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language1_08 - 1 Language I 2 3 Why is Language Important 4...

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1 1 Language I October 23, 2008 2 3 Why is Language Important? • Represents unique form of abstraction in human species • Language influences perception and memory • Relevant to the form and manner of information storage • Relevance to thinking and problem-solving is unquestioned • Chief means of human communication 4 Key Terminology Phonology : (the way sounds function in the language) basic unit = phoneme single speech sound English has about 45; 9 make up half our words dimensions: voiced (“a”); unvoiced (“s”); fricatives (“sh”), plosives (“t”); place of articulation (palate v. lips) Morphology : (study of the internal structure of words) basic unit = morpheme smallest unit of meaning (words, parts of words, etc.) free (e.g., “old”, “the”) vs. bound (e.g., “er”, “ist”) over 100,000 words formed by morpheme combinations Semantics : (study of meaning) denotation vs. connotation words as economic labels; link between language and concepts Syntax : (study of rules that govern combination of morphemes in phrases and sentences; interdependency) prescriptive vs. descriptive grammar “Daddy, what did you bring that book that I don’t want to be read to out of up for”? 5 Linguistic Relativity • Whorf (1956) Language determines or influences thinking • Miller and McNeill (1969) Strong hypothesis Language determines thinking Weak hypothesis Language influences perception Weakest hypothesis Language influences memory 6 Evidence • Regional/cultural differences in language Hanuxoo have 92 different names for various types of rice Could be that language evolution enables fine distinctions among types of rice Could be that different environmental conditions influence the things people think about • Colour categorisation Heider (1972) – color categories are universal – Dani (2 colors) v. American errors similar Failures to replicate (Roberson, Davies, and Davidoff, 2000) 7 Influence of language (English vs. Berinmo) on choice of similar pairs of stimuli by English and Berinmo participants. Data from Roberson et al. (2000).
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2 8 Evaluation • Harley (2001, p. 87) – “There is now a considerable amount of evidence suggesting that linguistic factors can affect cognitive processes. Even colour perception and memory . . . show some influence of language.” • The evidence supports the weak and the weakest versions 9 Language Comprehension 10 Speech Perception • Input rapid ( 10 phonemes/sec) • “Non-invariance” - speech sounds affected by sounds which proceed and follow; also different voices • Segmentation problem - how to separate sounds in a continuous flow • Use of prosody • Definite left-hemisphere advantage 11 12 Auditory Word Recognition: Basic Processes Auditory Word Recognition: Basic Processes • Bottom-up: processing of individual phonemic features • Top-down: conceptual processing – phonemic restoration effect: probably affects response bias, not sensitivity
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