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Chapter 10

PSYCH211 Chapter Notes - Chapter 10: Pragmatics, Code-Switching, Bootstrapping (Linguistics)

Course Code
Mathieu Le Corre

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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

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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
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)

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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)
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