Chapter 09 – Reading Notes
Language and Thoughts
Language: A system for communicating with others using signals that are combined according to
rules of grammar and convey meaning.
Grammar: A set of rules that specify how the units of language can be combined to produce
Language allows individuals to exchange information about the world, coordinate group action
and form strong social bonds.
Phonemes: The smallest units of sound that are recognizable as speech rather than as random
Phonological rules: Indicate how phonemes can be combined to produce speech sounds.
Morphemes: The smallest meaningful unites of language.
Morphological rules: Indicate how morphemes can be combined to form words.
o Content morphemes = things and events
o Function morphemes = grammatical function, tying sentences together, indicating time
Syntactical rules: Indicate how words can be combined to form phrases and sentences.
Deep structure: The meaning of a sentence.
Surface structure: How a sentence is worded.
Fast mapping: Children map a word onto an underlying concept after only a single exposure.
o 0-4 months = Tell difference between speech sounds. Cooing, especially in response to
o 4-6 months = Babbles consonants
o 6-10 months = Understands some words and simple requests.
o 10-12 months = Begins to use single words.
o 12-18 months = Vocabulary of 30-50 words (simple nouns, adjectives, and action words).
o 18-24 months = Two-word phrases ordered according to syntactic rules. Vocab of 50-
200 words. Understands rules.
o 24-36 months = Vocab of about 1000 words. Production of phrases and incomplete
o 36-60 months = Vocab of more than 10 000 words, production of full sentences,
mastery of grammatical morphemes and function words. Can form questions and
Telegraphic speech: Devoid of function morphemes and consist mostly of content words.
o Language is learned through reinforcement, shaping, extinction and other basic
principles of operant conditioning.
o However, it cannot account for: Parents don’t spend much time teaching their children to speak grammatically.
Parents typically respond more to the truth content of their children’s
statements than to the grammar.
Children generate many more grammatical sentences than they ever hear.
Shows that children don’t just imitate; they learn the rules for generating
Mistakes in children’s speech tend to be overgeneralizations of grammatical
rules. Behaviourist explanation would not predict overgeneralization if children
were learning through trial and error or simply imitating what they hear.
o Around 1950s when Noam Chomsky published a reply to the behaviourist approach.
o Built into the brain, specialized to rapidly acquire language through simple exposure to
o Nativist theory: Language development is best explained as an innate biological capacity.
o Language acquisition device (LAD): A collection of processes that facilitate language
o Genetic dysphasia: A syndrome characterized by an inability to learn the grammatical
structure of language despite having otherwise normal intelligence.
o Do not explain how language develops, merely explains why.
o Social interactions play a crucial role in language.
Aphasia: Difficulty in producing or comprehending language.
Broca’s area is located in the left frontal cortex = involved in the production of the sequential
patterns in vocal and sign languages.
o When damaged, patients have a hard time producing sentences
Wernicke’s area is located in the left temporal cortex = involved in language comprehension.
o When damaged, patients can produce sentences but they tend to be meaningless and
have considerable difficulty comprehending language.
Linguistic relativity hypothesis: Language shapes the nature of thought.
Concept: Mental representation that groups or categorizes shared features