Cognitive- Lecture 11
Some questions asked by cognitive
Is language a uniquely human
You have a language organ in your
brain, all you need is people talking to you
and that language organ is going to develop-
needs minimal input.
What are the relative roles of nature and
nurture in language development?
What is the relationship between language
When youre thinking, what thinking is, is just internal language.
Studies the structure of natural language rather than its everyday use
Formal discipline, examines different languages to see what they all have in common
Studies development of languages over time
Psychologists are interested in behavior
Economists very theoretical, psychologists dont make assumptions in this case (we ask
what do people do)
Focusing on what people DO do instead of what they SHOULD do.
Productivity an infinite number of utterances are possible in any language
Regularity these utterances are systematic in many ways
The study of language behavior
Everyday use of language does not always correspond to linguistic theory.
Linguistic Competence vs. Performance Competence a persons abstract knowledge of a language
Your abstract knowledge of the language
Isnt something you can necessarily articulate.
Performance the actual application of that knowledge in speaking or listening
See that you have certain knowledge
Does competence underlie performance?
No making linguistic judgments has little to do with everyday language use
You use language perfectly, doesnt rely on competence.
Empiricism/Nurture our language abilities are learned (not innate)
Blank slate at birth, learn everything as you age.
Mental our language abilities are nothing but stimulus-response associations
Criticisms of Behaviorist Account of Language
Evidence for innate constraints on language (nature)
With behavioristic theory (S-R associations), it is impossible to simultaneously account for
the productive and regular character of language
We wrote a criticisms of Skinners book
If you looked at psych departments around the world, faculty bought into the traditions in
which they were raised.
People from outside psychology (Chomsky) didnt have to fear for career of being critical of
Skinner because he was a language psychologist
He was correct in his criticism of Skinner and because he did this he made people in
psychology more brave and able to talk about the mental side of human beings. Relationship Between Language and Thought
a.1. Thought = language
a.2. Language determines thought
a.3. Thought determines language
a.4. Language and thought are independent
- 1. Thought= Language (they are the same thing)
How did Behaviorism explain the subjective experience of thought?
Thinking was just subvocal speech.
Only distinction is you are below the level of vocalizing.
You have to knowledge the thought exists because it is what peoples experience.
Difference between two states are not meaningful; only difference is whether it is occurring
or not (speaking out loud or being quiet)
Recordings of subvocal speech activity while subjects are engaged in thought.
Super threshold enough activity going through muscles so you can make utterance.
Below level muscles are receiving activity above some silent baseline, activity isnt great
so utterance isnt heard.
Areas of brain are active to a low degree when we are only thinking.
People can still think when completely paralyzed
Just because muscles arent able to take signals, doesnt mean structure of body that allow
us to speak are inoperable.
If brain is completely intact and paralysis is peripheral, it isnt such a damaging piece of
Memory for meaning rather than exactly what was said What happens when people asked to recall something, if you make a speech or listen to
speech, let time pass, recall speech word for word you would be very bad at it (chances
This is because the way our semantic memory system works is the most important thing we
get when people speak is the meaning.
Act of understanding sometimes takes details away from exactly the way you said
something- many different ways our language allow us to articulate concepts.
Non-human animals seem to think
Studies on crows, etc.
- 2. Language Determines Thought
Linguistic determinism language determines way a person thinks or perceives the
Language constrains what you are thinking about.
Surprising amount of variation in terms of words that describe certain things.
Inuit/snow example Rich terminology causes change in perception.
Rich terminology to describe different types of snow
English doesnt have a rich way of describing different snow conditions.
People seem to think the same way about things despite linguistic differences
Example: English has many color words. Dani (New Guinea) does not. Yet no differences in
- 3. Thought Determines Language
Language arose as a tool whose function was to communicate thought
Language has been shaped to fit the thoughts it must communicate
Language is merely a tool for allowing us to share our thoughts.
Thinking ability appeared earlier evolutionarily than language