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Language as an innate phenomenon; language and psychology; behaviourism. Language and the Mind Prof. R. Hickey SS 2006. Table of contents. An instinct to acquire an art Chatterboxes Mentalese Baby Born Talking- Describing heaven

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Language as an innate phenomenon; language and psychology; behaviourism


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    1. Language as an innate phenomenon; language and psychology; behaviourism Language and the Mind Prof. R. Hickey SS 2006

    2. Table of contents • An instinct to acquire an art • Chatterboxes • Mentalese • Baby Born Talking- Describing heaven • Language, Darwin, Language Instinct and a few Fallacies connected with it • Words, Words, Words • The Tower of Babel • Mind Design

    3. An instinct to acquire an art • Instinct to learn, speak, and understand language • Language = wonder of the natural world • Language = preeminent trait • Cognitive science

    4. An instinct to acquire an art • How do children learn language? • Language = complex, specialized skill • Cognitive scientist: language = psychological faculty, a mental organ, a neural system, and a computational module • Conception of language as an instinct was first articulated in 1871 by Darwin

    5. An instinct to acquire an art • Most famous argument that language is an instinct comes from Noam Chomsky • Every sentence is a brand-new combination of words • Children develop complex grammars rapidly and without instruction and grow up to give consistent interpretations to new sentence construction

    6. Why should anyone believe that human language is part of human biology – an instinct – at all ?

    7. Chatterboxes • 1920s : Discovering of unexplored country • Jabber = language

    8. Chatterboxes • Myth: working-class people and less educated members of middle class speak a simpler language • BEV another language? • He be working • He working

    9. Chatterboxes • Language development in children • Children reinvent language

    10. Chatterboxes • How do particular languages arose in the world today? • Mixed slaves • Pidgin = language of the slaves • Creole = language that results when children make a pidgin their native tongue

    11. Chatterboxes • Sign languages: no pantomimes and gestures • Full language using the same kinds of grammatical machinery found worldwide in spoken languages

    12. Chatterboxes • Parents do not provide explicit grammar lessons • Cildren know things they could not have been taught • A unicorn is in the garden • A unicorn that is eating a flower is in the garden

    13. Chatterboxes • Language and the brain • No one has yet located a language organ or a grammar gene but the search is on • Stroke or bullet wound • Intellectual functions are all preserved

    14. You don‘t need to be middle class, you don‘t need to do well in school, your parents need‘t to bathe you in language, indeed, you can posess all these advantages and still not be a competent language user, if you lack just the right genes or just the right bits of brain

    15. Mentalese Question: Is thought dependent on words or Are our thoughts couched in some silent medium of the brain and clothed in words whenever we want to express them?

    16. Mentalese Pinker says that… • we do not think in language or in words. • we think in visual and auditory images. • we think in abstract propositions about what is true about what. • language is a way of communicating thoughts, of getting them out of one head and into another by making noise.

    17. Mentalese Pinker points out that… • words can be ambiguous. Example: adj. “tame” → a tame animal, which is not afraid of human beings → a tame topic (tame = boring) → two different subjects = two different meanings of the same word ≫Thereforewords and thoughts can't be the same thing.

    18. Mentalese • famous essay called "The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax" (myth: Eskimos have hundred words for snow) • someone went to a dictionary of the Eskimo language • counted the number of words for snow • found in first dictionary only two, in bigger ones a dozen or twenty words for snow • But: the English language has also a lot of words for snow (avalanche, blizzard, hard pack, powder, sleet, slush)

    19. Mentalese ≠ you think more thoughts or more finely discriminating thoughts → if you know a lot about sth., you invent new words to express them (= slang/ jargon) →Conclusion: if you are an expert in something you are going to have more jargon words for it

    20. Mentalese We think in visual images: • autobiographies of great scientists, authors, poets etc. • all of them say that their moments of inspiration often come from a vivid visual image • then they have to struggle to find the words to express that image in their mother tongue • like Einstein : claimed to have come upon his insight about relativity theory by imagining what it would be like to be in a plummeting elevator and then to take a coin out of your pocket and try to drop it

    21. Mentalese →Conclusion: language is a very rich part of the mind, but only one part ≫The mind has a language of its own, independent of the language that the mouth uses, which is called Mentalese. • speaking = translating Mentalese into English or Japanese • understanding = translating English or Japanese into Mentalese depending on which language you actually speak

    22. Mentalese • Pinker thinks that this is why we can understand each other, can translate and why we can coin new words when we need them. • If words and thoughts were the same thing it would be impossible to coin a new word. But: when speaking or writing, people often have the sense that they did not express themselves properly →there are some researches of the subtle shades of meaning within different word orders Example: "I sprayed paint on the wall“ "I sprayed the wall with paint."

    23. Mentalese • sound like synonyms expressing the same thought • The thoughts they express overlap a lot, but there's a little difference: There are two ways of understanding: 1.) the wall is completely covered with paint 2.) there could just be a little dab in one corner → even tiny differences in the order of words can convey very subtle differences in meaning

    24. Mentalese - Mentalese = a way of thinking that is quite independent of language □people who were born deaf and never learned language = able to express thoughts using sign language (fully expressive, grammatical, complex language) →are cut off from a lot of our culture (we convey our culture through words) → it is clear that they have minds, which are capable of some abstract understanding

    25. Mentalese • Question: Is our Mentalese shaped by language nonetheless (like when you are listening to someone else's speech) ?

    26. Mentalese • the contents of Mentalese = supplied by • language • learning about objects in faraway places • learning about abstract concepts from conversations with other people • reading. • like the entry port into the mind • The actual sentences of Mentalese often derive from language (we only remember the gist).

