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Chapter 9

Chapter 9 language &thought.docx

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Steve Joordens

Chapter 9- Language and Thought Cont’d from written notes under Language Development and Cognitive Development All infants begin with one-word utterances before moving on to telegraphic speech then to simple sentence that include function morphemes  One and then two word utterances b/c their short term memories are so limited that initially they can only hold in min a word or 2, additional cognitive development might be necessary before they have the capacity to put together a sentence  Or orderly progression might depend on experience w/ a specific language  Research: using novel strategy; examining acquisition of English by internationally adopted children who did not know any English prior to adoption o Language acquisition in preschool-aged adopted children showed same orderly progression of milestones that characterizes infants o Results indicate that some key milestones of language development depend on experience with English Theories of Language Development Language acquisition process is subject of controversy b/w 3 approaches; behaviorist, nativist and interactionist Behaviorist Explanations  According to BF Skinner’s behaviorist explanation of language learning o We learn to talk in the same way we learn any other skill: through “reinforcement, shaping, extinction, and other basic principles of operant conditioning”  Infants nature and begin to vocalize, those vocalizations that AREN’T reinforced gradually diminish, those reinforced stay in the developing child’s repertoire  They also imitate speech patterns they hear usually shaped by parents or other adults by reinforcing those that are grammatical and ignoring/punishing those ungrammatical  Behavioral explanation is attractive b/c it offers simple account of language development, but theory cannot account for fundamental characteristics of language development  1 ; parents don’t spend much time teaching their children to speak grammatically  2 ; children generate many more grammatical sentences than they ever hear [shows that children don’t just imitate, they learn the rules for generating sentences]  3 ; the errors children make when learning to speak tend to be overgeneralizations of grammatical rules Nativist Explanations  Linguist Noam Chomsky published a blistering reply to the behaviorist approach o According to Chomsky, language learning capacities are built into the brain, which is specialized to rapidly acquire language through simple exposure to speech o Chomsky and others argued that humans have a particular ability for language that is separate from general intelligence o Nativist theory: view that language development is best explained as an innate, biological capacity o Chomsky: human brain is equipped w/ a language acquisition device [LAD]; a collection of processes that facilitate language learning  Language processes naturally emerge as the infant matures, provided the infant receives adequate input to maintain the acquisition process  Ppl with normal intelligence can find certain aspects of human language difficult or impossible to learn o Genetic dysphasia: a syndrome characterized by an inability to learn the grammatical structure of language despite having otherwise normal intelligence o Tends to run in families, a single dominant gene has been implicated in trans.  This biological disposition to acquire language explains why newborn infants can make contrasts among phonemes that occur in all human languages  Nativist theory also explains why deaf babies babble speech sounds they have never heard and why patterns of language development is similar in children throughout the world  Cases with common theme; once puberty is reached acquiring language acquisition becomes extremely difficult o Immigrants example page 356  fMRI recent scans show that acquiring second language in early childhood results in different rep. of that language in the brain than does acquiring is much later [after 9 years] Interactionist Explanations  Nativist are criticized b/c they don’t explain how language develops; only explain  This approach says that although infants are born with innate ability to acquire language, social interactions play a crucial role in language  They say parents tailor verbal interactions w/ children that simplify language acquisition [speaking slowly and simpler sentences] o Study of deaf children’s creation of a new language [Nicaragua] o Acts of creation illustrate the interplay of nativism [predisposition to use language] and experience [growing up in insulated deaf culture] Language Development and the Brain  Brain matures; specialization of specific neurological structures takes place and allows language to develop  Early infancy language processing distributed among many areas o As it becomes more and more concentrated un 2 areas; Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area; referred to as language centers of the brain, increasingly specialized for language so much that damage to them results in condition called  Aphasia: difficulty in producing or comprehending language  Broca’s area; left frontal cortex, production of sequential patterns in vocal and sign language o French physician Paul Broca o Patients w/ damage resulting in Broca’s aphasia understand language well but they have increasing comprehension difficulty as grammatical structure are more complex  They struggle w/ speech production; speak in short staccato phrases that consist mostly of content morphemes [cat, dog]  Function morphemes [and, but] are usually missing and grammatical struc. Impaired  Wernicke’s area; located in left temporal cortex, involved in language comprehension o German neurologist carl Wernicke o Patients w/ Wernicke’s aphasia differ from Broca’s aphasia in 2 ways  They can produce grammatical speech but it tends to be meaningless  Difficulty comprehending language  Impairs comprehension of spoken and signed language  Both Broca's and Wernicke’s area are important for language but not entire o 4 evidence show that right cerebral hemisphere also contributes to language processing especially language comprehension [show capacity or processing meaning] o some children who have had their entire left hemispheres removed during adolescence for treatment of epilepsy can recover many of their language abilities Can other species learn human language?  