Thinking about language • Furious green ideas sleep peacefully. • Does the sentence make sense? • Can the word order be changed? • Is the sentence grammatically correct? • How did you make these decisions? • DISCUSS: What is language and how is it different to communication?
What is language? • Language is a form of communication using sounds, letters and gestures. The main difference between language and communication is rules. • Rules we have, such as grammar, allows us to put together letters to make meaningful messages. • The main components of language are: phonology (sound patterns), semantics (words having meanings) and syntax (word order). • Communication is however merely just a transmission of information.
Theories of language Chomsky’s theory of language acquisition (acquisition= developing language). Chomsky theorised that humans are biologically programmed to aquire language and have a special part of the brain which allows us to turn words into language. This part of the brain is called the Language Acquisition Device (LAD). This is a nature view. Skinners theory of language acquisition Skinner theorised that language is learnt. He viewed the fact that as children we are rewarded for using language the reason why language develops. This is a nurture view.
Language theories… • NURTURE (Skinner) • this theory emphasises performance • a child imitates what she hears and is reinforced when correct • gradually vocalisations are shaped and words are learned • PROBLEMS • it would take too long • parents do not reinforce correct speech
Language theories… • The nativist theory (Chomsky) • emphasises the difference between • performance vs competence • using vs understanding • all humans are ‘prepared’ to learn language • all normal children acquire language in similar stages • linguistic universals exist in every language
LINGUISTIC UNIVERSALS SEMANTICITY - words have meanings DISPLACEMENT - words can be used to refer to things that are not present in time and space STRUCTURE DEPENDENCE - words can be ‘chunked together’ and moved around - e.g. the policeman shot the man in the garage ARBITRARINESS – symbol is not like what it is describing SPONTANEOUS TURN-TAKING
Language --- the great debate • Why teach language to apes? • the rationale: • if apes can learn language it supports Skinner (nurture); if not perhaps Chomsky is right (nature)
Teaching language to apes • The Kelloggs and Gua • brought up like human baby • continually exposed to speech • ‘understood’ 70 words but never spoke • chimps have NO vocal chords • Other attempts: • Vicki – trained to talk using rewards • Sarah – trained to use coloured shapes and discs • Washoe – taught ASL
Savage-Rumbaugh & Lana Symbolic keyboard linked to computer and a vending machine If Lana requested ‘food’ she received it Lana understood symbols like ‘more’ YES - semanticity YES - displacement NO - structure dependence
Washoe • At first Washoe could use single words such as come, gimme, hurry, sweet, tickle • By 4 years Washoe could use over 100 signs. • SEMANTICITY - YES e.g signed TOOTHBRUSH in bathroom. • CREATIVITY - YES e.g. Washoe spontaneously used combinations of signs such as “gimme tickle” - come and tickle me. • STRUCTURE DEPENDENCE – NO, never developed regular word order
Why was Washoe such a big deal? Washoe was said to be the first animal to acquire human language. In total Washoe could use 250 signs. However, there is still controversy over whether Washoe actually developed language as Gardner and Gardner were criticised for the fact that Washoe never developed regular word order.