    27. Mentalese • the evolution of the human species = evolution of language +the evolution of language in thought Chain: think more complex thoughts →puts pressure on you → able to share them → people supplying you with complex language→puts pressure on you → able to have those thoughts ≫a kind of feedback loop, where each one helped the other

    28. Mentalese • a question of habits • certain language groups habitually cultivate certain states that then they like to talk about • in the habit of dealing with different aspects of the world → dealing with other people who are also dealing with those aspects → going to invent the words to be able to communicate them • But the fact that we can invent words is what makes Pinker think that the experiences come first.

    29. Conclusion • Mentalese = a way of thinking that is quite independent of language; the language of the mind • People think in visual and auditory images. • Thoughts are expressed with words but they are not determined by language. • Language is a way of communicating thoughts. • Language is an instinct, because also deaf people communicate in a way in which a kind of language is used.

    30. Conclusion • The fact that people can invent new words shows that the experiences come first. • Mentalese is supplied by communication or reading and is, in some way, influenced by culture.

    31. References • Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct • www.williamjames.com/transcripts/pinker1.htm • …. • ….. • …..

    32. Baby Born Talking- Describing heaven

    33. Introduction • Introduction • The Stages of Language Acquisition • Common Grammar Mistakes • Conclusion

    34. 1. Introduction • The Sun, a tabloid daily newspaper published in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, has the highest circulation of any daily English-language newspaper in the world: • On May 21, 1985 the Sun wrote: • “ BABY BORN TALKING – DESCRIBING HEAVEN. Infant’s words proof reincarnation exists.’’ • On June 8, 1993: • “ AMAZING 2 HEADED BABY IS PROOF OF REINCARNATION. ONE HEAD SPEAKS ENGLISH – THE OTHER ANCIENT LATIN.” • Why does this only occur in fiction???

    35. 2. The Stages of Language Acquisition - most children do not speak until they are one year old- first start combining words with about 18 months- start speaking in fluent grammatical sentences until they are 2-3 Nevertheless Infants already have linguistic skills when they are born.

    36. 2. The Stages of Language Acquisition Psychologists Jacques Mehler and Peter Jusczyk: • Babies have knowledge of their mother’s language • French Infants suck harder when hearing their mother tongue • The babies must have learned something in the womb of the mother and during the first days after their birth

    37. 2. The Stages of Language Acquisition During the first year: • Learn the sounds of their language • Get their speech system geared up • Produce sounds: cries, grunts, sighs, clicks, stops and later laughs and coos ( ca. 2 months) • Play with sounds rather then expressing their emotional or physical state ( ca. 6-7 months) • Begin to babble: ba-ba-ba, dee-dee-dee,… ( ca. 8 months)

    38. 2. The Stages of Language Acquisition • Children who cannot use their speech system during their first years, are retarded in speech development • Deaf children babble later and simpler, but if their parents use sign language, they babble with their hands!!! Why is babbling so important? • Infants have a very complicated piece of audio but no manual that shows them how to use it • By experimenting with the articulator children learn how to produce all kinds of sounds

    39. 2. The Stages of Language Acquisition During the 2nd year: • Babies begin to understand words and start to produce them ( ca. 12 months) One-word stage: • Infants first words are to 50% objects (food, clothing, body parts, …) • Words for actions, motions and routines : up, off, peekaboo, eat, … • Modifiers, like hot, more, dirty,… • Routines, like yes, no, want ,…

    40. 2. The Stages of Language Acquisition • With about 18months language starts to develop very fast • Syntax begins with strings of two: All dry. All messy. All wet. I sit. I shut. No bed. Our cat. Papa away. Dry pants. • In 95% the word order of the Two-Word Strings is correct • There is more going on in children minds then that what the say

    41. 2. The Stages of Language Acquisition During the 3rd year: All Hell Breaks Loose: • Children's language suddenly becomes grammatically fluent • Sentence length increases steadily and becomes more complex • The number of syntactic types reaches the thousands before the 3rd birthday e.g.: before: Give doggie paper and Big doggie now: Give big doggie paper

    42. 3. Common Grammar Mistakes No matter what grammatical rule is chosen, three-year-olds obey it most of the time!!!! • Errors in sentences like: Can you broke those, Button me the rest only occur in 0.1%-8% • In more then 90% the children are right • They are not only grammatically correct in quantity but also in quality • The errors children make often follow the logic of grammar • The most common mistake is to overgeneralize e.g.: irregular verbs holded, heared, … plural -s tooths, mouses, mens

    43. 3. Conclusion • Babies are born with linguistic skills • They need an input to learn a language • Language Acquisition happens in different stages • 1st Language Acquisition happens very rapid and is complete • Infants only make few grammar mistakes • 1 Language acquisition is only guaranteed for children up to 6 years Babies aren’t born talking!!!

    44. References Pinker, Steven 1994. The language instinct  the new science of language and mind. Lane, Penguin Pr.

    45. Language, Darwin,Language Instinctand a few Fallacies connected with it

    46. Nonhuman communication : • A fine repertory of calls • A continuous analog signal that registeres the magnitude of some state • A series of random variations on a theme

    47. The design of human language: • Infinite • Digital • Compositional

    48. The seat of the brain: Primates • Vocal cords controlled by the older neural structures in the brain stem and limbic system Humans • Vocal cords controlled by the cerebral cortex

    49. Teaching language to animals: ChimpanzeesGua - cross fosteringViki - cross fosteringWashoe - American Sign Language - about 130 signsLana - about 130 symbols Sarah - PremackeseNim Chimpsky - American Sign Language Bonobo (Pygmy Chimpanzee)Kanzi - Yerkish, best 'language learner' so far - learnt about 400 symbols.

    50. KoKo‘s case: The claims that an ape is capable of acquiring ASL(American Sign Language) • „Language is no longer the exclusive domain of man“ Francine(Penny) Patterson (Koko‘s trainer)