Chapter 10 Readings (very detailed and helpful) SCIENCE OF BEHAVIOUR Edition 4

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3 Mar 2011
Chapter 10: Language
Excluding page 305 (from "What happens if…") to page 308 ("…concepts they denote")
Prologue – Do Animals Have Language?
Researchers believe some animals can learn language…Washoe, a female chimpanzee,
was one year old when she began to learn sign language; by the time she was four, she had a
vocabulary of more than 130 signs
Chimpanzees lack the control of the tongue, lips, palate, and vocal cords that humans
have and cannot produce the variety of complex sounds that characterize human speech
Humans clearly learn language more readily than chimpanzees do
Languages: flexible systems that use symbols to express many meanings
Most species can communicate with one another, but they dont have language
From the studies of primates learning sign language, true verbal ability is a social
Psycholinguistics: a branch of psychology devoted to the study of verbal behaviour
Perception of Speech
speech does not come to us as a series of individual words; we must extract the words
from a stream of speech
peoples earliest attempts at written communication took the form of stylized pictures
Recognition of Speech Sounds:
the auditory system performs a complex task in enabling us to recognize speech sounds
like our ability to recognize faces visually, the auditory system recognizes the patterns
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underlying speech rather than just the sounds themselves
using fMRI, researchers found than some regions of the brain responded more when
people heard human vocalizations (both speech and non-speech) than when they heard only
natural soundsregions in which there was a large diff. were located in the temporal lobe, on the
auditory cortex
when it comes to analyzing the detailed info of speech, the left hemisphere plays a
larger role
phoneme: are elements of speech—the smallest units of sound that allow us to
distinguish the meaning of a spoken word (i.e. the word pin consists of three phonemes: /p/+/i/
voice-onset time: the delay b/w the initial sounds of a consonant (such as the puffing
sound of the phoneme /p/) and the onset of vibration of the vocal cords
voicing is the vibration of vocal chords
distinction b/w voiced and unvoiced consonants permits us to distinguish b/w /p/ and /b/
the delay in voicing that occurs when you say pa is very slight: only 0.06 second
phonemic discriminations begin with auditory processing of the sensory differences, and
this occurs in both hemispheres…however, regions of the left auditory cortex seem to specialize
in recognizing the special aspects of speech
osome areas responded to both natural and unintelligible speech, while others responded
only to speech that was intelligibleeven if it was highly distorted
perception of a phoneme is affected by the sounds that follow it
owe recognize speech sounds in pieces larger than individual phonemes (i.e. when sound
was followed by ift, the participants heard the word gift)
morpheme: the smallest unit of meaning in language
syntax of a particular language determines how phonemes can be combined to form
morphemes (i.e. the word fastest contains two morphemes, /fast/, which is a free morpheme, b/c
it can stand on its own and still have meaning, and /ist/, which is a bound morpheme)
bound morphemes cannot stand on their own and must be attached to other morphemes to
provide meaning
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Recognition of Words in Continuous Speech: The Importance of Learning and Context:
when people listen to nonsense sounds as words (i.e. dutaba) they showed the N100
(appears shortly after people hear the onset of a word) response
even though speech is filled with hesitations, muffled sounds, and sloppy pronunciations,
we are able to recognize the sounds b/c of the context
we take advantage of context when reading just as we do when speaking
Understanding the Meaning of Speech
all languages have a syntax, or grammar
our understanding of syntax is automatic
syntactical rule: a grammatical rule of a particular language for combining words to
form phrases, clauses, and sentences
fMRI studies have shown that as syntax becomes more complex or confusing, our brains
become more active
syntactical rules are learned implicitly
learning syntax and word meaning appears to involve different types of memory—and,
consequently, different brain mechanisms
syntactical cues are signaled by word order, word class, function and content words,
affixes, word meanings, and prosody
oword order is important in English (i.e. if we say “The A Xs the B, we are indicating that
the agent is A, the object is B, and the thing being done is X)
oword class refers to the grammatical categories (such as noun, pronoun, verb, adjective)
that we learn about in school (i.e. when we head a sentence containing the word beautiful,
we recognize that it refers to a person or a thing)
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