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chapter_8 notes.pdf

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York University
PSYC 1010

Chapter 8: Language and Thought - cognition - the mental processes involved in acquiring knowledge KEY POINTS IN THIS CHAPTER (pages 312-321) - Languages are symbolic, semantic, generic, and structured. Human languages are structured hierarchically. At the bottom of the hierarchy are the basic sound units, called phonemes. At the next level are morphemes, the smallest units of meaning. - The initial vocalization by infants are similar across languages, but their babbling gradually begins to resemble the sounds from their surrounding language. Children typically utter their first words around their first birthday. Vocabulary growth is slow at first, but a vocabulary spurt often begins at around 18-24 months. - Most children being to combine words by the end of their second year. their early sentences are telegraphic, in that they omit many nonessential words. Over the next several years, children gradually learn the complexities of syntax - Research does not support the assumption that bilingualism has a negative effect on language development or on cognitive development. The learning of a second language is facilitated by starting at a younger age and by acculturation Language: Turning Thoughts into Words 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 - language systems include a number of critical properties: - symbolic - use spoke sounds and written words to represent objects - semantic - meaningful - arbitrary --> no built-in relationship between look or sound of a word and the object it stands for - generative - limited number of symbols can be combined in an infinite variety of ways to generate an endless array of novel messages - structured - sentences must be structured in a limited number of ways - rules govern arrangement of words into phrases and sentences The Structure of Language - languages have a hierarchical structure - basic sound units -- combined into units with meaning -- combined into words -- combined into phrases -- combined into sentences --> phoneme -- morpheme -- word -- phrase -- sentence PHONEMES - phonemes - the smallest speech units in a language that can be distinguished perceptually - different languages use different groups of about 20 to 80 phonemes - English - 40 phonemes - 26 letters of the alphabet that can each represent more than one phoneme. As well, combination of letters can represent phoneme MORPHEMES AND SEMANTICS - morphemes - the smallest units of meaning in a language - English language = ~50 000 including root words, prefixes and suffixes Chapter 8: Language and Thought - semantics - the area of language concerned with understanding the meaning of words and word combinations - a wordʼs meaning may consists of both its denotation (dictionary def.) and its connotation (emotional overtones and secondary implications) SYNTAX - syntax - a system of rules that specify how words can be arranged into sentences Milestones in Language Development MOVING TOWARD PRODUCING WORDS - unlike adults and even 1 year olds, 3 month old infants can distinguish phonemes from all the worldʼs languages, including phonemes they do not hear in their environment - this ability disappears between 4 and 12 months - mechanism responsible unknown but it is clear that long before infants utter their first words, they are progressively learning the sound structure of their native language - Janet Werker - argues that human infants are well prepared to learn language and that babies have perceptual biases that facilitate and guild the acquisition of phonology - argues that there are optimal periods for the different subsytems involved in language acquisition but that they are not as rigidly absolute as is sometimes thought - first six months of life - vocalizations dominated by crying, cooing, and laugher - babbling gradually begins to resemble the sounds from their surrounding language. Babbling lasts until about 18 months, continuing even after children utter their first words - Different views on babbling: - babbling is a motor achievement in which babbling reflects the brainʼs maturation in controlling the motor operations needed to produce speech - 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 - At around 10 to 13 months of age, most children begin to utter sounds that correspond to words - initial words resemble the syllables that infants most often babble spontaneously USING WORDS - after first word, vocabulary grows slowly for next few months - toddlers typically can say between 3 and 50 words by 18 months - their receptive vocabulary is larger than their productive vocabulary - generally acquire nouns before verbs - 18 - 24 months - vocabulary spurt - fast mapping - the process by which children map a word onto an underlying concept after only one exposure - often make errors, such as overextensions and underextentions - overextension - occurs when a child incorrectly uses a word to describe a wider set of objects or actions than it is meant to - underextension - occurs when a child incorrectly uses a word to describe a narrower set of objects or actions than it is meant to Chapter 8: Language and Thought COMBINING WORDS - Most children being to combine words by the end of their second year - telegraphic speech - consists mainly of content words; articles, prepositions, and other less critical words are omitted - not cross-culturally universal - researchers track language development by keeping tabs on subjectsʼ mean length of utterance (MLU) - the average length of youngstersʼ spoken statements (measured in morphemes) - Over the next several years, children gradually learn the complexities of syntax - by the end of their third year, most children can express complex ideas such as the plural or the past tense - Still make