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Chapter 9

Psychology 1000 Chapter Notes - Chapter 9: Language Acquisition Device, Metacognition, Problem Solving

Course Code
PSYCH 1000

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Consists of a system of symbols and rules in order to combine them to generate
an infinite number of possible messages and meanings
o Scientific study of the psychological aspects of language
o How people understand, produce, and acquire language
Adaptive Functions of Language
Human thought and behaviour depend on more than physical structure of brain
Evolution humans adopted a socially oriented lifestyle
Use of language evolved as people gathered to form larger social units
Every human culture, no matter how isolated, has developed language
Brain has inborn capacity to acquire any of the languages spoken
Conscious thinking takes the form of self-talk, or inner speech
Language - extremely powerful learning mechanism
Properties of Languages
Language is Symbolic and Structured
Uses sounds, written characters, or other systems of symbols (e.g., hand signs)
to represent objects, events, ideas, feelings, and actions
Symbols used are arbitrary
o Ex. Spanish, French, and German for dog: perro, chien, and hund
None of the words looks like dog
When spoken, nothing about the words sounds that makes it an
intrinsically correct choice for representing the concept of ―dog‖
Has a rule-governed structure
o Set of rules that dictate how symbols can be combined to create
meaningful units of communication
How to change present tense to past
How to change sentence into negative
o Rules that govern the order of words
Language Conveys Meaning
Once symbols and rules are learned - form and transfer mental representations
to mind of another person
o Meaning of words and sentences
o Can be tricky: metaphors, similes etc.

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Language is Generative & Permits Displacement
o Symbols of language can be combined to create many messages
o Ex. English has 26 letters, combined into many words, phrases etc.
o Communication about things that are not physically present
o Not restricted to focusing on events & objects that are present at the time
o Can Discuss
Past and the future
Things that currently exist or are taking place elsewhere
Imaginary situations
Structure of Language
Surface Structure
Surface Structure
o Consists of the symbols that are used and their order when you read,
listen to or produce a sentence
Deep structure
o Studying the meaning of combined symbols
Different surface structures but the same deep structure
o Sam ate the cake
o The cake was eaten by Sam
o Eaten by Sam the cake was ** syntax wrong but understandable
Single surface structure can give rise to two deep structures
o The police must stop drinking after midnight
Officers need to prevent citizens from drinking after midnight
Officers go out for a few drinks, need to stop drinking by midnight
Read or hear moving from the surface structure to deep structure
Express thoughts to other people deep structure into a surface structure
Hierarchical Structure of Language
o Smallest unit of speech sound that can signal a difference in meaning
o 100 different phonemes no language uses all
English uses 40 vowel and consonant sounds and letter
combinations (―th‖)
o No inherent meaning but alter meaning when combined with others
Ex. Phoneme d creates a different meaning from the phoneme l
when it precedes og (i.e., dog versus log)
o Smallest units of meaning in language
o Combines phonemes
Ex. Dog, log, ball & prefixes and suffixes
o Not always syllables
Ex. s is not a syllable, but final s on a noun is a morpheme that
means ―plural‖

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has one
but two
o Morphemes
combined to
form words
o Words combined to make phrases
o Phrases combine into sentences
o Sentences combined into paragraphs, articles, books, conversations etc.
Understanding & Producing Language
Context plays a key role in understanding language
Understanding Language
o Brain must recognize and interpret patterns of stimuli
Sounds of speech, shapes of letters, movements that create hand
signs, or tactile patterns of dots used in Braille
o Extracting information from linguistic stimuli involves top-down and
bottom-up processing
Role of Bottom-Up Processing
Individual elements of stimulus - analyzed & combined to form unified perception
Hierarchical structure of spoken language - set of building blocks
o Ex. Reading
Specialized cell groups in your brain are:
Analyzing the basic elements (e.g., contours, angles of
lines) of the visual patterns
Information transferred to other cells so perception of
letters is achieved
Recognize words either:
Directly by perceiving the visual patterns of letters
Indirectly by translating visual patterns into auditory codes
Role of Top-Down Processing
Sensory information is interpreted with existing knowledge, concepts, ideas, &
Words written, read, spoken, or heard draw on your knowledge of vocabulary,
grammar, and other linguistic rules that are stored in your long-term memory
o Ex. ―Bill g_ve th_ pe_cil to h_s fr,‖ (―Bill gave the pencil to his friend‖)
Speech Segmentation
o Occurs automatically in native languages
o Perceiving where each word within a spoken sentence begins and ends
o Auditory
Sound energy breaks whenever a word ends
English - 40% of words have 2+ syllables that are vocally stressed
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