Allen and Beatrix first to use ASL w. apes  Suggested that humans birds and other species apes experience a critical period for acquiring communicative systems  Comparing grammatical structures produced by apes w/ those produced by human children highlights the complexity of human language, ease/speed w/ which we generate and comprehend it Language and Thought: How are they related?  Some theorists have argue that language is simply a means of expressing thought o Linguistic relativity hypothesis; the proposal that language shapes the nature of thought o Idea by Benjamin Whorf; engineer who studied language and especially in native American languages o Most frequent example of linguistic relativity comes from the Inuit in Canada, Whorf believed that Inuit perceive and think about snow differently than English speakers o Recent evidence shows that language may influence color processing o Research page 361 reveals that language can indeed influence how children think about colors  Either thought or language ability can be severely impaired while the capacity of the other is spared, as showed in the case of Christopher  Researchers suggest that Whorf was only half right in his claims about effect of language on thought Concepts and Categories: How we think Example: 69 years old man named JB went for neurological assessment b/c he had difficulty understanding the meaning of words, even though he still performed well on other perceptual/cognitive tasks o Difficulty naming colors couldn’t match objects o Language deteriorated o Finding suggests that we need to look at factors in addition to language in order to understand concepts  Concept: a mental representation that groups or categorizes shared features of related objects, events or other stimuli o Abstract representation o Brain organizes our concepts about world, classifying them into categories based on shared similarities  Concepts are fundamental to our ability to think and make sense of the world Psychological Theories of Concepts and Categories  Early psychological theories described concepts as rules that specify the necessary and sufficient conditions for membership in a particular category  A necessary condition is something tat must be true of the object in order for it to belong to the category  Most Natural categories cannot be so easily defined in terms of this classical approach of necessary & sufficient conditions  3 theories seek to explain how people perform these acts of categorization Family Resemblance Theory  Eleanor Rosch put aside necessity and sufficiency to develop a theory of concepts based on family resemblance o Members of a category have features that appear to be characteristic of category members but may not be possessed by every member o Strong family resemblance b/w you, your parents, siblings despite that there is no necessarily defining feature you all have in common Prototype Theory  Building on idea of family resemblance, rosch also proposed that psychological categories are best described as organized around a  Prototype: The “best” or “most typical” member of a category o Possesses most or all of the most characteristic features of category o Example prototype of birds o According to theory if your prototypical bird is robin, then a canary would be considered a better example than would an ostrich o This contrasts with classical approach to concepts in which something either is or is not an example of a concept Exemplar theory  Contrast to prototype theory o Exemplar theory: a theory of categorization that argues that we make category judgments by comparing a new instance with stored memories for other instances of the category o Exemplar does better job than prototype theory in accounting for certain aspects of categorization, especially in that we recall not only what a prototypical dog looks like but also what specific dogs look like Example with dog picture on page 366 Concepts, Categories and the Brain  Studies attempt to link concepts and categories to the brain and helped to make sense of the theories  Study: participants classified prototypes faster when the stimuli were presented to the right visual field, meaning left hemisphere received input first o Results suggest a role for both exemplars and prototypes: the left hemisphere is primarily involved in forming prototypes and the right hemisphere is mainly active in recognizing exemplars  We use both prototypes and exemplar when forming concepts and categories o Visual cortex is involved in forming prototypes whereas the prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia are involved in learning exemplars o Evidence: exemplar based learning involve analysis and decision making [prefrontal cortex], whereas prototype formation is a holistic process involving image processing [visual cortex]  Examples of unusual cases of people who either had the ability to recognize info about human-made objects or ability to recognize info about living things or foods o Became the basis for a syndrome called category-specific deficit: a neurological syndrome that is characterized by an inability to recognize objects that belong to a particular category though the ability to recognize outside the category is undisturbed  These deficits have been observed even when the brain trauma that produces them occurs shortly after birth o Ex: Adam 16 year old who suffered a stroke a day after birth, had severe difficulty recognizing faces and other biological objects, but recognized non living objects such as spatula, broom, cigar o Suggests that the brain is prewired to organize perceptual and sensory inputs it into a broad based categories such as living and nonliving things  This type of category-specific deficit depends on where the brain is damaged o Usually result when individual suffers a stroke or other trauma to areas in left hemisphere of cerebral cortex o Damage to font part of temporal lobe results in difficulty identifying humans, damage to lower left w/ animals, temporal where meets occipital and parietal lobes impairs the ability to retrieve names of tools o Healthy people those regions active when tested for specific categories  How do specific regions develop category preferences of objects such as tool/objects o One possibility: these preferences develop from the specific visual experiences that individuals have during the course of their lives o Alternative: brain may be prewired such that particular regions respond more strongly to some categories than others o Experiment: category preferential regions showed highly similar patterns of activity in the blind and sighted individuals  Results provided evidence that category specific or
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