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05.17_Language1 - What is language Language I Language in...

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© S. J. Luck All rights reserved 1 © S. J. Luck All Rights Reserved Language I • What is language? – Language in animals – Sign language • The elements of language • Language acquisition – Nature versus nurture • Brain systems underlying language • Understanding the nature of language requires a comparative approach • Studying a single language does not tell us: – What properties are unique to that language – What properties are common across languages – What is the range of possibilities for language • Therefore, much language research examines: – Languages that are very different from each other – Rare and unusual languages – Language development – Animal language • Language in animals • The incredibly fast and coordinated movements required for speech • American Sign Language 1) Language is communicative – We can provide information about the environment and our internal states to others – Animals: Vervet monkeys have distinct calls for different situations that lead to distinct responses in other monkeys • Snake, Leopard, Eagle 2) Language uses arbitrary symbols – Symbols (e.g., words) stand for concepts – The symbols are, in principle , arbitrary Arbitrary symbols may develop from non-arbitrary beginnings Example: Onomatopoeia in English (“buzz,” “hiss”) • What about American Sign Language (ASL)?
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