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Psych of Language, sept 13 lecture.docx

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Psychology 2134A/B
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 grammar 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) Characteristics of Language Semanticity: All human languages exist to convey meaning Arbitrary: d-o-g does not correspond in any way to dog, dog could just as easily mean cat. (makes it infinite; no matter what the concept is you can have a name for it) Discreteness: the way in which we talk about there being more than one of something, we do not say “dog” 5 times to convey that there are 5 dogs. We use discrete words “a million”, etc
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