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Unformatted text preview: Ling 21: LANGUAGE & THE BRAIN Neurolinguistics: The study of how language is represented and processed in the brain THE HUMAN BRAIN The brain is composed of neurons, nerve cells that are the basic information processing units of the nervous system. The cerebral cortex is the gray wrinkled mass that sits over the rest of the brain and accounts for language representation and processing. The longitudinal fissure separates the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The corpus callosum is the bundle of nerve In terms of muscle movement, each hemisphere is responsible for half of the body contralateral responsibilities. Right hemisphere -> left side of body Left hemisphere -> right side of the body In terms of higher cognitive functions, the hemispheres are lateralized Left hemisphere -> analytic tasks Math, Language Right hemisphere -> recognition of complex patterns Faces, Melodies FUNCTIONS of the BRAIN HEMISPHERES LATERALIZATION Specialization of brain functions in either left or right hemisphere of the brain Said to occur around puberty More pronounced with right-handed people than left-handed people RH people exhibit language difficulties with damage to the right hemisphere LH people show language representation in both hemispheres Said to contribute to differences between children and adults with respect to second language learning INVESTIGATING THE BRAIN Autopsy studies Broca's area: lower rear of left frontal lobe Images of the living brain Computerized axial tomography (CAT scan) Positron emission tomography (PET) Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) Learning from hemispheric connections and disconnections Dichotic listening studies show that we process language better through right ear Split brain studies `key' experiment APHASIA
A language deficit caused by damage to the brain, often be a stroke or an accident Nonfluent (motor) aphasia front of left cortex results in either slow effortful speech or complete speechlessness Broca's aphasia Speech is very halting Function words are omitted (it, is, to, a, etc.) Pronunciation is simplified (spoon > poon, etc.) Inflectional endings are omitted (running > run, etc.) Broca' aphasics are aware of their language deficit APHASIA Fluent (sensory) aphasia rear of left cortex No difficulty producing language Great difficulty selecting, organizing and monitoring language Wernicke's aphasia Generally unaware of their deficit Patient rarely makes any sense YouTube - Wernicke's and Broca's Aphasia LANGUAGE as FORM & CONTENT Non-fluent aphasia Form is compromised but the content of language remains relatively intact. Fluent aphasia Characterized by a rapid flow of form with little content. Working with aphasics Exercise: O'Grady, p. 534-535, questions 1, 2, 4, & 7. VISUAL LANGUAGE Deafness is not a language impairment. Language vs. speech Language = an abstract cognitive system Speech = an action using the vocalauditory mode Deafness requires a language in a different (i.e., non-vocal) mode SIGNED LANGUAGES vs. PANTOMIME Pantomime = iconic Signed languages = abstract Three levels of iconicity for signs Transparent: Understood by untrained observers eat, food Translucent: Easy to recognize when they are explained wonder (OSU LF, p. 405) Opaque: Have no recognizable relationship to their referent onion (OSU LF, p. 405) SIGNED LANGUAGE vs. MANUAL CODES Manual code: An artificially contrived system for representing a natural language (e.g., Manually Coded English) Has no syntax or structure of its own Created by hearing people for the deaf Signed language: a natural language not based on the spoken language used around it Has a distinct structure and syntax Is created by deaf people ASL vs. SIGNED ENGLISH American Sign Language Signed English (Manually Coded English) AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE Used by the deaf in the U.S. and Canada Dates to 1815 Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet Influenced by French Sign Language (SLF) Deaf signs in use at the time Written and spoken English Not mutually intelligible with British, Chinese, or Russian Sign Language DICTIONARY OF ASL Sign structure consists of 3 formational elements (Parameters) The shape of the hand used in the sign (which
fingers are used, whether fingers are extended or bent, the general configuration of the hand; E.G., `apple' vs. `candy') The place of articulation of the sign in space or on the signer's body (temple, ear, chest, e.g.,
`apple' vs. `onion') The particular movement associated with the sign (repeated circular motion, slow elliptical motion,
e.g., `think' vs. `wonder') PHONEMES, CHEREMES Alone they are meaningless (like letters) Together they form different words when combined in different ways (like tan & pan) If I make the same movement at the same point of articulation, but change the hand shape, the sign has a different meaning (apple & candy, p. 405) If I make the same movement with the same handshape at a different point of articulation, the sign has a different meaning (apple & onion, p. 405) Think and wonder have the same handshape and point of articulation, but differ in movement (p. 405). PROSODY
In spoken languages, intonation affects sentence meaning. Rising intonation often indicates a yes-no question. John fed the cat. John fed the cat? In signed languages, facial expressions have the same function. A yes-no question is accompanied by a raised brow. PRONOUNS
The signer first signs the person or object being discussed, then points or gazes to a point in space in front of his or her body. When the signer wants to refer again in the conversation to the person or object, the signer points to that location. This is the equivalent of the spoken he/she/it, him/her/it, etc. STRESS & COMPOUNDING In spoken English, the stress pattern of a compound word distinguishes it from a mere combination of its components. BLACK BIRD vs. BLACKbird In ASL, the equivalent to vocal stress is duration; the second element is a compound is always stressed fir first is signed quicker. BLUE SPOT vs. blueSPOT ASL SOCIOLINGUISTICS Dialect differences exist, due to geographic isolation `accents' as well as vocabulary differences Borrowing from English exists, due to Bilingualism Large specialized vocabulary of English Linguistic oppression against the deaf Struggle between pro-English & pro-ASL factions among the deaf SL NEUROLINGUISTICS
Deaf people who suffer damage to the left hemisphere of their brains will, like hearing people, suffer from aphasia- they may have slow awkward signing (Broca's aphasia) or may produce `sign salad' (Wernicke's aphasia) Damage to the right hemisphere frequently results in the loss of some spatial functioning. Patients asked to draw a clock, for example, may draw only a semicircle, neglecting the left side. Deaf people who suffer damage to the right hemisphere of their brains will not lose their ability to sign. Conclusion: Sign language is controlled by the same regions of the brain that control spoken language, not by the visuo-spatial centers. American Sign Language ...
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