lesson23 - 23 Born to Talk Key Terms and Concepts Instinct...

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23 Born to Talk Key Terms and Concepts Instinct Learning Biased learning Phonetic contrasts Babbling Voice onset time Phoneme Sensitive period Open-ended learners As before, we will begin with development. Although language obviously requires a great deal of learning before we become proficient speakers and listeners, I will argue that this learning builds on a base provided by instinct. In this regard we are certainly not unique. In fact, we can and have learned a great deal about human language development by studies of song learning in birds. So, a side theme of this lesson is to investigate some of the processes involved in song development in birds. Instinct and Learning Psychologists have had a longstanding interest in learning. But psychologists have occasionally dabbled in instinct, which many have portrayed as the opposite of learning. Although there are certainly big differences between instinct and learning, they can and do occur together. This is especially obvious when it comes to communication processes. Before doing so, we need to take a step back and talk about what is meant by these two terms. Lesson 23 257
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Instinct All behavior, like all other aspects of the phenotype, has a developmental history. Some behavioral processes develop without the necessity of specific individual experience with some aspect of the environment. These processes are referred to as being instinctive. Examples of instinctive behavior are all around, including the crying that newborn babies demonstrate within moments after being born. Crickets chirp perfectly even though they hatched from eggs and grew to adulthood in isolation from other crickets and their chirping sounds. Newly hatched birds stretch their necks upward and emit begging sounds when their nest is jarred a little, as it is when their parent lands, probably with a beakful of food to stick into a hungry mouth. Frogs croak in their species-specific way without ever having to hear croaking, and some birds, such as the eastern phoebe, begin singing when they become adults at about a year of age, without having to hear eastern phoebe song or even without hearing at all. Instinctive communication develops not only in insects, frogs, and some birds, but in most mammals and even in primates. Squirrel monkeys from the rainforests of Central and South America utter their high-pitched sounds in normal fashion and in normal circumstances even when raised in isolation or if deaf. I would like you to pay particular attention to the phrase “specific, individual experience. “Experience” is an all-encompassing term. When you eat you are experiencing your environment. The same is true when you breathe, step in the shower, listen to music, or hear someone talking. Some forms of experience are extremely general in their effects. We don’t develop anything without eating and breathing! So although these are experiences, they are not at all specific to a person acquiring language or to a bird singing. But no one has developed
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This note was uploaded on 05/27/2010 for the course BIOS 373 B02 taught by Professor Dr.danielleger during the Spring '10 term at UNL.

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lesson23 - 23 Born to Talk Key Terms and Concepts Instinct...

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