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Psychology 2134A/B
Marc Joanisse

Psych 2134- Psych of Language September 12 2013 Introduction to Psycholinguistics The Fundamentals  Cats run after dogs- acceptable English sentence  *Run cars dogs after- same words but different order leads to unacceptable, ungrammatical sentence  Noam Chomsky: What do we know when we know language? o Prescriptive grammar rules telling you what is right and what is wrong: grammars that teach you how to speak properly (do not say „aint‟ etc)  Descriptive grammar: want to describe what language users know and not what is right  Human language: language is a unified phenomenon across humans o All humans use language (do not look at individual languages, rather they are similar to one another) o Languages differ in some basic ways; people across the world speak different languages, but even though they are different they share important characteristics o Have a lot of surface differences: differences that deal with how we observe them as being different from each other (words are different, phonemes are different). BUT, there are lots of deep similarities across languages All languages are the same  There is no such thing as a primitive language o Different civilizations, some people live in huts with few belongings etc. however still have language to communicate  There is no correct or best form of a language o All languages are equivalent to one another  Nothing can be expressed in one language, that cannot be expressed in another language Language Research  Plato (400 BCE) o Look at sounds animals make  Panini o Early scientific theory of grammar o Studied Sanskrit (Indian)- 4000 rules how we explain grammatical utterances  Humboldt (1836) o All humans use language o We are all born with some language capacity Structuralists (Bloomfield, Saussure)  There are languages all over the world, and they are complex  Focused on the differences among languages; different sounds, syntax Psycholinguists o Wundt (1879): Introspection o Study of people‟s immediate conscious experience o Difficulty to know what thinking goes on in our heads when we do mentally intensive things o Had people describe out loud by speaking, what they are thinking o Introspection is limited: cannot always describe explicitly what they are thinking **not so useful o Assumed that “language” was a direct reflection of “thought” o Skinner (mid 20 century) o Operant conditioning: language is a response to a stimulus and its consequences o People can learn language through observation o Chomsky: language is structurally complex o Cannot learn rules of language through operant conditioning o We don't learn much language rather it is innate, we are born with it (too complex) inherited genetically Nativism  Nativism: How much of language is learned? How much are we born with? o Chomsky  Empiricism: Opinion that people can learn through observation (Skinner)  Realistically, it is a balance of both; we learn language through our experiences and we are born with an innate ability Linguistic Knowledge  All languages have these basic components to them: o Sounds of words (phonology) o Structure of words (morphology) can take a word and can add meaningful units to it. Can add „s‟ on the end of the word for plurality o Meanings of words (semantics and lexicon) o Structure of sentences (syntax)  Languages differ in: o Phonology, vocabulary, word order  Phoneme Inventories o Different languages have a different number of vowels  English has at least 11 vowels  Abkhaz has 2 vowels  Vocabulary o Different languages have different number of words  English has about 100,000 words  Spanish has about 50,000 words  Word OrderSyntax Differences o English SVO (ex: I opened the box)  BUT, all languages have: Phonology, morphology, syntax o “Language Universals:”  Phonological Universals  Vowel hierarchy: Languages with 3 vowels, usually have „a‟ „ee‟ and „oo‟. If 4 vowels- „ey.‟ If 5 vowels- „oh‟  Semantic Universals  Obey a hierarchy for color words: All languages have at least two color terms (black and white). If 3 colors- black, white, red. If 4 colors- black, white, red, green/blue  Syntactic Universals  Nearly all languages are either SVO or SOV; few are VSO o Where do these universals come from?  Chomsky: mental grammars of all languages are similar  Theory of Universal Grammar: everyone is born ultimately with the same grammar; a set of blueprints for all possible languages  Mental Grammar: our underlying knowledge of language  Tacit knowledge: do not have explicit, conscious knowledge of the language  Some things don't seem right; violate rules we‟re used to  Generative Theory of language:  Mental grammars are made up of rules that we encode implicitly (subliminally)  This allows us to produce grammatical utterances  Language has structure  Language conveys meaning; trying to tell somebody something in a way that they will understand  Language has form; order of language obeys rules o Ex: the dog chases the cat, the cat chases the dog (same form- noun verb…), but different meaning  *FORM AND MEANING ARE NOT SAME THING  Jabberwocky:  „Twas brillig and the slithy toves, did gyre and gimble in the wabe; all mimsy were the borogoves..”  