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Chapter 10

Psych 211: Chapter 10 Textbook Notes

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Mathieu Le Corre

Chapter 10: Language and Communication 10.1 The Road to Speech Elements of Language  Language – a system that relates sounds (or gestures) to meanings o Different from simple communication in 4 main ways: 1. Has arbitrary units, and is therefore symbolic 2. Structured and meaningful 3. Shows displacement – one can communicate about events distant in time and space, not just here and now 4. Characterized by generativity – one can produce an infinite number of utterances from a language’s vocabulary  Ex. this language differs from a dogs growl toward a child o The dog was communicating (expressing its feelings), but only in that moment/situation  Spoken languages usually involve 5 distinct elements: 1. Phonology – the sound of a language 2. Morphology – the rules of meaning within the language a. Morpheme (smallest unit of meaning) – meaningful combinations of phonemes i. Free morphemes – words that stand alone (dog, cat, etc.) ii. Bound morphemes – change the meaning of a word (“-s”, “-ing”, etc.) 3. Semantics – the study of words and their meaning 4. Grammar – the rules used to describe the structure of a language a. Syntax – the rules that specify how words are combined to form sentences i. most important element of grammar 5. Pragmatics – the study of how people use language to communicate effectively a. ex. we don’t use complex vocabulary and long sentences when talking to a child Perceiving Speech  phonemes – unique sounds that can be joined to create words o the basic building blocks of language o ex. “buh-ah-guh” are the sounds used to say “bag” o infants can distinguish most of these sounds by 1 month after birth  researchers designed an experiment to see if infants respond differently to different sounds o in a few minutes, 1-month-olds learn the relationship between sucking on the rubber nipple and the sound coming from the speaker o once they get tired of hearing the sound (that consists of words that start with the letter “p”, they suck less often (represents habituation phenomenon) o when tape is changed to a different sound (such as the letter “b”), babies begin to suck rapidly again  therefore, they recognize the difference in sound because they suck more often when and in order to hear new sounds  language isn’t acquired solely by hearing (auditory), but also through face-to-face interaction with adults; this provides many useful visual cues about sound (which infants use) The Impact of Language Exposure  infants can distinguish phonemes that are NOT used in their native language!  Japanese adults trying to learn English have difficulty distinguishing between the sound of r and l o 6 months old – infants in both Japanese and English speaking environments can distinguish between the 2 sounds o 11-12 months old – only infants in English-speaking environments can tell  KEY: the ability to distinguish phonemes not used in the native language declines across the first year of life  Initially, recognition of all phonemes is useful! o the infant has the ability to learn any language which the adults around it speak  RESULTS: the ability to discriminate non-native language phonemics decreases with age o 6-8 months – could make the phonemic distinctions for the other 2 languages o 8-10 months – only half could make the phonemic distinctions o 12 months – could no longer make the phonemic distinctions  Decline in phonemic recognition is due to a perceptual reorganization to match the native language  Newborns apparently are biologically capable of hearing the entire range of phonemes in all languages; but as babies grow and are more exposed to a particular language, they only notice the linguistic distinctions that are meaningful in their own language (specialization in language) Identifying Words  6 months – infants pay attention to content words (noun, verbs) than to function words (articles, prepositions), and they look at the correct parent when they hear mommy/daddy  7-8 months – when they hear words repeatedly in different sentences, they later pay more attention to this word than to words they haven’t heard before o Recognize commonly used words  Infants can distinguish individual words by paying attention to stressed syllables (good for identifying the beginnings of words; ex. basket, toothpaste, etc.) o This alone will not work, since some words are stressed on the second syllable  Infants notice syllables that go together frequently  Infants identify words through their knowledge of how sounds are used in their native language o Ex. “s” and “t” go together quite frequently within words, whereas “s” and “d” do not go together within words; since both “s” and “t” and “s” and “d” can follow each other in phrases like “bus takes” and “this dog”, babies distinguish individual words knowing that “s” and “d” usually don’t go together in the same word o Therefore, when babies hear s followed by d, they know that it is the end of a word, and the start of a new word (rather than one whole big word)  Infants don’t yet know the meaning of words, but can recognize a word as a distinct configuration of sounds  Infant-directed speech – adults speak slowly and with exaggerated changes in pitch/loudness o Helps infants master language sounds because it’s slower pace, accentuated changes, and clear speaking provide infants with increasingly more salient language clues o Attracts infants’ attention more than adult-directed speech o Helps infants distinguish differently stressed vowel sounds o Helps infants perceive the sounds that are fundamental to their language  Phonetic category learning – babies are capable of distinguishing the stress patterns within their native language as phonemic distinctions, and “tune in” to the patterns used in the language that is being spoken by the people around them First Steps to Speech  Language-based sounds DO NOT appear immediately!  Cooing – vowel-like sounds that infants produce such as “ooooo” or “ahhhhhh” (@ 2 months)  Babbling – speech-like sound that has no meaning o Comes after cooing o 6 months – “dah” or “bah” utterances that sound like a single syllable consisting of a consonant and a vowel o After a few more months, babbling becomes more complex; babies combine the single syllable sounds as in “bahbahbah” or “dahmahbah”  When adults speak, their right side of the mouth is open wider than the left (showing that the left hemisphere’s control of language/movement is on the right side); infants do the same thing when they babble (but not when making other sounds) o This proves that babbling is fundamentally linguistic!  