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Learning Targets Module 36 Thinking and Language 36 -1 Describe the structural components of a language. 36 -2 Discuss how we acquire language, and explain the concept of universal grammar. 36 -3 Discuss the milestones in language development, and identify the critical period for acquiring language. 36 -4 Discuss the brain areas that are involved in language processing and speech. 36 -5 Describe the relationship between thinking and language, and discuss the
language our spoken, written, or signed words and the ways we combine them to communicate meaning Language transmits knowledge and allows for mind-to-mind communication.
What are the structural components of language? phoneme~ in a language, the smallest distinctive sound unit morpheme~ in a language, the smallest unit that carries meaning; may be a word or a part of a word (such as a prefix) grammar~ in a language, a system of rules that enables us to communicate with and understand others
phoneme Linguists surveying nearly 500 languages have identified 869 different phonemes in human speech, but no language uses all of them (Holt, 2002; Maddieson, 1984). To say bat, English speakers utter the phonemes b, a, and t. 3 phonemes! To say that: th, a and t Also 3 phonemes! Phonemes are sounds, not letters and not the same as syllables.
morpheme Most morphemes combine two or more phonemes. Some are words, while others are parts of words.
examples of morphemes Every word in a language contains one or more morphemes. The word “readers, ” for example, contains three (3) morphemes: “read, ” (1) “er” (2) (signaling that we mean “one who reads”), and “s” (3) (signaling that we mean not one, but multiple readers).
grammar Rules for word order and word meaning help us to understand language. Two components of grammar are semantics and syntax. Semantics is about selecting the correct word to convey the meaning you intend. Syntax is about putting the words into the correct order according to grammatical standards of your language.
Noam Chomsky on grammar "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. ” Noam Chomsky, a linguist, used this sentence to illustrate correct syntax (the nouns, adjectives and verbs are all in their proper place grammatically) but poor semantics (the choice of words do not convey the appropriate meaning…what is a ‘green idea’ and how can it be ‘colorless’? )
Test your skills. Rapid bouquets deter sudden neighbors. Discuss the correct and incorrect application of the grammar rules of syntax and semantics in the sentence above.
1. What Would You Answer? Think about the word “prepares, ” Each “r” can be considered a _______. “pre” is considered a __________. There are _______ morphemes in the word. There are _______ phonemes in the word.
2. What Would You Answer? The prefix “pre” in “preview” or the suffix “ed” in “adapted” are examples of A. phonemes. B. morphemes. C. babbling. D. semantics. E. syntax.
How do we acquire language and what is universal grammar? Linguist Noam Chomsky has argued that language is nature’s gift—an unlearned human trait, separate from other parts of human cognition. He theorized that a built-in predisposition to learn grammar rules, which he called universal grammar, helps explain why preschoolers pick up language so readily and use grammar so well.
3. What Would You Answer? According to Noam Chomsky, language acquisition occurs most especially because of A. exposure to language in early childhood. B. instruction in grammar. C. reinforcement for babbling and other early verbal behaviors. D. imitation and drill. E. linguistic determinism.
Early language acquisition Children’s language development moves from simplicity to complexity. Infants start without language (in fantis means “not speaking”). Yet by 4 months of age, babies can recognize differences in speech sounds. (Stager & Werker, 1997)
How does receptive language develop? In one study, babies preferred looking at a face that matches a sound—an ah coming from wide open lips and an ee from a mouth with corners pulled back. (Kuhl & Meltzoff, 1982) Recognizing such differences marks the beginning of the development of babies’ receptive language, their ability to understand what is said to and about them.
babbling stage Beginning around 4 months, the stage of speech development in which an infant spontaneously utters various sounds (phonemes) is at first unrelated to the household language. Long after the beginnings of receptive language, babies’ productive language— their ability to produce words—matures.
one-word stage the stage in speech development, from about age 1 to 2, during which a child speaks mostly in single words Around their first birthday, most children enter the oneword stage. They have already learned that sounds carry meanings and now begin to use sounds—usually one barely recognizable syllable, such as ma or da— to communicate meaning.
two-word stage At about 18 months, children’s learning of language explodes from about a word per week to a word per day. By their second birthday, most have entered the two-word stage. A 2 -year-old’s speech contains mostly nouns and verbs (“Want juice”). Their speech follows rules of syntax, arranging words in a sensible order. English-speaking children typically place adjectives before nouns—white house rather than house white. Spanish reverses this order, as in casa blanca.
telegraphic speech The two-word stage produces sentences in which a child speaks like a telegram— “go car” —using mostly nouns and verbs so it is referred to as telegraphic speech.
