Language and Thought
Evolution and Language
- A tool that is useful for thought and communication.
- Consists of symbols that convey meaning plus rules for combining these symbols that
can be used to generate infinite message.
- Represent or “refer to” objects, actions, events and ideas (these are the referent).
- Children have the ability to recognize an object
- Semantic: meaningful, no natural relationship between symbols and referents.
- Generative: limited number of symbols can be combined.
- Structured: rules regarding arrangement of symbols
The Structure of Language:
- At one point, we could have communicated through flatulence.
- Noam Chomsky: grammar of language is how intellect evolved.
- The structure of language is hierarchal.
- Phonemes: smallest units in a language that can be differentiated perceptually
- 40 phonemes. 450,000 words in the English language
- 100 basic sounds can be recognized by humans.
- Morphemes: Phonemes can be combined into morphemes.
- Semantics: the meaning of a word or word combinations
o Denotation: literal meaning of the word. Dictionary definitions.
o Connotation: meaning of the word in context. (emotional overtones)
- Syntax: system of rules that specify how words can be arranged into sentences.
- Chomsky: Subject followed by predicate. Universal. Whole brain wired to pick up
language whether or not we are exposed to language. Acquisition at amazingly rapid
pace. Much regularity.
Milestones in language development:
- 3 months: able to pick up phonemes for all languages - 6 months: blabbing becomes more complex. Adult’s response to child’s blabbing plays a
- 10/13 months: words (Pah and Dada most common)
- 18 months: 3-50 words. Receptive(words that are understood when heard or read) vs.
Productive vocabulary (words that are produced in within appropriate context) Concrete
(refers to objects or events) vs. Abstract (refers to ideas and concepts)
- 18/24 months: Vocabulary spurt (Fast mapping). Fast mapping is the babies' ability to
learn a lot of new things quickly. Process of which children map outwards after one
- Overextension: incorrectly uses a word to describe a wider set of objects. Creativity.
“ball” and “moon”
- Under extension: incorrectly uses a word to describe a narrow set of objects. “doll” vs.
- Telegraphic speech: putting two words together instead of a long sentence. “cold today”.
- Over regularizations: “I hitted the ball” Children pick up rules.
- Understanding of rules – reveals mistakes
- About language.
- Words can be used in different ways and can mean something else.
- E.g. irony and sarcasm.
- Some people don’t have the ability to understand sarcasm and irony. E.g. Autism.