Lecture: Language. November 3. 10
Elements of Language: language is a well ordered system of rules that each adult member of the
language community tacitly comprehends in speaking, listening, and writing. Two fundamental
o Phonemes: basic sounds. English employs about 36 phonemes, can have as little at 25-
50. Many letters have several alternative phonemes. Phenology: study of the rules
o Morpheme: string of sounds that convey meaning.
Elements of grammaer:
o Morphology: the study of morphemes. They study the rules used to combine
morphemes with each other. All words in the English language consist of one or more
morphemes. i.e. book is a morpheme, let is a morpheme, and booklet is a separate
Not all morphemes are words, they can be prefixes like pre, re, ex, con.
Or suffixes, -tion, -est, -ic, -ly
They can also be verb tense markers, -ing, -end,
Can imply plural like –es, or –s.
o Syntax: definition?
Children use different syntax when first expressing themselves with language
o Grammar: in psycholinguistic, a formal distinction of a speakers syntactical rules.
o Semantics: the expressed meanings of words and sentences. Has two components
Appropriate use of words in social contexts
Different ways you speak to a professor than ways you speak to a
Appropriate use of words in sentences
Grammatically correct but the words make no sense. Wrong nouns for
example. The happy ear through a river at the movie. The words
semantically don’t make sense in sentence
All children learn language very quickly and can use sentences correctly. How do they do this
when they don’t fully understand the rules of it? How do we learn language?
Possible theories of language Development: (Most simplistic to most complex)
Imitation: children imitate what they hear. High positive correlation (no cause and effect)
between socioeconomic status and language development. Families with higher income, have
children who develop language earlier and better. Due to parents being more educated, read
more buy kids more books, more sophisticated language that kids imitate. Only children learn
language earlier and better (typically) more attention to younger children. Imitation doesn’t
explain everything. i.e.: this is a gutch, these are... [Gutches]. They know how to add –es to
make up never heard before words. They make overgeneralization of rules. Foots, runned.
Cognitive development: look to see whether children first developed concepts, then the
language that is related to concepts. Concepts will lead to use words which are symbols or labels for concepts. Have to attach a word to a concept. Object permanence precedes the first words.
Language comes before the conservation task. Language precedes cognitive ability.
Conditioning and B.F. Skinner:
o Operant conditioning: child will emit certain sounds and some will be reinforced and
others will be ignored or extinguished. Initially they will be primary reinforcers like
breast milk, then it will be attention. Mother’s voice will be associated with food and
warmth. Some kids like their own voice and hearing selves talk. If this was the case,
language would increase gradually but that isn’t true. Problem: language does not
increase linearly, it doesn’t continue to increase and increase. If you see what parents
reinforce, truth value of statement not if its correct grammar. Doesn’t explain that kids’
errors are not random and are overgeneralized. Also, language is considered an open
transformational grammar, individuals can create new unique sentences that they have
never heard or been reinforced of before. Relates to creativity of language which
learning theory does not account for this.
o Noam Chomsky: nativist. Hereditary genetic capabilities. Nature. Language acquisition
device (LAD) linguistic processing skills .existing knowledge.. Linguistic input, language
in our environment, will go through LAD to turn into phonology, semantics, and syntax
which will determine child’s grammatical competence. input: Referred to the language
in child’s environment as the corpus. Children will collect input (language) classify it,
construct rules to account for regularities and irregularities, and then use them to
produce language. Apply them to new utterances, either heard or produced. Not done
at a conscious level, unaware of rules they were creating. Output: describe child’s