PSYB57H3 Chapter Notes -Relative Direction, Bootstrapping (Linguistics), Temporal Lobe

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12 Apr 2012
Ch 10: Language
Chapter 10: Language
Language is at the heart of and essential for a huge range of human activities and achievements
(we pass things down to next generations)
The organization of language
Language is highly organized --> clear patterns for expressing ideas (partly allows one to
comprehend spoken language)
Knowing a language --> diction, syntax etc are essential for organizing language
Sentences - coherent sequences of words that express the intended meaning of a speaker
Morpheme - smallest language units that carry meanings
Phonemes - smallest units of sound that can serve to distinguish words in language
o Some are represented by letters of language, others are not
Sentences --> phrases --> words --> morphemes --> phonemes
New sequences must adhere to some rules
The production of speech
o Blocking/restricting airflow through the larynx by vocal folds causes a production of sound =
o Distinguish sound by (a sound's identity):
Manner of Production
How the airflow is restricted --> a different sound will be produced
Voiced vs. not voiced
Does the sound use the vocal cords or not?
Place of articulation
Where the airflow is restricted
Complexity of Speech Production
o Phonemes that differ only in one production feature some more similar to each other;
phonemes that differ in multiple features sound more distinct
Seen in errors people make (subs. P for B)
o Problems encountered while recognizing speech
In a stream of speech there are no markers to indicate where phonemes end and
there are generally no gaps or signals of any sort to indicate the boundaries between
successive syllables or successive words
Coarticulation - in producing speech one does not utter one phoneme at a time, but
the phonemes overlap (in order to produce fluency and speed in speech)
o Aids to Speech Perception (Solutions):
Speech segmentation - slicing the stream into appropriate segment
Usu. People perceive each word to be separate -- but not the case
The speech encountered is surprisingly limited in its range --> 50 most common words =
50% of spoken language
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Top-down influences
we actively seek a match between the sounds arriving at our ears and the words
actually in our vocabulary
Phonemic restoration effect
Knowledge relying on broader context
When a phoneme is removed from a recording of sentence, the
participants attest to "hearing" the phonemes as if it were present
o Categorical perception
Constantly trying to discern what the other person is trying to convey
Categorical perception
much better at hearing the differences between categories of sounds than we
are at hearing the variations within a category of sounds
In reality, people have individual differences and the listener doesn't care too
much about how one person pronounces one letter and how another
pronounces the same letter. What does matter is the difference between one
letter and another letter.
Evidence: even though there is a graded difference b/w "Ba" and "Pa" sound,
listeners perceive an abrupt change (i.e. categorization)
o Combining phonemes
The combination is limited by language and it is not an incapacity of the human ears or
There are rules that seem to govern the adjustments that must occur when certain
phonemes are uttered one after another
Ex. When a base ends with a voicing sound, the plural "s" sounds like [z] (bags)
when it doesn't, it sounds like [s] (books)
Sound - sequence of phonemes that make up the word
Orthography - the sequence of letters that make up the printed version of the word
Word Meaning
o Referent - what a word refers to
o Difference b/w referent and meaning
The referent can change, the meaning cant (ex. US President)
There are words that have no referent because they don’t exist in reality --> but they
still have meaning (ex. X-ray vision)
o Knowing a word is knowing the relevant concept
Building New Words
o Generativity - refers to the capacity to create an endless series of new combinations, all
built from the same set of fundamental units
o Knowing a language entails being able to generate new words according to rules of the
Most sentences contain 20 words or fewer
Syntax - rules governing the sequence of words in a phrase or sentence
o Specifies the relationship among the words in the sentence and this allows us to talk about
how one topic related to another
Syntax does not depend on meaning (meaningless sentences make sense - Me Tarzan)
Syntax is separate from semantics and sensibility
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