PSY 369: Psycholinguistics Foundations of Language: Language and the brain Language and thought
Announcements • Exam 1: Tuesday, Feb. 7th • Coverage • Chapters 1, 2, & 3 • Format • Multiple choice • Definition matching • Short answer
Localization of function • Josef Gall’s phrenology • Mental functions (e.g., intellect, morals, etc.) are supported by specific regions of the brain • You can feel the skull to assess people’s mental abilities
Localization of function • Modern Neuropsychology • Psychological functions are localized in particular regions of the brain
Localization of function • Modern Neuropsychology • Psychological functions are localized in particular regions of the brain • 4 critical questions (Pulvermüller, 2010) • Where: which brain parts, areas, and eventually neurons are active during, and are critical for, process P and representations(s) R that P relies on? • When: at which point in time in the usage or understanding of language does process P occur; when is representation R activated and processed? • How: which neuronal circuit, which nerve cells linked in which way, is the brain basis for representation R; which spatiotemporal pattern of neuronal activation in this circuit does underpin the process P? • Why: for what reason are R and P located in these specific brain parts and activated at these specific points in time, and why is R laid down in this specific neuronal circuit, P being expressed by these specific activation patterns? Today’s focus
Location of ‘Language Organ’ • Ancient Egyptians & Greeks reported speech loss after blow to head (brain damage) 3000 years ago • Paul Broca (1861) found that damage to left inferior frontal region (Broca’s area) of a language impaired patient (Tan), in postmortem analysis • Carl Wernicke (1876) Found that damage to posterior part of the temporal lobe caused a different kind of language problems. • Evidence for the localization of language facilities comes from: • Patients with language disorders • “Split Brain patients” • Direct Electrical Stimulation • Modern Imaging Techniques
Left-hemisphere Sequential analysis Analytical Problem solving Language primarily located in the left hemisphere (97% of right handers, 81% lefties) Right-hemisphere Simultaneous analysis Synthetic Visual-Spatial skills Cognitive maps Personal space Facial recognition Drawing Emotional functions Recognizing emotions Expressing emotions Music Lateralization of functions • Human body is asymmetrical: heart, liver, use of limbs, etc. • Functions of the brain become lateralized • Each hemisphere specialized for particular ways of working
Location of ‘Language Organ’ • Broca’s (cortical motor) - slow, effortful halting speech, lacking grammatical words • Wernicke’s (cortical sensory) - fluent prosodic speech with little or no real content • Conduction- fluent speech with good comprehension but impaired repetition and many phonological errors; subcortical pathway between Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas disrupted • Global- broad language impairment across all facets of language; associated with broad lessions • Anomic-word finding difficulties; lesions often localized between temporal and parietal lobes • Others: Transcortical motor, Transcortical sensory, Mixed transcortical • Evidence for the localization of language facilities comes from: • Patients with language disorders • Dysarthria– a motor speech disorder characterized by poor articulation • Apraxia of Speech – a motor disorder affecting an individual’s ability to translate conscious speech plans into motor plans • Agraphia (dysgraphia) - Impairment in writing • Alexia- disturbances in reading • Aphasia - is an acquired language disorder in which there is an impairment of any language modality
Broca’s (cortical motor) - slow, effortful halting speech, lacking grammatical words • Most also lost the ability to name persons or subjects (anomia) • Can utter automatic speech (“hello”) • Comprehension relatively intact • Most also have partial paralysis of one side of the body (hemiplegia) • If extensive, not much recovery over time • Me … build-ing … chairs, no, no cab-in-nets. One, saw … then, cutting wood … working … • Cookie jar … fall over … chair … water … empty … ov … ov … (Examiner: “overflow”] Yeah.
Wernicke’s (cortical sensory) - fluent prosodic speech with little or no real content • Fluent but “empty” speech • But contains many paraphasias • “girl”-“curl”, “bread”-“cake” • Grammatical inflections • Normal prosody • Syntactical but empty sentences • Cannot repeat words or sentences • Unable to understand what they read or hear • Usually no partial paralysis • [Examiner: “What kind of work have you done?”] We, the kids, all of us, and I, we were working for a long time in the … you know … it’s the kind of space, I mean place rear to the spedwan … [Examiner: “Excuse me, but I wanted to know what work you have been doing”] If you had said that, we had said that, poomer, near the fortunate, forpunate, tampoo, all around the fourth of martz. Oh, I get all confused. • Well, this is … mother is away here working, out o’here to get her better, but when she’s working, the two boys looking in the other part. One their small tile into her time here. She’s working another time because she’s getting, too.
