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1. Introduction Themes of Psycholinguistics.pdf

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York University
PSYC 3290
Raluca Barac

1. Introduction: Themes of Psycholinguistics Thursday, January 10, 208:30 AM Main points • Psycholinguistics is the study of how individuals comprehend, produce, and acquire language • The study of psycholinguistics is part of the field of cognitive science. Cognitive science reflects the insights of psychology, linguistics, and, to a lesser extent, fields such as artificial intelligence, neuroscience, and philosophy • Psycholinguistics stresses the knowledge of language and the cognitive processes involved in ordinary language use • Psycholinguists are also interested in the social rules involved in language use and the brain mechanisms associated with language • Contemporary interest in psycholinguistics began in the 1950s, although important precursors existed earlier in the 20th century Introduction • Few things play as central a role in our everyday lives as language • The psychology of language deals with the mental processes that are involved in language use ○ 3 sets of processes are of primary interest:  Language comprehension (how we perceive and understand speech and written language)  Language production (how we construct an utterance from idea to completed sentence)  Language acquisition (how children acquire language) • The psychological study of language is calledpsycholinguistics The scope of psycholinguistics • Cognitive science is an interdisciplinary venture that draws upon the insights of psychologists, linguistics, computer scientists, neuroscientists, and philosophers to study the mind and mental processes ○ Includes topics such as problem solving, memory, imagery, and language • Linguistics is the branch of science that studies the origin, structure, and use of language • Languageprocessesandlinguisticknowledge ○ Psycholinguistic work consists of two questions: 1) What knowledge of language is needed for us to use language? □ We must know a language to use it, but we are not always fully aware of this knowledge  Tacit knowledge-- the knowledge of how to perform various acts  Explicit knowledge-- the knowledge of the processes or mechanisms used in these acts 2) What cognitive processes are involved in the ordinary use of language? ○ Semantics deals with the meanings of sentences and words ○ Syntax involves the grammatical arrangement of words within sentences ○ Phonology concerns the systems of sounds in a language ○ Pragmatics entails the social rules involved in language use ○ We infer linguistic knowledge from observable behavior • Fourlanguageexamples ○ Garden path sentences  In a garden path sentence, the subjective impression is one of following a garden path to a predictable destination until it is obvious that you were mistaken in your original interpretation and thus are forced to "backtrack" and reinterpret the sentence  Example: "The novice accepted the deal before he had a chance to check his finances, which put him in a state of conflict when he realized he had a straight flush." □ In terms of knowledge, we have stored in our memory at least two different meanings of the word deal. This knowledge of the two meanings of deal is part of our semantic knowledge of language □ Another part of our semantic knowledge is knowledge of the relationship among words, such as deal and finance  The point: in the course of comprehending language we are making decisions, doing mental work ○ Indirect requests  Example: "Can you open the door?" □ Literally, this sentence asks whether we have the ability to open the door, but we assume that the speaker is asking us to open the door in an indirect manner  We have learned certain rules about the use of language in social settings, and it is generally more polite to phrase requests indirectly (i.e., more polite than, "Open the door!")  Indirect requests are an aspect of language that forces us to consider language in a social context  Sociolinguistics is the study of the relationship between language and social behavior ○ Language in aphasia  We can learn a great deal about language by studying individuals with impaired language functioning □ Brain injuries enable us to analyze an apparently unified program of language abilities into its separate components and raise questions about how such abilities become integrated in the normal adult in the first place □ Depending on the exact location of the injury, its severity, and many other factors, an individual who has sustained a brain injury may display a wide variety of reactions  An aphasia is a language disorder due to brain damage □ Wernicke's aphasia-- involves a breakdown in semantics, while maintaining correct phonology and syntax  Neurolinguistics is the study of the relationship between the brain and language ○ Language in children  An area of considerable concern to psycholinguists is language acquisition  Children may know, at least in a tacit manner, some of the rules of language to use words appropriately □ Young children may know certain pragmatic rules to guide their choice of words  Closed-class or function words-- prepositions, conjugations, etc.  Open-class or content words-- nouns, verbs, adjectives  An analysis of children's comprehension and production abilities cannot be divorced from the social context in which the child masters languages • Summary ○ Psycholinguistics is part of an interdisciplinary field known as cognitive science ○ Two primary psycholinguistic questions are, 1) What mental processes are involved in language use? 2) What linguistic knowledge is involved in language use? These questions reemerge in different forms in studies of adult language comprehension and production, the social use of language, language use in aphasia, and language in Textbook Notes Page 1 ○ These questions reemerge in different forms in studies of adult language comprehe
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