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Chapter 9

Psychology Chapter 9 Language and Thinking.docx

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Psychology 1000

Psychology Chapter 9: Language and Thinking • Humans have the ability to create mental representations of the world and to manipulate them in the forms of language, thinking, reasoning, and problem solving • Language  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 aspect of language, such as how people understand, produce, and acquire language Adaptive Functions of Language • The use of language evolved as people gathered to form larger social units. Humans adopted a more socially lifestyle as a result to help them survive and reproduce. • The need to create divisions of labour and cooperative social systems, to develop social customs and communicate thoughts, and to pass down knowledge/wisdom were new problems that were adapted well after the development of language. • Humans have evolved into highly social creatures who need to communicate with one another and have the physical characteristics (ex. highly developed brain and vocal tract) • Language underlies so much of what we do that it is almost impossible to imagine functioning without it (ex. inner thoughts and sharing thoughts) • Language can also be a powerful learning mechanism (ex. through books and internet) Properties of Language • Encompasses four properties that are essential to any language: o Symbols  Language uses symbols to represent objects, events, ideas, feelings, and actions  The symbols that are used are arbitrary (words has an agreed-meaning to people )  Language also has a rule-governed structure, which is called gramar set of rules that dictate how symbols can be combined to create meaningful units of communication o Structure  Syntax  the rules that govern the order of words  Even if new words/phrases appear, they need to conform to the basic rules of language o Meaning  Based on the structure of the words/phrases you use, people derive meaning of out of them  Semantics  meaning of words and sentences o 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 (ex. discussing about the past and future) The Structure of Language • Psycholinguists describe language as having a surface structure and a deep structure • Surface structur consists of the symbols that are used and their order • Deep structure refers to the underlying meaning of the combined symbols • Sentences can have different surface structures that have the same deep structure (ex. sam ate the cake vs the cake was eaten by Sam) • Sometimes a single surface structure can have two deep structures • In everyday life, you may forget the precise words used in a sentence and instead recall the essential meaning • When you express your thoughts though, you must transform deep structure into surface structure (eloquent speakers/writers have the ability to make clear and pleasing surface- structure expressions) The Hierarchical Structure of Language • Language has a hierarchical structure and the most elementary building block is the phoneme  the smallest unit of speech sound in a language that can signal a difference in meaning • Phonemes have no inherent meaning, but they alter meaning when combined with other elements; they combine to form morpheme the smallest units of meaning in a language (ex. the words, dog and log are morphemes, same with suffixes and prefixes) • Morphemes are not always syllables; the final “s” on a noun is a morphine that means “plural” • Morphemes in turn form words, which in turn form phrases and then into sentences • The sixth and most comprehensive level is discouwhere sentences are combined  into paragraphs, articles, books, conversations, etc • Hierarchical Summary o Phonemes  Morphemes  Words  Phrases  Sentences  Discourse Understanding and Producing Language • Context plays a key role in understanding language • Bottom-up processing  individual elements of a stimulus are analyzed and then combined to form a unified perception • Top-down processing  sensory information is interpreted in light of existing knowledge, concepts, ideas, and expectations • Language by its nature involves top-down processing because the words you read, hear, write, etc activate our knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, and other linguistic rules stored in our long term memory • Speech segmentation  perceiving where each word within a spoken sentence begins and ends • We use several cues to tell when one spoken word ends and another beings (ex. we know that there are certain sequences of phonemes are unlikely to occur within the same words; use context to interpret meaning of individual words) • Pragmatics a knowledge of the practical aspects of using language (occurs in social context and helps understand what other people are really saying; makes sure that other people get to the point of what you are communicating) • Social rules guide communication between people; we tend to make messages as clear as possible and adjust our speech rate, choice of words, and sentence complexity depending on if we are talking to a child, an adult, or a foreigner • Pragmatics also depends on other aspects of social context (ex. writing a letter for job interview vs letter to friend; one is more formal than the other due to the context ) The Brain and Sex Differences • Language functions are distributed in many areas of the brain • Broca’s Area located in the left hemisphere of the frontal lobe; involved in word production and articulation • Wernicke’s Area located in the rear potion of the temporal lobe; involved in speech comprehension • Aphasia  suffers from brain damage in the Broca’s or/and in the Wernicke’s Area • It’s noted that men who suffer from left hemisphere strokes are more likely to get aphasia, while females can still retain more of their language function • Men exhibit more left hemisphere brain activity than female during language tasks; females use both hemispheres Acquiring a First Language • Acquiring a language represents the join influences of nature and environment (nature and nurture) • Biological Foundations o Human children master languages early in their life without any formal instruction o All languages have underlying structural characteristics o Language acquisition represents the unfolding of a biologically primed process within a social learning process o Language acquisition device (LAD an innate biological mechanism that contains the general grammatical rules • Social Learning Process o child directed speeh high pitched intonation that seemed to be used all over the world; where parents talk to their child to attract their interest o operant conditioning as children develop language as a result of the adult’s positive reinforcement of appropriate lanugae o language acquisition support system (LAS) represent factors in the social environment that facilitate the learning of a language • the interaction of the LAD and the LASS= normal language development • Developmental Timetable and Sensitive Periods o Telegraphic speech consists only of a noun and a verb; usually by 2 years of age o Then additional words are later added and then speech development increases as vocabulary and grammar develops o Some are convinced that there is a sensitive period from infancy to puberty during in which the brain is most responsive to language input from the environment Bilingualism: Learning
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