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PSYC 2650 Study Guide - Final Guide: Modus Tollens, Written Language, Animal Communication


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSYC 2650
Professor
Dan Meegan
Study Guide
Final

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PSYC 2650 – Final Exam Notes
CHAPTER 9: Language
Linguistics
-Studies the structure of natural language rather than its everyday use
-Linguistic  Interested in universals (what all languages have in common) and the structure of
natural language, as well as structural elements that makes language unique
Psycholinguistics  The study of language behaviour
-Everyday use of language does not always correspond to linguistic theory
-Linguistics – Theory
-Psychology – Practice
History: Behaviourism
-Empiricism/Nurture: Our language abilities are learned (not innate)
-Mental: Our language abilities are nothing but stimulus-response associations
Criticisms of behaviourist account of language
-Evidence for innate constraints on language (nature)
-Chomsky (1959) – Prominent person to argue innateness of language
-Standard belief among all scientists of language: Nature plays an important role and the brain
is already built for language (all it needs is a minor exposure)
-“Genie” The story of the Wild Child
oCompromises of the brain with deprivation of language
-Exposure to two languages when you’re young
oCan still learn languages when you get older
oArticulation  Ability to understand phonemic distinctions and easy access
oLearning another language after critical period (you’ll have an accent, won’t be able
to hear distinction, etc.)
What is the relationship between language and thought?
-Communication Systems  Differences between human and animal communication systems
(as far as we know, anyway)
oHuman Language  Ability to express same things in different ways
oAnimal Language  Ways of showing desire to humans, but efforts have been not too
impressive compared to human-to-human
Relationship Between Language and Thought
-“Thought” = language
-Language determines thought
-Thought determines language
-Language and thought are independent
“Thought” = Language
-How did Behaviourism explain the subjective experience of thought
oThinking was just subvocal speech
oBi-Product of Language  Language of talking to yourself (activation of speech to a
degree and holding it up to a certain point)
oIt’s still language, but others just don’t know it/verbally hear it
oLanguage requires reciprocation – thoughts are tied to behaviours

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“Thought” = Subvocal Speech
-Evidence for:
oRecordings of subvocal speech activity while subjects are engaged in thought
oVocal apparatus
oActivity seen in language production system when thinking
-Evidence against:
oPeople can still think when completely paralyzed  When exposed to info, you’re
trying to communicate with meaning and extract what a sentence means, details are
important when expressing ideas (many ways to produce the same meaning)
oMemory for meaning rather than exactly what was said  What matters is what it
means (doesn’t matter what words are used), related to thought, linguistic operation
and detached from communication system
oNon-human animals seem to think  Animals don’t have language but have thoughts,
thought and language are two different things (you can have thought without
language)
Language Determines Thought
-Linguistic Determinism  Language determines way a person thinks or perceives the world
oBorn in linguistic culture: Languages have differences and you’ll find another
language (when English speakers use foreign words to describe something)
-Inuit/Snow Example: Rich terminology causes change in perception
-If your language doesn’t have the word describing something, you are unable to understand
and appreciate the distinction
-Evidence against:
oPeople seem to think the same way about things despite linguistic differences
oE.g. English has many colour words. Dani (New Guinea) doesn’t, yet no differences
in colour perception
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
-Evidence:
oThinking ability appeared earlier evolutionarily than language
Non-linguistic animals
oThinking ability occurs sooner developmentally than language
Pre-linguistic children
Difficult to access mind/black box of children who haven’t started speaking
Bigger appreciation for thinking ability in developmental level when it
comes to thought before language
oIn languages with many colour words, words correspond to colours to which visual
system is maximally-sensitive
“What red is the best red”: The different responses show distinctions in
certain languages
Language and Thought are Independent
-Emphasized independence of thought and language
oThought and language don’t necessarily have a dependence in our brains

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-Modularity  Language functions independently from other cognitive functions (even if it
arose to communicate thought)
oImagine if you have two modules that are separate from each other, one could do it’s
job without reference to the other
Study system with one module removed, conclude how memory works
without referencing what else occurs (absence of module)
Thoughts separate from linguistic modules
-Language Acquisition  Language is acquired according to unique learning principles
Evidence for Uniqueness of Language
-No direct instruction required for language acquisition
oDon’t need to be trained in courses as language is full developed from a very young
age
oTeacher had a big job shaping our language acquisition
-Language is acquired even under impoverished learning conditions**
oIn extreme cases, language could still be acquired (e.g. Genie)
oAside from the rare horrific cases, lots of kids can understand you even if you speak
to them and they can’t/won’t
Being an effective communicator, learning to speak through TV or radio,
witnessing parents’ fight, etc.
-Critical period for language learning
Innateness of Language
-Language Universals  Limit the possible characteristics of natural languages
-Children possess innate knowledge of universals
oEvidence: There’s examples of uniformities among the world’s languages (Chomsky)
No exposure to others needed
The language the culture created has the same features as others
Suggests that we have the ability to acquire all languages but nurture comes
in after and shapes which language we learn
Language Comprehension
1. Spoken, signed, or written input
2. Perception (Identify words)
3. Parsing (Assess meaning of word combinations)
4. Utilization (Use meaning)
Parsing  Words transformed into a mental representation of their combined meaning
Grammar  A set of rules that can generate all the acceptable utterances of a language and reject all the
unacceptable sentences in the language
-Fundamental rules of grammar are represented in most, if not all, cultures
-Most important aspect of grammar is the sequencing and combination of words and sentences
-Syntax  Rules governing the sequences and combinations of words in the formation of
phrases and sentences
-Semantics  Rules governing the meaning of sentences
Ungrammatical Sentences
-Syntactic Violations  The sequence is wrong, grammatically incorrect, interpretation needed
oThe girls hits the boys.
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