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Psych of Language Sep 11, Lecture 2.docx

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Western University
Psychology 2134A/B
Marc Joanisse

Psych of Language Lecture 2 Sept 11, 2012 What makes language so interesting/ worth studying? -language has structure and that structure obeys certain principals that make it very consistent tacit knowledge: the idea that the knowledge we are using to understand language is implicit 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 entirely true) 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 Language may be a later stage of processing when we think about the unfolding of mental processes Skinner: interested in language because he was interested in behavior The idea that what you’re doing when you’re doing any kind of behavior is associating verbal stimuli with physical stimuli Thought this related to humans: how humans learn to talk Learning occurs as a response of associating stimuli and their outcomes (rewards and such) His theory was that language is learned by learning the association between what is said and the kind of outcome that that word may bring. This was very controversial Essentially said we have a great learning capacity, which contradicted the theory that we are born with some sort of capacity for language Chomsky did not agree with this Chomsky: when you look at the structure of languages (what goes into learning them), the idea that a child could learn all these things just through behavior is ridic Chomsky claimed that language isn’t learnable; that what we’re born with is quite complex and because language is so complex we are born with a bunch of genetic material that allows us to learn
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