Conduction - fluent speech with good comprehension but impaired repetition and many phonological errors; subcortical pathway between Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas disrupted • Intact auditory comprehension • Fluent (yet paraphasic) speech production • Poor speech repetition Arcuate Fasciculus* *but see Bernal & Ardila (2009)
Location of ‘Language Organ’ • Epileptic activity spread from one hemisphere to the other thru corpus callosum • Since 1930, such epileptic treated by severing the interhemispheric pathways. • Left hemisphere could read and verbally communicate • Right hemisphere had small linguistic capacity: recognize single words • Vocabulary and grammar capabilities of right is far less than left • Only the processes taking place in the left hemisphere could be described verbally • Evidence for the localization of language facilities comes from: • Patients with language disorders • “Split-brain” patients Language Dominant Side Broca’s Area Motor Cortex Motor Cortex Can point to and identify the cat
Location of ‘Language Organ’ • Epileptic activity spread from one hemisphere to the other thru corpus callosum • Since 1930, such epileptic treated by severing the interhemispheric pathways. • Left hemisphere could read and verbally communicate • Right hemisphere had small linguistic capacity: recognize single words • Vocabulary and grammar capabilities of right is far less than left • Only the processes taking place in the left hemisphere could be described verbally • Evidence for the localization of language facilities comes from: • Patients with language disorders • “Split-brain” patients Language Dominant Side Broca’s Area Motor Cortex Motor Cortex The left hand can point to it, but you can’t describe it!
Location of ‘Language Organ’ • Penfield and Roberts (1959): During epilepsy surgery under local anesthesia to locate cortical language areas, stimulation of: • Large anterior zone: • stops speech • Both anterior and posterior temporoparietal cortex: • misnaming, impaired imitation of words • Broca’s area: • unable comprehend auditory and visual semantic material, • inability to follow oral commands, point to objects, and understand written questions • Ojemann et al. (1989, 2004) • Stimulation of the brain of an English-Spanish bilingual shows different areas for each language • Stimulation of inferior premotor frontal cortex: • Arrests speech, impairs all facial movements • Stimulation of areas in inferior, frontal, temporal, parietal cortex: • Impairs sequential facial movements, phoneme identification • Evidence for the localization of language facilities comes from: • Patients with language disorders • “Split-brain” patients • Direct electrical stimulation
Location of ‘Language Organ’ • ERP (Event Related Potential) • Good temporal resolution • MEG (Magnetoencephalography) • Good spatial & temporal resolution • PET (Positron Emission Tomolgraphy) • Radioactive isotope, blood flow, lower resolution, can move around (some), relatively slow (lots of trials) • fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance) • Blood flow, fairly high resolution, poor temporal resolution (5-10 s after neuronal activity) • Evidence for the localization of language facilities comes from: • Patients with language disorders • “Split-brain” patients • Direct electrical stimulation • Modern imaging techniques hearing reading thinking and speaking speaking
Storing information about words • In ordinary dictionaries • an entry for each word • all the information pertaining to that word is given there • Phonological, graphic, grammatical, semantic • all together in one place • In the brain • The situation is entirely different • Each word is represented as a large network • Different kinds of information in different locations • So also each phrase that is learned as a unit T M C PP P V PA
Storing information about words • The compact entry (as in ordinary dictionaries) • All the information is there in one place – the lexical entry • Accessing the information • First, locate (activate) the information (requires searching) • Then “read” it Looking for the unitary meaning center: binding meanings and words Epstein (1999) Posner & DiGirolamo (1999) Pulvermüller (1999) Salmelin et al (1999) Skrandies (1999) Tranel & Damasio (1999) Scott & Jonsrude (2003) Hickok & Poeppel (2007) Hodges & Patterson (2007)
Language in the brain • Initial theories proposed very localized regions • More recent theories suggest much more complex, distributed systems • It is hard work, we are a long way to go to understand the neural circuitry. Given that, is it worth it? Yes • Knowledge of how words and grammar are represented in the brain provides • May be the key to understanding linguistic structure • It also sheds light on how the brain works in general
Lanuage and thought • How are language and thought related? • Are inner speech and thought the same thing? • How does language impact thought? • Are there things that we can’t think about because our language imposes particular constraints? • Does our language affect how we perceive the world? • Can two people who speak different languages communicate? • The question has been debated for a long time • And still is today • New York Times article (well it was ‘today’ back in 2008) • Scientific American (the full article is on BB in the optional readings section)
Some history • Plato & Socrates THINKING = INNER SPEECH Socrates: And do you accept my description of the process of thinking? Theaetetus: How do you describe it? Socrates: As a discourse that the mind carries on with itself about any subject it is considering. … I have a notion that, when the mind is thinking, it is simply talking to itself, asking questions and answering them. … So I should describe thinking as a discourse, … not aloud to someone else, but silently to oneself.
