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Chapter 9

Psychology 1000 Chapter 9: Psych chapter 9

Course Code
PSYCH 1000

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Psych Chapter 9
Language and Thinking
Consists of a system of symbols and rules for combining these symbols in ways that can generate an
infinite number of possible messages and meanings
Psycholinguistics scientific study of the psychological aspects of language, such as how people
understand, produce, and acquire language
Adaptive Functions of Language
The human brain achieved its present form around 50000 years ago, but took another 12000 years
to develop a way to store knowledge outside the brain in forms of writing
Over time humans adopted a more socially oriented lifestyle that helped them survive and
The development of language made it easier for humans to adapt to environmental changes
Properties of Language
Uses sounds, written characters, or some other system of symbols to represent objects, events,
ideas, feelings, and actions
Grammar A languages’ set of rules that dictate how symbols can be combined to create
meaningful units of communication
Syntax Rules that govern the order of words
Potion of grammar
Different languages follow different rules
Language Conveys Meaning
Semantics Understanding the meaning of words and sentences
Ex. “How’d you do on the test?”, “I nailed it”
Does not mean you nailed your test against a wall
People unfamiliar with English may not understand the expression and find it perplexing
Language is Generative and Permits Displacement
Generativity The symbols of language can be combined to generate an infinite number of
messages that have a novel meaning
Ex. English has 26 letters that are used to make words and sentences
Displacement Language allows us to communicate about events and objects that are not physically
Ex. You can talk about the past, the future, and people, objects, and events that currently
exist or are taking place elsewhere
Can talk about things that are completely imaginary

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The Structure of Language
Language has a surface structure and a deep structure
Surface structure Consists of the symbols that are used and their order
Deep structure Refers to the underlying meaning of the combined symbols
A single surface structure can lead to two deep structures
The Hierarchical Structure of Language
Phoneme smallest unit of speech sound in a language that can signal a difference in meaning
Humans can produce around 100 phonemes
No language use all the phonemes
Have no inherent meaning but alter meaning when combined with other elements
Ex. Dog vs log
Morphemes smallest unit of meaning in language
S is not a syllable but is still a morpheme because it means plural
Prefixes and suffixes are morphemes
The stuff with which words are formed
Discourse the way in which sentences are combined into paragraphs, articles, books,
conversations etc.
Understanding and Producing Language
Context plays a key role in understanding language
The Role of Bottom-Up Processing
Bottom-Up Processing Individual elements of a stimulus are analyzed and then combined to form
a unified perception
Analyzing phonemes to create morphemes and the combination of morphemes to create words
We recognize words either directly by perceiving the visual patterns into auditory codes, as happens
when you sound out in your head the phonemes and morphemes
The Role of Top-Down Processing
Top-Down Processing - Sensory Information is interpreted in light of existing knowledge, concepts,
ideas and expectations
Language is top down because the words, you write, read, speak, or hear activate and draw on your
knowledge of vocabulary, grammar and other linguistic rules that are in your long term memory
Speech Segmentation Perceiving where each word within a spoken sentence begins and ends
When people speak they don’t pause in between words
Through experience we learn that certain sequences of phonemes are unlikely to occur within the
same sequence
Thus when we hear them in a sequence we perceive them to be the beginning or the ending of an
Also use context provided by other words to interpret the meaning of any individual word
Availability of context makes the job of identifying individual words easier

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Pragmatics: The Social Context of Language
Pragmatics A knowledge of the practical aspects of using language
Helps us understand what other people are really saying, also helps people get the point of what
you are communicating
Example of how top-down processing influences language
You adjust your speech rate, choice of words, and sentence complexity depending on who you are
speaking too, to ensure that you are as clear as possible
Pragmatics depends on the social context, the tone you use when speaking and writing would
depend if you are with friends or going to a job interview
Language Functions, the Brain, and Sex Differences
Broca’s Area in the left hemisphere of the frontal lobe is most centrally involved in word production
and articulation
Also, involved in motor control which is why people talk with their hands
Wernicke’s Area in the rear portion of the temporal lobe, in most centrally involved in speech
People with damage in one or both typically suffer from aphasia, an impairment in speech
comprehension of production
Men who suffer from left hemisphere strokes were more likely to show severe aphasic symptoms
than women, suggesting women have more of their language function shared with the right
Acquiring a First Language
Language experts believe that humans are born linguists, having a biological readiness to recognize
and produce the sounds and structure of whatever language they are exposed too
Biological Foundation
Human children are able to master language early in life without formal instruction
All languages have the same basic underlying characteristics
Between 6 and 12 months infants begin to discriminate sounds that are specific to their native
Ex. Japanese children lose the ability to distinguish r and l because their language does not make this
phonetic distinction, but children exposed to English continue to discriminate these sounds as they
Language Acquisition Device (LAD) - An innate biological mechanism that contains the general
grammatical rules common to all languages
Languages contain things like noun phrases and verb phrases arranged in particular ways such as
subjects, predicates and adjectives
LAD is a huge panel with linguistic switches that are thrown as children hear words and syntax of
their native language
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