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Psychology 2134A/B Lecture Notes - Generative Grammar, Linguistic System, Psych

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Marc Joanisse

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Psych of Language
Lecture Sept 13, 2012
Language productivity
How are we able to communicate this limitless set of ideas that we have in our head?
This linguistic system we have allows us to communicate these ideas in a way that
seems limitless
Conundrum in that our brains are finite, finite number of neurons, which decreases
every day.
Only so much brain- limited storage space
We know a finite number of words
We know about 50 000 words, but we have said way more than 50 000 things, more
than 50 000 ideas
It’s the way we assemble these words that is so important
Many of the sentences we hear every day are new things that we have never heard
before, and language has allowed us to communicate this brand new novel thing
Something about the way language allows us to combine these things; mental
Gives rise to an infinite amount of utterances
Longest word in English?
- establish…. Can turn this into establishment, can turn this into disestablishment,
disestablishmentarian, etc.
no answer to what the longest word is, you can always add suffixes and prefixes and
whatever the fuck you feel like
these rules are recursive; they can apply over and over again
longest sentence
any given sentence you can make longer
recursive grammar: language is infinite, highly productive, no longest possible
sentence, no limitation.
Because of the infinite nature of language you’re never going to hear all the
grammatical utterances possible
You cant memorize what someone has said and hear another sentence and think
“yes that is grammatical because I have heard that before” – the mental grammar
helps you base your opinion through the rules of grammar that we all know
Our brains encode words or sounds that we know, our brains can memorize those.
These are discrete units (building blocks)
Generative grammar
The abilty to produce new stuff
Infinite because of recursion, recursion is the idea that rules can be applied
repeatedly on the same forms (embedding additional information within an existing
grammatical utterance to get a longer grammatical utterance)
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