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Language. Study of Language. Linguistics : study of the internalized knowledge of a language – the rules for producing language Psycholinguistics : The study of language as it is used and learned by people. Defining Language.

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Study of language l.jpg
Study of Language

  • Linguistics: study of the internalized knowledge of a language – the rules for producing language

  • Psycholinguistics: The study of language as it is used and learned by people.


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Defining Language

  • Language: Language is a shared symbolic system for communication.

  • Language is a subset of communication usually seen as having 3 defining parts

    • Use of symbols

    • A system of symbols are used by all speakers of the language

    • It enables communication


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Universals of Language

  • Semanticity: Language exhibits Semanticity, which means that language conveys meaning.

  • Arbitrariness: There is no inherent connection between the units (sounds, words) used in a language and the meanings referred by those units.

  • Flexibility of symbols: Language systems demonstrate tremendous flexibility; that is, because the connection between symbol and meaning is arbitrary, we can change those connections and invent new ones.


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Universals of Language (cont.)

  • Naming: We assign names to all the objects in our environment, to all the feelings and emotions we experience, and to all the ideas and concepts we conceive of.

  • Displacement: The ability to talk about something other than the present moment.

  • Productivity: Language is a productive and inherently novel activity; we generate sentences rather than repeat them.


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Animal Communication Systems

  • Beyond the level of arbitrariness, no animal communication system seems to exhibit the characteristics that appear to be universally true of—and vitally important to—human language.

  • In the wild, at any rate, there appear to be no genuine languages.

  • In human cultures, genuine language is the rule, apparently with no exceptions.


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Teaching animals language

  • A great deal of disagreement on whether the great apes can learn language

  • Cannot learn speech as their vocal tract cannot produce needed speech sounds

  • Research has shown that many of the great apes can learn and use symbols for objects and some actions

  • Difficulties seem to involve displacement and novelty


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Teaching animals language (cont)

  • Most accepted conclusion is that nonhumans are capable of comprehending language and are capable of complex sign communication

  • They appear to acquire and use aspects of language very differently than humans


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Five Levels of Analysis of Language

  • Grammar operates at three levels:

    • Phonology of language deals with the sounds of language;

    • Syntax deals with word order and grammaticality;

    • And semantics deals with accessing and combining the separate word meanings into a sensible, meaningful whole

  • Grammar: The grammar of a language is the complete set of rules that will generate or produce all the acceptable sentences and will not generate any unacceptable, ill-formed sentences.

  • Comprehension operates at 2 levels – next week

    • Conceptual

    • Belief


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    A Critical Distinction

    Competence: The internalized knowledge of language and the rules that fully fluent speakers of a language have.

    Performance: The actual language behavior a speaker generates, the string of sounds and words that the speaker utters.


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    Whorf’s Hypothesis

    • Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis: The language you know shapes the way you think about events in the world around you.

    • Eskimos think different about snow as indicated by them having many more words for snow than English speakers


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    Challenges to Whorf’s Hypothesis

    • Issues about how many words do Eskimos have for snow

    • Language of the Dani tribe

    • Study of Navajo speaking children

    • Conclusion: Language can influence thought, but not control it.


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    Does language depend upon thought?

    • Aristotle’s hypothesis – categories of thought determine categories of language

    • Human thought or cognition appeared before language in evolution and during development

    • Nonhumans show complex cognitive ability without language

    • Most likely language developed as a tool to communicate thought


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    Phonology

    • Phonology: The sounds of language and the rule system for combining them.

    • Phonemes: The basic sounds that compose a language.

    • English has 45-46 phonemes.

    • Categorization of phonemes:

      • For consonants, three variables are relevant: place of articulation, manner of articulation, and voicing.

      • Vowels differ on two dimensions: placement in the mouth, and tongue position in the mouth.


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    Categorization of phonemes

    • Categorical Perception: All the sounds falling within a set of boundaries are perceived as the same, despite physical differences among them.

