Psychology Chapter 9 Notes (Language and Thinking)
Properties of Language
Language consists of a system comprised of symbols and rules that are able to convey an infinite
number of possible message and meanings
o Girls are able to manipulate that every more than guys
o Psycholinguistics is the study of the psychological aspect of language.
Language has a governed set of rules and structure:
o Grammar is a set of rules of how symbols can be combined to form meaningful units of
o Syntax is the set of rules that govern the order of words.
The arrangement of elements in a ‘meaningful’ way
o Semantics is the meaning of words and sentences
Again, girls decide that they can complicate semantics
o Generality says that the symbols within a language can be manipulated to generate an
infinite number of messages that have a different meaning for each.
o Displacement means that language lets individuals communicate about events and
things that are not currently present
Structure of Language
A sentence’s surface structure is the order and use of the symbols in place by that language.
o A sentence’s deep structure refers to the underlying meaning.
It’s like subtext in a character’s words or a woman’s words.
Rules transform deep structure to surface structure
Language is based off of a structure and the basic unit is called a phoneme which is the smallest
unit speech sound in a language that can signal a difference in meaning.
o English has 45 phonemes, Hawaiian has 13
Phonemes are then combines into morphemes, the smallest unit of meaning in a language.
Morphemes then are turned into words, then phrases, then sentences then discourse is derived
from the sentences.
o The average dictionary has about 250-300K words, and the average student vocabulary
o Most anything in English can be conveyed in 850 words, and most infants have a
vocabulary of 850 words.
o The correlation of word frequency and word length is -0.75
Language is influences by both bottom-up and top-down processing.
o Bottom-up being the processing of individual element analyzed first then combines
them to form a whole. o Top-down processing is where sensory information is interpreted in light of existing
conditions, facts, etc.
Speech segmentation is the processing of where each word begins and ends within a spoken
Pragmatics is the knowledge of practical aspects using language; the social context as well as the
tone of the language itself
The Broca’s and Wernicke’s area are involved in word production and articulation, and speech
o Damage to either area results in aphasia
Humour can be defined into several categories
o Phonological Ambiguity
Knock knock jokes
o Lexical Ambiguity
Confusion or double meaning of words
o Syntactical ambiguity
Confusion in structure
o Semantic Ambiguity
o Kids progress from phonological and lexical humour to syntactical and semantic
Acquiring a First Language
Chomsky proposed that humans are innately born with a language acquisition device (LAD)
which contains grammar rules that are generalized to all languages.
o Language learning is not due to imitation and reinforcement
Bruner proposed a language acquisition support system (LASS) that takes into account factors
within a social system that support the learning of a language.
Language acquisition follows a timeline; usually from when they are born and as they follow
within developmental guidelines
o Within the first minutes of life infants vocalize
The same is true for death infants, but babbling has no meaning and it takes on
a social quality in hearing infants
Sensitivity to foreign contrasts drops once an infant approaches 12 months
o Many adults shift to ‘motherese’ which is a high pitch, slow rate and exaggerated tone
when they speak to infants.
Infants prefer this to regular ‘normal adult’ speech
Allows infants to learn about pausing, pitch characteristics, etc.
o Within 5-8 months, children being to respond to parent’s words, usually in one word
The early vocabulary is simple; contains nouns, interactions and adjectives
Some words for example are mama, duck, hi peekaboo, hot, big, no Their vocabulary is most likely contain words that the infant can
o The probability of ball is greater than ceiling
They tend to undergeneralize, making understanding difficult
o By the age of 2, children are saying ‘sentences’ that are called telegraphic sentences,
only consisting of a verb and noun
Vocabulary at this point is several hundred words
Speech shows proper grammar; infant says “throw ball” instead of “ball throw”
By 2 ½ years, the child moves beyond two word and sentences become more
The infant starts to search for rules of generalization
o 4-5 year olds make mistakes in tense of words such as ‘runned’ instead on ran or ‘eated’
instead of ate
Formal schooling, at this point, takes over.
Mistakes in grammar are generally not corrected, whereas facts are.
The brain seems to be hard-wired for language
o However, language will not develop on its own