Week 13- Language 1/13/2013 2:54:00 PM
FQ: why are humans better than computers at interpreting both spoken and written
Language is a method for communicating information, including ideas, thoughts, and
- music= a universal form of communication used by humans
- way we hold are body also communicates emotions
information can only be communicated if both the ender and receiver understand what‟s
Semanticity- The extent to which a language can use symbols to transmit meaningful
Generativity- is when a limited number of words and a few rules convey many ideas.
Language is used this way (more than one meaning for some words) [The ability to combine
words or symbols of a language using rules of composition and syntax to communicate an
almost infinite variety of ideas using a relatively small vocabulary.]
Ex. by combining the same words in a different order the sentence can take on a completely
- to be considered language- it must have generativity.
- larger vocabulary increases ability to communicate but have to be able to combine
grammar and vocabulary to come up with compelling ideas.
-to be considered language it also has to have displacement- The ability to convey a
message that is not tied to the current time and place- but instead communicate
information about events in the past, future or some other location.
Language- a socially agreed upon, rule-governed system of arbitrary symbols that can be
defined in different ways to communicate ideas and feelings about both the present time
and place and other times and places, real or imagined.
- linguists study the “rules” of language
-Psycholinguists study the verbal behaviour and cognition (acquisition, comprehension, and
production of language) - each rule studied by linguists represents a different area of knowledge about human
Phonology- The rules that govern the patterns of sounds that are used in a language -
which sounds are used, and how they're combined.
Phonemes- The basic distinctive speech sounds in a language that distinguish one word
(e.g., rice) from another (lice).
- phonological rules govern how phonemes can be combined in a given language.
- phonemes combined to create morphemes which is the smallest meaningful unit in a
Morphemes can be combined and is called morphology.
2 types of morphemes
free morphemes- meaningful on their own and can stand alone as words
bound morphemes- meaningful only when combined with other morphemes to form
words. Ex. (ed) on the ends of words
Morphemes- „Lego bricks” we use to build words.
Languages use many codes and assumptions
Semantics- The relationship between words and their meanings (crucial for
Syntax or syntactical rules- Grammatical rules of a particular language for combining
words to form phrases and sentences.
Pragmatics- The social rules of language that allow people to use language appropriately
for different purposes and in different situations. To use the knowledge of the world (helps
you interpret what people say)
Levels of language processing
1. recognize phonemes (sounds)
2. identify words & associate with their meanings (using morphological and semantic
3. Analyze the syntax of the message (involves word order, context, semantics and
prosody. ) and interpret the utterance in its context (ivolves use of knowledge of the world
(pragmatics) and syntax and semantics) - each level requires a number of rules/cues
------------------------Written and Spoken ---------------------------------
articulators- Mouth structures that make speech sounds (jaw, tongue, lips, and soft
- language has many ambiguities so rely on our experience with language and our
knowledge of pragmatics
- two b‟s sound the same in different words because of the positioning of the tongue for the
next letters. – use this info when understanding speech.
- coarticulation- Speech sounds for words are not produced in a discrete sequence. Instead,
the articulators are effectively shaping multiple sounds at any moment in time, so that
different instances of a particular phoneme (e.g., "b") are acoustically different, depending
on the sounds preceding and following them.
-different languages use different phonemes
We don‟t hear all phenomes
-brain learns to disregard unneeded information
- only learn distinction between phonemes learnt in their language categorical perception-The tendency of perceivers to disregard physical differences
between stimuli and perceive them as the same, such that a continuous change in a
physical attribute is perceived not as continuous, but as a discrete change at a category
- allows us to perceive sounds as one phoneme or another
- ex. Distinguishing based on facial queues whether someone is male or female
- auditory categorical perception depends on your ability to ignore acoustic variability that is
irrelevant to your language, while making use of meaningful variability to distinguish
- Iverson and kuhl studied perception in english speaking and Japanese speaking individuals
by creating synthetic speech syllables – created continuum of r to l that differed by the
same amount of intervals
-english speakers distinguish ra and la as distinct differences but Japanese do not.
Perceptual similarity different.
Speech perception system
-speech perception system highlights the phonemic contrasts that are used in the language
you speak and minimizes contrasts that are not meaningful
- allows speech system to dismiss meaningless variability in speech
-also affects tone- change in tone in some language is meaningless for words but in other
will change the meaning. Therefore very hard for English speakers to learn mandarin.
3 types of language : oral language, written language, and internal language
- written language builds on top of oral language
- therefore the linguistic knowledge and analytic skills that help speech comprehension also
helpful for written language
-most languages represent the sounds in speech symbolically
Reading sounds and words
- can either “sound out” words also called phonetic reading or reading by sight also called
-reader brings other knowledge into play when reading text
- knowledge of morphology helps reader break word into smaller units -readers vocabulary(semantics) plays role in ability to comprehend text- if you don‟t know
what the word means just by reading it wont help much.
