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Psychology Ch.8 Book Notes.docx

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PSYC 1010
Rebecca Jubis

Psychology- Chapter 8: Language & Thought What is Language? A language consists of symbols that convey meaning, plus rules for combining those symbols, that can be used to generate an infinite variety of messages. First, language is symbolic. Symbols allow one to refer to objects that may be in another place and to events that happened another time. People use spoken sounds and written words to represent objects, actions, events, and ideas. Second, language is semantic, or meaningful. The symbols used in language are arbitrary in that no built-in relationship exists between the look or sound of words and the objects they stand for. Ex. The word pen has shared meanings for people who speak English, French, and Spanish. Third, language is generative. A limited number of symbols can be combined in an infinitive variety of ways to generate and endless array of novel messages. You comprehend many sentences that you have never encountered before and you create sentences that you have never spoken before. Fourth, language is structured. Rules govern the arrangement of words into phrases and sentences; some arrangements are acceptable and some are not. The structure of language allows people to be inventive with words and still understand each other. The Structure of Language Human languages have a hierarchical structure. Basic sounds are combined into units with meaning, which are combined into words. Words are combined into phrases, which are combined to sentences. Phonemes Phonemes are the smallest speech units in a language that can be distinguished perceptually. A letter in the alphabet can represent more than one phoneme if it has more than one pronunciation. Ex. The letter a is pronounced differently in the words father, had, call, and take. Each of these pronunciations corresponds to a different phoneme. Morphemes & Semantics Morphemes are the smallest units of meaning in a language. Many words such as fire, guard, and friend consists or a single morpheme. Ex. The word unfriendly consists of three morphemes: the root word friend, the prefix un, and the suffix ly. Semantics is the area of language concerned with understanding the meaning of words and word combinations. Learning about semantics entails learning about the infinite variety of objects and actions that words refer to. A words meaning may consists of both its denotation, which is dictionary definition, and its connotation, which includes its emotional overtones and secondary implications. Syntax Syntax is a system of rules that specify how words can be arranged into sentences. A simple rule of syntax is that a sentence must have both a subject and a verb. Moving toward Producing Words Janet Werker argues that human infants are well prepared to learn language and that babies have perceptual biases that facilitate and guide the acquisition of phonology. Some of these perceptual biases that facilitate language acquisition may be derived from listening to speech in utero. Werker argues that there are optimal periods for the different subsystems involved in language acquisition but that they are not as rigidly absolute as is sometimes thought (she prefers the term optimal period to terms such as critical period or sensitive period because the latter imply more invariance in the onset and offset periods). By 7.5 months, infants begin to recognize common word forms and by eight months many infants shows the first signs of understanding the meanings of familiar words. During the first six months of life, a babys vocalizations are dominated by crying, cooing, and laughter, which have limited value as a means of communication. Soon, infants are babbling, producing a wide variety of sounds that corresponds to phonemes and, eventually, many repetitive consonant-vowel combinations, such as lalalalala. Babbling gradually becomes more complex and increasingly resembles the language spoken by parents and others in the childs environment. Babbling lasts until around 18 months, continuing even after the children utter their first words. According to Laura-Ann Petitto, babbling is considered to be one of the monumental milestones in language acquisition. While most agree that babbling is a universal stage in language acquisition, there is considerable disagreement about its origins. One view is that babbling is a motor achievement in which the babbling reflects the brains maturation in controlling the motor operations needed to eventually produce speechin essence, developing and practising the mechanics of speech. Here the babbling is a byproduct of the development of the brain and its control over motor operations. An alternative view is that it is a key linguistic achievement, a mechanism that affords the infant the opportunity to both discover and produce the patterned structure of natural language. Using Words Toddlers typically can say between 3 and 50 words by 18 months. However, their receptive vocabulary is larger than their productive vocabulary. That is, they can comprehend more words spoken by others than they can actually produce to express themselves. Toddlers early words tend to refer most often to objects and secondarily to social actions. Children probably acquire nouns before verbs because the meanings of verbs, which often refer to more abstract relationships. However, this may not apply to all languages. Youngsters vocabulary soon begin to grow at a fast pace, as a vocabulary spurt often begins at around 18-24 months. By the first grade, the average child has a vocabulary of 10 000 words, which builds to 40 000 words by fifth grade. Fast mapping is the process by which children map a word onto an underlying concept after only one exposure. Thus, children often add words to their vocabularies after their first encounter with objects. An overextension occurs when a child incorrectly uses a word to describe a wider set of objects or actions than it is meant to. Ex. A child might use the word ball for anything round oranges, apples, even the moon. Overextensions usually appear in childrens speech between ages one and two-and-a-half. Toddlers also tend to be guilty of underextensions, which occur when a child incorrectly uses a word to describe a narrower set of objects or actions that it is meant to. Ex. A child might use the word doll to refer only a single, favourite doll. Combining Words Telegraphic speech consists mainly of content words; articles, prepositions, and other less critical words are omitted. Thus, a child might say Give doll rather than Please give me the doll. Telegraphic speech is not cross-culturally universal. Researches sometimes track language development by keeping tabs on subjects mean length of utterance (MLU)the average length of youngsters spoken statements (measured in morphemes). Overregulations occur when grammatical rules are incorrectly generalized to irregular cases where they do not apply. Ex. Children will say things like The girl goed home or I hitted the ball. Cross-cultural research suggests that these overregulations occur in all languages. Refining Language Skills Metalinguistic awareness is the ability to reflect on the use of language.
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