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8.1 Communication
• Psycholinguistics
– study of mental processes and structures that underlie our ability
to produce and comprehend language
• Language versus Animal Communication
– Human language is distinguished in three ways
• symbolic - words have an arbitrary relationship to things they
represent this symbolic basis allows for “effability” - talk about
abstract concepts
• generative - can generate an infinite number of sentences
• structured - grammatical rules to produce sentences
• Language involves all of our cognitive
abilities, and its psychological aspects and
are the topic of psycholinguistics
• Languages enable communication, differ
between cultures, are primarily vocal but
use a subset of all possible vocalizations.
• Defining language precisely is not easy, but the following attributes
• been proposed:
• Language enables communication between individuals.
• Language is culturally transmitted and varies across cultural groups.
• Language uses primarily vocal sounds, but only a subset of all
possible vocal sounds.
• Language units are arbitrary symbols that need not have any
correspondence to the things they represent.
• Language has a grammatical structure that can be analyzed on
many levels.
• Language units can be arranged according to this grammar to
produce novel utterances and to convey novel ideas.The ideas need
not currently be true, and might never have been or never be true.
• Chomsky argued that instead of being
conditioned, language was supported by an
innate language acquisition device that gave the
ability to acquire vocabulary and to learn
grammatical rules.
• He proposed that all languages shared a deep
structure and a set of phrase structure rules that
could be used to produce the surface structure
of utterances.
8.2 Language system
• The discipline of linguistics has provided further insight
into the levels of language and the systematic and rulegoverned way in which each operates.
• These levels consist:
the sounds of speech (known in linguistics as phonetics)
the sound system of any particular language (phonology)
word formation (morphology)
the combination of words into phrases and sentences (syntax)
the meanings of words, phrases and sentences (semantics)
and activities using language which extend beyond individual
sentences, such as stories, speeches, newspaper articles and
conversations (discourse).
• Explicit rules (grammar) is taught in school
– sentence diagramming
• Implicit rules are picked up informally by
listening to others speak
– e.g. PA Dutch grammar - Throw the horse over the
fence some hay.
• Linguistic intuitions
– implicit rules that we may not be able to formally
state, but we know when they are violated
Levels of linguistic structure
Speech sounds
Word level
Sentence level
The level of discourse
8.3 Discourse
• Pragmatics
• Cooperation
• Turn Taking
8.4 Language Development
First word
Learning Grammar
Critical Period
First Word
• By the time that they are a year old, infants are beginning to
associate single word utterances or holophrases with general
classes of event, and to use the same sound systematically
• Greenfield and Smith (1976) identified seven aspects or roles that
these early one-word utterances related to, and argued that their
use followed a developmental sequence
– First, infants name the agents who are doing things – usually people.
Then they begin to name
– the actions that the agents are carrying out, or the state that results
from these actions.
– Then they start to name the objects affected by the actions
– Followed by the state of those objects after the action.
– They then in turn start naming the objects that are associates of the
action, possessors of objects, and locations of objects.
Critical Period in Language
• Early theories based on behaviorism
– parents reinforce correct language use
– imitation and reinforcement
• Current theories suggest that babies are born with at
least some innate knowledge of language
– not random and rule usage
• Evidence for the innate aspects of language
– children deal with novel sequences in a systematic way
• e.g. the pluralization of non-words
• This is a wug. If I had one I will have two ________
• Evidence continued
– Over-regularization and over-generalization
• children often learn correct forms such as came and went , but after
exposure to many examples of past tenses start to use comed,
goed, doed. This is not regression this is application of the rule even if parents try to correct this.
– In all languages children make a similar pattern of errors
• negation - children start by adding “no” as the first or last word n the
– Imitation is not progressive
• when children try to repeat after an adult, they do not mimic exactly,
change the utterance to fit their current level of development
– examples
8.5 Speech
Continuous Stream
Categorical Perception
Multimodal speech
Speech Slips
Speech Slips
8.6 Disruption to language
processing at word level
• Aphasias
• Processing spoken words
• The case of Derek B studied and
described by Sue Franklin and David
Howard (1992)
• Aphasias
– Problems with speech production are known as aphasias, and
are usually related to a brain injury to the left side of the head,
just above and forward of the ear
– Broca’s aphasia - front left - problems with expression (nonfluent)
• articulation problem - can’t produce speech sounds
• leave out certain sounds
• more problems with function words and inflections than content
• same problem in writing so it is not just a speech error
• may be left with agrammaria simplified speech
• may lose classes of words
• sometimes produce a close associate e.g. spoon for fork
– Wernicke’s aphasia - rear left - produce
fluent but meaningless speech.
• “word salad” - speech without content
• semantic disorganization
• demonstrate little or no comprehension of words
(can’t follow directions)
• semantic disorganization
• sometimes unaware of their disability
Processing spoken words
• pure word deafness.
• pure word meaning deafness