Chapter 9 Cognition

Chapter 9 Cognition - C hapter 9 Language The Structu re of...

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Chapter 9 – Language The Structure of Language Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) credited with founding the first laboratory in psychology and also the psychology of language. One of his most interesting discussions concerns the relationship between experience and the words used to describe experience. Our attention is like a spotlight that highlights some aspects of a situation, but leaves others in the background. Wundt uses tree diagrams to describe the relationships between different parts of our overall experience of a situation. E.g. listening to music: your experience contains relationships between parts that you can put into words and could be diagrammed. The music can be described as the subject of a sentence, and its loudness as the predicate of a sentence, as in ‘The music is loud.’ The listener can reconstruct the speaker’s experience by reversing the process whereby the speaker generated the sentence. Transformational Grammar Chomsky is one of the most important figures in the history of linguistics. He has been ‘among the ten most-cited writers in all of the humanities and the only living member of the top ten’. A condensed version of his doctoral dissertation was published as Syntactic structures (1957) which considers the way in which we produce sentences. A sentence is a grammatical utterance, and is recognized as such by a native speaker of the language. He points out that the set of possible sentences in a language is infinite. Our language is open-ended verbal communication and consists of all possible sentences, but our speech , which consists of those sentences that are actually spoken, is only a small subset of language. From a finite set of rules, the grammar (set of rules that everyone uses to generate sentences in his or her language) is in principle able to generate an infinite set of sentences. Grammatical utterance need not be meaningful utterance. E.g., ‘Colourless green ideas sleep furiously’. although meaningless, the collection of words is still grammatical. Chomsky makes a sharp distinction between grammar and semantics, the study of meaning. The processes that made a sentence grammatical were different from the processes that made a sentence meaningful. The process of speech proceeds from one level at which a number of relationships are simultaneously present, to another level at which these relationships are serially ordered as a succession of words in a
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He rejected the possibility that a finite state grammar is the sort of grammar that could generate all the sentences in a language. For the purposes of the present discussion, a critical feature of a finite state grammar is that every word in a sentence is produced in a sequence starting with a first word and ending with the last word. This grammar generates sentences such as
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Chapter 9 Cognition - C hapter 9 Language The Structu re of...

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