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Language

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  1. Language • What is language? • How is language related to thought? • How is written language different from spoken language?

  2. What is Language? • A system of communication that is: • Hierarchical • Rule-Governed • Generative

  3. Structure of Language • Phonology • Semantics • Syntax • Pragmatics

  4. Phonology • Phoneme – shortest segment of speech that affects word meaning • Phonemes are categories of sounds which are perceived as the same even though the physical signal differs • The speech signal is continuous and must be segmented

  5. Phonology • English uses about 45 phonemes. • Other languages use fewer or more. • All the world’s languages use a total of around 200 phonemes.

  6. Semantics • Meaning • Morpheme - smallest unit that carries meaning • words • prefixes • suffixes

  7. Semantics • Context affects meaning • Standing ambiguity • Temporary ambiguity • Both meanings of an ambiguous word are initially available; context disambiguates within a few syllables (Swinney, 1979)

  8. Syntax • Rules for combining words and morphemes into sentences • Knowledge of syntax is mostly tacit

  9. Syntax • The meaning of a sentence depends on the syntax: • His face was flushed, but his broad shoulders saved him.

  10. Syntax • Parsing – grouping words into mental units • Syntax is used for parsing, e.g., late closure strategy (Frazier, 1987) • Parsing is also influenced by word meanings (Trueswell et al., 1994)

  11. Trueswell et al. (1994)

  12. Speech Errors • To what extent is speech planned in advance? • Speech errors can indicate what type of planning was used. • Spoonerism: speech error made by switching linguistic units

  13. Switching Phonemes • “You have tasted the whole worm.” • “Our queer old dean.”

  14. Switching Morphemes • “a catful of houses” • “gownless evening straps”

  15. Switching Syntactic Elements • “the brain supply to the blood” • “you’ve eat me seen that”

  16. Pragmatics • Interpretation of language is also affected by inferences • Anaphoric inferences • Instrumental inferences • Causal inferences

  17. Pragmatics • Cooperative Principle (Grice, 1975) • “Do you take credit cards?” • Conversational maxims • Quantity • Quality • Manner • Relation

  18. Cultural Differences • Examples of pragmatic level of language • European/American focus on objects vs. Asian focus on relationships (Nisbett, 2003) • Gender differences (Tannen, 1990)

  19. Gender Differences in Conversation • Females tend to minimize differences and try to reach consensus • Males tend to show status (one-up) and give orders

  20. Gender Differences in Conversation • Females tend to match troubles and confirm feelings • Males tend to minimize feelings and offer solutions

  21. Gender Differences in Conversation • Females tend to avoid conflict • Match apologies • Interrupt to support • Males tend to value conflict • Deflect apologies • Interrupt to disagree

  22. Examples from You Just Don’t Understand (Tannen, 1990) MICHELE: What time is the concert? GARY: You have to be ready by seven-thirty.

  23. Examples from You Just Don’t Understand (Tannen, 1990) HE: I’m really tired. I didn’t sleep well last night. SHE: I didn’t sleep well either. I never do. HE: Why are you trying to belittle me? SHE: I’m just trying to show that I understand!

  24. Examples from You Just Don’t Understand (Tannen, 1990) Eve tells her friend Karen and then her husband Mark that surgery changed how her breast looks. KAREN: I know. It’s like your body has been violated.

  25. Examples from You Just Don’t Understand (Tannen, 1990) MARK: You can have plastic surgery to cover up the scar and restore the shape of your breast. EVE: I’m not having any more surgery! I’m sorry you don’t like the way it looks.

  26. Examples from You Just Don’t Understand (Tannen, 1990) MARK: I don’t care. It doesn’t bother me at all. EVE: Then why are you telling me to have plastic surgery? MARK: Because you were saying you were upset about the way it looks.

  27. Girls Playing Doctor (Sachs, 1967) Let’s sit down and use it. Now we can both be doctors. Will you be the patient for a few minutes?

  28. Boys Playing Doctor (Sachs, 1967) Lie down. Get the heart thing. Gimme your arm.

  29. Language and Thought • Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis: language influences thinking • Weak form: language affects thought • Strong form: language limits thought

  30. Language and Thought • Do differences in color words affect thought? English: purple / blue / green / yellow / orange / red Dani (New Guinea): mili (dark) / mola (bright)

  31. Language and Thought • Better memory for focal than non-focal colors, even for Dani speakers (Rosch,1973) • Focal colors are similar for speakers of different languages (Berlin & Kay, 1969) • focal color: best example of a color

  32. Language and Thought • Better discrimination between color chips representing different color names in one’s language (Roberson et al., 2000)

  33. Written Language • Writing was invented around 4000 B.C. in the mid-east; developed from clay token counting sytems (Schmandt-Besserat, 1992) • Writing systems (orthographies): • Ideographic • Syllabic • Alphabetic

  34. English Orthography • ambiguity - the same letter or letter group can be read in different ways • irregularity - some words don’t follow the rules

  35. Acquired Dyslexias (Marshall & Newcombe, 1973) • surface dyslexia: loss of ability to recognize exception words; can still sound out • deep dyslexia: loss of ability to sound out unfamiliar or new words; can still recognize familiar words

  36. Eye Movements in Reading • saccade: eyes jump from one point to another (8-9 spaces avg.) • fixation: eyes stop for about 250 ms • regression: right to left saccade

  37. Perceptual Span in Reading • Moving window experiments (Rayner, 1993) • Letter shape information about 4 spaces to the left and 15 spaces to the right. • Opposite span for reading Hebrew.

  38. Evolution of Language • Is there a language module? • Developmental sequence • Universality of language • Linguistic universals • Why is it harder to learn written language?