    • The use of voice onset time to set phonetic boundaries


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    Speech Perception and Context

    • Theory of acoustic invariance – our perception of phonemes is provided by the consistent or invariant acoustic cues of the phonetic features

    • Basic problems with this data driven theory:

      • We produce phonemes too fast to process this way

      • Spoken sounds are not invariant; they change depending on what sounds precede and follow in the word.


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    Speech Perception and Context

    • How do we tolerate variability and still decipher the changeable, almost undependable spoken signal?

    • The answer is context or conceptually driven processing.


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    Speech Perception and Context (cont.)

    • Evidence points toward a combination of data-driven and conceptually driven processing in speech recognition, a position now called the integrative or interactive approach.

    • This approach claims that a variety of conceptually distinct language processes operate simultaneously, each having the possibility of influencing the ongoing activity of other processes.


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    Combining Phonemes Into Words

    • Phonemic Competence: The extensive knowledge of the rules of permissible sound combinations for a specific language

    • These rules are not taught but implicitly learned as languages develop


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    Perceptions of words

    • There is almost no consistent relationship between pauses and the ends of words. If anything, the pauses we produce while speaking are longer within words than between words.

    • Segmenting speech sounds into words is learned


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    Rules for combining words and phrases together

    • Prescriptive rules: constraints on how we ought to speak based upon how certain authorities think a language should sound

    • They usually involve dialects or variations of a particular language

    • Usually prescribed by the dominant group in a society. Sentences not following the rules are considered inferior regardless of whether the meaning is clear


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    Descriptive Rules or Syntax

    • Syntax: The arrangement of words as elements in a sentence to show their relationship to one another; or sentence structure.

    • Word Order

      • Beth asked the man about his headaches

      • About the Beth headaches man asked his

    • Phrase Order

      • Bill told the men to deliver the piano on Monday

      • Bill told the men on Monday to deliver the piano

    • Number Agreement - subject verb agreement


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    Chomsky’s Transformational Grammar

    • Language exists at least 2 levels

      • Deep structure - an abstract syntactic representation of the sentence being constructed

      • Surface structure – the external structure; the actual speech sounds and words in a sentence

    • Phrase structure grammar –rules that specify the word groupings and phrases that make up the whole utterance and the relationships among those constituents.

      • We have basic sentence structures into which we insert words


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    Problems with phrase structure grammar

    • Exact meaning of a sentence may not be accurately expressed by the surface structure – ambiguity

      • “I saw a man eating fish”

      • “The shooting of the hunters was terrible”

    • Sentences with completely different surface structure can have the same deep structure

      • “Patrick bought a fine French wine”

      • “A fine French wine was bought by Patrick”


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    Chomsky’s Transformational Grammar

    • Transformational Rules: These convert the deep structure into a surface structure, a sentence ready to be spoken.

    • They allow us to covert deep structure ideas into different surface structures that state the same thought with a different emphasis


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    Limitations of the Transformational Grammar Approach

    • In the late 1960s, psychology became increasingly dissatisfied with this linguistically motivated approach.

    • Primary reason – the linguistic emphasis on structure relegated meaning as a secondary factor

    • Since linguistic approach didn’t adequately deal with meaning it was difficult to apply this theory to the actual use of language


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    Chomsky’s Example

    • “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”

      • Grammatically acceptable

      • Makes no sense

    • Since Chomsky’s theory was competency based, knowledge of the rules of syntax, it could not transformed into a performance based theory of how we use language


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    The psychological purpose of syntax

    • To help the listener figure out meaning

    • To minimize the processing demands of comprehending language

    • Syntax helps listeners determine meaning and speakers convey meaning


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    Lexical and semantic factors: The third level of analysis

    • Involves the meaning of language

    • Mental lexicon – the mental dictionary of words and their meanings

    • Morpheme – the smallest unit of language that has meaning

      • Free morphemes – can stand alone – car, run, legal

      • Bound morphemes – are bound to free morphemes – s, est, un

    • Words can be made up of 1 or more morphemes


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    The lexical representation of a word

    • Includes much more than what the word means

    • Textbook example: chase – to run after or pursue

    • Also connected to other information – run, involving speed, etc.

