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Psychology 1000
John Campbell

Psychology Chapter 9- Language and Thinking The wild boy of Aveyron- Age 12 • Hunters discovered the boy in the forests of Aveyron, France • They named him Victor and he had been isolated from human contact for 12 years • Upon being found he did not speak any language and made minimal sounds o After training with a specialist victor could read and write some things but was never fully able to speak properly Genie- Age 13 • Was isolated in a locked room for all of her life • She could only say 2 words: stopit and nomore • Although her vocabulary increased after being found she could never string together sentences fully o Her vocabulary was stalled at the age of a 2 or 3 year old Dominique- Age 5 • Locked in a basement where her mom and grandmother would occasionally visit • She made a quick recovery when being found and seemed quite capable of learning language but her foster placement did not work out o Unfortunately Dominique was eventually institutionalized Why are humans dominating in this world? • We dominate because we have the ability to create mental representations of the world and are able to manipulate them into forms of language, thinking, reasoning and problem solving. Mental representations: includes images, ideas, concepts and principles Language • Language is called the “the jewel in the crown of the cognition” and “the human essence” • Much of our thinking, reasoning and problem solving involve the use of language which helps us build up knowledge in our memory. In turn this provides us a foundation for intelligent behaviour What is a language? • A system of symbols and rules for combining these symbols in ways that can generate an infinite number of possible messages and meanings What is psycholinguistics? • The study of the psychological aspect of language, such as how people understand, produce and acquire language Adaptive functions of language • According to anthropologist who have studied the human brain and skull, our present brain was acquired around 50,000 years ago o It took another 35,000 years for lifelike paintings to begin to appear on cave walls o And another 12,000 years after that before humans developed a way to store knowledge outside of the brain in the way of writing • These time lines show us that although the structure of our brain hasn’t changed much in the last 50,000 years but that our cognitive and linguistic skills have • One theory is that the use of language evolved as people gathered to form larger social units o As the social environment became more complex new survival problems emerged there became a need to: 1. Create divisions of labour and cooperative social systems 2. Develop social customs and communicate thoughts 3. Pass on knowledge and wisdom o Thus the development of language made it easier to adapt to these environmental changes • This leads to why every human culture, no matter how isolated, has developed a language. Or the fact that our brain has the ability to acquire any of these 5000-6000 languages spoken • Humans have become highly social creatures and language allows us to share our thoughts, feelings, goals, intentions desires, needs and memories with others around us • Language is also a powerful learning mechanism o To get to a friend’s house we do not walk all over an area until we find it (trial and error learning) or wait for someone to show us the way (observational learning). Instead we read a map or ask for directions o More broadly, in oral and written form, language puts the customs and knowledge accrued over generations at your fingertips Properties of Language ­ Something truly striking about the worlds languages is not how each is different but how they are the same ­ The definition of language stated earlier encompasses four properties essential to language 1. Symbols 2. Structure 3. Meaning 4. Generativity (displacement) 1 & 2. Language is symbolic and structured • Language uses sounds, written characters or some other system of symbols (sign language) to represent objects, events, ideas, feelings and actions • The symbols used in a language are arbitrary o Example: the Spanish, French and German word for “dog” is… perro, chien and hund o None of these written words look alike and there is nothing similar when spoken but it has an agreed-on meaning to people that speak that language regardless of how the word came into being • Language also has a rule governed structure o A languages grammar is the set of rules that dictate how symbols can be combined to create meaningful units of communication  Example: if someone asked you if zpflrovc is an English word you would say no because the rules say you cannot have z followed by pf and that 5 consonants cannot be put into an unbroken sequence.  Example 2: “Bananas have sale for I” is not a sentence in the English language because it violates a portion of English grammar called syntax (the rules that govern the order of words). The sentence should read, “I have bananas for sale” Shared features of language Differences in language Rules to change present tense into past tense or a Rules where adjectives and nouns are placed in a negative sentence “I am walking the dog”, “I walked the dog”, “I didn’t walEnglish: “green salad” the dog” French: “salade verte” **Although language changes over time, new words and new phrases have to conform to the basic rules of language** 3. Language conveys meaning • No matter the arbitrary symbols or grammatical rules used, once they are learned people can use them to form and transfer mental representations to the mind of another person • Based on the words you use and how they are ordered, you and a friend can extract meaning from a conversation and hopefully it is the same meaning o Understanding