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Chapter 8

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Georgia Institute of Technology
PSYC 1101

Ch. 8 Language, Thinking, and Reasoning Features of Language - 4 levels of analysis o Phonemes: the sounds of our language o Morphemes: smallest units of meaningful speech o Syntax: grammatical rules that govern how we compose words into meaningful strings o Extralinguistic Information: elements of communication that aren’t part of the content of language but are critical to interpreting its meaning – i.e. tone of voice, facial expressions Phonemes - Categories of sounds - Physically manipulated - About 100 different types of phonemes Morphemes - Smallest units of language - Created by stringing phonemes - Most morphemes are words - Morphemes convey information about semantics – meaning derived from words and sentences - Morphemes can also be strings of sounds that are not words but that modify words if attached o Ex. -ish Syntax - Rules used to construct sentences - Grammar Extralinguistic Information - Allows us to interpret language but is not a part of it - Tone - Facial expression Language Dialects: Regional and Cultural Differences - Dialects: variations of the same language - Certain letters/sounds might be dropped or added but the language remains the same How Did Language Come About and Why? - Allows us to communicate complex thoughts - Came about as our ancestors began to show cooperation through various activities (i.e. group hunting) - Phonemes may have come about through “sound symbolism” How Do Children Learn Language? - Children are more efficient learners than adults when it comes to language - By 5 months of pregnancy, the auditory system of the child in the womb begins to work to the point where it can recognize its mother’s voice characteristics Perceiving and Producing the Sounds of Language - Babbling: any intentional vocalization that lacks specific meaning o By the end of a baby’s first year, his babbling takes on a conversational tone Learning Words - Comprehension precedes production - Children learn to recognize and interpret words well before they learn to produce them Syntactic Development - One Word Stage: children begin their syntactic development with individual words meant to convey entire thoughts - The next step is combining words into two-word phrases after which they will begin to move on to creating complete sentences Special Cases Learning Language Sign Language - It is a linguistic system with its own phonemes, words, syntax, and extralinguistic information - The brain area that involves processing complex languages also becomes involved when processing sign language Bilingualism - Adept at speaking and understanding a second language - The earlier one learns another language, the better - In most bilinguals, one language tends to be dominant - Bilinguals have a heightened metalinguistic insight – they are more aware of how language is structured and used and thus tend to perform better on language tasks in general Language Deprivation - Many case studies have shown children that could not adequately use language after years of language deprivation - Goldin-Medow o Studied deaf children of hearing parents who have not learned sign language o The deaf children actually made up their own signs even when not instructed in sign language  This phenomenon is known as homesign Critical Periods of Language Learning - There is a sensitive period between ages 1-7 Theoretical Accounts of Language Acquisition Imitation Account - Children learn through imitation - Advocated by behaviorists - Babies learn what they hear - Imitation is not the whole story: language is generative o Language is not just a set of predefined sentences that can be pulled out and appropriately applied Nativist Account - Children come into the world with some basic knowledge of how language works - They are born with expectations that there will be syntactic rules that influence how sentences are constructed o
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