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Chapter 9


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University of Toronto Scarborough
Steve Joordens

CHAPTER 9—LANGUAGEANDTHOUGHT Christopher had a talent for languages, even when he was very young BUT his intelligence is very low. Language andCommunication: From Rules to Meaning System of communication to allow transmission of messages: waggle dance by bees to direct others to flowers, warning calls of vervet monkeys. Language - a system for communicating with others using signals that are combined according to rules of grammar and convey meaning. I Grammar - a set of rules that specify how the units of language can be combined to produce meaningful messages . Humans are different from other species: 1. We have a complex human language with ideas and concepts, with infinite ways of expressing this. 2. Humans use words to refer to intangible things. Eg. democracy, unicorn. 3. We use language to name, categorize, and describe things to ourselves when we think, which influences how knowledge is organized in our brains  conscious thought. A. TheComplex Structure of Human Language 1. Basic Characteristics a. Phoneme – the smallest unit of sound that is recognizable as speech differ in how they are produced Eg. ba, vocal cords start to vibrate as soon as you begin the sound. pa, 60-millisecond lag between the time you start the p sound and the time your vocal cords start to vibrate.  B and p are separate phonemes b. Phonological rules – how phonemes can be combined to produce speech Eg. initial sound ts is acceptable in German but not in English. If rules are violated  accented speech sounds c. Morpheme – the smallest meaningful unit of language Eg. pe speech sound in pat  no meaning BUT morpheme pat  meaning. d. Grammar – a set of rules for language i. Morphological Rules – how morphemes can be combined to form words 1. Content morphemes - refer to things and events (e.g., cat, dog, take). 2. Function morphemes - serve grammatical functions, such as tying sentences together (and, or, but) or indicating time (when).  complex enough to express abstract ideas rather than verbally point to real objects in the here and now Content morphemes and function morphemes can stand alone as words. ii. Syntactical Rules – how words can be combined to form phrases and sentences Eg. every sentence must contain one or more nouns and verbs, which may be combined with adjectives or articles to create noun and verb phrases 2. Meaning: Deep Structurevs. Surface Structure Misunderstandings result from differences between the deep and surface structure Eg. “The dog chased the cat” and “The cat was chased by the dog” mean the same thing (deep structure) BUT on the surface their structures are different. To generate a sentence, you begin with a deep structure and create a surface structure to convey that meaning. When you comprehend a sentence = reverse. Studies show deep structure is remembered BUT surface structure is forgotten. “He struck John on the shoulder.” a. Deep Structure – the meaning of a sentence b. Surface Structure – how a sentence is worded B. LanguageDevelopment Threecharacteristics of languagedevelopment: 1. Children learn language at a rapid rate. 2. Children make few errors while learning to speak by overgeneralizing grammatical rules. 3. Children’s passive mastery of language develops faster than active mastery  understands language better than they speak. 1. Distinguishing Speech Sounds a. At birth, infants can distinguish all contrasting sounds in all human languages i. This ability is lost within the first 6 months of life and can only distinguish among the contrasting sounds in the language they hear Eg. Two distinct sounds in English are the l sound and the r sound BUT are not distinguished in Japanese excluding infants. Researchers constructed a tape of a voice saying “la-la-la” or “ra-ra-ra” repeatedly when the baby sucked on the pacifier. The baby lost interest in the boring la sound and the new, til the interesting ra sound played  can distinguish different sounds. b. Vocal production takes longer to develop, startingwithbabbling andprogressing to speechsounds Babbling starts at 4-6 months BUT deaf children start at 11 months. The d & t occurs before m & n in both cases  babbling is natural part of language development. For vocal babbling to continue, babies must be able to hear themselves  discontinuity = hearing problems/speech impairments  American Sign Language (ASL) babbling syllables with their hands at 4-6 months also. 2. LanguageMilestones a. Fast mapping - children map a word onto an underlying concept after only a single exposure  learn at a rapid pace  contrasts with effort for other concepts and skills AverageAge LanguageMilestones 0-4 months Can tell the difference between speech sounds (phonemes). Cooing, especially in response to speech 4-6 months Babbles consonants. 6-10 months Understands some words and simple requests. 10-12 months Begins to use single words.  nouns (names first, then concrete objects) before verbs 12-18 months Vocabulary of 30-50 words (simple nouns, adjectives, and action verbs).  can understand many more words. 18-24 months Two word phrases ordered according to syntactic rules. Vocabulary of 50- 200 words. Understands rules.  24 = two-word sentences known as telegraphic speech - they are devoid of function morphemes and consist mostly of content words BUT are grammatical (syntactical) Eg. “throw ball” not “ball throw” 24-36 months Vocabulary of about 1000 words. Production of phrases and incomplete sentences. 36-60 months Vocabulary grows to more than 10,000 words; productions of full sentences; mastery of grammatical morphemes (such as –ed for past tense) and function words (such as the, and, but). Can form questions and negations. 5 grade 40,000 words College 200,000 words 3. TheEmergence of Grammatical Rules a. Children aged 2-3 years use correct forms of speech, but children aged 4-5 years make grammatical errors i. These mistakes are actually the over-generalization of grammatical rules Eg. The rule that past tense is indicated by -ed, then run becomes runned or even ranned instead of ran. Language acquisition is NOT imitating adult speech BUT acquiring grammatical rules by listening to the speech and using the rules to create verbal forms never heard WITHOUT explicit awareness of what they learned. 