PSYC 100 Study Guide - Social Environment, Nonverbal Communication, Feral Child

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10 Apr 2013
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Week One: Language
Can you come up with an operational definition of language?
Defining Language
Language is a method for communicating information, including ideas, thoughts, and emotions
Not all forms of communication are considered language however
Semanticity refers to the extent to which a form of communication can meaningfully represent events
and objects symbolically
Low Level: a bee returning to the hive has two “dances” to communicate whether the source of
nectar it found is within 40m or not it uses symbols to transmit meaningful messages, but it
has a limited selection of symbols and only conveys distance and direction information without
being able to indicate more varied or complex messages
Moderate Level: vervet monkeys give calls to warn of specific dangers or predators the alarm
calls are basic semantic/symbolic signals because each alarm call seems to mean something to
them (low to moderate semanticity)
High Level: to congratulate her sister for graduating with honours, Sarah builds a flower
arrangement of yellow roses, calla lilies, oak leaves, and ivy because Sarah’s sister
comprehends the specific language of flower arrangement, she will understand that she is being
praised with roses for achievement, lilies for elegance, oak for strength, and ivy for ambition;
these are multiple complex symbols and a high level of semanticity
Having a larger vocabulary makes it possible to hold and express more complicated and powerful ideas;
however, we don’t need a word for everything Generativity is the ability of a language to combine a
limited number of words and a few rules to convey many ideas
Displacement, or the ability to convey messages that are not tied to an immediate time and place, is
needed for a form of communication to be considered language
Language can be defined as a socially agreed-upon, rule-governed system of arbitrary symbols that can
be combined in different ways to communicate ideas and feelings about both the present time and place,
and other times and places, real or imagined.
Linguistics
Phoneme: perceptually distinct units of sound that serve to distinguish one word from another (e.g.
‘p’ in pit, ‘tʃ’ in cheap, ‘ʒ’ in measure)
Morpheme: the smallest meaningful units in a language made up of phonemes (e.g. in ‘unbreakable’
there are three morphemes: ‘un’, ‘break’, and ‘able’)
Semantics: the relationship between words and their meanings this can sometimes change, for
example ‘gay’ used to mean ‘joyous’ but now means ‘homosexual’
Syntax: way in which words are combined to form a sentence can greatly affect the meaning (e.g.
“the man sits on the chair” vs. “the chair sits on the man”)
Pragmatics: knowledge of the world affects your comprehension of a phrase (e.g. “I learned a lot
about the bars in town last night. Do you have an aspirin?” To make sense, this sentence requires
the knowledge that bars involve drinking, which involve hangovers, which require aspirin)
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