Language: Structure and Development

Language — how we combine spoken, written words as we think and communicate Structure a. Phonemes – smallest distinctive sound unit b. Morphemes – smallest unit that carries meaning c. Grammar – a system of rules that allows us to understand one another i. Semantics – the study of meaning in language ii. Syntax – a set of rules for combining words in a sentence Development d. Babbling stage i. Begins around 4 months – make random noises of all ii. Around 10 months – babbles restricted to noise of home language e.One-word stage i. Around 12 months ii. word learning begin to explode around 18 months f. Two-word stage (telegraphic speech) i. Around 24 months ii. Follows rules of syntax g. After age 2, children make rather large leaps when developing longer phrases and learning basic rules of grammar h. All children go through the same four language states because of innate language factors which are genetically programmed physiological and neurological features that facilitate our making speech sounds and acquiring language skills i.The critical language period is the time from infancy to adolescence when language is easiest to learn. Explaining Language Development j. Skinner – language is learned like everything else with the principles of association, imitation, and reinforcement. k. Chomsky – although the specific language is learned, children are pre-wired with a capability to learn language. Brain is like a language-acquisition device. l. Statistical learning – infant brain has innate capacity to statistically analyze language; this ability seems to be present only in the first few years of lifeLanguage Influences Thinking m. Linguistic relativity – Whorf’s hypothesis that language influences the way we think. i. People with different names for two shades of yellow are more likely to describe them as being more distinct later. ii. The generic “he”. iii. Bilingual advantage n. Thinking without language i. Mental imagery has been shown to increase performance (piano, free throws, golf) Animal thinking and language o. Do animals think? Yes i. Monkeys can count ii. Monkeys show insight ii. Apes use tools and learn from each other. iv. Apes pass the self-concept test. v. Apes can be deceptive p. Do Animals have Language? i. Honeybees – waggle dance ii. Washoe (a chimp) was taught sign language (181 signs) even put signs together in novel ways. (see video) iii. Others as well (. Koko, Nim,) iv. Spontaneous signing v. Spontaneous learning q. Apes Don’t Have Language? i. Not easy for apes ii. Maybe just making gestures for rewards? iii. Lack syntax.

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