Language and Thinking
Mental representations – include images, ideas, concepts, and principles.
Through the printed words you are reading, mental representations are
being transferred from our minds to yours.
Language – consists of a system of symbols and rules for combining these
symbols in ways that can generate an infinite number of possible messages
Psycholinguistics – is the scientific study of the psychological aspects of
language, such as how people understand, produce, and acquire language.
Grammar – set of rules that dictate how symbols can be combined to create
meaningful units of communication.
Syntax – the rules that govern the order of words.
Semantics – the meaning of words and sentences, actually is a tricky
business. “howd you do on a test?.... nailed it!”, you know that your friend is
not saying I hammered the test to the desk with a nail. Not all sentences are
to be interpreted literally.
Generativity – means that the symbols of language can be combined to
generate an infinite number of messages that have novel meaning.
Displacement – refers to the fact that language allows us to communicate
about events and objects that are not physically present. You can discuss the
past and the future and well as people, objects and events that currently exist
or are taking place elsewhere. Can also discuss imaginary situations.
Surface structure – when you read, listen to, or produce a sentence, its
surface structure consists of the symbols that are used and their order.
Deep structure – a sentences deep structure referrers to the underlying
meaning of the combined symbols (semantics)
Phoneme – most elementary building block of human language, smallest
unit of speech sound in a language that can signal a difference in meaning.
Morphemes – at the next level of hierarchy, phonemes are combined in
morphemes, a smallest units of meaning in a language. (ex. Dog, log, and ball
are all morphemes, as are prefixes and suffixes, such as pre, un, ed, and ous)
Discourse – sentences are combined into paragraphs, articles, books,
conversations and so forth.
o Five-step language hierarchy:
Bottom-up processing – individual elements of a stimulus are analyzed and
then combined to form a unified perception. Analyzing the hierarchical
structure of spoken language as a set of building blocks that involve the use
of phonemes to create morphemes and the combination of morphemes to
create words reflects of bottom-up approach.
Top-down processing – sensory information is interpreted in light of
existing knowledge, concepts, ideas, and expectations. Language by its very
nature involves top-down processing, because the words you write, read, Language and Thinking
speak or hear activate and draw on your knowledge of vocabulary, grammar,
and other linguistic rules that are store in your long-term memory.
Speech segmentation – perceiving where each word within a spoken
sentence beings and ends-seems to occur automatically?
Pragmatics – “I need help do you have time”. You wouldn’t respond 10:20.
This example illustrates that it take more than having a vocabulary and
arranging words grammatically to understand language and communicate
effectively with others. It also involves pragmatics, knowledge of the
practical aspects of using language.
Aphasia – impairment in speech comprehension and/or production that can
be permanent or temporary.
o Werknicke’s area – rear temporal lobe / speech comprehension
o Broca’s area – left hemisphere, frontal lobe / word production and
Language acquisition device (LAD) – innate biological mechanism that
contains the general grammatical rules common to all languages.
Language acquisition support system (LASS) – represents factors in the
social environment that facilitate the learning of a language. When LAD and
LASS interact in a mutually supportive fashion, normal language
Linguistic relativity hypothesis – that language not only influences but also
determines what we are capable of thinking.
Propositional thought – mode of thought that take the form of verbal
sentences that we say or hear in our minds. It expresses a proposition or
statement such as “I’m hunger”, “its almost time for dinner”.
Imaginal thought – consists of images that we can see, hear or feel in our
Motoric thought – relates to mental representations of motor movements
such as throwing an object.
Propositions – much of our thinking comes from these forms of statements
that express ideas.
Concepts – are basic units of semantic memory-memory categories into
which we place objects, activities, abstraction (liberal / conservative), and
events that have