8-11 months – babbling sounds more like real speech because infants stress some syllables and vary the pitch of their speech  Intonation – the pattern of rising or falling pitch o ex. pitch rises towards the end of a question  infants’ babbling is influenced by the characteristics of the speech that they hear o middle of first year – infants try to reproduce the sounds of language that others use in trying to communicate with them  through babbling, infants learn to use their lips, tongue, and teeth to produce specific sounds 10.2 Learning the Meanings of Words Understanding Words as Symbols  infants start off with babbled sounds, but as they get older, they develop their sounds into words; infants begin to match sound patterns (words) with concepts or meanings  once children can use words to symbolize an object/action, their vocabulary can grow Fast Mapping Meanings to Words  a 15 month old may learn 2 or 3 words each week  naming explosion – at 18 months, children learn new words (particularly names of objects) much more rapidly than before; 10 or more new words a week instead of just 2 or 3  fast mapping – children’s ability to connect new words to their meanings so rapidly that they cannot be considering all possible meanings for the new word; child recognizes that the word “flower” refers to the entire flower, and not the colour, the petals, the stem, etc.  there are many distinct factors that contribute to children’s rapid word learning: o Joint attention – parents encourage word learning by seeing what interests their child  When toddlers point to an object, parents would name it  18-20 months – label is the object’s name ONLY when adults show signs that they are referring to the object (ex. children are more likely to learn the name of an object when the adult is looking at the object while labelling it)  Joint attention is helpful for kids, but is NOT required o Constraints on word names – children follow several simple rules that limit their conclusions about what labels mean 1. if an unfamiliar word is heard in the presence of objects that already have names and objects that don’t, the word refers to one of the objects that doesn’t have a name a. ex. if a child knows what a mido is (monkey-like stuffed animal), and the experimenter asked the child to give him a theri, the child will go for the object that is NOT a mido 2. a name refers to a whole object, not its parts or its relation to other objects, and refers not just to this particular object, but to all objects of the same type a. ex. “dinosaur” refers to the whole dinosaur (not just the ears or arms), and it refers not only to the specific toy, but to all dinosaur-like things 3. if an object already has a name and other name is presented, the new name denotes a subcategory of the original name a. if a child sees someone point to a dinosaur and say “T-Rex”, the child will conclude that T-Rex is a specific type of dinosaur 4. a word applied consistently to only one member of a category is a proper noun a. if a child that sees a dinosaur always called “Dino,” the child will conclude that Dino is the name of the dinosaur o Sentence cues – when hearing a sentence that has a mix of known and unknown words, the known words and sentence structure can be helpful clues to a word’s meaning  When a child hears “the man is juggling,” they will infer that juggling refers to the man’s actions with the balls because they know the word man and because “-ing” refers to ongoing actions  Ex. when toddlers are told “this is a Zav,” 2-year-olds will interpret zav as a category name, but hearing “this is Zav” (without an a), they interpret zav as a proper name o Cognitive factors – as children’s thinking becomes more sophisticated and start to have goals/intentions, language becomes a means to express and achieve those goals  Intention provides children with an important motive to learn language – to achieve their goals o Naming errors – even after using these rules, initial mappings of words onto meanings are often only partially correct  Underextension – defining a word too narrowly  Ex. using the word “ball” to refer only to a specific favourite toy ball  Overextension – defining a word too broadly  Ex. using the word doggie to refer to all 4-legged animals  Occurs more frequently when producing words than comprehending  Underextension and overextension disappear gradually as youngsters refine meanings for words with more exposure to language Individual Differences in Word Learning  18 months – average child’s vocabulary has about 75 words  Range from 10 percentile to 90 percentile is 25-250 words; due to 3 factors: o Hereditary contributions: vocabulary size is more similar in identical twins than in fraternal twins (but the difference is small; ∴ only small genetic role) o Phonological memory – the ability to remember speech sounds briefly  Measured by saying nonsense to a child (ex. “ballop”), and asking them to repeat it immediately; children who have difficulty remembering speech sounds accurately find word learning particularly challenging o Child’s language environment – the number of words a child is exposed to early in life  Family environment has an impact on the number of words a child experiences over the first 3 years of life  Children from professional families heard 30 million more words than children from the lowest socioeconomic group  Age of parent – teenage mothers provide less, and less rich, language  Infants with greater word exposure show greatest vocabulary gains!  Children learn more words when their parents’ speech is rich in different words and is grammatically sophisticated, and when parents respond promptly and appropriately to their children’s talk Word Learning Styles  As children expand their vocabulary, they often adopt a distinctive style of learning language o Referential style – their vocabularies mainly consist of words that name objects, persons, or actions  Language is more of an intellectual tool; learning/talking about objects o Expressive style – their vocabularies include some names but also many social phrases that are used like a single word, such as “go away” and “what do you want?”  Language is more of a social tool; interacting with other
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