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Psychology 2134A/B Lecture Notes - Noam Chomsky, Pragmatics, Empiricism

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Marc Joanisse

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Compositional Semantics: bigger meaning arising out of discrete syntactic
structure; entire sentence.
Lexical Semantics: deals with individual words.
Pragmatics: figurative meaning. Depends on context.
Language Development In Infancy
Highly productive nature of our grammar (infinite combinations) means that the
theory that babies memorize things is not likely.
Example from Slides: The grammar here is a set of rules about what shapes
should/can look like. Not told what this rule is, just shown the shapes. Given rule
possibilities; none are rule. Help this by giving bad shapes.
Mirrors the way children use evidence in the environment to form grammatical rules.
Positive Evidence: evidence about what’s correct (heard from peers). Vs. negative
evidence. Kids do not get negative evidence.
Makes it difficult to figure out the grammar.
Poverty of the Stimulus: (Chomsky, a nativist) stimulus that the child gets are
impoverished- it doesn’t contain enough information allowing the child to discover
the grammar, a very complex grammar. Only getting a subset of all possible
grammatical utterances, and sometimes getting ungrammatical sentences.
(Possibilities are infinite). So, you must come into the world with some preexisting
knowledge about what grammar should look like.
Negative evidence is few and far between. Children don’t get a lot of feedback about
grammar; but parents do correct children about false statements.
Any negative feedback that the child does get is probably going to get ignored.
0-5 Months: respond to sound with movement and noise (not articulation);
vocalizes emotion.
6-12 Months: babbling (speech-like phonemes), uses gestures
1-2 Year Progression: understand direction&gesture, nonverbal answers, imitate
words, single words (labels & requests), “2-3 word sentences”.
3-4 Years: speech understandable to strangers; full sentences; categorization;
abstract ideas; out of context things (displacement).
4+ Years: explosion of vocabulary; spatial relationships; complex syntax; numbers.
Receptive Language Ability: be able to understand what’s being said to you.
Expressive Ability: ability to produce language.
Children learn receptibility long before expressibility.
Demonstration (performance) is much worse than actual knowledge
(competence). This may be a result of lots of limitations on children to produce
utterances; memory is limited, articulation organs underdeveloped.
Nativist: language develops quickly, so they must get knowledge from genes.
Empiricist: kids smarter than they appear, enough info in environment does exist.
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