Class Notes (1,100,000)
CA (650,000)
Western (60,000)
PSYCH (10,000)
Lecture 10

Psychology 2220A/B Lecture Notes - Lecture 10: Honey Bee, Cerebrum, Perirhinal Cortex

Course Code
Scott Mac Dougall- Shackleton

of 12
• Is it true only humans have language?
• Evidence in non-human primates and other animals
• Evolution of language
• How specialized are our brains for language?
• Domain-general and domain-specific mechanisms
• Language disorders
• Reading
• How is language processed in the brain?
• Wernicke-Geschwind model
• Cognitive neurosciences approachLearning outcomes
What is language?
• Systematic and conventional use of sounds (or signs or written symbols) for the purpose of
communication or self expression
Complex communication system
Arbitrary symbols/reference
Cultural or social transmission
If language is unique to humans, then we are the only ones that should exhibit these behaviours/
Language in non-human primates
• Can acquire aspects of language
• No syntax or reference
• Why can’t chimpanzees acquire language?
• Don’t have innate language acquisition device
• Vocal limitation
• Reference problem
• Cultural/social transmission
Are humans the only animals that exhibit these behaviours/abilities?
• Complex communication system
• Honey bee (apis mellifera)
Grammar/syntax and Arbitrary symbols/reference in Black-capped chick-a-dee call notes
• Cultural transmission:
• Predisposed to learn own-species song
Abnormal song regains normal song characteristics over generations
• Learned dialects
• Many other animals share characteristics that we use to define human language
• So what aspect of language is truly unique to humans?
• If we are the only ones to exhibit language, how did this ability evolve?
Psych 2220A Lecture 10
How did the brain evolve to process language?
• New brain areas
• Specialized, not shared with non-linguistic ancestors
• Descent with modification
• Remodeling and reuse of existing rudimentary structures
• Share some similarities with non-linguistic ancestors
Revising the nature-nurture debate
• Language acquisition and use requires both nature and nurture
Domain-general and domain-specific theories of language differ on views of how specialized
our innate learning mechanisms are:
• Have we evolved specialized brain areas only for learning and processing language?
• Or have we found ways to adapt our pre-existing abilities for use with language?
Brains for language: specialized or coopted?
Domain-specific mechanisms
• Complex cognitive abilities are supported by specialized, evolutionarily adaptive learning
Modularity: mind as a bundle of many special-purpose modules
Linguistic theory
• Primary role of left hemisphere is language
• Domain-general mechanisms
• Complex cognitive abilities arise from combinations of general, basic cognitive processes
• General capacities support language acquisition and use
• Symbolic representation, memory, pattern analysis
• Language is a secondary function of these general processes
Analytic-synthetic theory
• Motor theory
• Dual-process theory
• Rule learning; Rule: past tense, add “ed” visit --> visited
• Memory; Memory: irregular forms, go --> went
• Neural networks & computational models
• Decentralized interconnected network of simple units (neurons)
Support for domain-specific mechanisms
• Universal grammar
• Language invention
• Werker & Tees, 1984
Psych 2220A Lecture 10
• Innate language acquisition device
• Infants show language processing skills not likely due to experience
Support for domain-general mechanisms
“Why, what weekend were you guys gonna be there?”
• Statistical learning; Saffran et al 1996
Areas that are more active during singing than speaking
• Singing – humming (speaking)
• Shared neural networks between language and music; Besson & Schon, 2006
Language disorders
• Language disorders may tell us more about domain specificity of language
Specific language impairment (SLI)
Specific language impairment (SLI)
Abnormal grammar without obvious sensory/motor impairment or IQ deficit
• KE family in Birmingham: 16/30 members with severe SLI
• Genetic mutation?
• FOXP2 is a regulatory gene on chromosome 7 that affects transcription of a variety of other
• Mutations at FOXP2 affect neural development and communication in other species
• Impairment in reading without apparent visual, motor, or intelligence deficits
• Developmental dyslexia
• Evident when child learns to read
Surface: lexical, cannot pronounce words based on memory
Deep: phonological, cannot spell out words phonetically
• Lexical knowledge is equivalent to vocabulary; phonemes are the smallest meaningful units of
sounds in a language
SLI & Dyslexia
• Impaired innate grammar mechanism or impaired information-processing ability?
• SLI: deficit in processing of rapid, sequential information, phonological salience? (Jonaisse &
Seidenberg, 1998).
• Developmental dyslexia may be caused by deficits in phonological awareness (and mapping)
• Plasticity
• Changes in behaviour can be cause or consequence of dyslexia
• Differences in brain activation of beginning vs proficient readers
Psych 2220A Lecture 10