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Chapter 8

CHAPTER 8 - Language & Thought

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Eileen Wood

CHAPTER 8: Language and Thought Cognition- refers to the mental processes involved in acquiring knowledge  thinking Language- consists of symbols that convey meaning, plus rules for combining those symbols, that can be used to generate an infinite variety of messages - Critical Properties… o Symbolic- represent objects, actions, events and ideas o Semantic or meaningful- built-in relationship exists between the look or sound of words and the objects they stand for o Generative- generate an endless array of novel messages o Structured- sentences must be structured in a limited number of ways; allows people to be inventive with words and still understand each other Sounds  Units with meaning  Words  Phrases  Sentences Phonemes- the smallest speech units in a language that can be distinguished perceptually - English : 40 phonemes  26 letters in the alphabet Morphemes- the smallest units of meaning in a language - Root words; prefixes and suffixes Semantics- the area of language concerned with understanding the meaning of words and word combinations - the infinite variety of objects and actions that words refer to - Denotation- dictionary definition - Connotation- includes emotional overtones and secondary implications Syntax- a system of rules that specify how words can be arranged into sentences - noun and verb phrase - How do children learn the complicated rules of syntax?  psychological investigation Skills that become important at various points in a child’s development… 1. Moving toward producing words: - 3 months: distinguish phonemes from all the world’s languages - learn the sound structure of their native language  become tuned with the speech properties - babbling gradually becomes more complex and increasingly resembles the language spoken by parents and other’s in the surrounding environment  universal stage o utter sounds that correspond to words 2. Using Words: - Receptive vocabulary is larger then their productive vocabulary: o They can comprehend more words spoken by others than they can actually produce to express themselves - Vocabulary spurt can be influenced by fast mapping (the process by which children map a word onto an underlying concept after only one exposure) - Overextension- occurs when a child incorrectly uses a word to describe a wider set of objects or actions than that it is meant to o Example) use the word ball for anything round - Underextension- occurs when a child incorrectly uses a words to describe a narrower set of objects or actions than it is meant to o Example) use doll for only a single, favorable doll 3. Combining Words: - Telegraphic Speech- mainly content words; articles, prepositions and other less critical words are omitted (ex. give doll) - Mean length of utterance (MLU)- the average length of youngsters’ spoken statements  vocal expressions gradually become longer - Over-regularizations- occur when grammatical rules are incorrectly generalized to irregular cases where they do not apply (ex. goed) 4. Refining Language Skills: - 4-5 years: school-age years, where they generate longer and more complicated sentences as they receive formal training in written language - Metalinguistic awareness- the ability to reflect on the use of language Bilingualism- is the acquisition of two languages that use different speech sounds, vocabulary, and grammatical rules - there is little empirical support for the assumption that bilingualism has a negative effect on language development Factors influencing the acquisition of a second language… - Age is a significant correlate of how effectively people can acquire a second language  the younger the better - Acculturation- the degree to which a person is socially and psychologically integrated into a new culture o Greater accumulation = more rapid acquisition Can animals develop language? - Speech: Chimpanzee o Chimps simply didn’t have the appropriate vocal apparatus to acquire human speech - Writing: Chimpanzee o American Sign Language (ASL) is a complex language of hand gestures and facial expressions used by thousands of deaf people o Chimp did signs for 160 words o Believed that the chimps’ sentences were the products of imitation and operant conditioning Steven Pinker: Evolution - special talent for language is a species-specific trait that is the product of natural selection - language is a valuable means of communication that has enormous adaptive value Theories of Language Acquisition: great debate about the key processes involved in language acquisition… nature vs. nurture 1. Behaviourist Theories: B.F Skinner - Use the principles of imitation and reinforcement to explain how children learn syntax 2. Nativist Theories: Noam Chomsky - There are an infinite number of sentences in a language  unreasonable - Children learn rules of language (can’t imitate things they don’t hear) - Humans are equipped with language acquisition device (LAD)- an innate mechanism or process that facilitates the learning of language  biologically equipped for it 3. Interactionist Theories: - Come in 3 different aspects… o Cognitive theories- assert that language development is simply an important aspect of more general cognitive development (maturation and experience) o Social Communic
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