Chapter 9: Language and Thought

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Steve Joordens

90 LANGUAGE AND THOUGHTAn English boy named Christopher had the ability to easily acquire languages from textbooks and spoke 16 languages fluently when he was grown up However he scored poorly on standard intelligence testsThe five key higher cognitive functions are acquiring and using language forming concepts and categories making decisions solving problems and reasoning91 LANGUAGE AND COMMUNICATION FROM RULES TO MEANINGHoneybees communicate direction and distance of food source from the hive by a waggle danceVervet monkeys have 3 different warning calls signaling main predators like leopard eagle and snake Leopard call provokes them to climb higher into a tree while an eagle call makes them look up into the skyLanguage is a system for communicating with others using signals that are combined according to rules of grammar and convey meaningGrammar is a set of rules that specify how the units of language can be combined to produce meaningful messagesLanguage allows individuals to exchange information about the world coordinate group action and form strong social bondsThree differences distinguishing human language from animalsFirst Humans can express wider range of ideas and concepts than animals and can generate infinite number of novel sentences whereas animals do notSecond humans use words to refer to intangible things such as unicorn or democracyThird we use language to name categorize and describe things to ourselves when we think92 THE COMPLEX STRUCTURE OF HUMAN LANGUAGEThe smallest units of sound that are recognizable as speech rather than as random noise are phonemes When you say ba your vocal cords start vibrating as soon as you begin the sound but when you say pa theres a 60 millisecond lag between the time you start the p sound and the time your vocal cords start to vibrateEvery language has phonological rules that indicate how phonemes can be combined to produce speech sounds People learn these rules without instructions and if the rules are violated the resulting speech sounds so odd that we describe it as speaking with an accentPhonemes are combined to make morphemes the smallest meaningful units of language For example your brain recognizes the pe sound you make at the beginning of pat as a speech sound but it carries no meaning But the morpheme pat is recognized as an element of speech that carries meaningAll languages have grammar rules that fall into two categories rules of morphology and rules of syntaxMorphological rules indicate how morphemes can be combined to form wordsContent morphemes refer to things and events cat dog take Function morphemes server grammatical functions like tying sentences together and or but or indicating time whenAbout half of morphemes in human languages are function morphemes and make our language complex enough to allow us to express abstract ideas rather than simply to verbally point to real objects in the here and nowSyntactical rules indicate how words can be combined to form phrases and sentences Every sentence must contain one or more nouns which may be combined with adjectives or articles to create a noun phrase A sentence must also contain one or more verbs which combine with noun phrases adverbs or articles to create a verb phraseMisunderstanding results from differences between the deep structure of sentences and their surface structureDeep structure refers to the meaning of a sentenceSurface structure refers to how a sentence is worded example dog chased a cat and cat was chased by a dog have the same deep structure yet different surface structureTo generate sentences you begin with a deep structure and create a surface structure To comprehend a sentence you do the opposite93 LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT
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