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Chapter 6

PSYC 251 Chapter Notes - Chapter 6: Speech Perception, Count Noun, Grammatical Gender

Course Code
PSYC 251
Elizabeth Kelley

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Chapter 6: Development of Language and Symbol use.
6.1: Language development
-The components of language
-What is required for language
-Process of language acquisition
-Theoretical issues in language development
---Symbols: systems for representing our thoughts, feelings, knowledge and for communicating them to other
people. Language is a big one and becoming symbol-minded is a crucial development.
Language development Language use requires comprehension: understanding what others say; and
production: speaking or write or sign to others.
The components of language
-Generativity: through use of the finite set of words and morphemes in humans’ vocab, we can put together an
infinite number of sentences and express an infinite number of ideas.
-Phonemes: elementary units of meaningful sound used to produce languages. Unit of sounds.
-Phonological development: st in child’s language learning. The mastery of the sound system of their lang.
-Morphemes: smallest units of meaning in lang, composed of one or more phonemes.
-Semantic development: 2nd, learning of sys for expressing meaning in a lang, including word learning.
-Syntax: rules in lang that specify how words from different categories are combined.
-Syntatic development: 3rd. deve of systax of a language
-Pragmatic development: acquiring knowledge about how language is used typical of the context.
-Metalinguistic knowledge: understanding of the properties and function of language understanding
language as language. Adult already have this compared to children.
What is required for language?-A human brain and Human environ --hearing/seeing language.
-A human brain
-Language is a species-specific behaviors. )t’s also species-universal: infants across the globe.
-Non-human subjects: do not qualify as language because contained little evidence of syntactic structure.
-Brain-language relations:
-Language processing involves a substantial degree of functional localization. *Hemispheric differences in
language functioning (R-handed, language usually controlled by L.hemi).
-L-hemi specialization emerge early (newborn and 3month old both showed more activity in L hemi).
-EEG: infants show more L-hemi activity when listening to speech, more R-hemi for non-speech sounds.
Exception: detection of pitch in speech (R-hemi).
-Not clear why L-hemi process speech: predisposed or auditory cortex in L-hemi tuned to detect diff in timing;
in R is tuned to detect small diff in pitch.
-Critical period for language development:
-The timing during which language deve readily and after which (sometime between age 5 and puberty)
language acquisition is more difficult and ultimately less successful.
-Ex. Genie… never deve sophisticated language beyond toddler level. Study was criticized so dunno effect.
-Adults beyond critical period are more likely to suffer permanent language impairment from brain damage,
presumably cuz other areas o f younger brain are able to take over language functions.
-Adults who learned second lang after puberty use diff neural mechanisms to process that lang than do adults
who learned their second lang from infancy.
*Neural circuitry supporting language learning operates differently during the early years.
-Deaf adults who had exposure to language during infancy even if it’s diff modality performed better on
language task than adults never/got min language input in early childhood.
-Some learners continue to be talented language learner even after puberty, while most don’t.
-less-is-more hypothesis: perceptual and memory limitations cause young child to extract and store smaller
chunks of language than adults do. *Crucial block of language morphemes are small, young learner’s limited
cog. Abilities may facilitate the task of analyzing it and learning language.
-Practical app: deaf child should be exposed to sign language asap. Foreign lang exposure at school asap.
-A human environment Infants recognize speech as important early. Newborn prefer speech rather than
artificial sounds. Newborn prefers non-human primates vocalization to non-speech sounds. They have no
prefer for speech vs. macaque (non-human primate until  months of age. Thus suggesting infant’s auditory
preferences are fine-tuned through experience with human language during their earliest months.
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-Infant-directed speech
-Motherese. This style of speech used by both gender including parents and non-parents. Young children also
use it when talking to babies. Distinctive mode of speech adults adopt when talking to bb and young child.
-Characteristics: emotional tone (affection). Exaggeration (slower and voice higher-pitched, swoop abruptly
from high pitches to low and back again, vowels clearer), exaggerated facial expression. *seen in deaf signing.
-various pitch patterns used to communicate important info: sharp falling intonation = disapprove.
-)DS aid infants’ language development: draw their attention to speech perhaps because it’s a happy speech.
Helps young infants discriminate vowel sounds.
-May not be universal: Kalulibb carried facing outward so engage with others. Mother speak for them.
Box 6.1: Application. Two languages better than one.-Bilingualism: ability to use 2 lang.
-Bilingual learning can begin in womb. Newborns will prefer both lang over other languages. Newborn can also
distinguish between the two languages spoken by mom. Their attention to speech cues is heightened relative
to that of monolinguals. Better at using purely visual information to discriminate between unfamiliar
languages. -Bilinguals differentiate similar sounding words 3 months later.
-Parents engage in lang mixing interactions. More mixing= infants size of infant’s vocab. more mix for less
vocab). Build 2 separate linguistic systems. When mixing occurs usually reflects a gap of knowledge in one
language that the child is trying to fill in with the other instead of a confusion.
-Better executive function and cognitive control. These effects emerge early: greater cog. Flexibility in learning
tasks. Delay onset of symptoms with Alzheimers disease. Learned to rapidly switch between languages both in
comprehension and production.
-USA: proposed initially provide child with instruction in basic subjects in native language and then gradually
increase amount of instruction in English:
1. Child often fail to master basic matter when it’s taught in foreign language.
2. When both languages integrated, child learn the 2nd more readily, participate actively and less frustrated and
bored. This approach also prevents the child from becoming less proficient in native language.
The process of Language Acquisition.
-Listening and speaking, comprehending and producing. Infants pay attention and know a lot before 1st produc
-Speech perception
-begin in womb, fetus deve preference for mom’s voice and language they hear her speak.
-Prosody: characteristic rhythm, tempo, cadence, melody, intonational patterns, with which a language is
spoken. Diff in it = diff why langauges sound so different.
-Distinguish among speech sounds that make a difference in given language.
-Categorical perception of speech sounds:
adults and infants perceive speech sounds as belonging to discrete categories.--> categorical perception.
Ex. B and P only diff is the length of time between when air passes through lips and when vocal cords start
vibrating. This lag = voice onset time. Shorter for b than p.
-Perception of a continuum as 2 categories allow one to pay attention to sound diff that are meaningful in
native language. This allows meaningless difference to be ignored.
-Young infants draw the same sharp distinctions between speech sounds. Established using habituation
techniques. Young infants actually make more distinctions than adults do! Infants can distinguish
between phonemic contrasts made in all languages of world. Innate ability present at birth, and
experience-independent because infants discriminate between speech sounds they have never heard
before. This prime them to start learning whichever of the world’s langauges they hear around them.
+ Correlation between infant’s speech perception skills and later language skills. But after 10m, become more
specified (only detect phoneme differences exposed to).
-Developmental changes in speech perception.
-During last months of 1st year, infants increasingly home in on speech sounds of native language. By 12
months, they lost the ability to perceive speech sounds that are not part of it adult like perception.
-This perceptual narrowing is not limited to speech: sign too. Face perception, musical rhythm.
-Word segmentation.
-The process of discovering where words begin and end in fluent speech. Start in 2nd half of 1st year.
-Head-turn procedure to assess auditory preferences: 7 month old recognized words repeated in sentences.
-Infants are good at picking-up regularities in native language that help find word boundaries.
-Distributional properties: phenomenon that in any language, certain sounds are more likely to appear
together than are others.
-Their own name: recog as young as 41/2 month.
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