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Language and its Development

Language and its Development

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Language and its Development

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  1. Language and its Development

  2. Language • What defines language? What properties does language have? • How does language allow for communicative power? • Why does language exist? What does it gain us? • When does language develop?

  3. Properties of Language • Symbolic Cat = Thor = • Arbitrary • Productive • Discrete • Language is based on discrete units; each unit is unique

  4. Properties of Language /bog/ /pog/

  5. Properties of Language

  6. Properties of Language • Symbolic Cat = Thor = • Arbitrary • Discrete • Language is based on discrete units; each unit is unique • Productive

  7. Properties of Language- Productivity • We can say sentences we’ve never heard before • “I hate you, Mommy!” • We have a limited set of words and structures that can be recombined. • Generativity: • “He said that she told them that he thought that we heard that they reported that…”

  8. Ambiguity in Speech

  9. Resolving Ambiguity Social agreement, context, intention Grice (1975): Maxims of Conversation  • Quality: Tell the truth! (Avoid falsehoods *and* statements for which you have no evidence) • Quantity: Include what is necessary to express information, and nothing extraneous. • Utterances will be related to the topic at hand • Manner: Avoid ambiguity, use common ground (Clark)

  10. Ambiguity in Speech • Humor: • Last night I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. What he was doing in my pyjamas, I’ll never know”- Groucho Marx • Garden Path Sentences • The horse raced past the barn fell. • The prime number few.

  11. Properties of Language • Is language unique to humans? Or does animal communication meet these criteria? • Symbolic? • call systems used by animals only in presence of predators; NO • Arbitrary? • For some animals, YES; others, NO • Discrete • NO • Productive • Productivity dependent upon discreteness; NO

  12. Language and Thought • What does language allow us in terms of our ability to think? • Whorfian hypothesis • Eskimos and “snow” • Interlanguage differences • Colors • Spatial position/direction • Grammatical gender

  13. The Innateness of Language • Behaviorism: Language is learned like everything else • We say something, we receive feedback, which encourages us to say it again • BUT: We can say things we’ve never heard; we can produce new structures. • Chomsky: Language is innate to humans • Language Acquisition Device (LAD) • Universal Grammar • Poverty of the Stimulus

  14. The Nature of Feedback (Poverty of the Stimulus) • Children get little or no direct instruction. • Children get little feedback and don’t listen to what they get -- so why do they ever correct their errors? • Children hear many ungrammatical structures not identified as such -- how do they come to learn these are wrong? • In some cultures adults don’t speak to children. • Children will make up a language if they are not given one -- deaf children of hearing parents.

  15. Feedback Child: Nobody don’t like me. Mother: No, say “Nobody likes me.” Child: Nobody don’t like me. Mother: No, say “Nobody likes me.” Child: Nobody don’t like me. [dialogue repeated eight times] Mother: Now listen carefully, say “Nobody likes me.” Child: Oh! Nobody don’t likeS me.

  16. The Nature of Feedback (Poverty of the Stimulus) • Children get little or no direct instruction. • Children get little feedback and don’t listen to what they get -- so why do they ever correct their errors? • Children hear many ungrammatical structures not identified as such -- how do they come to learn these are wrong? • In some cultures adults don’t speak to children. • Children will make up a language if they are not given one -- deaf children of hearing parents.

  17. The Language Gene • SLI: Specific Language Impairment: Language is impaired without signs of impairment in other areas (motor, cognitive, etc.) • The FOXP2 gene • Members of the KE family with a corruption of this gene had SLI; the others didn’t. • The Language Gene?

  18. The Language Gene

  19. The Language Gene • Is it really specific to humans? • NO • Is language the only area affected by the gene? • NO • FOXP2 affects rapid-motor sequencing (which is imperative for language), but not language itself.

  20. Statistical Word Learning • Saffran, Aslin, and Newport (1996) • 8-month-olds presented with a series of syllables (2 mins) • Bidakupadotigolabubidaku • Transitional probabilities • Within-word: 1.0 (bida) • Between-word: 0.33 (kupa) • Then, they play repetitions of the “words” and “nonwords” • If babies have learned the words, they should prefer the nonwords. • And they do!

  21. Language Development • In utero: • Can distinguish between vowels (/a/ vs. /o/) • Infants: • Can distinguish phonologically similar sounds at 2 months (they lose this ability by 8-12 months) • Can pick up on cues to word segmentation • Can distinguish their native language from other languages

  22. Language Development • How do we tell what babies know? • Preferential looking • Sucking • Heart rate

  23. Language Development • Babies prefer looking at/hearing new things • When something is interesting: • Heart rate slows • Sucking rate slows

  24. Child Language Development • How do children get from being completely non-verbal to being expert speakers? • Can distinguish between vowel sounds (/a/ vs. /o/)- in utero • Can distinguish between all contrasts- from birth • Categorical perception of speech sounds (8-12 months) • Babbling: 6 months • One word stage: ~1 year • Two word stage: ~2 years (vocab is about 50 words) • Multiword utterances; gradually increase in complexity

  25. Verb Learning • Two types of past tense verbs: • Regular: talked, liked, hated • Irregular: ate, went, was • U-shaped curve of language learning • Early: correct usage • Middle: overgeneralization • Late: correct usage

  26. The Critical Period • If language learning doesn’t occur before a certain time, language will be impaired • Johnson & Newport (1989) • Age of Acquisition affects ability to learn second language • Genie • Pinker (NR) • Nicaraguan sign language • Deaf children