Some history Aristotle: SPEECH IS THE SYMBOL OF THOUGHT Spoken words are the symbols of mental experience and written words are the symbols of spoken words. Just as all men have not the same writing, so all men have not the same speech sounds; but the mental experiences, which these directly symbolize, are the same for all, as also are those things of which our experiences are the images.
Some history John B. Watson (1913, early behaviorist): … thought processes are really motor habits in the larynx, improvements, short cuts, changes, etc., in these habits are brought about in the same way that such changes are produced in other motor habits. This view carries with it the implication that there are no reflective processes (centrally initiated processes). But see Smith, Brown, Thomas, and Goodman (1947) – used curare to temporarily paralyze all voluntary muscles, but participant (first author Smith) reportedly could still think and solve problems
Some history Vygotsky (Russian developmental psychologist) • Language and thought have different origins • Pre-linguistic child thinks independently of language • Words are not symbols for thought, instead are properties of objects • Speech sounds are not thought • Language is acquired from the child’s social grouping • Later speech and thought become connected • Speech becomes representational • Children’s monologues are internalized and become “inner speech”
Some history • Franz Boas, father of American Anthropology • “grammatical meaning [can] only be understood in terms of the system of which it is part” • Edward Sapir, student of Boas • “the ‘real world’ is to a large extent unconsciously build up on the language habits of the group.” • Benjamin Lee Whorf, student of Sapir (and insurance claims adjustor)
Benjamin Lee Whorf “Every language is a vast pattern system, different from others, in which are culturally ordained the forms and categories by which the personality not only communicates, but also analyzes nature, notices or neglects types of relationships and phenomena, channels his reasoning, and builds the house of his consciousness.” “We cut up and organize the spread and flow of events as we do largely because, through our mother tongue, we are parties to an agreement to do so, not because nature itself is segmented in exactly that way for all to see.” “From this fact proceeds what I have called the ‘linguistic relativity principle,’ which means, in informal terms, that users of markedly different grammars are pointed by their grammars toward different types of observations … and hence are not equivalent as observers …”
Does language affect thought? • Sapir-Whorf hypothesis • Linguistic determinism • Language determines thought (memory, perception, & action) • Linguistic relativity • Different languages map onto the world differently, resulting in different cognitive structures • Whorf posited that cultural thinking differences were the direct result of differences in their languages • Speakers of different languages see the world in different, incompatible ways, because their languages impose different conceptual structures on their experiences. • Weak version(s) of the hypothesis: • Language influences thinking & how we perceive the world 8 min podcast, Pinker
The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis • What evidence led Whorf to this conclusion? • The bulk of his evidence was drawn from cross-cultural comparisons • He studied several Native American cultures. • But he also used examples drawn from his days as an insurance investigator
Does language affect thought? • Whorf’s famous example • “Empty gasoline drums” • “Yet the ‘empty’ drums are perhaps more dangerous (in comparison to the full drums), since they contain explosive vapor. …The word ‘empty’ is used in two linguistic patterns: • (1) as a virtual synonym for ‘null and void, negative, inert,’ • (2) applied in analysis of physical situations without regard to, e.g., vapor, liquid vestiges, in the container. • The situation is named in one pattern (2) and the name is then ‘acted out’ in another (1), this being the general formula for the linguistic conditioning of behavior into hazardous forms.” (Whorf, 1956, p. 135)
empty null and void, negative, inert drum no longer contains gasoline drum is no longer dangerous; okay to smoke cigarettes gasoline drum without gasoline worker smokes cigarettes Does language affect thought? • Whorf’s famous example • “Empty gasoline drums” Linguistic form Container no longer contains intended contents Linguistic meanings Mental interpretations Nonlinguistic observables
