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Chapter 8

Chapter 8 PS102.docx

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Carolyn Ensley

PS102 Chapter 8 – Language & Thought Week 4 Language: Turning Thoughts into Words What is Language? -A language consists of symbols that convey meaning, plus rules for combining those symbols, that can be used to generate an infinite variety of messages -Language is symbolic – people use spoken sounds and written words to represent objects, actions, events and ideas -Language is semantic, or meaningful -Language is generative – a limited number of symbols can be combined I an infinite variety of ways to generate an endless array of novel messages -Language is structured – although people can generate an infinite variety of sentences, these sentences must be structured in a limited number of ways The Structure of Language Phonemes -Phonemes are the smallest speech unit in a language that can be distinguished perceptually -How certain letters sound -English language is composed of about 40 phonemes Morphemes and Semantics -Morphemes are the smallest units of meaning in a language -Approximately 50 000 English morphemes -Ex. Ly, un, de -Semantics is the area of language concerned with understanding the meaning of words and word combinations Syntax -Syntax is a system of rules that specify how words can be arranged into sentences Milestones in Language Development Moving toward Producing Words -Three year old infants can distinguish phonemes from all of the world’s languages -During the first six months of life, a baby’s vocalizations are dominated by crying, cooing, and laughter, which have limited value as a means of communication -Babbling – Ex. Lalalala – lasts until about 18 months Using Words -The first year of life is critical in the child’s acquisition of language -At around 10 to 13 months of age, most children begin to utter sounds that correspond to words – most infant’s first words are similar in phonetic form and meaning – Ex. Papa, mama, dada -Fast mapping is the process by which children map a word onto an underlying concept after only one exposure -An overextension occurs when a child incorrectly uses a word to describe a wider set of objects or actions than it is meant to PS102 Chapter 8 – Language & Thought Week 4 -Underextensions occur when a child incorrectly uses a word to describe a narrower set of objects or actions than it is meant to Combining Words -Children typically begin to combine words into sentences near the end of their second year -Telegraphic speech consists mainly of content words; articles prepositions, and other less critical words are omitted – Ex. “Give doll” as opposed to “Please give me the doll” -Overregularizations occur when grammatical rules are incorrectly generalized to irregular cases where they do not apply – Ex. “I hitted the ball” Refining Language Skills -Youngsters make their largest strides in language development in their first four to five years -However, they continue to refine their language skills during their school-age years -Metalinguistic awareness – the ability to reflect on the use of language Learning More than One Language: Bilingualism -Bilingualism is the acquisition of two languages that use different speech sounds, vocabulary, and grammatical rules Does Learning Two Languages in Childhood Slow Down Language Development? -Some studies have found that bilingual children have smaller vocabularies in each of their languages than monolingual children have in their one language – but when their two overlapping vocabularies are added, their total vocabulary I similar or slightly superior to that of children learning a single language -There was little evidence of language disadvantage -The bilingual children followed the normal pacing of language milestones, except in this case it was accomplished in both languages Does Bilingualism Affect Cognitive Processes and Skills? -On some types of tasks, bilinguals may have a slight disadvantage in terms of raw language-processing speed -Bilingual children should develop control over executive processes earlier than monolingual children -As adults, the enhanced executive control characteristic of bilinguals should afford them advantages in cognitive tasks implicating executive processing -Bilingualism is associated with higher levels of controlled processing on tasks that require more attention -Some of the executive processes implied in these differences between bilingual and monolingual children are those involving selective attention, attentional inhibition to distracting/misleading information, and switching among competing alternatives -Bilingual children don’t have an advantage on all tasks; they show an advantage on some aspects of metalinguistic awareness but not for phonemic awareness What Factors Influence the Acquisition of a Second Language? -Individuals learn their native language first and then learn a second language later -Language learning unfolds more effectively when initiated prior to age seven, and younger and continues to be better up through age 15 -Acculturation – the degree to which a person is socially an psychologically integrated into a new culture PS102 Chapter 8 – Language & Thought Week 4 -Greater acculturation facilitates more rapid acquisition of the -A learner’s motivation and attitude toward the other group that uses language to be learned also influences it -A positive attitude also helps Can Animals Develop Language? -Scientists have taught some language-like skills to a number of species -Their greatest success has some with the chimpanzee -Researchers tries training chimps to use a non-oral human language: American Sign Language (ASL) -Chimps do have an analogous area in the left hemisphere – Broca’s area – crucial to language processing -The ability to use language – in a very basic, primitive way – may not be entirely unique to humans, as has been widely assumed -There is no comparison between human linguistic abilities and those of apes or other animals Language in an Evolutionary Context -All human societies depend on complex languages that are just as complicated as those used in modern societies -Human’s 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 -Language evolved as a device to build and maintain social coalitions in increasingly larger groups -Although the adaptive value of language seems obvious, some scholars take issue with the assertion that human language is the product of evolution Theories of Language Acquisition Behaviourist Theories -Children learn language the same way they learn everything else: through imitation, reinforcement, and other established principles of conditioning -Skinner states, vocalizations that are not reinforced gradually decline in frequency. The remaining vocalizations are shaped with reinforcers until they are correct -Children learn how to construct sentences by imitating the sentences of adults and older children Nativist Theories -There are an infinite number of sentences in a language – it is therefore unreasonable to expect that children learn language by imitation -Humans have an inborn or “native” propensity to develop language -Proposes that humans are equipped with a language acquisition device(LAD) – an innate mechanism or process that facilitates the learning of language Interactionist Theories -LAD concept is terribly vague -Biology and experience both make important contributions to the development of language -Cognitive theories assert that language development is simply an important aspect of more general cognitive development – which depends on both maturation and experience -Social communication theories emphasize the functional value of interpersonal communication and the PS102 Chapter 8 – Language & Thought Week 4 social context in which language evolves -Emergentist theories argue that the neural circuits supporting language are not prewired but emerge gradually in response to language learning experiences -Believe that the human organism is biologically well equipped for learning language Culture, Language, and Thought -Linguistic relatively – the hypothesis that one’s language determines the nature of one’s thought -Different languages lead people to view the world differently Problem Solving: In Search of Solutions Types of Problems -Problem solving refers to active efforts to discover what must be done to achieve a goal that is not readily available -Problems are organized into 3 classes: 1. Problems of inducing structure require people to discover the relationships among numbers, words, symbols or ideas – Ex. Series completion problems, analogy problems 2. Problems of arrangement require people to arrange the parts of a problem in a way that satisfied some c
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