Language 1/8/2013 11:02:00 AM
Next time: Problem Solving
What are the properties of a language?
How does syntax provide meaning to language?
Is language learned?
“i know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not
sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant”- Richard M.
Language is meaningful (structure and phrases have meanings)
Ability to use finite number of words & rules to produce infinite
number of sentences
Displacement Convey information about other times and places (in terms of time
and space. When you tell me something I can experience it too)
Language is structured (structure helps language to carry out
Sentence: the strangers left. Phrase: the strangers. Word: The, Strangers
(3 morphemes, strange, er and s). phoneme (tells you how to pronounce it-
streynj, er, z, doesn’t have meanings)
Basic units: English 45
Meaningful units of words (be able to know how many morphemes
there are in a word, will be on exam)
Word-strangers. Morpheme- strange, er, s (break down, plural and
negative etc. it changes the total meaning sometimes,, like putting
negative “un, in, dis” in front)
Good, unabridged dictionary 250,000 to 300,000
Student vocabulary 150,000
Most anything in English can be said with a vocabulary of 850
Telephone conversations: 96% of “talk” made up of 737 words
Correlation word frequency & word length = -0.75. the longer the
word, the less we use it..we often use shorter words
Arranging the elements in a “meaningful” way
Proper structure (how to sling words together so the sentence makes sense)
Importance of Grammar
The wicked vampire bites the girl 1. colorless green ideas sleep furiously (it is structured, but it is
meaningless. It doesn’t make sense)
2. make me a coffee (make a coffee for me or transform me into a coffee:
which one is correct, the first one. Need to know what the context is)
3. venetian blind vs. blind venetian
The French Bottle Smells (what does it convey to you?)
(The French) (bottle) (smells)
(The French Bottle) (Smells)
we make assumption of which one is more likely to occur
“Bloopers” (when bloopers is out of order, the meaning is funny)
we look at syntax
prostitutes appeal to pope.
Police help murder victims Suicide more common than thought
American sentenced to life in Scotland
Teenage pregnancy a mounting problem..
Learning to appreciates various sentence structure, and know what are
funny and what are not
Comes with formal thinking
1. order, order in the court: I’ll have a ham & cheese on rye
2. silence, silence in the court: I’ll have a ham & cheese on rye.
Order has a double meaning
6 year olds find 1 and 2 equally funny
11 year olds find 1 funnier
o Ability to “appreciate” ambiguous meaning & logical
inconsistency (at various stages for kids)
o kids slowly get used to formal thinking
Confusion of sounds (knock-knock jokes, banana and “orange you
glad”) generates joke
Eg: orange who?
*orange you glad I didn't say banana*-“aren’t you glad I didn’t say
Confusion or double meaning of words
o “I work as a baker because I knead (need) the dough
Confusion in structure
o John: I saw a man eating (as an adjective) shark at the
aquarium o Mary: that’s nothing I saw a man eating salmon at the
o Ralph: call me a cab
o Fred: okay, you’re a cab.
As you grow older, you appreciate this more
Kids progress from phonological & lexical to syntactic & semantic
Depending how I put it, syntax gives different meanings
Noam Chomsky (linguistic psychologist):
Whenever you’re looking at a sentence
Surface structure (sequence of words, what does that sentence
look like?) vs. deep structure (actual meaning, what do they
actually mean?). we use rules to transform actual meaning to
sequence of words. We need to decode the sequence of words.
Separate sequence of words and actual meaning. It is important to
know what might be going on.
“flying planes can be dangerous,” surface, 2 possible deep structures
associated with this sentence
deep 1: planes are dangerous, air bourn are considered a threat
deep 2: piloting a plane is dangerous.
Flying could be either a noun or an adjective.
Results of imitation and reinforcement? Not really
Yes child does learn that “dog” not “perro” or “chien” applies in
BUT…trick is not the word but CREATIVITY (ability to put words
together and make meaningful sentences)
o If mistakes in grammar not corrected (kids think they are
right) o So what happens? Kids learn grammar in a creative fashion.
From 1 moments of life, infants vocalize (cry, babble
etc..random sounds). Those random sounds are important,
when they cry, baby’s parents pay attention to them.
However the sounds itself is not a language.
o True even for deaf infants. Babbling has no conventional
meaning, but takes on a social quality in hearing
infants..Rules of interaction
o It’s not about the sound, it’s about rules of interaction
o By 2 months, infants show phoneme discrimination
(difference in sounds. They understand that). Jusczyk (1985)
sucking rates for “PA” vs. “BA”, to see if they notice
the difference. After repeatedly saying PA, baby’s reaction
decrease to this word. Now change to BA, baby’s reaction
goes back on o
o Sensitivity to foreign contrasts drops as infant approaches 12
months. Suggests that babies are prewired
o Infants are “hard-wired” for language acquisition (be able to
pick up phonemes in order to learn a new language)
o Prepared for any language
o Kids at young age learning multiple languages, they are able
to discriminate phoneme very well. Kids who grow in a multi-
language household are able to learn multiple languages.
Therefore, the early the better to learn a new language
o Also: “motherese” High pitch, slow rate, exaggerated tone. The higher the
pitch, the kid can distinguish the phoneme more
Adults shift “automatically” saying high pitched, easy
sentences to kids.
Western culture is more likely to make the shift, not in
Asia or Africa. Thinking & Problem Solving 1/8/2013 11:02:00 AM
Next time: Intelligence
Genie-a feral child
Spent most of her life locked inside a bedroom with no human
interaction..and has no experience of human care, loving or social behavior,
and human language..
How do infants acquire language/
What is thought?
What shortcuts do people use when problems solving?
How many morphemes are in the word “crosswords”?
2, can’t be cross,word,s because cross, word has a different meaning than
crossword. Crossword has to be together, can’t break apart
Surface vs. deep structure
The One-Word speaker
5-8months of age, respond to parents’ words (paying attention and
ready to do so)
talking begins 10-20 months
early vocabulary (simple vocabulary)
o eg. Nouns (mama, duck)
o interactions (hi, peekaboo, pick up on that because it is
important to them)