Language & Thought
Properties of Language
• Effortlessly create new sentences
- Have a finite vocab that can be combined in infinite ways
- Wanna go out for dinner?
- Want to fetch some grub?
- Would like to dine out?
• Although creative – there are rules
• These are regularities of language (not necessarily grammar rules)
- Ex. can end a sentence with a preposition and be understood, can’t say “dinner the”
• Each word represents an idea
- Object (cat or dog), action (bites), abstraction, quality…
• Grammar/structure also contribute to the ideas
- Dog bites cat or cat bites dog (think of a picture of a dog biting a cat or vice versa)
• Some language is private – for ourselves (inside voice)
• Most language is directed at and around others, social activity (writing, decoding,
• Need to know the sounds, words, sentences of languages & principles of conversation
Conversation: Pragmatic (how we speak to others)
• Knowing how to speak to whom • Difference between talking to a child, loved one, stranger, employer, enemy, expert etc.
Structure of Language
Phonemes (ex. sounds you can produce in English)
• Requires sounds
• Sounds require physiological structure
• Smallest unit of sound recognized as separate in a given language
• Do not correspond to letters of alphabet
• Meaningful perceptual units
• Basic unit of sounds that we can recognize
• Humans can produce 100s of phonemes
- No language uses all
- About 40 phonemes in English
- Other languages may have different numbers
• Fundamental unit of meaning
• Combination of phonemes