Language: Language consists of a system of symbols and rules for combining these
symbols in ways that can generate an infinite number of possible messages and
Psycholinguistics: The scientific study of the psychological aspects of language, such
as how people understand, produce, and acquire language.
Speech Segmentation: Perceiving where each word within a spoken sentence begins
Pragmatics: Knowledge of the practical aspects of using language.
Language Acquisition Device (LAD): An innate biological mechanism that contains
the general grammatical rules that are common to ALL languages.
Language Acquisition Support System (LASS): This term was proposed by Jerome
Bruner in order to represent factors in the SOCIAL environment that facilitate the
learning of a language.
Problem Solving Schema: Mental blueprints or step-by-step scripts for selecting
information and solving specialized classes of problems.
Algorithm: A formula or procedure that automatically generates correct solutions.
Heuristics: These are general problem-solving strategies that we apply to certain
classes of situations.
Means-End Analysis: We identify differences between the present situation and the
desired state, or goal, and then make changes that will reduce those differences.
(The difference between where we want to be and where we are, and the changes
that we need to make to get to where we want to be.)
Subgoal Analysis: Formulating subgoals or intermediate steps, toward a solution.
(Instead of taking on a large project in one sitting, subgoal analysis would lead you
to break down the project into smaller more achievable goals that are easier to
Divergent Thinking: The generation of novel ideas that part from the norm.
Functional Fixedness: The tendency to be so fixed in their perception of the proper
function of an object or a procedure that they are blinded to new ways of using it. Incubation: When creative solutions to problems seemingly appear out of the blue,
suddenly popping into our minds in a flash of insight after we have temporarily
given up on the problem or put the problem aside.
Script: A mental framework concerning a sequence of events.
Language and Thinking
1) Over the course of evolution, humans adopted a more social oriented lifestyle. It
is believed that the use of language evolved as people gathered to form larger social
units. The development of language made it easier for humans to adapt to growing
environmental and social demands. Humans have evolved into high social creatures
that depend on communication and language to survive. Through language, we are
able to share our thoughts, feelings, goals, intentions, desires, needs and memories
with other people. Language is also a very powerful learning mechanism.
2) Language is symbolic and structured and it uses sounds, written characters and
systems of symbols to represent objects, events, ideas, feelings and actions. A
languages grammar is the set of rules that dictate how symbols can be combined to
create meaningful units of communication. Syntax is a set of rules that govern the
order of words. Although language changes over time, new words and phrases need
to follow the basic rules of language.
Language conveys meaning and no matter what rules are used, people are able to
form and then transfer representations to the minds of others. Semantics refers to
the meaning of words and sentences. Generativity means that the symbols of
language can be combined to generate an infinite number of messages that have
novel meaning. Displacement refers to the fact that language allows us to
communicate about events and objects that are not physically present.
3) Surface structure consists of the symbols that are used and their order. In
contrast, deep structure refers to the underlying meaning of the combined symbols,
which brings us back to the issue of semantics.
Morpheme Phonemes are combined into
morphemes, which are the smallest units
of MEANING in a language.
Phoneme Phonemes are the smallest unit of
speech sound in a language that can
signal a difference in meaning.
Discourse The most comprehensive level of the
hierarchy structure of language, in which
sentences are combined into paragraphs,
articles, conversations and so forth. 5) Bottom-up processing: individual elements of a stimulus are analyzed and then
combined to form a unified perception. The hierarchical structure of language is an
example of bottom-up processing, where phonemes are grouped into morphemes,
which are grouped into words, sentences, and so on.
Top-down processing: sensory information is interpreted in light of existing
knowledge, concepts, ideas, and expectations. Language, by its very nature involves
top-down processing, because the words you write, read, speak or hear activate and
draw on your knowledge of vocabulary grammar and other linguistic rules.
6) Broca’s area, located in the left hemisphere’s frontal lobe, is most centrally
involved in word production and articulation.
Wenicke’s area, in the rear portion of the temporal lobe, is more centrally involved
in speech comprehension.
Acquiring a Language
1) There are several facts that suggest a biological basis for language
a. Human children begin to master language early in life without any
b. All adult languages in the world seem to have common underlying
No matter where a person is born, they are able to perceive the entire range of
phonemes found in the world’s languages. Noam Chomsky proposed that humans
are born with a Language Acquisition Device (LAD), which is an innate biological
mechanism that contains the general, grammatical rules that are common to all
2) Social learning plays a central role in acquiring a language. Early in life, mothers
and fathers attract their children’s attention and maintain their interest by
conversing through child-directed speech.
Children’s language development is strongly governed by adults’ positive
reinforcement of appropriate language and non-reinforcement or correction of
Much of a child’s language is different from that of their parents, and thus it cannot
be explained simply as an imitative process.
Social learning is a crucial contributor to language acquisition, and the interplay
between biological and environmental factors is a given for most modern theorists.
Jerome Bruner proposed the term Language Acquisition Support System (LASS) to
represent factors in the social environment that facilitate that learning of a
3) A disadvantage of bilingual language is that early in childhood, children will often
confuse the two languages, however, by age 2, differentiation of languages begins to
develop. Also, early research suggested that having to learn two vocabularies and two sets of grammar puts people at a disadvantage. However, when compared,
research has shown that children actually show superior cognitive process when
compared to monolingual children. Bilingual children tend to perform better in
reading, symbolic nature, and perceptual tasks when compared to their monolingual
4) The linguistic relativity hypothesis states that language not only influences but
also determines what we are capable of thinking. Most psycholinguists do not agree
with the assertion that language determines how we think, rather they agree that
language CAN influence how we think, categorize information and attend to our