-knowledge of the world is also important to be able to interpret the meaning of the word in
the sentence and different types of writing and media.
Written language does have some rules that differentiate it from oral language – these
characteristics have to be learned
- in writing spaces break writing into different words
-writer has to learn which way to read the text
- writer has to learn the rules for which punctuation is used to convey their intended
- before people can learn to read they have to be able to map the visual symbol system
onto the auditory symbol system
1. learning the letters of the alphabet & the sounds they make
2. begin to analyze phonemes in ways that are not required for language comprehension
(phonemic awareness) ex. Knowing that bat cat and hat all end the same way
-Alred Yarbus found that our saccades (eye movements) tend to fixate on interesting scenes
in a particular scene. Depends on the individual and what they find interesting
-eye tracking= good way of tracking cognition
- eye tracking can also be used to study advertisements and web page design, study object
permanence is young children. For example if a ball rolls behind a box and comes out the
other end repeatedly a young child cannot predict this but a older child would be able to
------------------------Language Development ----------------------------
roles of phonemes, multilingualism, and parental involvement in language acquisition
between 7-8 months infants start to babble and figure out where the words start and end
and by 9 months start to put things together to tell adults they need something specific. Ex.
Toy with a shout and point
by 10 months they are starting to understand a few words 12-13 months start to speak first word(s) take in what adults are labeling, putting it
together with the physical world and picking out the sounds in the world recognizing how
they string together
from there start to grasp that everything can be labeled
-much easier for young kids to grasp multiple languages than adults because adults have a
structure of language already and so it is harder to build on top of that
Infant direct talk (IDT)
Exaggerated expressive verbal and nonverbal communication used with infants.
-May help distinguish between encouragement and discourage before they can actually
understand the words.
-help to understand meaning of words
phonemes also help in such development
-language is composed of different arrangements of phonemes
-infants 6-8 months can distinguish between phonemes while adults cannot
-changes occur in the infants brains at around 12 months that changes the way they hear
spoken language making their language perception more adult-like.
Crying- first 2 months
Cooing- 8-10 wks begin to coo (first speech like sounds)
Interaction and increased sound production
Babbling 7 months begin mixing consonants and vowel sounds
Becoming better babblers
Before being able to speak language have to understand it
Infants have problem of reference
How do they begin to understand words when
1. when they are surrounded by numerous objects that could be the word
2. have no point of reference and cant ask for clarification
- start to distinguish between words from 4.5 month to 7-8 months
-most infants produce first word between 10-15 months
overextend: Generalize known words to a wider variety of contexts than is appropriate for
those words. Point to any man and say “dada” underextend: Limit context for generalized words to a certain specific meaning. Point to
only their ball and say ball but not to any other ball.
Vocabulary Spurt: Period of strong language growth in children in which they are able to
learn and use a large number of words. (around 15 months)
-also start to string words together at this time
Telegraphic speech: Speech that sounds very much like a telegram, with only essential
words, has words arranged in an order that makes sense, and contains almost all nouns and
verbs strung together in pairs.
Theories of acquiring language
Nativism (language)- Theory of language development that proposes that children are
born with an innate knowledge of a universal grammar.
Noam Chomsky- argues that children are born with an instinctive knowledge of grammar
-argues in favour of a system in the brain that begins to develop after our first exposure to
-no learning involved in early language achievement- have no control over it and only
require words to grow their language ability
-born with the principles of language- they are in our genes
-person will develop high expertise in native language
-“critical time period” children can learn language rapidly when they are young but may
never be able to make up for it if they do not experience language when they are young Genetic Evidence
Linguistic ability difference between humans and non-humans may be a result of a pair of
genetic mutations in gene called FOXP2
-FOXP2 present and similar in all mammals
-very few mutations are survivable in this gene
-A person who believes that language development results from interaction among multiple
biological and social influences.
-place much more emphasis on social environment and learning than nativists
-increased complexity in development of vocabulary and language are direct results of their
Interactionist understanding of grammar
- grammar emerges from the complexity of a growing vocabulary rather than navists theory
of universal grammar in all of us.
-grammar seen as extremely complex system that we are not simply born with
-correlation between the amount of words in child‟s vocabulary and the complexity of
grammar that they can use
- structure of the social environment is based on the use of language, therefore
environment is very conductive to language development
-emphasis on language as a social process (interactionists)
human development of language does not reflect a fundamental difference in the way that
human brains work.
2 chimpanzee‟s Kanzi and Washoe respond to signed (w) and verbal (k) language and
demonstrate syntax and the three properties of language sematicity, generativity, and
displacement subsongs- Unstructured, often rambling vocalization at low intensity heard mainly in young
birds. (similar to babbling in human babies) develops into more complex songs and sounds
later on week 14: genetics and intelligence 1/13/2013 2:54:00 PM
FC: how is inheritability of intelligence connected with inheritability of other behavioural and
human factors we have studied so far?