4. What Would You Answer? Eighteen-month-old Becca is in the telegraphic speech phase. Which of the following best represents something she might say? A. “Mama” B. “Yogurt please” C. “Katie fall” D. “The dog is fuzzy” E. “I love you mommy”
What was your first word? How closely do your first experiences with language match up with the research? Did you talk earlier than your peers? Later?
What is the critical period of language development? Childhood seems to represent a critical (or “sensitive”) period for mastering certain aspects of language before the language-learning window slowly closes. (Hernandez & Li, 2007; Lenneberg, 1967) Later-than-usual exposure—at age 2 or 3—unleashes the idle language capacity of a child’s brain, producing a rush of language. But by about age 7, those who have not been exposed to either a spoken or a signed language lose their ability to master any language.
Can we learn a new language as adults? Ten years after coming to the United States, Asian immigrants took an English grammar test. Although there is no sharply defined critical period for second language learning, those who arrived before age 8 understood American English grammar as well as native speakers did. Those who arrived later did not. (Data from Johnson & Newport, 1991. )
Do you speak a second language? Consider a language you began to learn after learning your first language (if you later learned to speak a second language at home, if you are learning a second language at school, or if you just picked up some words or phrases from a new language while traveling). How did your learning this other language differ from learning your first language? Does speaking it feel different?
Deafness and experience. The impact of early experiences is evident in language learning in prelingually (before learning language) deaf children born to hearing non-signing parents. These children typically do not experience language during their early years. Natively deaf children who learn sign language after age 9 never learn it as well as those who learned it early in life.
What is aphasia? impairment of language, usually caused by left hemisphere damage either to Broca’s area (impairing speaking) or to Wernicke’s area (impairing understanding)
What brain areas are involved in language processing and speech? in 1865, French physician Paul Broca confirmed a fellow physician’s observation that after damage to an area of the left frontal lobe (Broca’s area) a person would struggle to speak words, yet could sing familiar songs and comprehend speech. A decade later, German investigator Carl Wernicke discovered that after damage to a specific area of the left temporal lobe (Wernicke’s area), people were unable to understand others’ words and could speak only meaningless sentences.
Broca’s area helps control language expression— an area of the frontal lobe, usually in the left hemisphere, that directs the muscle movements involved in speech
Wernicke’s area a brain area involved in language comprehension and expression; usually in the left temporal lobe
How are language and ideas related? Linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf contended that “language itself shapes a [person’s] basic ideas. ” His hypothesis of linguistic determinism proposed that language controls the way we think and interpret the world around us. For instance, the Hopi, a Native American tribe, have no past tense for their verbs, and so could not readily think about the past.
Limitations to Whorf’s hypothesis Today’s psychologists believe that a strong form of Whorf’s linguistic determinism is too extreme. We all think about things for which we have no words. And we routinely have unsymbolized (wordless, imageless) thoughts, as when someone, while watching two men carry a load of bricks, wondered whether the men would drop them. (Heavey & Hurlburt, 2008; Hurlburt et al. , 2013)
What is linguistic influence? the weaker form of “linguistic relativity”—the idea that language affects thought (thus our thinking and world view is “relative to” our cultural language)
words influence our thinking In Papua New Guinea, Berinmo children have words for different shades of “yellow, ” which might enable them to spot and recall yellow variations more quickly.
On the color spectrum, blue blends into green—until we draw a dividing line between the portions we call “blue” and “green. ” Although equally different on the color spectrum, two different items that share the same color name, as the two “blues” do above, are harder to distinguish than two items with different names - “blue” and “green. ” (Özgen, 2004)
thought and language combine The traffic runs both ways between thinking and language. Thinking affects our language, which affects our thought.
Do we think in images? Indeed, we often think in images. Artists think in images. So do composers, poets, mathematicians, athletes, and scientists. We often think in images when we use nondeclarative (procedural) memory (our automatic memory system for motor and cognitive skills and classically conditioned associations).
Let’s look at the research… For someone who has learned a skill, such as ballet dancing, even watching the activity will activate the brain’s internal simulation of it. (Calvo-Merino et al. , 2004) Imagining a physical experience activates some of the same neural networks that are active during the actual experience. (Grèzes & Decety, 2001).
