Psy102: Introduction to Psychology
(8) Language and Thought
Communicating with others
(1) Evaluate the linguistic relativity hypothesis.
(2) Describe the structure of language and its basic units.
(3) Explain the role of shared knowledge in language
(4) Describe the major milestones of language development.
(5) Evaluate whether there is such a thing as ‘non-human
When your thinking, mostly a voice in your head.
Voice has to be speaking a langage.
The relationship between language and thought
* The ‘weak’ version of the linguistic relativity hypothesis:
* The language that you speak influences how you think.
LanguageAmore likely to think about things in wayAbut is still able to think about
thinks in way B
* The ‘strong’ version of the linguistic relativity hypothesis”
* The language that you speak determines how you think.
Language A you only think about things in way A. same with B
The ‘weak’ LR hypothesis
* We have already seen several instances where the
language a person speaks can influence their thinking:
Chinese number system is very regular; English is more complex and takes
Chinese children have a head start and are much faster.
“smashed” versus “contacted” car accident
the words that are used describe something can influence your memory of it. The ‘strong’ LR hypothesis
* Does language determine what you think?
* That is, if your language has no word for something, do you have
problems thinking about it?
* A version of strong LR is described in the novel “1984”.
* In a totalitarian regime, language is changed to make talking about
revolution impossible. The idea is, if the population cannot talk about
revolution, they cannot think about revolution.
* The Hopi language has no past tense form of verbs. Do the
Hopi have trouble thinking about the past?
* English (“I walk to school” vs. “I walk-ed to school”)
* Hopi (“I walk to school” vs. “I walk to school yesterday / a while ago /
a long time ago”)
Have trouble thinking about the past?
They add words to indicate it happened in the past, I walk to school a while ago.
* The Dani people have just two words for describing colours
– mola for bright, warm tones and mili for darker, colder
Does this mean that the Dani
people do not perceive colour in
the same way as English
No, colour perception is universal.
Just because you have 2 colour terms doesn’t mean you can distinguish between colour
* The Hanunoo people have 92 different names for rice. Do
they perceive rice differently from English-speakers? (Do
English speakers have a problem perceiving rice?)
In English, we only have one word –rice
* Possibly. But does this
difference result from
* Does language influence, or reflect, thinking?
* The Hanunoo language may cause people to perceive
more different types of rice than the English language. We cant distinguish rice types, but words they use perceive differences or because they
* Hanunoo culture may care more about different types of
rice than English / US / Canadian culture and so gives
them different names.
* Just because you have no word for something, doesn’t
mean you can’t perceive or think about it….. not true
Hard to rule out rival hypothesis that each culture develops vocabulary that reflects their
Language is causing the thinking rather than thinking causes language.
Translation of words is differenet such as
concept.reude- Shameful joy, translation isn’t correct but everyone recognizes the
* There is not much evidence that suggests that speakers of
different languages perceive or think about the world in
radically different ways.
* Even where such evidence exists, it may be that perception
and thinking comes first and language follows.
* That is, different cultures may think and perceive things
differently, then develop language and vocabulary that
expresses those differences.
In addition, there is evidence that some forms of thinking do not
rely on language.
Children are able to perform some complex and novel cognitive
tasks well before the age when they begin to speak.
E.g. 7- to 8-month-olds are capable of intentionally pulling a
cloth to bring an object closer to them.
Finally, brain imaging studies show that some forms of thinking
(e.g. creating a visual image) do not activate the areas of the
brain that are associated with our language abilities. Back to the ‘weak’ LR hypothesis
* So language may not determine thought, but it can
definitely influence thought.
* Carroll & Casagrande (1958)
Took children, who were learning with navajo
and English language
Two ropes blue and yellow. You had to match the rope to a blue line.
If object is fexible use one words if not use a different word. English doesn’t due that.
Englihs—matched blue string to blue line by colour before by form. With age they
categorize by form. – weak version
Navajo – categorize by form in earlier stage
Smeel contect of little bottle,
One half --- blue cheese
Other half --- body odor
Different words to describe the odor are used.
What makes something a language?
* Dogs bark, cats meow and apes pant-hoot.
Trying to get a message across. Communication!
* All of these sounds are communicative, but are they
language? If not, what makes language different?
* A true language must have a generative grammar. There
must be a set of rules governing how abstract symbols are
combined to flexibly express meaning.
(1) Phonology – Rules for combining sounds into words. How
you can put sounds together.
1. you could say toma, dax or rontel
2. but not so much ljlj bhdis or jshvcs
2. these are phonologically implausible
1. phonological plausible --- can work the words out from context Some of these words are phonologically plausible in English,
and others are not.
(2) Syntax – Rules for combining words to make sentences.
“Lecturer a the wearing shirt nice was.”
Articles (“the”, “a”) and adjectives (“nice”) must come before
nouns (“shirt”, “lecturer”)
(3) Semantics – Rules governing the meaning of words and
“Colourless green ideas sleep furiously.”
“Do you walk to work, or take a lunch?”
The hierarchical structure of language
* Phonemes – the smallest units of sound.
“c” “a” “t”
cant break it down more than ‘c’‘a’‘t’
3 phoneme word.
Englihs has 40 basic sounds, phonemes only has 26 letters
In Japanese ‘I’and ‘r’sounds are variants of the same phoneme
In estuary English, the ‘th’and ‘f’sounds are variants of the same phoneme.
We don’t have a one-to-one correspondence, we don’t have a letter that represents each
* Morphemes – the smallest units of language that carry
meaning. Un-dress --- two morpheme word
Un- dress-ed ---- 3 morpheme word
Stephanie—morpheme, cant break it down
Kiss-ed—two morpheme word
The- one morpheme
Crying—2 morpheme word
Morphemes can be words, but also prefixes (“un-” meaning
“not”) and suffixes (“-ed” indicating past tense).
Words and sentences
* There are many rules about how to combine words into
sentences (see syntax).
* Surface structure – the appearance of the words in the right
‘The shooting of the hunter was terrible’
1. shooting was really bad
2. hunters got shot, very unfortunate
* Deep structure – the underlying meaning of the words.
Pragmatics and language comprehension
* For effective communication, we need not only to
understand the semantics and syntax of a sentence, but also the pragmatics.
* The rules for “saying appropriate things.”
(1) “Speak no more or no less than is required”
(2) “Try to speak the truth”
(3) “Be relevant and informative”
Pragmatic rules help us understand sentences with more than
one deep structure.
E.g. Whether we are talking about how
(in)accurately hunters shot, or how bad it was that
they got shot.
They also help us to understand “conversational implicatures”
If you tell me you have a headache and I say
“There is a pharmacy around the corner”, you
understand that I am implying that you could go there
to buy a headache remedy.
Violations of pragmatic rules.
Me: “ excuse me, do you know where the garbage bins are?”
Mothers rewuest” put the plated on the table”
Not “ open the kitchen cupboard door, remove a sih using two hands, and take it to the
Speak no more than is required
The development of language
* Language development follows a consistent pattern across
3- to 5-week-olds: Cooing (“oooohh”, “aaaaah”) begins.
4- to 6-month-olds: Baby babbling (“babababa”, “dadadada”,
Turns into “expressive
jargon” (“ahbajabajaba kakada”)
12-month-olds: First words appear.