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Lecture 9

PS102 Lecture 9: Chapter 9 PS102

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Erin Strahan

Chapter 9: Language and Thought What is Language?  Language: symbols that convey meaning, plus rules for combining those symbols, that can be used to generate an infinite variety of messages Language Structure  Phoneme: the smallest unit of sound in a language, an individual sound  Example: The word pig has three phonemes: /p/, /i/, /g/  Phonology: the study of how individual sounds or phonemes are used to produce language o Children know that letters make up words and know the sounds they make (phonemical awareness)  Semantics: the study of how meaning in language is constructed of individual words and sentences  Morpheme: the smallest unit of a language that conveys meaning o What does it mean?  Example: The word pigs has two morphemes: pig and s  Lexical meaning: dictionary meaning of a word (You know automatically what certain things mean) Language structure (building blocks of language – slide show)  Every language has its own syntax: the system for using words (semantics) and word order to convey meaning (grammar)  Pragmatics: the practical aspects of language usage, including speech pace, gesturing, and body language oThe pragmatics of speech are going to differ among the people you talk to (With a close friend you might be more comfortable so you use your hands more often) How Language Develops  Prevocal learning: 2-4 months old o Babies distinguish all phonemes they will later use for language; cooing (vocalization of vowel-like sounds)  Babbling ~6 months old (Meaningless experimental sounds preceding actual language)  Symbolic Gestures – 11 months of age oWhen they want someone to hand them something they might point to it, these are ways of communicating before they can speak. Parents who encourage these gestures is significant in their development  First words ~ 1 year old (simple single-word talking begins) How Language Develops  Telegraphic speech - by 2 years of age oSimple (two-word) sentences omitting all but essential words  Pragmatics - by 3 years of age o Basic understanding of practical information regarding language  Grammar - by 4 years of age o Basic rules of grammar are understood without formal education. (They make the same kind of mistakes as well) Common Errors  Overextension: when a child incorrectly uses a word to describe a wider set of objects or actions than it is meant to o E.g., using dog for all animals  Under extension: when a child incorrectly uses a word to describe a narrower set of objects or actions than it is meant to o E.g., using dog only to refer to their dog, ‘Sammy’ Common Errors  Overregularizations: when grammatical rules are incorrectly generalized to irregular cases where they do not apply  E.g., “He hitted a home run” or “I wented home” Can Animals Develop Language?  Chimpanzees cannot speak due to limitations in vocal apparatus. oSign language oResearchers have looked at other ways, which they might be able to speak, so they looked at sign language. They trained Washoo for years and she was able to sign some language. However, was she actually generating language or was she just doing this because she gets treats afterwards?  Kanzi, the bonobo oCommunicates using geometric symbols that signify words oCan understand instructions to complete simple actions oKids are built to acquire language, all parents have to do to help them is speak to them Theories of Language Acquisition: Behaviourist Theories: We learn language through imitation, reinforcement and conditioning Nativist Theories: We have an innate ability to learn language. We are hard wired to learn it; it is part of our DNA. We are programmed with this ability. Evidence: we seem to follow through this same pattern and make similar mistakes in trying to speak correctly. If one were to keep a child from speaking it wouldn’t work, they automatically learn to do this.  Criticisms: Factors like how much you talk to your child affects how quickly they speak as well, new theories are called interactionist theories. Interactionist Theories: Biology and experience both make important contributions to the development of language. Argues that it likely is both. Includes biological maturation, cognitive development, and linguistic environment Language Centers in the Brain (Speaking and understanding language)  Broca’s area (located in the frontal lobe) o Critical for speech production o Associated with grammar comprehension o When damaged, there is broken speech (Broca’s aphasia)  Wernicke’s area (located in the temporal lobe) o Critical for language comprehension o When damaged there is jumbled speech (Wernicke’s aphasia) Bilingualism: Learning more than One Language  Research findings:  Smaller vocabularies in one language, combined vocabularies similar or slightly superior  Higher scores for middle-class bilingual subjects on cognitive flexibility, analytical reasoning, selective attention, and metalinguistic awareness  Slight disadvantage in terms of language processing speed (might take longer to process what is being said)  Second languages more easily acquired early in life  Greater acculturation facilitates acquisition (when there is more exposure to a language you will learn better) Gender Differences in Language  Language production and co
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