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MODULE 29 PREVIEW

Languagefacilitatesandexpressesourthoughts.Spokenlanguageisbuiltofphonemes,morphemes,
words,andthesemanticsandsyntaxthatmakeupgrammar.Theeasewithwhichchildrenmaster
languagehassparkedalivelydebateoverwhetherchildrenacquirelanguagethroughassociationand
imitationorarebiologicallypreparedtolearnwordsandusegrammar.
Thinkingandlanguagearedifficulttoseparate.Althoughthelinguisticrelativityhypothesisstates
thatlanguagedeterminesthought,weknowthatthinkingcanoccurwithoutlanguage,andsowemight
bettersaythatthinkingaffectsourlanguage,whichthenaffectsourthoughts.
Anotherdebateconcernswhetherlanguageisuniquelyhuman;ithasbeenfueledbystudiesof
animals,particularlychimpanzees,whohavedevelopedconsiderablevocabulariesandwhocanstring
wordstogethertoexpressmeaning.Althoughapeshaveconsiderablecognitiveability,skepticspointout
importantdifferencesbetweenapesandhumansabilitiestoorderwordsusingpropersyntax.

GENERAL INSTRUCTIONAL OBJECTIVES

1. Todescribelanguagestructureanddevelopment.
2. Todiscusstherelationshipbetweenthoughtandlanguage.
3. Tointroducetheresearchonanimalthinkingandlanguage.

MODULE GUIDE

Language Structure

1. Describe the structure of language in terms of sounds, meanings, and grammar.


Spokenlanguage isbuiltofbasicspeechsounds,calledphonemes;elementaryunitsofmeaning,
calledmorphemes;andwords.Finally,languagemusthaveagrammar,asystemofrulesthat
enablesustospeakandunderstand.Semantics referstotherulesweusetoderivemeaningfromthe
morphemes,andsyntax referstotherulesweusetoorderwordsintosentences.
Lecture:UniversalsofLanguage
Project:LexicalDecision
Videos:Unlocking Language; Language; Modules25and28ofThe MindSeries,2nded.

Language Development
2. Trace the course of language acquisition from the babbling stage through the two-
word stage.
Childrenslanguagedevelopmentmirrorslanguagestructurebymovingfromsimplicitytocomplexity.
Beginningat4monthsinfantsenterababbling stage inwhichtheyspontaneouslyuttervarious
soundsatfirstunrelatedtothehouseholdlanguage.Byaboutage10months,atrainedearcanidentify
thelanguageofthehouseholdbylisteningtoaninfantsbabbling.Aroundthefirstbirthday,most
childrenentertheone-word stage,andbytheirsecondbirthday,theyareutteringtwoword
sentences.This two-word stage exemplifiestelegraphic speech.Thissoonleadstotheiruttering
longerphrases(thereseemstobenothreewordstage),andbyearlyelementaryschoolthey
understandcomplexsentences.
3. Explain how the nature-nurture debate is illustrated in the various theories of
language
development.
Thedebatebetweenthebehavioristviewofthemalleableorganismandtheviewthateachorganism
comesbiologicallypreparedtolearncertainassociationsurfacesagainintheoriesoflanguage
development.
BehavioristB.F.Skinnerarguedthatwelearnlanguagebythefamiliarprinciplesofassociation,
imitation,andreinforcement.Challengingthisclaim,NoamChomskynotesthatchildrenare
biologicallypreparedtolearnwordsandusegrammar.Cognitiveneuroscientistssuggestthatthe
learningthatoccursduringlifesfirstfewyearsiscriticalforthemasteryofgrammar.Nonetheless,
Chomskysviewthatourbrainconstrainshowwelearnlanguageandthatitmaycomeprewiredtolook
forgrammaticalrulesseemstosurviverecentchallenges.
Lectures:LanguageDevelopment;TheSmartTalkSyndrome
Film/Videos:Modules23and24ofThe MindSeries,2nded.;Segments18and21oftheScientificAmericanFrontiers
Series,2nded.,Secret of the Wild Child; Noam ChomskyLanguage and Mind; Language Development;
Discovering Psychology; Language Development; Out of the Mouths of Babes
Transparencies:123SummaryofLanguageDevelopment;124TheNatureandNurtureofLanguageDevelopment

Thinking and Language


4. Discuss Whorfs linguistic relativity hypothesis and the relationship between
thought and language.
Languageexpressesourthoughtsanddifferentlanguagescanembodydifferentwaysofthinking.
AlthoughWhorfslinguistic relativity hypothesissuggeststhatlanguagedeterminesthought,itis
moreaccuratetosaythatlanguageinfluencesthought.Studiesoftheeffectsofthegenericpronounhe
andtheabilityofvocabularyenrichmenttoenhancethinkingrevealtheinfluenceofwords.Someideas,
suchastheabilitytoperceiveandrememberdifferentcolors,donotdependonlanguage.Wesometimes
thinkinimagesratherthaninwords,andweinventnewwordstodescribenewideas.Wemightsaythat
ourthinkinginfluencesourlanguage,whichthenaffectsourthoughts.
Lecture:TheImpactofLanguageonThought
Exercises:Doublespeak;MentalImagery;CreatingaMentalModel
Projects:CognitiveMaps;ShepardsMentalRotationExperiment

Animal Thinking and Language

5. Describe the research on animal intelligence and communication and discuss the
controversy over whether animals have language.
Animalsobviouslycommunicate.Beescommunicatethelocationoffoodthroughanintricatedance.
Evidenceaccumulatesthatprimatesatsomelevelcount,displayinsight,createtools,andtransmit
culturalinnovations.Andseveralteamsofpsychologistshavetaughtvariousspeciesofapes,includinga
numberofchimpanzees,tocommunicatewithhumansbysigningorbypushingbuttonswiredtoa
computer.Apeshavedevelopedconsiderablevocabularies.Theystringwordstogethertoexpress
meaningandtomakeandfollowrequests.Skepticspointoutimportantdifferencesbetweenapesand
humansfacilitieswithlanguage,especiallyintheirrespectiveabilitiestoorderwordsusingproper
syntax.Nevertheless,studiesrevealthatapeshaveconsiderablecognitiveability.
Lecture:KanziandMulika,RemarkablePygmyChimps
Film/Videos:AnimalEinsteinsHowSmartAreThey?;Module27ofThe Mind Series,2nded.;Animals: How Smart
Are They?;Segments19and20oftheScientificAmerican FrontiersSeries,2nded.; Ape LanguageFrom
Conditioned Response to Symbol; Talk to the Animals