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Chapter 9

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PSYC 213
Jelena Ristic

Cognitive Psychology CHAPTER 9: LANGUAGE 9.1 – The Structure of Language  Tree diagrams: Used by Wundt to describe the relationships between different parts of our overall experience of a situation. o Shows how there can be many relationships occurring simultaneously, and how these relationships then become serially ordered. o Example: You are listening to loud music.  The relationships that are occurring simultaneously: loud and music  Ordered relationships: “The music is loud.”  This sentence has a subject (music) followed by the predicate (loud).  The person that hears the sentence “the music is loud” reconstructs the speaker’s experience by reversing the process used to generate the sentence. 9.2 – Transformational Grammar CHOMSKY!  Language: Open-ended verbal communication that consists of all possible sentences.  Speech: Those sentences that are actually spoken; only a small subset of language.  Chomsky is super important in language. He points out that: o The possible sentences that can be generated in a language is infinite. o Therefore, there is a set of rules (grammar) that everyone uses to generate sentences. o Grammar is a finite set of rules that can generate an infinite set of sentences. o Sentences can be grammatically correct but meaningless (colorless green ideas sleep furiously). o Processes that make a sentence grammatical are different from the processes that make a sentence meaningful.  Finite state grammar: A set of rules for generating strings of letters. o Every word in a sentence is produced in a sequence starting with the first word and ending with the last word, as the following diagram shows: o Chomsky rejects the possibility that a finite state grammar is the sort of grammar that could generate all the grammatical sentences in a language.  Finite state grammar only operates at one level; the process only moves from left to right. o Chomsky proposed a top-down process that uses phrase structure rules & grammatical transformations.  Phrase structure rules: Rules describing the way in which symbols can be rewritten as other symbols.  Example: o Sentence (S)  Noun phrase (NP) + verb phrase (VP) o NP  Article (art) + Noun (N) o VP  Verb (V) + NP  These rules allow man different sentences to be derived and this can be represented using a tree diagram.  The final sequence of words in the tree diagram is called the terminal string:  Grammatical Transformations: Rules operating on entire strings of symbols, converting them to new strings.  Example: The passive transformation o Tom admired Jack = NP1 + V + NP2 o The passive transformation changes the previous sentence into: o Jack was admired by Tom = NP2 + to be + V + by + NP1.  This is an example of an optional transformation because it isn’t necessary in order to make a sentence grammatical.  Kernel Sentences: those produced without optional transformations. o Seems easier to understand & remember because they require fewer transformations. o Problem: Passive sentences like Jack was admired by Tom have more words and they may be harder to process simply for that reason. o Chomsky revised the theory of phrase structure rules & grammatical transformations. o Chomsky introduced new concepts and made distinctions between competence & performance and between deep structure & surface structure. 9.2.1 – Competence and Performance  Competence and Performance: A person may have an internalized system of rules that constitutes a basic linguistic competence, but this competence may not always be reflected in the person’s actual use of the language (performance). o Performance is not only determined by competence. It is also determined by cognitive factors like memory and the person’s understanding of the situation.  Example: one can say long sentences that are hard to understand because they exceed the attentional capacity of listeners (Ha! Some profs need to read this…)  Example: kids say things differently than adults. o Therefore, performance will not always give us an accurate picture of competence. 9.2.2 – Deep and Surface Structure  Deep and Surface Structure: The sequence of words that makes up a sentence constitutes a surface structure that is derived from an underlying deep structure.  Chomsky believes that competence has an innate structure = universal grammar. o This allows us to transform surface structures into deep structures = extract meaning from words.  The same surface structure can be derived from different deep structures. o Example: Time flies like an arrow.  First derivation: time can go by fast.  Second: Insects called “time flies” (like fruit flies) like (are fond of) an arrow.  Check out Fig 9.4 (pg 262) for a drawing of a cute fruit fly :D  To understand a sentence: surface  deep  To produce a sentence: deep  surface. 9.3 – The Innateness Hypothesis 9.3.1 – The Poverty of the Stimulus Argument  Chomsky – Innateness hypothesis: Children innately possess a language acquisition device that comes equipped with principles of universal grammar. o Poverty of the Stimulus Argument: The linguistic environment a child is exposed to is too deficient to enable the acquisition of a language on that basis alone. o Kids learn too quickly and therefore must possess a language acquisition device. o Language acquisition device(LAD) and universal grammar: The hypothesis that children possess an LAD that contains general principles that apply to any natural language (universal grammar).  It is a theory of language that kids use to discover the structure of a particular language.  