    • We also know what kinds of things can be chased and what kind of things can chase


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    Case grammar – a psycholinguistic approach

    • Case grammar: An approach in psycholinguistics in which the meaning of a sentence is determined by analyzing the semantic roles or cases played by different words, such as which word names the overall relationship and which names the agent or patient of the action.

    • Semantic Cases: The roles played by the content words in sentences (also called case roles).


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    Case grammar

    • The key will open the door

    • The janitor will open the door with the key

    • Key has 2 grammatical roles in 1st sentence – not important to meaning

    • A semantic analysis shows key as having the same semantic role - an instrument that opens a door

    • Other roles: door is the recipient of the action open; janitor is the agent of open


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    Interaction of syntax and semantics

    • Semantic focus: the highlighted or most important idea in a sentence. Usually indicated by word order (syntax).

    • I’m going downtown with my sister at 4 o’clock

    • It’s at 4 o’clock that I’m going downtown with my sister

    • It’s my sister I’m going downtown with at 4 o’clock

    • The focus in each sentence is different as a different phrase begins each sentence


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    Semantic Knowledge Can Overpower Syntax

    • Sometimes we comprehend what we expect to hear instead of what we actually hear

    • Fillenbaum (1974) – ordered and disordered sentences

    • Don’t print that or I’ll sue you

    • John had a bath and put on his clothes

    • Don’t print that or I won’t sue you

    • John put on his clothes and had a bath


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    Evidence for the Semantic Grammar Approaches

    • Two predictions of this approach:

      • Listeners (readers) begin to analyze the sentence immediately as soon as words begin

      • This analysis is a process of assigning each word to a semantic role that contributes to the overall comprehension of the sentence

    • Garden Path Sentence: A sentence in which the early part of the sentence sets you up so the latter phrases of the sentence don’t make sense given the way you assigned case roles in the 1st part.

    • For example:

      • “After the musician played the piano was moved off the stage.”

      • “The grounds man chased the girl waving a stick in her hand”

      • “The old train the young”


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    Brain and Language - Aphasia

    • Aphasia: The disruption of language caused by a brain-related disorder.

    • Broca’s Aphasia: Characterized by severe difficulties in producing speech; it is also called expressive or production aphasia.

    • Wernicke’s Aphasia: Comprehension is impaired, as are repetition, naming, reading, and writing, but the syntactic aspects of speech are preserved.



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    Other forms of Aphasia

    • Conduction Aphasia: Patients are unable to repeat what they have just heard.

    • Anomia or anomic aphasia: A disruption in word finding, an impairment in the normal ability to retrieve a semantic concept and say its name.

    • Alexia: A disruption of reading without any necessary disruption of spoken language or aural (hearing) comprehension.

    • Agraphia: The patient is unable to write.

    • Pure word deafness: A patient cannot comprehend spoken language, although he or she is still able to read and produce written and spoken language.


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    Generalizing from Aphasia

    • The very different patterns of behavioral impairments in Broca’s and Wernicke’s aphasia, resulting from different physical structures in the brain, suggest that these physical structures underlie different aspects of language.

    • These selective impairments and different brain locations also suggest that syntax and semantics are two separable but interactive aspects of normal language.

    • An inference from these studies is that specialized cerebral regions signal an innate biological basis for language


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    Language in the intact brain

    • 2 important terms: necessary and sufficient

    • Broca’s area is necessary for normal speech production, but not sufficient. The damage of other areas can also cause speech deficits

    • Lesions in different areas can lead to different amounts of aphasia depending upon the gender of the person

    • There are great individual differences in where and how different people process and produce language.


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