semantics, the meaning of words and sentences, is tricky  Example: “how did you do on the test?”, “I nailed it”. You know that your friend does not mean she nailed her test with a hammer to the desk. Someone who does not speak English however might take this sentence more literally 4. Language is generative and permits displacement • Generativity means that the symbols of language can be combined to generate an infinite number of messages that have novel meaning o Example: there are only 26 letters but they can be combined to create half a million words. Those words can be combined to create limitless number of sentences • Displacement: refers to the fact that language allows us to communicate about events and objects that are not physically present o Thus language allows us to discuss things in the past and future as well as people and events that currently exist or are taking place elsewhere o We can also discuss completely imaginary things The Structure of language -psycholinguistics look at language as having a surface structure and a deep structure. They also look at the hierarchical structure of language in which smaller elements are combined to create larger ones Surface structure and deep structure • Surface structure is the symbols and their order used in a sentence • Deep structure refers to the sentences underlying meaning or the combined symbols • Sentences can have different surface structures but the same deep structure o Example: Sam ate the cake; the cake was eaten by Sam; that bitch Sam ate my flipping cake! • Sometimes a single surface structure can have two deep surfaces o This often happens when using ambiguous sentences o Example: the police must stop drinking after midnight  It could mean that police need to enforce a curfew designed to stop citizens from drinking alcohol after midnight  Or it could mean that if police go for a few drinks after midnight they must wrap it up by midnight • In everyday life when we hear speech we must convert its surface structure  deep structure to understand what they are really trying to communicate. Which is why we often forget the exact surface structure of what someone said but still know the deep structure • In contrast when we want to communicate our own thoughts we must go from deep structure  surface structure that others can understand Garden path sentences • Example: o The old man the ships o Because he ran the second mile went quicker • Need to go over, go back through the path to understand the sentence • Demonstrates there is a risk to interpreting a sentence as it arrives • The information necessary for interpretation can often come at the end Hierarchical structure of language • Human language has a hierarchical structure and its most elementary building block is the phoneme, the smallest unit of speech sound in a language that can signal a difference in meaning o There about 100 phonemes that humans can produce but are never all used in one language o English uses about 40 phonemes, consisting of the various vowel and consonants sounds as well as certain letter combinations such as sh and th o Phonemes have no inherent meaning but they alter meaning when combined with other elements  Example: when the phoneme d or l is followed by og it created a different meaning (dog or log) • At the next level of hierarchy, phonemes are combined to form morphemes, the smallest unit of meaning in language o In each language, rules determine how phonemes can be combined into morphemes • Morphemes are combined to create words, words to create phrases, phrases to create sentences and sentences are used to create paragraphs, articles, books and conversations. o This last level of hierarchy is called discourse Understanding and producing language • Sometimes we hear things that people say wrong when we miss a morpheme or when they are out of context o Example: the man heard the words pressgrits on the phone when the recording said express scripts.  He had missed the morpheme Ex and since the phone call was not meant for him it was out of context and he had nothing to compare it to • Context plays a key role in understanding language The role of bottom-up processing • To understand language your brain must recognize and interpret patterns of stimuli- the sounds of speech, shapes of letters, movements that create hand signs or tactile patterns of dots used in braille that are detected by your sensory systems. • Extracting information from linguistic stimuli involves the joint influence of bottom-up and top-down processing o In Bottom-up processing individual elements of stimuli are analyzed and then combined to form a unified perception  Example: when you read a sentence specialized cell groups in your brain are (1) analyzing the basic elements of the visual patterns that are right before your eyes (angle of lines) and (2) feeding this information to other cell groups that lead you to perceive these patterns as letters.  We then recognize words either directly (perceiving visual patterns of letters) or indirectly (first translating those visual patterns into auditory codes, ie. Sounding out a word)  Words and their grammatical sequence then become the building blocks for sentences and sentences the building blocks for disclosure o At every step in the bottom-up sequence our understanding of language is also influenced by top down processing The role of top-down processing • The bead store example: in a famous farmers market there was a store called the Bead Store. As stated by the sign the store sold beads but when people would walk by they would ask where the bread was. So although the sign said Bead many people perceived it as Bread, a function perhaps from their mental set that they were in a farmers market that sold food. o In top-down processing, sensory information is interpreted