Can notice nouns, verbs, adjective, adverb, preposition even though we don't understand the meaning of the words in English  Chomsky:  Colorless green ideas sleep furiously the structure/form is correct, but there is no meaning th September 17 2013 Language Productivity, Human and Nonhuman communication Language is Infinite  Theory: language is built up of a finite set of building blocks o Discrete units (phonemes, morphemes etc) o A grammar: set of principles describing how we can combine these units which allows us to generate an infinite set of utterances  Generative Grammar: o Mental grammar: made up of implicit rules o Generates all grammatical utterances (and only grammatical) o This provides a useful account of productivity: because we have a mental grammar (rules in our mind) we create infinite outputs o Recursion: rules can be applied repeatedly on the same forms  All languages should have this characteristic of recursion  The cop chased the crook  The cop who won the medal chased the crook *Here we are adding sentences in between to create different sentences with added meaning Biology of Language:  Language: human universal communication system  About 5,000 different languages spoken worldwide  What is common between languages? Characteristics of Language (Hockett) o Semanticity: conveys meaning o Arbitrariness: meaning is unrelated to the form  Word (sound) for cat varies in languages, but the meaning is the same (a furry animal etc.) o Discreteness: no continuous variables  Can talk about quantities of things discretely with no continuous variables (If we have lots of something, we have a number to describe it. Ex: 2 cats we do not say “cat” “cat”, we say “two cats”)  Saying things louder doesn't change their meanings (pitch of voice doesn't affect meaning of a word like big or small) o Productivity: infinite possibilities  Produce novel sentences using existing words **key characteristic of human language o Displacement: can describe things that are not currently occurring or physically present  Situational freedom; this allows us to talk about the past and the future (humans are better at this than other species) o Duality of patterning: we have meaningless units (phonemes), that we combine with other meaningless units (sound) to create meaningful utterances Human Evolution:  There was evolution and change through natural selection: adaptive advantage (example: having thumbs etc)  Two general theories of evolution: o Gradualism: traits evolved slowly from one generation to the next and became more pronounced and apparent over time o Punctuated equilibrium: the kinds of genetic changes that we see in evolution occurred rapidly and our of no where (suddenly genetic changes led to human language today)  Language occurred and evolved quickly and ancestors and did not have anything like human language today  Modern apes and humans evolved from a common ancestor: they represented a single species millions of years ago, and branched off later into different species  Hominids separated from apes 3.5 M years ago  First modern humans appeared 150,000 years ago  To determine how a characteristic evolved: o Look at ancestors (fossil record dig of bones of pre humans, and see if it tells us anything about the species right now). This is difficult in the case of language, since there is no fossil record, physiological thing, that connects us to language o Look at other animals that share a common ancestor Continuity Theory: o Language developed from proto-languages in other ages (gradualism) o Human ancestors had some language abilities o Predicts: language will share some characteristics with animal communication Discontinuity Theory: o Language evolved quickly and very recently (punctual equilibrium) o Predicts: no real relationship to nonhuman communication (they are qualitatively different) Possible sources of evidence:  Vocal tract evolution o Neanderthals: vocal tract wasn't suited for human language (125,000 years BCE)  Modern humans: Human vocal tract is suited to produce lots of different phonemes  Apes: Not able to articulate the same number of phonemes, it is more difficult for them  Change in brain size o 5 million years ago-present o Eyes have stayed the same size, but the cranium (brain storage) gets increasingly bigger as we look throughout history  Don't know if this has to do with language or not  Social organization o Humans have complex social structures (relationships) o Other species have more simple or smaller social structures o Maybe language evolved to support our increased social needs  Language allows us to maintain relationships and figure out how were related to other people etc. Language in other species  Honey Bees: live in hives, look for sources of food, find food and bring it back o Do this in an organized manner: Waggle dance look at the source of food in relation to the sun (use as a marker for food), and dance and plan according to this on how to get food communicate with the other bees o Is this a real language?  