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PSYC1000 - Module 28

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PSYC 1000
Harvey Marmurek

Course: PSYC*1000 (DE) Professor: Harvey Marmurek Schedule: Summer, 2012 Textbook: Psychology – Tenth Edition in Modules authored by David G. Myers Textbook ISBN: 9781464102615 Module 28: Language and Thought Language transmits knowledge – whether spoken, written, or signed, language – the original wireless communication – enables mind-to-mind information transfer, and with it the transmission of civilization’s accumulated knowledge across generations. Language is so fundamental to our experience, so deeply a part of being human, that it’s hard to imagine life without it. Language Structure What are the structural components of a language? Phenomes – smallest distinctive sound units in language – consonant phenomes carry more info than vowel phenomes (each letter makes a sound, so the one word may sound like one sound but the word ‘bat’ actually has three different sounds to it Morphemes – smallest units that carry meaning. Most morphemes combine two or more phonemes. Pre- view; adapt-ed Grammar – system of rules that enables us to communicate How many morphemes are in the word cats? How many phonemes? Two morphemes – cat and ‘s’, and four phonemes – c, a, t, and s. Language Development When Do We Learn Language? What are the milestones in language development? Receptive Language: By 4 months can recognize differences in speech sounds. Receptive language – ability to understand what is said to and about them. Productive Language: ability to produce words; babbling stage – spontaneously uttered sounds are consonant-vowel pairs; age 10 months babbling changed so train ear can identify the house language. Around 12 months, children enter one-word stage. At 18 months two-word stage or telegraphic speech. What is the difference between receptive and productive language, and when do children normally hit these milestones in language development? Infants normally start developing receptive language skills (ability to understand what is said to and about them) around 4 months of age. Also at around 4 months, infants normally start building productive language skills (ability to produce sounds and eventually words). Explaining Language Development How do we acquire language? Noam Chomsky – universal grammar – all have nouns, verbs, and adjectives as grammatical building blocks. We are not born with a built-in specific language. But no matter what language we learn, we start speaking it mostly in nouns (kitty, da-da) rather than in verbs and adjectives. Biology and experience work together. Statistical Learning When adults listen to an unfamiliar language, the syllables all run together, but a 7-month old child would not have this problem. Human infants display a remarkable ability to learn statistical aspects of human speech. Infants’ have a knack for soaking up language, learning simple sentence structures (7-month-old). Can detect difference between the two patterns supports the idea that babies come with a built-in readiness to learn grammatical rules. Critical Periods Childhood seems to represent a critical (or sensitive) period for mastering certain aspects of language before the language-learning window closes. The window on language learning closes gradually early in childhood. Later- than-usual exposure to language (at age 2 or 3) unleashes the idle language capacity of a child’s brain, producing a rush of language. But by about age 7, those who have not been exposed to either a spoken or a signed language gradually lose their ability to master any language. Our ability to learn a new language diminishes with age - ten years after coming to the US, Asian immigrants took an English grammar test. Although there is no sharply defined critical period for second language learning, those who arrived before age 8 understood American English grammar as well as native speakers did. Those who arrived later did not. Deaf children do not typically experience language during their early years. Natively deaf children who learn sign language after age 9 never learn it as well as those who lose their hearing at age 9 after learning English. Those who learn sign as teens or adults are like immigrants who learn English after childhood: They can master basic words and learn to order them, but they never become as fluent as native signers in producing and comprehending subtle grammatical differences. As a flower’s growth will be stunted without nourishment, so, too, children will typically become linguistically stunted if isolated from language during the critical period for its acquisition. Cochlear implants enable deaf children to experience their world of sound and talk by converting sounds into electrical signals and stimulating the auditory never by means of electrodes threaded into the child’s cochlea. In deaf cats, brain areas normally used for hearing donate themselves to the visual system. So, too, in people who have been deaf from birth: They exhibit advanced attention to their peripheral vision. Their auditory cortex, starved for sensory input, remains largely intact but becomes responsive to touch and to visual input. Living in a Silent World – 500 million people who live with hearing loss. The challenges of life without hearing may be greatest for children. Unable to communicate in customary ways, signing playmates may struggle to coordinate their play with speaking playmates. School achievement may also suffer, because academic subjects are rooted in spoken languages. Adolescents may feel socially excluded, with a resulting low self-confidence. Adults challenges: expend effort to hear words, less remaining cognitive capacity to remember and comprehend them, report feeling sadder, less socially engaged and often experiencing others’ irritation. What was the premise of researcher Noam Chomsky’s work in language development? He believed that we are born with a built-in readiness to learn the grammar rules of language. Why is it so difficult to learn a new language in adulthood? Our brain’s critical period for language learning is in childhood, when we can absorb language structure almost effortlessly. As we move past that stage in our brain’s development, our ability to learn a new language diminishes dramatically. The Brain and Language What brain areas are involved in language processing and speech? We think of speaking and reading, or writing and reading, or singing and speaking as merely different examples of the same general ability – language. But consider this curious finding: aphasia, an impairment of language, can result from damage to any one of the several cortical areas. Even more curious, some people with aphasia can speak fluently but cannot read, while others can comprehend what they read but cannot speak. Still others can write but not read, read but not write, read numbers but not letters, or sing but not speak. Paul Broca reported that after damage to an area of the left frontal lobe (later called Broca’s area) a person would struggle to speak words while still being able to sing familiar songs and comprehend speech. Carl Wernicke discovered that after damage to an area of the left temporal lobe (Wernicke’s area) people could speak only meaningless words. Today’s neuroscience has confirmed brain activity in Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas during language processing. We now know that Broca’s area processes language thorugh a series of neural computations. Language functions are distributed across other brain areas as well. Functional MRI scans show that different neural networks are activated by nouns and verbs, or objects and actions; by different vowels; and by reading stories of visual vs. motor experiences. Different neural networks also enable one’s nat
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