Language and Thought
-cognition refers to the mental processes involved in acquiring knowledge
Language: Turning Thoughts into Words
What is language?
-A language consists of symbols that convey meaning, plus rules for combing those symbols,
that can be used to generate an infinite variety of messages.
-Language is symbolic
-People use spoken sounds and written words to represent objects, actions, events, and ideas
-Language is semantic, or meaningful
-The symbols used in a language are arbitrary in that no built-in relationship exists between the
look or sound of words and the objects they stand for.
-Language is generative
-A limited number of symbols can be combined in an infinite variety of ways to generate to
endless array of novel messages
-Language is structured
-Although people can generate an infinite variety of sentences, these sentences must be
structured in a limited number of ways
The Structure of Language
-phonemes are the smallest speech units in language that can be distinguished perceptually.
-A letter in the alphabet can represent more than one phoneme if it has more than one
Morphemes and Semantics
-Morphemes are the smallest units of meaning in language
-Semantics is the area of language concerned with understanding the meaning of words and
-Learning about semantics entails learning about the infinite variety of objects and actions that
words refer to.
-Syntax is a system of rules that specify how words can be arranged into sentences
-Sentence must have both a noun phrase and a verb phrase
Milestones in Language Development
Moving Toward Producing Words
-long before infants utter their first words, they are making remarkable progress in learning the
sound structure of their native language
-Children’s receptive vocabulary is larger than their productive vocabulary.
- They can comprehend more words spoken by others than they can actually produce to express
-Fast mapping is the process by which children map a word onto an underlying concept after
only one exposure.
-Overextension occurs when a child incorrectly uses a word to describe a wider set of objects or
actions that it is meant to
-Underextension occurs when a child incorrectly uses a word to describe a narrower set of
objects or actions that it is meant to.
-early sentences are characterized as “telegraphic” because they resemble telegrams
-Telegraphic speech consists mainly of content words; articles, prepositions, and other less
critical words are omitted
-MLU (mean length of utterance) is the average length of youngster’s spoken statements
(measured in morphemes).
-Over-regularizations occur when grammatical rules are incorrectly generalized to irregular
cases where they do not apply.
Refining Language Skills
-metalinguistic awareness is the ability to reflect on the use of language
Learning More Than One language: Bilingualism
-Bilingualism is the acquisition of two languages that use different speech sounds, vocabulary,
and grammatical rules.
Does Learning Two Languages in Childhood Slow Down language Development
-Some studies have found that bilingual children have smaller vocabularies in each of their
-The available evidence suggests that bilingual and monolingual children are largely similar in
the course and rate of their language development
Does Bilingualism Affect Cognitive Processes and Skills?
-When middle class bilingual subjects who are fluent in both languages are studied, they tend to
score somewhat higher than monolingual subjects on measures of cognitive flexibility, analytical
reasoning, selective attention, and metalinguistic awareness.
What Factors Influence the Acquisition of a Second Language?
-age is a significant correlate of how effectively people can acquire a second language
-acculturation is the degree to which a person is socially and psychologically integrated into a
Can Animals Develop Language?
-Scientists have taught some language-like skills to a number of species, including dolphins, sea
lions, African gray parrot, but their greatest success has come with the chimpanzee, an intelligent
primate widely regarded as human’s closest cousin
-ASL (American Sign Language) is a complex language of hand gestures and facial expressions
used by thousands of deaf people in the United States
-The ability to use language may not be unique to humans, as has been widely assumed.
-Even if language is not unique to humans, they do appear to be exceptionally well suited for
-The talent for language is a product of evolution.
Language in Evolutionary Context
-language is a valuable means of communication that has enormous adaptive value
-Dunbar agues that language evolved as a device to build and maintain social coalitions in
increasingly larger groups.
-Although the adaptive value of language seems obvious, some scholars take issue with the
assertion that human languages is the produce of evolution
Theories of Language Acquisition
-B.F Skinner argued that environmental factors govern language development
-Skinner argued that children learn language the same way they learn everything else: through
imitation, reinforcement, and other established principles of conditioning.
-By controlling reinforcement, parents encourage their children to learn the correct meaning and
pronunciation of words
-Children learn how to construct sentences by imitating the sentences of adults and older
Cognition refers to the mental processes involved in acquiring knowledge. A language consists of symbols that convey meaning, plus rules for combing those symbols, that can be used to generate an infinite variety of messages. People use spoken sounds and written words to represent objects, actions, events, and ideas. The symbols used in a language are arbitrary in that no built-in relationship exists between the look or sound of words and the objects they stand for. A limited number of symbols can be combined in an infinite variety of ways to generate to endless array of novel messages. Although people can generate an infinite variety of sentences, these sentences must be structured in a limited number of ways. Phonemes are the smallest speech units in language that can be distinguished perceptually. A letter in the alphabet can represent more than one phoneme if it has more than one pronunciation. Morphemes are the smallest units of meaning in language.