mistakes - overregularizations - occur when grammatical rules are incorrectly generalized to irregular cases where they do not apply REFINING LANGUAGE SKILLS - school-age years - generate longer and more complicated sentences as they receive formal training in written language - develop metalinguistic awareness - the ability to reflect on the use of language - begin to play with language - puns and jokes - use of metaphors - learn to recognize hidden meanings such as in sarcastic comments Learning More Than One Language: Bilingualism - Bilingualism - the acquisition of two languages that use different speech sounds, vocabulary, and grammatical rules DOES LEARNING TWO LANGUAGES IN CHILDHOOD SLOW DOWN LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT? - children seem to be adept at differentiating between the two languages before their first words appear - evidence suggests that bilingual and monolingual children are largely similar in the course and rat of their language development DOES BILINGUALISM AFFECT COGNITIVE PROCESSES AND SKILLS? - research suggests that while bilingualism may not confer an advantage in all aspects of cognitive and linguistic processing, it is important to note that there are some documented advantages and few demonstrated disadvantages - Research does not support the assumption that bilingualism has a negative effect on language development or on cognitive development WHAT FACTORS INFLUENCE THE ACQUISITION OF A SECOND LANGUAGE? - usually learn native language first and then second language - age is a significant correlate of how effectively people can acquire a second language - younger is btter Chapter 8: Language and Thought - acculturation - the degree to which a person is socially and psychologically integrated into a new culture - highlights that language learning is more than a purely cognitive process - motivation and attitude towards the other group that uses the language learned KEY POINTS IN THIS CHAPTER (pages 321-325) - Efforts to teach chimpanzees American Sign Language were impressive, but doubts were raised about whether the chimps learned rules of language. Sue Savage- Rumbaughʼs work with Kanzi suggest that some animals are capable of some genuine language acquisition. Many theorists believe that humansʼ special talent for language is the product of natural selection - According to Skinner and other behaviourists, children acquire a language through imitation and reinforcement. Nativist theories assert that humans have an innate capacity to learn language rules. Today, theorists are moving toward interactionist perspectives, which emphasize the role of both biology and experience - The theory of linguistic relativity asserts that language determines thought, thus suggesting that people from different cultures may think about the world somewhat differently. The evidence supports only a weak version of the linguistic relativity hypothesis Can Animals Develop Language? - research done with teaching language-like skills to man different species but greatest success is with the chimpanzee - couldnʼt teach them to speak because they didnʼt have the appropriate vocal apparatus - success with teaching them American Sign Language (ASL) however, doubts were raised about whether the chimps learned rules of language - operant conditioning and imitation? - other research with a chimpanzee suggested that some animals are capable of some genuine language acquisition- one chimp showed sign of following rules of language and even understanding of spoken English - Human ability to learn language surpasses that of any other animal - Many theorists believe that humansʼ special talent for language is the product of natural selection Language in Evolutionary Context - the universal nature of language suggests that it is an innate human characteristic - Pinker - language is a valuable means of communication that has enormous adaptive value - Dunbar - language evolved as a device to build and maintain social coalitions in increasingly larger groups Theories of Language Acquisition - nature vs nurture debate on language acquisition Chapter 8: Language and Thought BEHAVIOURIST THEORIES - Skinner (first but other behaviourists also) - children learn language through imitation, reinforcement, and other established principles of conditioning. - also argues that imitation and reinforcement explain how children learn syntax NAVIST THEORIES - Chomsky - pointed out that there are an infinite number of sentences in a language - therefore unreasonable to expect that children learn language by imitation - navist theory proposes that humans are equipped with a language acquisition device (LAD) - an innate mechanism or process that facilitates the learning of language - reasons why think that language development is determined by biological maturation more than person experience: - children acquire language quickly and effortlessly - language development tends to unfold at roughly the same pace for most children INTERACTIONIST THEORIES - critics of navist theories question what exactly is the LAD is and how it works, what neural mechanisms are involved -- LAD is too vague - critics also question whether the rapidity of early language development is as exceptional as navists think - toddlers are immersed in their native language where as adults learning a new language are not - also, evidence that parents do provide their children with subtle corrective feedback about grammar - interactionist theories assert that biology and experience both make important contributions to the development of language - Interactionist theories come in three different forms: - Cognitive Theories - assert that language development is simply an important aspect of more general cognitive development, which depends on both maturation and experience - Social Communication
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