and in turn, semantics is necessary but
not sufficient to understand.
Pragmatics: to understand a sentence one requires a relationship to the world.
Brain Mechanisms of Verbal Behaviour
•Aphasia: loss of language (recognition or comprehension)
•Broca’s area (left frontal lobe) in connection with the motor association cortex
conducts motor activities to produce speech.
•Broca’s aphasia – impairment of speech production; difficulty in producing
clear speech. The sentence seems meaningful, but it lacks fluency. As well,
comprehension of difficult speech is impaired. In all, the ability to use
syntactical cues is impaired.
•Wernicke’s Area (left temporal lobe) – comprehension and word recognition; in
connection with the auditory association cortex.
•Wernicke’s Aphasia: primary impairment is understanding speech. They have
no obstruction to their speech, but their speech lacks meaning (lacks content
words, has many articles & prepositions). It also affects the posterior language
•Pure Word Deafness (occurs in posterior language area) –affected person can’t
understand a single word (the meaning); but can hear what one is saying.
•Isolation Aphasia: no problem in Wernicke’s or Broca’s area, but affected in
posterior language area. Therefore, one’s production and recognition is not
affected but their comprehension is. The handicap can recognize speech and
can produce speech but can not understand.