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Chapter 8

Chapter 8: Language

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PSYC 1001
Vessela Stamenova

Chapter 8: Language Language  The association of arbitrary symbols with specific meanings to express thoughts and emotions  Language is: symbolic, semantic (carries a meaning), generative, and structured  Right side of the brain The Science of Language  Linguistics: the study of language  Psycholinguistics: the study of verbal behaviour o Interested in human cognition (development of language, interactions with other cognitive abilities) Speech and Comprehension  Perception of speech o Pauses and change in pitch o Written words vs. spoken words o Recognition of patterns as opposed to sounds o Top-down processing – using what we already know about the words, interpreting what we hear, breaking down stream of sounds into symbols based on the fact that we already know these symbols Analysis of Speech  Phonemes: the smallest units of sound that allow us to distinguish the meaning of words  English: 40 phonemes o Single letters, combinations (/ch/, /th/)  Voice-onset time: the delay between the initial sound of a consonant and the onset of vibration of the vocal cords  Voiced vs. unvoiced consonants: /p/ vs. /b/  If listening to another language with different phonemes, you will have difficulty learning and understanding the language because you don’t recognize the phonemes  PET Study o Natural speech o Unintelligible speech, preserved phonemic properties o Intelligible speech, but different phonemic properties lacking  Superior temporal lobe in left hemisphere responded to phonemic properties of sound only (1, 2) – with meaning  Anterior portion only if sound is intelligible with phonemic properties Morphemes  Smallest units of meaning in language  Bound morpheme (walked)  Free morpheme (walk)  Context and language o Sanders, Newport, and Neville (2002) o Nonsense strings of sounds o N100 response at word onset Syntax  Rules of language or grammar  Implicit memory and syntax  fMRI study o Brain more active when we listen to more complex syntax  Active voice vs. passive voice 1. Word order 2. Word class (grammatical categories – noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, etc.) 3. Function (prepositions) and content word (carries more context, like nouns) 4. Affixes (prefixes and suffixes) 5. Word meanings (semantics) 6. Prosody (changing pitch or annotation, can be language-specific) Language  Knowledge of the world is organized into scripts (the characteristics of a particular situation)  Scripts help us understand language o I learned a lot about the bars in tow yesterday. Do you have aspirin? Is Language Innate? 1. Language is universal in human populations 2. Humans learn language early in life and seemingly without effort 3. Languages have many structural elements in common (syntax and grammar) Nativist Theories  Noam Chomsky  Infinite number of combinations in language suggest that there is no way that we learn through imitation  The poverty of stimulus argument: children do not hear many examples of some of the grammatical structures they acquire  Language acquisition device: an innate mechanism or process that facilitates the learning of language  Deep vs. surface structure Behaviourism  B.F. Skinner  Verbal behaviour  We learn language through operant conditioning o Reinforcement of vocalizations o Imitation of words and syntax o Association of sights with sounds of words o Shaping o Extinction o Imitation Language and Thought  Linguistic relativity: the hypothesis that one’s language determines the nature of one’s thought  Different languages lead people to view the world differently Language Acquisition in Children  Prenatal development of language  Cooing, babbling, words 1. Protowords (under 12 months) 2. One-word sentence stage (12 – 18 months) 3. Two-word stage, vocabulary spurt (18 – 20 months) 4. Complete sentences (24 months) How Adults Talk to Children  Child-directed speech o Clear pronunciations, exaggerated intonations, careful distinction between similar-sounding phonemes, relatively few abstract and function words, isolation of single words  Expanding speech by imitation o Sam lunch. Sam is having lunch. Acquisition of Adult Rules of Grammar  First words: content words  Grammar development o Expansion of object nouns into noun phrases (“That ball” to “That a big ball”)  Telegraphic speech o Verbs, articles, prepositions o Inflections (prefix, suffix)  Overgeneralization errors o Compound nouns (3-4 years old) o Metalinguistic awareness (6 years old) – ability to reflect on use of language, e.g. make jokes, understand sarcasm, etc. Acquisition of Meaning  Fast mapping o One exposure to a word is enough to learn its meaning o 20 new words a week  Object-word pairings o Overextensions (use a word to apply to other categories of words; “car” to talk about buses, trains, etc.) and underextensions (a word applies only to one specific object; “dog” only means for their dog) Anatomy of Language  Language is both localized and lateralized o Right-hemisphere speech dominance  4% right-handed  15% ambidextrous  27% left-handed  Localization of language in the brain  Broca’s area o Anterior speech area in the left frontal hemisphere that functions with the motor cortex to produce the movements needed for speaking  Wernicke’s area o Posterior speech area at the rear of the left temporal lobe that regulates language comprehension  Zatorre et al. PET study o Bursts of noise activated area 1 (primary auditory cortex) o Listening to words activated Wernicke’s area o Discriminating speech sounds activated Broca’s area  Speech-sound perception requires a match with the motor behaviours associated with making that sound Aphasia  Inability to speak or comprehend language despite the presence of normal comprehension or intact vocal mechanisms (larynx, pharynx, mouth, and tongue) Broca’s Aphasia  Language expression deficit a.k.a. Expressive aphasia or Nonfluent aphasia o Slow, laborious and nonfluent speech o Difficulty with function words o Content words o Aggramaticism, anomia (inability to name things), and articulation deficits  Thought > Wernicke’s area >Broca’s area (stores motor programs for speaking words) > facial area of motor cortex > cranial nerve > speak? Wernicke’s Aphasia  Language comprehension deficit a.k.a. receptive aphasia or fluent aphasia o Fluent speech o Melodic line of voice maintained; appears to be grammatical; few content words; word salad o Recognition of spoken words (pure word deafness), comprehension of meaning of words; ability to convert thoughts into words  Spoken word > primary auditory cortex/A1 > Wernicke’s area (contains sound images of words > comprehend words? Broca and Wernicke’s Aphasia TYPE PRONOUNCIATION CONTENT OF COMPREHENSION SPEECH Broca’s Aphasia Poor (nonfluent) Mostly nouns and Impaired if the verbs, omits meaning depends prepositions and on complex other grammatical grammar connectives Wernicke’s Unimpaired Grammatical but Seriously impaired Aphasia (fluent) often nonsensical; has trouble finding the right word, especially names of objects The Right Hemisphere in Language  Aprosodia-Deficits in ability to identify or use prosody (emotional and tonal components of language) Auditory Communication in Nonhuman Species  Common chimpanzees o Somewhat unsuccessful o Visual systems worked better o Seldom used symbols in new original ways o Used symbols to represent but not to describe o Can learn what, where, and who  Bonobos (pygmy chimpanzees) o Social interactions similar to humans o 1980s Rumbaugh and Savage-Rumbaugh o Press symbols that lit when touched o Matata and son Kanzi, sister Panbanisha o Kanzi comprehension comparable to 2-5 year old  Comprehension better  Name and describe objects  Request items they don’t see  Past events  Creative requests  PET scans of chimps during communication  Broca’s homologue (IFG) activated during v
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