4. LanguageDevelopment and Cognitive Development a. Language development occurs in orderly progression which could result from general cognitive development that is unrelated to experience with a specific language Eg. Babies start with one word  short-term memories limited before full development b. Orderly progression depends on experience with a specific language Studies of development of English in internationally adopted children who didn’t know English prior to adoption. Language acquisition in preschool-aged adopted children showed the same orderly progression of milestones that characterizes infants  depends on experience NOT cognitive development BUT they added new words to their vocabulariesmore quickly than infants did  general cognitive development. C. Theories of LanguageDevelopment 1. Behaviorist Explanations a. Language is learnedthroughreinforcement, shaping, extinction, andother operant conditioning principles Vocalizations that are reinforced remain in the developing child’s repertoire, “DA-DA.” i. Compelling evidence suggests this is not possible: 1. Parents don’t spend much time teaching their children to speak grammatically  focus more on truth content. 2. Children generate many more grammatical sentences than they ever hear  multiple surface structures. 3. Errors children make when learning to speak tend to be overgeneralizations of grammatical rules 2. Nativist Explanations a. Nativist Theory – language development is best explained as an innate, biological capacity  language capacity is in the brain and develops with simple exposure to speech.  Separate from general intelligence i. Language acquisition device (LAD) – a collection of processes that facilitates language learning  naturally emerge if adequate input to maintain it. ii. Genetic dysphasia – a syndrome characterized by the inability to learn the grammatical structure of language despite having otherwise normal intelligence  inability to generalize grammatical rules. All normal children biological predisposition shown in distinguishing phonemes, generalizing grammatical rules and babbling unheard words. iii. Social isolation. After puberty, acquisition of language is extremely difficult Eg. Genie. Immigrants’ language proficiency correlated with the age they arrive in the new country, those between 1-5 years learn with ease than those 9+ years 3. Interactionist Explanations a. The interaction of innatecapacities and social environment best explains language development Eg. Parents simplify language learning by using simple verbal interactions with their children. Eg. A group of deaf children in Nicaragua created their own sign language, complete with grammatical rules, without receiving formal instruction. The language has evolved and matured over the past 25 years  nativism (predisposition to uselanguage) andexperience(growing up in an insulated deaf culture). D. LanguageDevelopment and theBrain Language development in concentrated in language centers: Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area.  Increasingly specific for language as brain matures. Aphasia – difficulty in producing or comprehending language due to damage to Broca’s and Wernicke’s area. 1. Broca’s area – located in the left frontal cortex; involved in speech production (vocal & sign) Broca’s aphasia - understand language well, although they have increasing comprehension difficulty, as grammatical structures get more complex. Struggle with speech production: speak in short phrases that consist mostly of content morphemes. 2. Wernicke’s area – located in the left temporal cortex is involved in language comprehension (spoken or signed). Wernicke’s aphasia - differ from those with Broca’s aphasia in two ways: They can produce grammatical speech, but it tends to be meaningless, and they have considerable difficulty comprehending language  excludes Japanese pictographs 3. Right cerebral hemisphere contributes tolanguageprocessing (languagecomprehension): 1. Words presented to the right hemisphere have capacity for processing meaning. 2. Damage to the right hemisphere  subtle problems with language comprehension. 3. Studies show right-hemisphere activation during language tasks. 4. Some children without left hemispheres (treatment for epilepsy) recover language abilities. E. Can Other Species Learn Human Language? 1. Maybe, but not with highdegrees of sophistication Human  vocal tract and nimble human hand allow us to use language Apes  cant speak because their vocal tracts cannot sound like human language Allen andBeatrix Gardner taught chimps American Sign Language and computer-monitored keyboards that display geometric symbols that represent words.  worked with Washoe as though she were a deaf child (signing, rewarding and assisting by molding – manipulating her hands) allowing her to learn 160 words in 4 years with creative uses.  Interaction between chimps and a language-learning environment. Kanzi, learned the keyboard system and Louis learned ASL by watching researchers try to teach others when they were young  a critical period for acquiring communicative systems and passive mastery of language exceed ability to produce language. Limitations: 1. size of the vocabularies 2. type of words they can master (concrete objects and simple actions)  no meanings. 3. complexity of grammar that apes can use and comprehend. F. Language andThought: HowAreThey Related? 1. Linguistic relativity hypothesis - language shapes the nature of thought Inuit use many different terms for snow  Benjamin Whorf to propose that they think about snow differently than English speakers do. Critic: Eleanor Rosch studied the Dani, an isolated agricultural tribe living in New Guinea. They have only two terms for colors that refer to “dark” and “light.”  expect the Dani to have problems perceiving and learning different shades of color BUT Dani learned shades of color just as well as people who have many more color terms in their first language. Languagemay influencecolor processing. Research comparing English and African children show that initially English children can identify more colours BUT when the children grew up, Himba a child who knew both English and African language could identify more colours than the English. Similar in adults. 20 blue rectangles change gradually from lightest blue to darkest blue. in Russian, words for light blue (“goluboy”) and dark blue (“siniy”)  1–8 as “light blue” and 9–20 as “dark blue.” Participants were shown 3 blue squares, and asked to pick which of the 2 bottom squares matched the colors of the top square. Russian speakers responded more quickly when one of the bottom squares was “goluboy” and “siniy” than when both were “goluboy”/“siniy,” whereas English took the same amount of time. Thewaypeople think about time. In English, we use spatial terms “forward / back” to describe horizontal spatial relations. In Mandarin we describe time using terms that refer to a vertical spatial dimension “up,” / “down.” Researchers showed a horizontal or vertical display of objects and then asked them to make a judgment involving time. English speakers were faster to make the time judgments after seeing a horizontal display and vertical display after learning Mandarin terms. II. Concepts
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