It is a communication system, but does not look like human lang  It is not very arbitrary (direct relationship)  It is not discrete (coded in a continuous fashion)  It is not productive (limited to the direction of food source)  It does not have displacement (where is the food and sun right now: doesn‟t talk about the past or future)  Primates: o Vervets: produce different alarm calls for different predators (eagles, leopards, and snakes) so that they know where to hide  Semanticity: different calls have different meanings  Arbitrary: yes in the sense that there is no direct relationship, because distinct calls that denote different things  Does not have: Duality of patterning, productivity, displacement (only call about the threat that is currently present)  What do animal studies tell us? o No nonhuman communication system meet Hockett‟s criteria (all of them), specifically productivity  This includes out closest biological relatives o Suggests some discontinuity  Teach language to Apes o Maybe apes can learn languages but haven‟t had the opportunity to do so o Earliest work: Gua, Viki  Learned to speak 2,3 words with great effort  Their vocal tracts were not suited to speech  Gua: raised with Donald (a baby) as humans given all the advantages  Not the environment, but something else that is limiting the ape to have the same capacity for human language  Chimps have difficulty producing speech: maybe motor system isn‟t evolved and capable enough? o Primate sign languages  Premack: Sarah  Learned sign language for many things through rewards o This is different from humans, where we learn through exposure in a natural way  But, little evidence she learned syntax  Gardners: Washoe  Perhaps learned syntax produced a new sentence that was not learned before (used two different words it already new creatively to denote a new concept)  Patterson: Koko  Mimics. Doesn‟t give spontaneous insight/long sentences  Communication is interpreted through a trainer o Nim Study:  Comprehensive look at training and behavior of chimps (Nim)  Results:  Simple answers, short sentences, repetition, not productive  Seidenberg: these animals make errors that children would never make (“water bird” vs. “bird water”) o Studies of Bonobos:  Studied a certain type of chimpanzee and are more similar to humans in their social organization and cognitions  Used of “yerkish” language: combinations of symbols and have to press key presses to denotes different words and make a sentence  Learned short sentences  Conclusions from animal studies: o Still unclear how language has evolved (not sure if it existed in pre humans, or if non human animals HAVE human language characteristics) o Continuity vs. discontinuity is unresolved, but it seems language has evolved very quickly o Communication is common but language is unique to humans  Other species have a hard time learning language, whereas humans do it effortlessly Why did language evolve? o Is it an adaptive trait? Improves a species ability to reproduce/survive o Pinker: yes, language evolved for the sake of having language (caused humans to be better at reproducing, surviving and getting along) o Lewontin: no, language is an accident of evolution and builds on other adaptations September 19 2013 Rules of Language Basic Elements of Language  Phonology: the sound pattern of a language  Morphology: the structure of words. Making new words from framiliar ones  Syntax: sentence structure  Semantics: the literal meanings of words and sentences  Pragmatics: going beyond literal meaning o Looking at context to understand meaning Phonology  Different languages have different phonological systems  Example: ptak does not seem acceptable in English, but is perfectly acceptable in many other languages  English Phonology o Phonetics: study of speech sounds: how they are produced o Phonemes: segments of speech that are combined to create words  English uses about 40 phonemes  Divided into different classes:  Vowels vs. Consonants  IPA: international phonetic alphabet  Has a direct/distinct symbol for each sound  Not the same as English alphabet has 23 letters but 40 phonemes θ –think ð – this ʃ- she tʃ- check ŋ- sing  Basic phonetics o Voicing: some consonants are voiced and other are voiceless  Depends on whether the vocal cords are vibrating o Place of articulation: the point at which the tongue or lower lip is closest to the top of the vocal tract  Labial and labiodental lip and teeth (ex: f, v)  Alveolar tongue tip and ridge behind upper teeth  Palatal tongue tip and palate farther back in mouth  Hard palate  Velar  tongue body and soft palate (back roof of mouth) k,g o Manner of articulation  Stops: airflow is completely interrupted  Fricatives: turbulent airflow due to close constriction  Affricative: combination of a stop and a fricative  Nasal: air passes through nose only
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