Psych of Language
Sept 11, 2012
What makes language so interesting/ worth studying?
-language has structure and that structure obeys certain principals that make it very
tacit knowledge: the idea that the knowledge we are using to understand language is
plato: first person to put down ideas about language, ie, how words are related to
their meanings (why does “dog” mean “dog”? what made it that way? Arbitrary
names that are arbitrarily related to what they are naming)
maybe humans were born with a special capacity for language? Something we are
specifically born with. Genetic material?
Panini (around the same time as plato but in india), took it upon himself to write
down the first set of rules of grammar of (insert language here, sanscript?
Sanscram?) Not just the words; the rules of how those words can be combined
(4000 rules) to make grammatically correct sentences etc.
The rules of language are being learned in some other way though, ie. Babies are not
studying this book
Humbolt was more of a physiologist, he noticed that all humans are using language,
he theorized that somehow humans are born with some capacity for language (we
are not born speaking but we have the capacity for language – whether we would
spontaneously pick it up (babies alone on dessert island) or not)
If you look at the languages of other parts of the world they contain a lot of the same
features, from one clutlre to the next these languages are all extremely complex (all
human languages are equally complex)
Interested in the differences and diversity that you see amongst languages.
There is no primitive language, all humans seem to have an equal capacity to
language (like we all have an equal capacity for writing or something) = unifying
human capacity, we all have this ability to learn a language
Wundt interested in learning how the mind works
Introspection: want to figure out what’s going on in someone’s head while they’re
thinking about it; the way to figure out is to get them to speak about it (listen to
their conscious mind unfold)
When you’re thinking in you’re head, he’s assuming you have a voice in your head
telling you what to do (if you don’t have language how would you think? This is not
This approach is wrong, there are all kinds of things we can do mentally that we
cant articulate (motor activity etc) – words fall short
Getting people to talk only goes so far: language is not the same as thought