Chapter 8: Language and Thought
1. Describe the “cognitive revolution” in psychology.
• 1950s, cognitive psychologists investigate the complexities of language, inference,
problem solving, decision making and reasoning
2. Outline the key properties of language.
• Consists of symbols that convey meaning, plus rules for combining those symbols, that can be
used to generate an infinite variety of messages
• Symbolic: allows us to refer to objects that may be in another place and to events that happened
at another time. Language symbols are flexible in that a variety of somewhat different objects may
be called by the same name
• Semantic/meaningful: The symbols used in a language are arbitrary in that no built-in relationship
exists between the look or sound of words and the objects they stand for.
• Generative: a limited number of symbols can be combined in an infinite variety of ways to
generate an endless array of novel messages (i.e. sentences)
• Structured: rules govern the arrangement of words into phrases and sentences; some
arrangements are acceptable and some are not.
3. Outline the development of human language during the first year.
• 1-5 months- Reflexive communication: vocalizes randomly. Coos, laughs, cries, engages
in vocal play, discriminates language from non-language sounds
• 6-18 months- Babbling: Verbalizes in response to the speech of others; responses
increasingly approximate human speech patterns
4. Describe children’s early use of single words and word combinations.
• 10-13 months- Most children begin to utter sounds that correspond to words (first words are
similar to phonetic form and meaning)
• 12-18 months- one-word sentence stage: vocabulary grows slowly; uses nouns primarily;
• 18 months- can say between 3 to 50 words; receptive vocabulary is larger than productive
vocabulary (can understand more than say); words refer most often to objects
• 18-24 months- vocabulary spurt: Fast mapping facilitates rapid acquisition of new words
• 2 years- two-word sentence stage: uses telegraphic speech; uses more pronouns and verbs
• 2.5 years- three-word sentence stage: Modifies speech to take listener into account; over
regularizations begin • 3 years- Uses complete simple active sentence structure; uses sentences to tell stories that are
understood by others; uses plurals
• 3.5 years- Expanded grammatical forms: Expresses concepts with words; uses four-word
• 4 years- Uses five-word sentences
• 5 years- Well-developed and complex syntax: Uses more complex syntax; uses more complex
forms to tell stories
• 6 years- displays metalinguistic awareness
5. Describe the purpose, findings and conclusions of the Featured Study on infant
• Laura-Ann Petitto: sees babbling as a function of the developing language capacity of the
infant. Thus, babbling doesn’t reflect so much the developing motor portions of the brain
but rather reflects the maturation of the language capacity controlled by the brain
• Hypothesis: If babbling is due to the maturation of a language capacity and the
articulatory mechanisms responsible for speech production, then it should be specific to
speech. However, if babbling is due to the maturation of a brain-based language capacity
and an expressive capacity capable of processing different types of signals, then it should
occur in spoken and signed language modalities.
• Findings: While all infants moved their arms and hands and gestured, only deaf infants
showed evidence of manual babbling. The manual babbling of dead infants exhibited
most of the other properties demonstrated by the hearing children in their babbling.
• Conclusion: Deaf infants who are exposed to sign language babble like hearing babies,
but they babble manually in their own language form. This suggests the conclusion that
babbling is not simply a function of development of motor mechanisms but is instead tied
to the developing capacity of the infant.
6. Summarize the effects of bilingualism on language and cognitive development and the
factors that influence the learning of a second language.
• 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 is similar or slightly superior to that of children learning a single language.
• Recent research suggests that learning two languages can subsequently facilitate the acquisition
of a third language; bilinguals are better language learners
• Bilinguals may have a slight disadvantage in terms of raw language0processing speed
• Measures higher than monolingual subjects on measures of cognitive flexibility, analytical
reasoning, selective attention, and metalinguistic awareness
• Ellen Bialystok:
Since cognitive executive processes are necessary to deal successfully with the
use of two languages, she suggests that bilingual children should develop control over executive processes earlier than monolingual children. Related, in part, to our
ability to control attention
As adults, the enhanced executive control characteristic of bilinguals should afford
them advantages in cognitive tasks implicating executive processing
Since executive processes are one of the first cognitive abilities to decline with age,
bilinguals, because of their “continued reliance” on executive processes for dealing
with their two languages, should show delayed decline relative to monolingual
Found that bilingualism is associated with higher levels of controlled processing on
tasks that require control of attention. That is, bilingual children demonstrate
greater facility at tasks where there is some type of misleading/ distracting
information and where response choice is involved.
Some of the executive processes implicated 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. Bilingual and monolingual children perform similarly on tasks involving
representational processes, such as encoding problems in sufficient detail and
gaining access to relevant information.
• Bilinguals not only are proficient at two languages, but they also develop the cognitive
ability to “juggle” the two languages relatively easily. This is an important task because as
bilinguals become more proficient in the second language, their conceptual stores for both
languages overlap more and more.
7. Summarize evidence regarding language acquisition in animals.
• Washoe: first chimp that was taught ASL by Allen and Beatrice Gardner. In 4 years, acquired a