How does imagination produce winners? One experiment on mental practice and basketball free-throw shooting tracked the University of Tennessee women’s team over 35 games. (Savoy & Beitel, 1996). During that time, the team’s free-throw accuracy increased from approximately 52 percent in games following standard physical practice, to some 65 percent after mental practice. Players had repeatedly imagined making free throws under various conditions, including being “trash-talked” by their opposition.
How can visualization improve grades? Two groups of introductory psychology students facing a midterm exam one week later. (Taylor et al. , 1998) The first group spent five minutes each day visualizing themselves scanning the posted grade list, seeing their A, beaming with joy, and feeling proud. This daily outcome simulation had little effect, adding only 2 points to their exam score average. The second group spent five minutes each day visualizing themselves effectively studying—reading the textbook, going over notes, eliminating distractions, declining an offer to go out.
What were the results? This daily process simulation paid off: The group began studying sooner, spent more time at it, and beat the others’ average score by 8 points. The point to remember: It’s better to spend your fantasy time planning how to reach your goal than to focus on your desired destination.
5. What Would You Answer? Jacque learned to speak Italian when she was in the first grade and was able to speak, read, and write Italian fairly well by the fourth grade. She moved to a new school system that did not have Italian as a choice for World Languages, so she decided to take Spanish. Sometimes she found herself saying and writing words in Italian as she completed her Spanish assignments. Often, she remembered the vocabulary in Italian before she said the word in Spanish.
6. What Would You Answer? Sometimes she felt like knowing Italian helped her learn Spanish, but sometimes she thought it just confused her! When Jacque was in her Spanish classroom, she felt more at ease with the Spanish language. When she went to a French restaurant, she was frustrated because the menu was unreadable to her.
7. What Would You Answer? Use an example to show each concept is related to Jacque’s experiences. § Working memory § Explicit memory § Effortful processing § Context-dependent memory § Proactive interference Explain how these brain structures play a role in Jacque’s memory processing. • Hippocampus • Amygdala
Learning Target 36 -1 Review Describe the structural components of a language. § Phonemes are a language’s basic units of sound. § Morphemes are the elementary units of meaning. § Grammar—the system of rules that enables us to communicate— includes semantics (rules for deriving meaning) and syntax (rules for ordering words into sentences).
Learning Target 36 -2 Review Discuss how we acquire language, and explain the concept of universal grammar. § Linguist Noam Chomsky has proposed that all human languages share a universal grammar—the basic building blocks of language—and that humans are born with a predisposition to learn language. § As our biology and experience interact, we readily learn the specific grammar and vocabulary of the language we experience as children.
Learning Target 36 -3 Review Discuss the milestones in language development. § Language development’s timing varies, but all children follow the same sequence. § Receptive language (the ability to understand what is said to or about you) develops before productive language (the ability to produce words). § At about 4 months of age, infants babble, making sounds found in languages from all over the world. § By about 10 months, their babbling contains only the sounds found in their household language.
Learning Target 36 -3 Review cont. Discuss the milestones in language development. § Around 1 -year, children begin to speak in single words. This one-word stage evolves into the twoword stage (telegraphic speech) utterances before the 2 nd birthday, after which they begin speaking in full sentences.
Learning Target 36 -3 Review part III Identify the critical period for acquiring language. § Childhood represents a critical period for language learning; lack of exposure to a spoken or signed language by age 7 results in an inability to master any language. Deaf children born to hearing, nonsigning parents often demonstrate the impact of early language experiences.
Learning Target 36 -4 Review Discuss the brain areas that are involved in language processing and speech. § Two important language- and speech-processing areas are Broca’s area, a region of the left frontal lobe that controls language expression, and Wernicke’s area, a region in the left temporal lobe that controls language reception (and also assists with expression). § Language processing is spread across other brain areas as well, where different neural networks handle specific linguistic subtasks.
Learning Target 36 -5 Review Describe the relationship between thinking and language, and discuss the value of thinking in images. § Whorf’s linguistic determinism hypothesis suggested that language defines thought; it may be more accurate to say that language influences thought. § Different languages embody different ways of thinking, and immersion in bilingual education can enhance thinking. § We think in images when we use nondeclarative memory which can increase our skills when we mentally practice upcoming events.