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PSYC 336 Study Guide - Winter 2019, Comprehensive Midterm Notes - Semantics, Phonology, Interaction


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSYC 336
Professor
Laurel Fais
Study Guide
Midterm

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PSYC 336

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PSYC 336: Chapter 1 Language: Nature, Origin, Relation to Thought, Processing
Week 2 Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Hockett’s Design Features of Language
1. Vocal Auditory Channels: spoken language is produced in the vocal tract and transmitted/heard as sound,
whereas sign language is produced with the hands and transmitted by light
2. Broadcast Transmission and Directional Reception: the audible sound of language is heard in all
directions but listeners will interpret it as coming from one specific direction
3. Rapid Fading: the sound made by speech diminishes quickly after being released
4. Interchangeability: The speaker has the ability to receive and also send the same message
5. Total Feedback: individuals are able to hear and internalize a message they have sent
6. Semanticity: speech sounds can be linked to specific meanings
e.g. the sound “d“o” g” but no necessary link between dog and
dog
7. Arbitrariness: there is no direct connection between the signal and its meaning
8. Discreteness: each unity of communication can be separated and unmistakable
9. Specialization: speech is produced for communication, not chiefly for some other function, such as
echolocation
10. Displacement: the ability to talk about things that are not physically present
11. Productivity: the ability to create new messages by combining already existing signs
12. Traditional Transmission: the learning of language occurs in social groups
13. Duality of Patterning: meaningful signs (words) are made of and distinguished from one another
by meaningless parts (sounds, letters)
14. Prevarication: the ability to make false statements (to lie)
15. Reflexiveness: language can be used to refer to (i.e., describe) itself
16. Learnability: speakers of one language can learn to speak another
Prescriptive Grammar: rules of “correctness”
- Don’t end a sentence with a preposition
- Always say, for example, “John and I” not, “John and me”
If you violate a prescriptive rule, you are still speaking English (though people may judge you)
VS.
Descriptive Grammar: “Systemic rules that summarize how people actually speak
- Linguists observe linguistic behavior and intuitions
- Come up with a set of rules that generates those behaviors and intuitions
- Postulate that those rules are part of your cognition, your language “organ”
- If you violate a descriptive rule of English, you will no longer be speaking English
Grammar includes the finite set of rules that can specify/generate the infinite set of sentences of a
particular language
A speaker’s knowledge of language consists of that grammar
Knowledge of language cannot be knowledge of the set of all sentences.
(Some) Grammar Rules
Sentence = noun phrase, verb phrase
I went to the store
Noun phrase = can be a pronoun or an article and a noun
I; the store
Verb Phrase = can be a verb and prepositional phrase
Went to the store
Prepositional Phrase = can be a preposition and a noun phrase
To the store
Phrase Structure Rules
Not sanctioned or “described” by the rules
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PSYC 336: Chapter 1 Language: Nature, Origin, Relation to Thought, Processing
Week 2 Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Descriptive Rules of English
Each clause can have only one main verb
Verbs go in the middle in English
Adjectives go before nouns in English
Recursion
A process by which a language component can be nested inside another component of the same kind to
create complex, infinitely long sentences
- I know John is tall
- ( I know (John is tall) )
- (You heard (that I know (John is tall) ) )
- (Sally told Jim (that you heard (that I know ( John is tall) ) ) )
Recursion in Real Languages
Do all languages take advantage of this capability? 3 possibilities:
1. It’s a core property of all languages, unique to language
2. It’s a core property of all languages, shared with other unique systems
3. Neither of the above
Controversial case of Piraha
- English: The man talked to the boy who coughed
- Piraha: The man talked to the boy. That very boy coughed. They are the same.
Therefore, can it be a universal feature of language?
Design features, grammar describe language
But why do we have language?
Where did it come from?
How can we know?
- Look at close relatives: chimps, but also gorillas and bonobos
- Some clues from the fossil record
Studying Language Origin
Comparative Method: compare human behavior to
- Living biological relatives
- Evolutionary ancestors (what are the problems here?)
Two positions:
1. Continuity: modern human language results from quantitative changes to more primitive
communication systems
2. Discontinuity: modern human language is qualitatively different from more primitive communication
systems.
Factors in Learning
1. Biological aspects of the species (phylogeny)
- Bonobos > Chimps
2. Maturational aspects of the individual (ontogeny)
3. Culture/environment
- “immersion” reared apes appear to learn more than “operantlyreared (reward based training) apes
Arguments for Discontinuity
Differences between apes and humans
- Universal acquisition in children; variable acquisition in apes
- Children experiment and innovate (e.g. babbling); apes copy
- As utterances grow longer:
o In children: grammar becomes more complex
o In apes: signs are repeated. “banana me eat banana, “give orange me give eat”
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PSYC 336: Chapter 1 Language: Nature, Origin, Relation to Thought, Processing
Week 2 Tuesday, September 11, 2018
- Humans use words to comment and express intentions
- Apes use signs as tools to get things
- Humans apply grammatical rules consistently; apes apply grammatical rules inconsistently
- Apes interrupt far more than humans
Language Origins
Language abilities of modern apes likely
existed in the common ancestor ~5-8
million years ago.
Speech is an adaptation:
- Human larynx is deeper than apes’
larynx
- Make us vulnerable to choking
- But, ideally suited to producing
speech
Language Origin: Vocal Tract Argument
Producing speech requires the right kind of vocal tract
- Adaptation implies that individuals with this configuration had more vowels, “better language” and
thus better chance to survive
- Thus, rudimentary speech pre-dates the modern physical configuration
Language Origin: Fossil Evidence
Producing speech requires…
- The ability to control the speech apparatus
- Rapid changes in air flow
o Human ancestors (and apes) lack the neural systems necessary for fine breathing control
- Therefore, speech does not pre-date modern humans (homo sapiens)
Language Origins: Further Conjectures
Increase in brain size may lead to language
- Increase in brain-to-body mass ratio
- Selection works against an idle large brain
- Small brains nonetheless support fully developed language abilities
Language Origins:
Step One, Proto-Words
Word-like units must be present before complex sequences emerge
“Name insight” from semanticity in apes?
Possible proto-word types:
- Animal calls: “Moo”
- Exertion noises: “Heave-ho”
- Lip-smacking: “Yum yum”
- Greetings: “Hi there”
Step Two, Pidgins
Simpler than full-blown languages
Emerge in modern humans due to language-mixing in adults (e.g. Hawaiian Creole, Tok Pisin)
Restricted vocabulary
- Han bilong diwai (tree branch)
- Han bilong pik (front legs of a pig)
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