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Chapter 9

PSYB57 CHAPTER 9

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Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSYB57H3
Professor
Dwayne Pare

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PSYB57 – Chapter 9: Language The Organization of Language  Language use relies on consistent and well-defined patterns which are the same patterns that guide you when figuring out what is said to you  Language has a structure and can be thought of as hierarchical o At the top of the hierarchy are sentences, then phrases, followed by words, morphemes and lastly phonemes o Some morphemes like “umpire” and “talk” are units that can stand alone whether as other morphemes get bound onto these free morphemes and add info crucial for interpretation such as “-ed” or “-s” endings  In each level, people can combine and recombine the units to produce novel utterances – assembling the phonemes into brand-new morphemes or assembling words into brand-new phrases  Why are some sequences acceptable while others seem awkward or even unacceptable Phonology The Production of Speech  In ordinary breathing, air flows quietly out of the lungs through the larynx and up through the nose and mouth  Noise is produced if this airflow is interrupted and this allows us to produce a range of sounds  Within the larynx there are 2 flaps of muscular tissue called vocal folds (or vocal cords) which can rapidly open or close producing voice o [z] sound is voiced while the [s] is not  We can distinguish sounds according to how the airflow is restricted – manner of production o Air is allowed to move through the nose for some speech sounds but not others  We can distinguish between sounds that are voiced and those that are not  Sounds can be categorized according to where the airflow is restricted – place of articulation o Close tour lips to produce bilabial sounds (p and b) o Place your top teeth close to your bottom lips to produce labiodental sounds (f and v) o Place your tongue just behind your upper teeth produce alveolar sounds (t and d)  Example: what are the features of a [p] sounds? o First specify the manner of production: sound produced with air moving through mouth and with a full interruption to the flow of air o Voicing: [p] sound is unvoiced o Place of articulation: [p] sound is bilabial The Complexity of Speech Perception  Phonemes that differ only in one production feature sound similar to each other and phonemes that differ in multiple features sound more distinct  This is reflected in the errors people make when they try to understand speech in a noisy environment; [p] sound can be confused with [b] sounds (voicing difference)  Normal speaking rate is around 180 words per minute (15 phonemes per second) but people can stull follow speech that’s as fast as 250 words per minute  There are no markers to indicate where one phoneme ends and the next one begins  There are no gaps to indicate the boundaries between successive syllables or successive words o “My name is Dan Reis-berg.” There is no gap between the sounds carrying the word “my” and the sounds carrying “name” and so the listener needs to figure out where one sound stops and the next begins (segmentation)  You need to slice the stream of words into appropriate segments which is a process called speech segmentation  Most of us are convinced that there are pauses between words in the speech that we hear even though the pauses aren’t, in truth, actually there  We lack the skill needed to segment the stream, so we are unable to supply the word boundaries and as a consequence we hear a continuous flow of sound o That’s why foreign speech sounds so fast to us  Co-articulation is the fact that in producing speech, you don’t utter one phoneme at a time instead the phonemes overlap and while you are producing the [s] sound in the word “soup” your mouth is getting ready to say the vowel etc.  This overlap allows speech production to be faster and considerably more fluent but there are also consequences so the [s] sound your produce while getting ready for upcoming vowel is actually different from the [s] you produce while getting ready for a different vowel  Speech perception has to read past these context differences in order to identify the phonemes produced Aids to Speech Perception  The speech you encounter, day by day, is limited in its range and has been estimated that the 50 most commonly words in English make up more than half of the words you actually hear  The perception of speech shares a crucial attribute with all other types of perception: you don’t rely on the stimuli you receive instead you supplement this input with a wealth of other knowledge  One proposal is that the moment you hear the first phoneme in a word, you activate all the words in your vocabulary that have this starting sound, the moment you hear the second phoneme you narrow this cohort of words so that you’re thinking only about words that start with this pair of phonemes  In this way, speech perception ends up as a process in which you actively seek a match between the sounds arriving at your ears and the words actually in your vocabulary  In other cases, speech perception is guided by knowledge of a broader sort, knowledge that relies on the context in which a word appears o Phonemic restoration effect o Example: [s] sound in the middle of the word “legislature” might be removed and replaced by a brief burst of noise (legi*lature) o Participants reported hearing the complete word “legislature” because they used the context to figure out what the word must have been and supplied the missing sound on their own  The participants don’t just infer what the missing sound was, they literally seem to hear the sound  How much do context effects like these help us? o Pollack and Pickett tape-recorded a number of naturally occurring conversations and spliced out individual words and presented them in isolation to their participants. o With no context to guide them, participants were able to identify only half of the words o If restored to their original context, the same stimuli were easy to identify o Thus, the benefits of context are considerable Categorical Perception  Speech perception also benefits from categorical perception o Refers to the fact that you are much better at hearing the differences between categories of sounds that you are at hearing the variations within a category of sounds  Ex. Sensitive to the difference between the [g] and [k] sound but not between [d] and [t] sound  We are insensitive to differences within each of these categories so you have a hard time distinguishing [p] sound from another different [p] sound  This pattern is what you want because it allows you to hear the differences that matter without hearing the variations within the category  In a demonstration, there are 3 stimuli o First stimulus: the series will be a [ba] sound o Second stimulus: series will be a [ba] sound distorted to make it sound like a [pa] sound o Third stimulus: series will be a [ba] sound distorted more to make it like [pa] sound  Prediction: We might expect people to be less and less likely to identify each stimulus as a [ba] and more and more likely to identify each as a [pa]. test cases close to the [ba] prototype should be reliably