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Chapter 9

Psych Chapter 9 Textbook Notes

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Western University
Psychology 1000
Terry Biggs

Chapter 9 Language and ThinkingMental representationsimages ideas concepts and principles y Humans have remarkable ability to create mental representations of world and to manipulate them in forms of language thinking reasoning and problem solvingLANGUAGE y A system of symbols and rules for combining these symbols in ways that can generate an infinite number of possible messages and meanings Psycholinguisticsscientific study of psychological aspects of language such as how people understand produce and acquire languageAdaptive Functions of Language y Brain probably achieved its present form some 50 000 years ago yet it took another 35 000 years before lifelike paintings began to appear on cave walls and another 12 000 years after that before humans developed way to store knowledge outside brain in form of writing y Tells us human thought and behaviour depend on more than physical structure of brain y Over course of evolution humans adopted more socially oriented lifestyle helping them survive and reproduce y Some evolutionary theorists believe use of language evolved as people gathered to form larger social unitsas social environment became more complex new survival problems emerged need to create divisions of labour and cooperative social systems to develop social customs and communicate thoughts and to pass on knowledge and wisdom y Language made it easier for humans to adapt to these environmental demands y No coincidence that every human culture no matter how isolated or geographically remote has developed one or more languages nor that the human brain has inborn capacity to acquire any of 50006000 languages spoken across globe y Humans have evolved into highly social creatures who need to communicate with one another and have physical characteristics highly developed brain vocal tract allowing them to do so through language y Conscious thinking usually takes form of selftalk or inner speech Languagey Allows us to share thoughts feelings goals intentions desires needs and memories with other people y Is a powerful learning mechanism y Puts customs and knowledge accrued over generations in oral and written forms storytelling books instruction mass media and the Internet Properties of Language y Four properties essential to any language symbols structure meaning and generativity Language is Symbolic and Structured y Uses sounds written characters or some other system of symbols eg hand signs to represent objects events ideas feelings and actions y Symbols used in any language are arbitraryregardless of how words came into being have an agreedon meaning to people Grammarset of rules that dictate how symbols can be combined to create meaningful units of communication Syntaxrules that govern order of words y Grammars of all languages share common functions such as providing rules for how to change present tense into past tense or a negative but also vary1 y g in English adjectives always come before the nouns they modify in French and Spanish adjectives often follow nouns Language Conveys Meaning y Once people learn symbols and rules are able to form and transfer mental representation to mind of another person Semanticsmeaning of words and sentencesLanguage is Generative and Permits Displacement Generativitysymbols of language can be combined to generate an infinite number of messages that have novel meaning y Eg English language only has 26 letters but can be combined into more than half a million words which can be combined into a limitless number of sentencesDisplacementlanguage allows us to communicate about events and objects that are not physically presentfrees us from being restricted to focusing on events and objects that are right before us in the present y Can discuss past and future people objects and events that currently exist or are taking place elsewhere or can discuss imaginary situationsThe Structure of Language y Psycholinguists describe language as having a surface structure and a deep structure and examine fivestep hierarchical structure of language Surface Structure and Deep Structure Surface structuresymbols that are used and their order when you read listen to or produce a sentence syntax Deep structureunderlying meaning of the combined symbols semantics y Sentences can have different surface structures but same deep structure y Eg Sam ate the cakeThe cake was eaten by SamEaten by Sam the cake was each sentence conveys the same underlying meaning y Single surface structure can give rise to two deep structures y Eg the police must stop drinking after midnight could mean police officers need to enforce a curfew designed to prevent citizens from drinking alcohol after midnight or could mean that if police officers go out for a few drinks after work need to wrap up drinking by midnight y When read or hear speech move from surface structure to deep structurefrom way a sentence looks to its deeper level meaning y After time may forget precise words used in sentence but likely to recall its essential meaning y When express thoughts to other people must transform deep structure meaning you want to communicate into a surface structure that others can understand The Hierarchical Structure of Language Phonememost elementary building block of language smallest unit of speech sound in a language that can signal difference in meaning y Humans can produce about 100 phonemesy English uses about 40 phonemesvarious vowel and consonant sounds and certain letter combinations such as th and sh y Eg sounds associated with th a and t can be combined to form threephoneme word that y Have no inherent meaning but alter meaning when combined with other elements Morphemessmallest units of meaning in a language combines phonemes y Eg dog log and ball and prefixessuffices pre un ed and ousy In English s is not a syllable but final s on noun is a morpheme meaning pluraly Eg fans has one syllable but two morphemes players has two syllables but three morphemes y In English its 40 phonemes can be combined into more than 100 000 morphemes2
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