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03-13 Language-1 - Language"Language shapes the way we...

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1 Language "Language shapes the way we think and determines what we can think about." – Benjamin Lee Whorf Language • A language is a system of symbols, sounds, meanings, and rules of combination that allows for communication among humans Language is symbolic , semantic , generative , and structured Language Structure of Language • Theories of Language Acquisition • Language in the Human Brain • Language in Nonhumans?
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2 Structure of Language The structure of language is hierarchical Phonemes Phonemes are the smallest speech units and are distinct sounds barb2right the stimulus of speech • Phonemes Syllables • Phonemes Letters /s/ = s ink /š/ = sh oe /z/ = z inc /ž/ = treas ure The human vocal apparatus is capable of producing ~100 distinct phonemes Most languages use 20-80 phonemes English = 40 phonemes The Human Vocal Tract Phonemes are produced by forcing air from the lungs through the mouth Varying movements of the vocal apparatus (lips, mouth, tongue, vocal cords) result in the production of different phonemes Example: Voicing Adding voice changes phoneme /s/ = nonvoiced; /z/ = voiced
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3 The Segmentation Problem We perceive clear boundaries between words However, there are often no breaks in the physical signal, or the breaks in the signal do not correspond to the breaks we perceive
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