in light of existing knowledge, concepts, ideas and expectations. o Peoples unconscious expectations can literally shape the way they visually perceive things, this is what happened in the Bead Store example • Language involves top-down processing because the words you write, read, speak or hear activate and draw on your knowledge of vocabulary, grammar and other linguistic rules that are stored in your long term memory o This is why if we write “Bill g_ave th_ pe_cil to h_s fr__nd” you can interpret the words with little difficulty, despite the absence of bottom-up elements • Another example of top-down processing involves speech segmentation. When we listen to a foreign language we have a hard time understanding when one word stops and another begins. But when it is our native language we can recognize speech segmentation, where each word in a sentence begins and ends, with no problems at all. o Psycholinguistics have discovered that we use several cues to tell when one spoken word ends and another begins 1. We know from experience that some phonemes are unlikely to occur within the same words so when we hear these sounds we are likely to perceive them as the ending or beginning of an adjacent word 2. We also use the context provided by the other words in a sentence to interpret the meaning of any individual word a. An example of this is an experiment done by Irwin Pollack and J.M. Pickett. They had a recording that said “of the world was covered in ice” and the broke it up into segments, “of”, “of the”, “of the world” and “of the world was”. They showed these segments to university students and asked them to identify the first word in the segment. The results showed that when shown the one-word clip only 35- 62% could remember the word while as the 4 word clip 70-100% remembered the first word. Pragmatics: the social context of language Example: suppose that a passerby asks you, “Do you have the time?” You say “10:20” and part ways. This question is really shorthand for “I am not wearing a watch, so please tell me what time it is right now.” Also you wouldn’t respond to the request “do you have the time?” merely by saying “Yes” and walking away. Instead you and the other people involved in these communications understand the social context and rules for how to respond • This example illustrates that it takes more than having a vocabulary and arranging words grammatically to understand language and communicate effectively • It also involves pragmatics, a knowledge of the practical aspects of using language o Language occurs in a social contexts and pragmatic knowledge not only helps you understand what other people are really saying, but also helps you make sure that other people are understanding what you are trying to communicate • Pragmatics are another example of how top-down processing influences language use Psycholinguistics have identified social rules that guide communication between people • One rule is that messages should be as clear as possible o So depending on if you are talking to an adult who is fluent in your language, a foreigner or a young child you would adjust your speech rate, choice of words and sentence complexity Language Functions, the Brain and Sex Differences • Language functions are distributed in many areas of the brain but the main ones are: o Word production and articulation  Broca’s area, located in the left hemisphere’s frontal lobe o Speech Comprehension  Wernicke’s area, located in the rear portion of the temporal lobe o Seeing Words  Located in the rear portion of the occipital lobe o Speaking words  Located in the center of the brain • When damage is done in the Broca or Wernicke area people typically suffer from aphasia, which is an impairment in speech comprehension and/or production that can be permanent or temporary • Sex differences in the brain involving language have been noted o Scientists noted that men who suffer left-hemisphere strokes are more likely than woman to show severe aphasic symptoms o In female stroke victims with left hemisphere damage, language functions are more likely to be spared o This suggests that more of the females language function is shared with the right hemisphere • Susan Rossell did a research study that supports this hypothesis o She did a study where men and woman had to choose on a computer between a word and non- word which was the real word o The results showed that men had more activity on the left side of their brain while woman’s was more spread out throughout the brain Acquiring a Language -language acquisition is the joint influence of biology (nature) and environment (nurture) Biological Foundations • Humans are born linguists • Human children, despite their limited thinking skills begin to master language early in life with no formal instructions • Different languages have developed independently in different parts of the world but seem to have a common underlying deep structure • Infants are born with the ability to vocalize the entire range of phonemes • At 6 months, infants begin to lose the ability to differentiate sounds that are not in their language o Example; Japanese children lose their ability to distinguish between r and l • Linguistics proposed that humans are born with a language acquisition device (LAD), an innate biological mechanism that contains the general grammatical rules common to all languages Social Learning Process • Social learning plays a central role in language acquisition • Child-directed speech: a high pitched voice that people tend to use when talking to children • B.F. skinner claims that language comes from operant conditioning where parents reinforce correct verbalization o Proven to be untrue  Children learn to much too fast for it to be operant conditi
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