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ComD notes - Chapter 1 The Origins of Language 1 Theories...

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Chapter 1: The Origins of Language 1. Theories regarding human language a. Divine Source b. Natural Sound Source c. Physical adaptation source d. Genetic source 2. Divine Source a. Biblical tradition: whatever adam called everything, that’s what is name became b. Hindu tradition: sarasvati (wife of Brahma) creator of the universe c. Occurs in most religions d. If human infants were allowed to grow up without hearing any language around them, then they would spontaneously begin using the original God-given language e. Experiments i. Psammetichus – Egyptian pharaoh ii. 2 newborn babies spontaneously uttered: Bekos ….the Phrygian word for “bread” iii. King James IV iv. Similar experiment: Hebrew f. However, most children that are isolated from language at a very young age grow up with no language at all 3. Natural Sound Source a. Idea that primitive words were imitations of natural sounds
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b. Onomatopoeic i. Words whose pronunciations echo naturally occurring sounds ii. Bam, Zap, slurp, etc. c. Problematic because onomatopoeic words are rare and can’t explain soundless, abstract concepts d. Problematic also because spoken language is produced in exhalation e. “Yo-he-ho” Theory i. First words were grunts and groans made during coordinated physical labor ii. Suggests that human language was developed in some kind of social context iii. Problematic because apes and other primates have grunts and calls, are very social; but they have not developed the capacity for speech 4. Physical adaptation source a. More modern/scientific approach b. Examines biological basis of the formation and development of human language c. Describes physical characteristics that make language an efficient form of communication for humans d. Asks how rather than why 5. Glossogenetics a. Some of the relevant features for speech production are: i. Upright teeth ii. Muscular structure of lips iii. Small mouth
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iv. Tongue v. Larynx: voice box vi. Pharynx: Longer cavity above the larynx that acts as a resonator in speech production vii.Lateralized brain 1. Specialized function in each of the two hemispheres 2. Possible evolutionary connection between the language-using and tool-abilities of humans 6. Genetic source a. Innateness hypothesis i. Human offspring are born with a special capacity for language b. Our speculations move towards a language gene Chapter 2: Animals and human language 1. Do animals really “understand” human words? OR Do animals produce a particular behavior in response to a stimulus 2. Are vocalizations the same as speech? 3. Communicative signals a. Intentionally used to provide information 4. Informative signals a. Behaviors that provide information unintentionally 5. So when we talk about human vs. animal language, we must look at both in terms of their potential as a means of intentional communication 6. Properties of Human language a. Displacement
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i. We can refer to past and future events
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This note was uploaded on 08/30/2009 for the course COMD 2050 taught by Professor Collins during the Spring '08 term at LSU.

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ComD notes - Chapter 1 The Origins of Language 1 Theories...

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