Heritability and inheritability mean basically the same thing- the ability to be passed from
generation to generation
Behaviour has 2 origins: either you are born with it (nativism) and it is in your genes or you
gained it from experience (empiricism) from the environment
-all behaviour aries from both nature (nativism) and nurture (empiricism) to an extent
because genes interact with the environment at every level
-many psychological disorders and processes have genetic underpinnings
behaviour genetics- the study of genetic influences on behaviour
ex. our response to alcohol may be affected by many genetic and environmental factors
(more prone to abuse it/get addicted)
DNA- deoxyribonucleic acid- Genetic material of all organisms that makes up
chromosomes; resembles a twisted ladder, with strands of sugar and phosphates connected
by rungs made from nucleotide molecules of adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine.
Chromosomes- Threadlike structures in the nuclei of living cells; contain genes.
-humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes
-22 called autosomes
-23 containing X and Y chromosomes (women= XX, men=XY)
-sperm and eggs cells produced by process called meiosis, resulting in each cell having half
of each pair of chromosomes
-when sex cells combine during reproduction, chromosomes combine giving the cells
complete set of 23 chromosomes
chromatid- One of two identical halves of a replicated chromosome.
-egg can only have an X chromatid, sperm can have X or Y
so father (sperm) determines sex of the child
Genes and Alleles
Genes- Small units of DNA that direct the synthesis of proteins and enzymes and result in
the expression of inheritable traits.( encode particular proteins)
-point on chromosome where gene is located is called its locus or loci homozygous- Each parent contributes the same allele for a particular gene. (genes on
same locus but on different chromosomes are the same)
heterozygous- Each parent contributes different alleles for a particular gene.
Alleles- Alternative forms of the same gene. (pair of genes at a given locus) one inherited
from father, another from the mother.
-if alleles are different one allele has a dominant (Trait that is exhibited when an individual
possesses heterozygous alleles at that locus) effect over the other
recessive- Trait that occurs only when it is expressed by homozygous alleles. (ex brown
eyes dominant and blue eyes recessive. For someone to have blue eyes, both alleles must
encode for blue eyes)
- appearance and behaviour depend on genes AND the environment
-identical twins can still look different because of their diets etc.
-genes don‟t directly influence our behaviour- genes guide cells to generate proteins that
cause our cells to form chemicals that are related to behaviour
-some genes have only one purpose/function while others have a few
-type of protein made depends on structure of gene and the environment
-heritability- The amount of variability in a given trait in a given population at a given time
due to genetic factors; measured as h and sometimes referred to by this measure instead
of the word. (passed through genes)
Genotype and phenotype
Genotype- the genetic makeup of n organism
Phenotype- refers to how a trait is expressed
Ex. two people that have brown eyes. One has genotypes Bb and one has genotype BB- but
both have brown eyes. They have same phenotype but different genotype- also an example
of the single gene effect
Polygenic- A trait that is influenced by more than one pair of genes. (ex labs have 2
separate genes for colour) one gene controls expression while the other controls colour crossing black lab and
brown lab can make golden lab because its golden every time there are two e‟s
Single gene traits
- most behaviour cannot be affected by just a single gene
-genetic basis to fearfulness in dogs (scott and fuller) directly predicted what percentage of
dogs would show trait based on single gene.
FOXP2 gene found on chromosome 7 that is related to sever language disorder in humans
-can see if there is genetic link by seeing if it runs in families.
-most genes perform multiple tasks so hard for just one gene to control one behaviour
- sperm= 23 chromosomes egg= 23 chromosomes when they unite they form pairs so total
of 46 individual chromosomes (but they match up with each other)
-family study- take individuals from many families and measure particular behavioural trait.
Then measure correlation of siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins etc.. if there is a higher
correlation with closer related family members provides indication that the behavioural trait
is likely genetic
-adoption study- track presence or absence of a trait in adopted children as well as
biological and adoptive parents
more similar trait= higher correlation=greater genetic contribution
more similar trait= higher correlation= greater environmental contribution
take fraternal twins (dizygotic) (share 50% of genes)
take identical twins (monozygotic) (share 100% of genes) compare frequency of trait- if twins share same trait they are described as concordant for
concordance rate= % of twins in a study that share a particular trait. Usually higher
concordance rate (6/10) in identical twins
The expression of similarity in traits (or absence of traits) by both twins.
if genetics are solely responsible the concordance rate would be 100%
twin studies- important for 2 reasons
can compare similarities of identical and fraternal twins to see extent to which genetics are
-genetics play a significant role in individual differences in personality about 50% of
-way that environment affects people- environments we share with family members have
only modest affect
-environments that have greatest affect are the ones that are unique to us ex. If one sibling
travelled to an exotic country
Epigenetics- The study of heritable changes that occur without a change in the DNA
video on field of epigenetics: