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language1_08 - LanguageI October23,2008 humanspecies...

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Language I October 23, 2008
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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
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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 – e.g., “heart” 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”?
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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
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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)
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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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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
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Language Comprehension
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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
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