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Chapter 2

PSY315H5 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Neuroimaging, Vocal Folds, Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience

Course Code
Judy Plantinga

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Chapter 2: Biological Bases of Language Development
By: Sugetta Royce
Language Creation
People invent a language that typically uses the lexical items from one or more of
the contact languages but which has its own, very primitive grammar
oMost are structurally simple, although if used over many generations, they
do evolve, as do all languages
A language that once was a pidgin but which subsequently became a native
language for some speakers
oCreolization is a process that creates new languages
It suggests that the existence of language in a community does
not depend on someone importing a language for the community
to learn; people can invent their own
When children acquire the language, they add some grammatical
features that are universal characteristics of human languages
Independently rising creoles = human mind can only construct
certain kinds of languages
Development of Nicaraguan Sign Language
Deaf children came together in the schools initially shared no language
They were able to communicate with their families using their own idiosyncratic
manual systems but not with each other
Once in daily contact with one another, the Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL)
began to develop
Ann Senghas compared the signing of language of those who learned the
language in early years of evolution to those who learned it more recently
oFound that language evolved from structurally simple to a structurally
more complex language; this difference in complexity appeared in those
who learned the language at an early age
Senghas studied those who entered school before 1983 and after 1983
oThe second group used spatial modulation more
oHowever, age mattered; younger at first exposure = used more spatial
modulations in their signing
Hence, changes in the NSL depend on young children acquiring the language
The Common Basis of Language Creation and Acquisition
Language bioprogram hypothesis (Derek Bickerton): children take a bit of the
information they experience, add it to their own internal knowledge of language,
and produce a language system as a result
Normallyinput in target language causes the language-learning child to modify
and add to this bioprogram
Absence of a target language  bioprogram builds a language using the available
input to fill out the core grammar

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Therefore, language is an intrinsic part of human nature
oHumans can not only learn language but can create it
Can change the pitch of the sound we produce by tightening or loosening the
vocal folds in the larynx
Supralaryngeal vocal tract: vocal tract above the larynx
Larynx is low in humans compared to other mammals
Drawback  low larynx: can lead to food falling in the trachea  risk of choking to
death and/or overcrowded teeth and impacted wisdom teeth
Functional architecture: how the brain is organized to do what the brain does
Neurolinguistics: study of the relation of the brain to language functioning
Some Basic Neuroanatomy
Cerebral cortex: outer layer of the brain; cortex controls higher mental functions,
such as reasoning and planning
oDivided into two cerebral hemispheres: Left and right cerebral
oAre connected by a band of nerve fibers known as the corpus callosum
oEach hemisphere is connected to the opposite side of the body
oContralateral connections: right side of brain controls left side of body
and vice versa; info coming into the sense receptors (ex. the ears) on the
right side of the body does to the left cerebral cortex and vice versa
oIpsilateral connections: same side connections; but not as strong as the
contralateral connections
Subcortical structures: controls primitive functions, such as eating and
Actual work of the brain is accomplished by the neural circuits, which are made
up of thousands of neurons that fire together when presented with a particular
stimulus or when accomplishing a particular task
Neural circuits, housed in the two cerebral hemispheres connected to the rest
of the body through the contralateral fibers, which are connected to each other
through the corpus callosum and sitting on top of the subcortical structures
Methods of Neurolinguistic Investigation
Lesion method: lesions being localized areas of damaged brain tissue
Split-brain patients: individuals who have a severed corpus callosum but an
otherwise undamaged brain
Dichotic listening task: study healthy brains as they process language using
this task
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS): a noninvasive method used to
stimulate small regions of the brain
oMagnetic field generator, or "coil" is placed near the head of the person
oCoil produces small electrical currents in the region of the brain just under
the coil via electromagnetic induction
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