8.3 | Language and Communication Flashcards Preview

🚫 PSY100H1: Introduction to Psychology (Winter 2016) with J. Vervaeke > 8.3 | Language and Communication > Flashcards

Flashcards in 8.3 | Language and Communication Deck (11)
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  • aphasia: a language disorder caused by damage to the brain structures that support using and understanding language
  • Broca's area: the region of the left frontal lobe that controls our ability to articulate speech sounds that compose words 
    • patients with Broca's asphasia have difficulty procuding speech and often utter single words separated by pauses (e.g. uh, er)
    • the individual words are often produced without normal grammatical flair: no articles, suffixes, or prefixes 
  • Wernicke's area: the region of the brain most associated with finding the meaning of words
    • patients with Wernicke's aphasia are unable to produce speech that other people can understand
    • i.e. the words are spoken fluently and with a normal intonation and accent, but these words seem randomly thrown together 


Properties of Language

  • language: a form of communication that involves the use of spoken, written, or gestural symbols that are combined in a rule-based form
  • can involve communication about objects and events that are not in the present time and place 
  • can produce entirely new meanings
    • it's possible to produce a sentence that has never been uttered before in the history of humankind, simply by reorganizing words in different ways 
  • is passed down from parents to children
    • experience dictates which language(s) we will speak


Phonemes and Morphemes: The Basic Ingredients of Language

  • phonemes: the most basic of units of speech sounds 
  • morphemes: the smallest meaningful units of a language 
    • our ability to combine morphemes into words is one distinguishing feature of language that sets it apart from other forms of communication
  • language gives us productivity—the ability to combine units of sound into an infinite number of meanings
  • semantics: the study of how people come to understand meaning from words 
  • when you recognize a word, you effortlessly translate the word’s visual form (known as its orthography) into the sounds that make up that word (known as its phonology or phonological code


Syntax: The Language Recipe

  • syntax: the rules for combining words and morphemes into meaningful phrases and sentences 
  • the most basic units of syntax are nouns and verbs
  • most speakers cannot tell you what the rules are; syntax just seems to come naturally. 
  • the order of words in a sentence helps determine what the sentence means, and syntax is the set of rules we use to determine that order 


Pragmatics: The Finishing Touches

  • pragmatics: the study of nonlinguistic elements of language use
  • reminds us that sometimes what is said is not as important as how it is said


Infants, Sound Perception, and Language Acquisition

  • babies are experts at identifying the sounds of their own language
  • infants learn how to separate a string of sounds into meaningful groups (i.e. into words)
  • newborn infants can distinguish between function words (e.g. prepositions) and content words (e.g. nouns and verbs) based on their sound properties
  • fast mapping: the ability to map words onto concepts or objects after only a single exposure
  • naming explosion: a stage of development where a rapid increase in vocabulary size occurs


Producing Spoken Language

  • imitation and reinforcement are involved language acquisition, but are only one component
  • the behaviourist approach falls short in explaining how language is learned; whereas adults typically struggle, children seem to learn languages effortlessly
  • psychologists have started using the term language acquisition when referring to children instead of language learning


Sensitive Periods for Language

  • sensitive period: a time during childhood in which children's brains are primed to develop language skills
  • children can absorb language almost effortlessly, but this ability seems to fade away starting around the seventh year


The Bilingual Brain

  • bilingual children tend to have a smaller vocabulary in each language than unilingual children
  • in adulthood, this difference is shown not by vocabulary size, but by how easily bilinguals can access words
  • bilingual individuals are much better than their unilingual counterparts on tests that require them to control their attention or their thoughts; these abilities are known as executive functions (or executive control)
  • being bilingual also helps protect against the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease


Genes and Language

  • claims that language promotes survival and reproductive success are difficult to test directly with scientific experimentation, but there is a soundness to the logic of the speculation 
  • the KE family had a mutated copy of the FOXP2 gene, and those who were affected had a hard time putting thoughts into words, but had no difficulty actually carrying out these tasks or thinking
  • interestingly, the FOXP2 gene is also found in songbirds, highlighting its possible role in producing meaningful sounds


Can Animals Use Language?

  • cross-fostered: when an animal is raised as a member of a family that was not of the same species 
  • studies with apes and spoken language were unsucessful, but using ASL proved that they could acquire a language just as we do
  • researchers have also developed lexigrams: small keys on a computerized board that represent words, and, therefore, can be combined to form complex ideas and phrases
  • although, there are some critical differences between human communication and other animals
    • apes are communicating only with symbols, not with the phrase-based syntax used by humans 
    • little reputable experimental evidence showing that apes pass their language skills to other apes 
    • productivity is rare
    • to what extent does personal attachments to the animals interfere with the objectivity of the data?
  • a major factor in humanity’s unique language abilities is the complexity and plasticity of the brain 

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