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Chapter 10

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PSYC 2650
Anneke Olthof

Chapter 10: Language The Organization of Language - Language involves a special type of translation - converting ideas into sounds, detecting those sounds and converting them into comprehension - Language is highly organized with clear patterns in the way that various ideas are expressed - Language has a structure, at the highest level of the structure are the ideas intended by the speaker - These ideas are typically expressed in sentences - coherent sequences of words that express the intended meaning of a speaker - Sentences are composed of phrased which are composed of words, words are com-posed of Morphemes, the smallest language units that carry meaning - There are free morphemes (umpire, talk) and other morphemes that get bound onto free morphemes (ed, s) - Morphemes turn into Phonemes - the smallest unit of sound that can serve to distinguish words in language - Language can also be organized in another way, in each level, people can combine and recombine the units to produce novel utterances assembling phonemes into brand new morphemes or assembling words into brand new phrases - Not all combinations are possible Phonology The Production of Speech - In breathing, air flows quietly out of the lungs, through the larynx, and up through the nose and mouth noises are produced if this airflow is interrupted or altered and this allows humans to produce a wide range of different sounds - Within the larynx there are 2 flaps of muscular tissue called the “vocal folds/cords” - The vocal folds can be rapidly opened and closed, producing a bussing sort of vibration known as Voicing (e.g. the sound of the letter z is voiced but s is not) - You can also produce sound by narrowing the air passageway with the mouth itself (e.g. the sound of the letter s) - Aspects of speech production provide a basis for categorizing speech sounds - We can distinguish sound according to how the airflow is restricted, this is referred to as Manner of Production - Next we can distinguish between sounds that are voiced and those that are not, the sounds of v, z, and n are voiced while f, s, t, and k are unvoiced - Finally, sounds can be categorized according to where airflow is restricted, this is referred to as Place of Articulation, you close your lips to produce “bilabial” sounds like p and b, you place your top teeth close to your bottom lip to produce “labiodental” sounds like f and v and you place your tongue behind your upper teeth to produce “alveolar” sounds like t and d - These few features in varying combinations allow us to describe all the sounds our language needs - English has about 40 phonemes Complexity of Speech Perception - Phonemes that differ only in one production feature sound similar to each other - harder to understand in a noisy environment (confuse p with b) speech perception may seem straightforward but it is very complicated - One problem is that there are no markers to indicate where one phoneme ends and the next begins, there are no gaps or boundaries between syllables or words - The first step prior to phoneme identification is “slicing” the stream into appropriate segments, referred to as Speech Segmentation - When hearing a foreign language, we lack the skills needed to segment the stream so what we hear is a continuous interrupted flow of sound - why they sound so fast - Speech perception is further complicated by a phenomenon know as Co-articulation - the fact that in producing speech one does not utter one phoneme at a time, they overlap, allowing for speech to be faster and more fluent - The acoustical pattern of each sound is different in different contexts Aids to Speech Perception - The speech we encounter, day by day, is surprisingly limited in its range - Most of the words we know are rarely used - Perception of speech shares a crucial attribute with all other types of perception: we don’t rely only on the stimuli we receive, we supplement this input with a wealth of other knowledge - Once we hear the firs phoneme, we activate all the words in our vocabulary that start with that sound - Speech perception is a process in which we actively seek a match between the sounds arriving at our ears and the words actually in our vocabulary - In other cases, we are guided by knowledge of a broader sort, knowledge that relies on the broader context in which a word appears - This is evident in the Phonemic Restoration Effect - removing a sounds from a word and replaced by a brief burst of noise, when participants repeat what they heard they report hearing the right word - Participants don’t just infer what the missing sound was, they literally seem to “hear” the sound Categorical Perception - The effect of context remind us that speech perception takes place within a process in which one person is trying to convey a set of ideas to someone else and the second person is trying to discern what those ideas are - The ideas are not just the start or end point, they actually shape the process with or without context, humans are exquisitely talented in deriving information from the speech signal - we are a linguistic species - Our talent is reflect in the phenomenon of Categorical Perception - we are much better at hearing differences between categories of sounds than we are at hearing the variations within a category of sounds - We are sensitive to differences between a t and a d but we are insensitive to differences between one p sounds from another - In studies, the first sound will be a “ba” and then each sound that is presented will sound less like “ba” and more like “pa” - When perceiving this, participants don’t gradually recognize the “pa”, instead they hear an abrupt shift so half the stimulus are “ba” and half are “pa” - Participants seem indifferent to differences within each category - It seems out perceptual apparatus is tuned to provide us just the information we need - The difference between letters matters to use, but exactly how they are pronounced doesn’t Combining Phonemes - We combine our 40 phonemes to produce thousands of different morphemes - The step of combining phonemes would be trivial is any phoneme could be put side by side with any other - There are rules governing these combinations - certain sounds that occur at the end of the word but not the beginning, other combinations are just prohibited - There are adjustment that must occur when certain phonemes are utter one after another e.g. s sounds different in “books” (s sound) and “pills” (z sound) - If it ends with a voiced sound, then the z ending is used to make the plural, if the base noun ends with an unvoiced sound, then the plural is created with an s sound - Obedience to these principles can be demonstrated even with made-up cases Words - The average high school graduate knows about 45,000 different words, university know 75,000-100,000 - The speaker must know the sound (the sequence of phonemes that make up the word) and the orthography (the sequence of letters to make up the word - The speaker must also know how to use the word in phrases finally the speaker needs to know the meaning of a word, they must have a semantic representation for the word to go with the phonological representation - connecting the meaning to the sound Word Meaning - Words are used to name objects or events in the world around us - What a word refers to is called the word’s Referent - There are key differences between a word’s referent and its meaning - Some phrases have no referent because they refer to things that don’t exist (unicorn) - Sometimes a word’s reference is temporary or a matter of coincidence (president) - Words meaning must involve more than reference - For present purposes, let us say that a large part of “knowing a word” is knowing the relevant concept Building New Words - New words are created all the time - Language users immediately know how to create variations on each word by adding the appropriate morphemes - We need to highlight the Generativity of language - the capacity to create an endless series of new combinations, all built from the same set of fundamental units Syntax - Sentences can range in length from brief to absurdly long - There are limits on which combinations are acceptable and which not - Each speaker manages to follow the rules of Syntax - rules governing the sequences on words in a phrase or sentence - The rules of syntax provide a crucial function for us because they specify the relationships among the words in the sentence, this allows us to talk about how one topic is related to another - What is syntax? One might think the answer depends on meaning, so that meaningful sentences are accepted as sentences while meaningless sentences are rejected, this is wrong since many non-sentences do seem meaningful (Me Tarzan) - We need principles of syntax that are separate from considerations of semantics or sensibility Phrase Structure - Syntax needs to be understood in terms of a series of relatively abstract rules governing a sentence’s structure - The rules specify the elements that must be included in the sentence and what the sequence of these elements must be - These rules also specify the overall organization of the sentence - Organization of sentences can be described in terms of Phrase-Structure Rules - Sentence (S) always consists of a Noun Phrase (NP) and Verb Phrase (VP) Linguistic Rules, Linguistic Competence - Need to be clear about what sort of rules these are and what they are not Prescriptive Rules - rules describing how language is “supposed to be” - Often these rules are use to mark differences between social classes e.g. don’t say “ain’t” - Prescriptive rules - language changes over time. Descriptive - rules characterizing language as ordinarily used by fluent speakers and listeners - There are strong regularities in the way English is used, and the rules were are discussing describe these patterns no value judgment is offered about whether these patterns constitute proper English, they simply describe how English is structured - Spontaneous speech is filled with performance errors - Speech errors are of considerable importance if we are studying the ways in which speech is actually produced - We sometimes need to examine language Competence (the pattern of skills and knowledge that might be revealed under optical circumstances) rather than langue performance - One way to reveal competence is via linguistic judgments - people reflect on eon structure and are asked whether they find it acceptable The Function of Phrase Structure - Words in a sentence seem to fall naturally into groups, and these groupings can be explained in terms of phrase structure - Phrase-structure rules also matter for linguistic performance and seem to guide our interpretations of the sentences we encounter - The rule S -> NP VP divided a sentence into the “doer” (NP) and information about that doer (VP) - If the phrase is rewritten VP -> V NP then the verb indicates the action described b
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