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PSYA02H3 (922)
Chapter 9


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University of Toronto Scarborough
Steve Joordens

CHAPTER 9: LANGUAGE AND THOUGHT Language and Communication: From Rules to Meaning  language: a system for communicating with others using signals that are combined according to rules of grammar and convey meaning o allows individuals to exchange info about the world, coordinate group action and form strong social bonds  grammar: a set of rules that specify how the units of language can be combined to produce meaningful messages There are three distinctions between human language and animal communication: 1) the complex structure of human language distinguishes it from simpler signaling systems  humans can express a wider range of ideas and concepts 2) humans use words to refer to intangible things  unicorn, democracy  words that could not have originated as simple alarm calls 3) we use language to name, categorize, and describe things to ourselves when we think  influences how knowledge is organized in our brains The Complex Structure of Human Language  all languages share a basic structure involving a set of sounds and rules for combining these sounds to produce meanings  approximately 4000 human languages Basic Characteristics  phonemes: the smallest units of sound that are recognizable as speech rather than as random noise  phonological rules: indicate how phonemes can be produced to produce speech sounds  morphemes: the smallest meaningful units of language o pe = phoneme, pat = morpheme  morphological rules: indicate how morphemes can be combined to form words o content morphemes: refer to things and events (cat, dog, take) o function morphemes: serve grammatical functions (and, or, but)  half of the morphemes in human language are function morphemes  syntactical rules: indicate how words can be combined to form phrases and sentences Deep vs Surface Structure  deep structure: the meaning of a sentence  surface structure: how a sentence is worded  to generate a sentence, you begin with a deep structure and create a surface structure o to comprehend a sentence, you process the surface in order to extract the deep structure  the meaning of a sentence is typically more memorable Language Development 3 Characteristics of Language Development  children learn language at a rapid rate- average 1 year old has a vocabulary of 10 words  children make few errors while learning to speak and the errors they do make usually result from applying, but overgeneralizing, grammatical rules that have learned  children’s passive mastery of language develops faster than their active mastery o they understand language better than they speak Distinguishes Speech Sounds  infants can distinguish among all of the contrasting sounds that occur in all human languages  within the first 6 months of life, they lose this ability and can only distinguish among the sounds in their language  at about 4-6, infants begin to babble speech sounds Language Milestones  at about 10-12 months, babies begin to utter their first words  by 18 months, they can say about 50 words and can understand several times more than that  fast mapping: children map a word onto an underlying concept after only a single exposure  telegraphic speech: devoid of function morphemes and consist mostly of content words o around 24 months, children begin to form 2 word sentences, for eg “more milk” The Emergence of Grammatical Rules  evidence of ease with which children acquire grammatical rules come from some errors children make while forming sentences o 2 or 3 year old will use the correct past- “I ran”, “you ate” o by 4 years, children start using incorrect forms of the verbs “I runned” o children overgeneralize grammatical rules  children acquire grammatical rules by listening to the speech around them and using the rules to create verbal forms they have never heard Language Development and Cognitive Development  all infants begin with 1 word utterances before moving onto telegraphic speech and then to simple sentences that include function morphemes  some infants launch directly into speaking in sentences o results from general cognitive development that is unrelated to experience with a specific language Theories of Language Development Behaviorist Explanations  B.F Skinner states that we learn to talk in the same way we learn any other skill: through reinforcement, shaping, extinction, and the other basic principles of operant conditioning  this theory cannot account for many fundamental characteristics of language development o parents don't spend much time teaching their children to speak grammatically  if a child says “nobody like me”, instead of correcting them, the parent will say “I like you” o children generate many more grammatical sentences than they ever hear  children don’t just imitate, they learn o the errors children make when learning to speak tend to be overgeneralizations of grammatical rules Nativist Explanations  Noam Chomsky states that language learning capacities are built into the brain which is specialized to rapidly acquire language through simple exposure to speech  nativist theory: language development is best explained as an innate, biological capacity  language acquisition device (LAD): a collection of processes that facilitate language learning  genetic dysphasia: a syndrome characterized by an inability to learn the grammatical structure of language despite having otherwise normal intelligence Interactionist Explanations  although infants are born with an innate ability to acquire language, social interactions play a crucial role  parents tailor their verbal interactions with children in ways that simplify the language acquisition process Language Development and the Brain  Broca's area and Wernicke's area are referred to as the language centers of the brain  aphasia: difficulty in producing or comprehending language, damage to the aforementioned areas  Broca’s area: located in the left frontal cortex and is involved in the production of the sequential patterns in vocal and sign languages o patients with damage understand language well although they have increasing comprehension difficulty as grammatical structures gets more complex  struggle with speech production  they speak in short phrases that have content morphemes but lack function morphemes  Wernicke’s area: located in the left temporal cortex and is involved in language comprehension o patients with damage can produce grammatical speech, but it tends to be meaningless and they have difficulty comprehending language  in normal language processing, this area is highly active when we make judgments about word meaning  four kinds of evidence indicate that the right cerebral hemisphere also contributes to language processing: o when words are presented to the right hemisphere, it shows some capacity for processing meaning o patients with damage to the right hemisphere sometimes have subtle problems with language comprehension o a number of neuroimaging studies have revealed evidence of right-hemisphere activation during language tasks o some children who had their entire left hemisphere removed as a treatment for epilepsy can recover many of th
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