identified as [ba]  Actual data: even though the stimuli are gradually changing from one extreme to another, participants hear an abrupt shift, so that roughly half the stimuli are reliably categorized as [ba] and half are reliably categorized as [pa] o The participants seem indifferent to the difference within each category o the listeners seem to hear either a [pa] sound or a [ba] sound with no fine gradations inside of either category  this shows that our perceptual apparatus is tuned to provide you just the info you need Combining Phonemes  language users need to know both how to identify the individual phonemes and how to put them together into larger packages  there are rules governing these combination  certain sounds can occur at the end of a word but not at the beginning o ex. No words in the English language contain the “tl” combination within a single syllable but it can occur in between syllables such as “sweetly”  there are also rules that govern the adjustments that must occur when certain phonemes are uttered one after another o ex. Consider the “s” ending that marks the plural in words such as “books” where the “s” is pronounced as an [s] sound but in words such as “bags” and “pills” the same “s” is pronounced as a [z] sound o The choice between the [s] and [z] sound depends on how the base noun ends. If it ends with an unvoiced sound the [s] ending is used and if it ends with a voiced sound then the [z] ending will be used  It seems that this is internalized because even young children show this sounding effect Morphemes and Words  The average American high school graduates knows about 45,000 different words and for college graduates the estimate is higher 75,00-100,000 words  The speaker needs to know the word’s sound, the orthography (sequence of letters that spell the word), how to use the word, and the meaning of the word. Word Meaning  What a word refers to is called the word’s referent  One might propose that the meaning of a word or phrase is linked to the word’s referent: if you know the referent of “bird” you know what the word “bird” means  There are key differences between a word’s reference and its meaning  Some phrases have no referent because they refer to things that don’t exist but even so the phrases seem meaningful. Sometimes a word’s reference is temporary or a matter of coincidence  Word meaning must involve more than references  Conceptual knowledge turns out to be complicated even for simple concepts like “bird” and “dog” and “car” and the same complication apply to semantic knowledge Building New Words  New words don’t arrive in the language as isolated entries but because language users know how to create variations on each word by adding the appropriate morphemes o Ex. You have just head the word “hack” for the first time and know that the one who does this activity is called the “hacker” etc. o The morphemes allow you to create new words  Generativity of language is the capacity to create an endless series of new combinations all built from the same set of fundamental units  One who knows the language knows how to create new forms within the language but this knowledge isn’t conscious (English speakers could not articulate the priniciples governing the sequence of morphemes within a word, or why they pronounce “wugs” with a [z] sound rather than an [s] sound) Syntax  Sentences can range in length from very brief to absurdly long but most sentences contain 20 words or fewer  The rules of syntax are the rules that govern the sequence of words in a phrase or sentence  Many non-sentences do seem meaningful Phrase Structure  Phrase structure rules are stipulations that list the elements that must appear in a phrase as well as the sequence of those elements and they also specify the overall organization of the sentence  One phrase structure rule stipulates that a sentence (S) must consist of a noun phrase (NP) and a verb phrase (VP)  Another rule stipulates that noun phrases can include a “determiner” some number of adjectives and then the noun itself  One way to depict these rules is with a tree structure Prescriptive Rules, Descriptive Rules  Prescriptive rules are the rules that describe how language is supposed to be and language that doesn’t follow these rules is claimed to be improper or maybe just wrong  Language changes with the passage of time and what is proper in one period is often different from what seems right at other times o Ex. Many people insisted it was wrong to end a sentence with a preposition but modern speakers think this prohibition is silly  This pattern of change makes it difficult to justify prescriptive rules  The selection of prescriptive rules may simply reflect the preferences of a particular group and the group that defines these rules will of course be the group with the most prestige or social catchet; people will strive to follow these rules with the simple aim of joining these elite groups  Phrase structure rules are descriptive rules (rules that characterize the language as it is ordinarily used by fluent speakers and listeners) The Function of Phrase Structure  We have all internalized these rules and that is evident in the fact that many aspects of language use are reliably in line with the rules  For example, some people reject some sequences of words as “ungrammatical” and accept others as fine, independent of whether the sequences are meaningful. People accept sequences that follow the rules, and balk the ones that don’t  People have clear intuitions about how the words in a sentence should be grouped  Ex. “the boy loves his dog” o “the boy” is the sentence’s NP while “loves his dog” is the VP  The groupings provided by the phrase-structure therefore organize a sentence and this shapes our intuitions about the sentence’s parts. This organization can also influence memory: in one study investigators asked listeners to memorize strings of nonsense words they heard spoken. Some strings had no structure at all while others included function morphemes that allowed the listeners to discern a phrase structure o Once organized into a phrase structure, these sequences were much easier to recall rather than just a string of nonsense words  Phrase structure rules also help us understand the sentences we hear or read because syntax in general specifies the relationships among the words in each sentence o Ex. NP + VP sequence typically divides the sentence into the “doer” (NP) and some info about the doer (VP)  The phrase structure of a sentence provides an initial road map useful in understanding the sentence  Sometimes two different structures can lead to the same sequence of words and if you encounter those words you may not know which phrase structure was intended  Phrase structures guide interpretation and with multiple phrase-structures available there should be more than one way to interpret the sentence Linguistic Universals  Linguistic elements can be combined to create larger and more sophisticated units  A small number of elements can be used to create a vast number of combinations  Combinations at each level seem to be rule-governed  The rules determine which units can be combined, and in what order  The rules also specify a structure within the larger units and the rules are similar
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