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PSY270 Lecture 10
knowledge is an integral part of language
we enter world without it and have to acquire – understand before can produce.
What is language?
a system of communication using sounds or symbols that enables us to express our feelings, thoughts, ideas and
Animals communication: lacks properties of human language.
The creativity of human language
possible to create new and unique sentences due to it’s structure
oHierarchical: consists of series of small components that can be combined into larger units.
oGoverned by rules: components can be arranged in certain ways
Human ability that goes beyond fixed calls and signs of animals.
Universality of language
Sign language was invented as a form of communication b/w deaf
Everyone (with normal capacities) develops language and follows rules (may not be aware). Although grammar may be
difficult, no trouble using language
Language is universal across cultures (all cultures use language).
Language development is similar across cultures. Start babbling around 7 months, few words after 12 months, multiword
utterances at age 2.
Languages are “unique but the same”
oUse different words, sounds, rules
oWords serve functions of nouns/verbs, include system to make things negative, ask questions and refer to
Broca & Wernicke: identified areas in frontal and temporal lobes involved in understanding and producing language.
Research shows that language is distributed across a large area of brain, not limited to frontal/temporal.
Skinner: proposed language is learned through reinforcement.
Chomsky: humans are programmed to acquire and use language.
oUnderlying basis of all languages is similar (despite differences/variations of language)
oStudying language is a way to study properties of mind – disagreed with behaviourist idea that dismissed the
mind as a valid topic of psychological study.
oArgued against Skinner: children learn language and produce sentences they have never heard and were not
reinforced. (e.g. “I hate you Mommy”)
oChanged focus on psycholinguistics (psychological study of language)
Psycholinguistics: goal is to discover psychological process on acquiring and processing language
oRepresentation (in mind/brain)
Perceiving words, phonemes, and letters – EXCLUDED FROM FINAL (but talked in lecture…)
knowledge of words stored in our lexicon
Components of words
oSounds. Shortest segment of speech that can change meaning of word. /b/, /i/, /t/
oNumber of phonemes varies across languages.
oSmallest units of language that have definable meaning or grammatical function. E.g. “bed-room”