Skinner – Kids learn by receiving informative feedback on their utterances. o But a study by Brown found that mothers did not correct ungrammatical sentences 9.3.2 – Minimalism  Minimalism: The belief that linguistic competence has only those characteristics that are absolutely necessary. o In accord with the principle of parsimony (simplest possible theory of competence). o This is the current theory. o Key hypothesis: the acquisition of a particular language involves parameter setting.  Parameter setting: The hypothesis that language acquisition involves a universal grammar that contains a variety of switches, which can be set to one of a number of possible values, or parameters. A parameter is a universal aspect of language that can take on one of a small set of possible values. o Example: the position of the verb is a parameter set for a specific language.  English: verb comes before the object (take the cheese)  German: verb follows the object (the cheese take). o The switches get set to the specific values that characterize the language that kids get exposed to.  Why are there different languages? o Maybe for purely historical reasons (people move apart and slowly modify their original language…) o To communicate with some people, while hiding the meaning from others that are also listening. This is the concealing function.  Concealing function: the hypothesis that language is a kind of code. The parameters that are set for one language conceal its meanings from the speakers of another language.  Thus, maybe linguistic parameters evolved precisely to keep open the possibility of learning different languages. 9.3.3 – Is the Stimulus for Language Really Impoverished?  A study found that kids get exposure to many constructions that were assumed to be absent.  It is impossible to disprove the poverty of the stimulus argument because you can’t give a complete account of all the data available to a kid.  Enough evidence has been accumulated to support the data-driven learning of a language. o Kids do receive and make constructions. o The complexity of speech to which the child is exposed is significantly related to the complexity of the speech that the child produces. 9.3.4 – Adult Reformulations of Child Errors  Parental Reformulations: Parents provide negative evidence because their reformulations inform kids when their utterances are incorrect. At the same time, they also provide positive instances of correct speech. o 2 years old: reformulations occurred 50-70% of the time.  50% of these reformulations were taken up. o Reformulations decreases as kids grow up and speech improves. 9.3.5 – The Impact of Teachers’ Speech  Syntactic development: The development of the ability to organize words into grammatical sentences. o Much of this comes from teachers. o This development occurs much less during the summer  Study about the exposure to speech in school as an important factor in syntactic development: o Focused on multi-clause sentences (The lamp broke because it fell off the table). o The proportion of multi-clause sentences in each teacher’s speech ranged from 11-32%. o Results: the more complex the teacher’s speech (more multi-clause sentences used), the greater the syntactic development. 9.3.5 – Evaluation of Chomskian Theories  Generated a crazy amount of research  Innate processes are now thought to play a lesser role in language acquisition.  The linguistic environment of a child is much richer than had been believed.  Language acquisition is increasingly acknowledged to be dependent on learning. 9.4 – Communication & Comprehension  The context in which information is received is very important in determining the interpretation extracted.  Given, new contract: A process whereby the speaker agrees to connect new info to what the listener already knows. o Comprehension would be super hard/impossible if the speaker simply introduced new info without connecting it to things already known by the listener.  Two approaches to communication: code model & inferential model.  Code model: Speaker’s thoughts are first encoded into words. These words are then decoded by the listener. o Assumes that both speaker and listener share a lot of mutual knowledge. o Problem: it is hard to spell out the ways in which people could come to have enough mutual knowledge to guarantee successful communication.  Inferential model – Grice: A speaker intends to inform a listener, and a listener infers what the speaker intends. o The meaning of the utterance depends critically on the inferences you make concerning the meaning that the speaker intends. o Co-operative principle: The assumption that the speaker intends to say something concise, truthful, relevant, and unambiguous. o Conversational maxims (relevance theory): Speakers attempt to say no more than is necessary (maxim of quantity); they try to be truthful (maxim of quality); they attempt to be relevant (maxim of relation); they strive to avoid ambiguity (maxim of manner).  On the basis of these maxims, we make inferences, or implicatures.  Communication sometimes follows the coding model and sometimes follows the inferential model.  Under all conditions, the goal of communication is RELEVANCE. o An utterance is relevant to the extent that it is both true and easy to understand. o Example: What time is it?  Watch says 2:18  People say 2:20 97% of the time because it is easier to process.  Inferences can be unconscious, or intuitive. 9.4.1 – Figurative Language  Figurative language: Various figures of speech like metaphor and irony.  Irony and sarcasm are ways in which satire can be accomplished.  A satirical remark holds something up to ridicule.  Sarcasm: a sharp, bitter remark.  Irony: You say something but actually mean the opposite. o Involves the use of pretense (speaker only pretends to mean what they say). o Usually involves a particular tone of voice. o Standard theory of irony: listeners first take the ironic utterance literally but then realize that the speaker cannot mean it li
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