The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis • Qanuk ‘snowflake’ • Qanir ’to snow’ • Qanunge ‘to snow’ • Qanugglir ‘to snow’ • Kaneq ‘frost’ • Some of the evidence: • Whorf claimed Inuit have several terms for snow • Kaner ‘be frosty’ • Kanevvluk ‘fine snow’ • Natquik ‘drifting snow’ • Natquigte ‘for snow to drift along the ground’ • And more
The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis • However, there are many different Inuit languages and not all posses the same number of terms. • Boas (1911) reported one group with four root terms. • This number is probably matched or surpassed by skiers regardless of their language. • See Pullum’s Great Eskimo Hoax (1991) • Some of the evidence: • Whorf claimed Inuit have several terms for snow
The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis • Specialization based on experience • Different groups within a culture vary in terms of the number of words they use for things • Consider memory • Most people are aware of two kinds of memory, short term and long term. • As we discovered previously cognitive psychologists have many terms: Sensory registers, Iconic and echoic, short-term or working or primary memory, long-term, verbal and imagistic, declarative, procedural, and episodic. • It would be fair to say that the layman and the cognitive psychologist think differently about memory.
Testing the theory • Two major approaches have been employed to test the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. • Test the strong view – language determines thought by seeing if the cognitive system can make distinctions that are not linguistically represented • Test a weaker view – that language influences thought. • Domains in which this issue has been studied • Color terms • Counting and arithmetic • Time/space language (e.g., Lera Boroditsky’s) • Grammatical categories (e.g., John Lucy’s work, 1992) Today’s lecture
Cultural Variations • If your language didn’t have separate names for these, would you see them the same way?
Color Terms • Much of the initial research focused on an aspect of language which varies widely across cultures • Color Terms • There are a few languages which have only two color terms, and some with three. • Most languages draw their color names from 11 specific colors.
Color Terms • Brown & Lenneberg (1954): So do naming practices influence our ability to distinguish or remember colors? • If something in a culture is named frequently it may be labeled with a brief name, less frequently with a longer name, and infrequently with a phrase rather than a single word • The process of naming in this manner is known as codability. • Codability = how easily a concept can be described in a language, related to the length of the word. • Results: • Asked people to name 24 colors (8 central, 16 others). Those with longer names were named with hesitations and less consistency • Highly codable colors were remember more frequently than less codable ones colors disappear Point to the colors that you saw 120 colors see
Color Terms • Berlin and Kay (1969): Color hierarchy • Rules: Consist of only one morpheme, not contained within another color word, not restricted to a small number of objects, and commonly known • In 2 color term languages the terms correspond to Black & White • In 3 color term languages they correspond to Black, White& Red • Languages with additional terms items are added as follows: yellow,green,bluethen brown, then purple,pink,orange,and gray. • This data runs contrary to Whorf’s hypotheses • They suggest a universal physiological basis for color naming, independent of language
Color Terms • Hieder (1972) (Rosch, 1973 [same person]) • Dani tribe of New Guinea use only two color names • Mili – cool/dark shades (e.g., blue, green, black) • Mola – warm/light shades (e.g., red, yellow, white) • They had no difficulty in recognizing color chips that were from an initial presentation from among distracters even though they had no names for the colors. • Additionally, they were better at recognizing focal colors (e.g., the best example of blue) than non-focal colors (just as we English speakers are) • This data does not support the strong view of Whorf’s hypothesis. Check out: ISU’s Mind Project Virtual Anthropology Lab
Color Terms • Comparative judgments among colors are affected by color naming practices • Kay & Kempton, (1984) • Investigated English and Tarahumara • In Tarahumara there are no separate terms for blue and green • The task was see 3 chips pick the one least similar in color • Some trials had chips English speakers would call C1 green, C2 blue and C3 was a focal example of green but farther away in light spectrum from C1 than was the case for C1 vs. C2 G G G G G B B B B
Color Terms • Comparative judgments among colors are affected by color naming practices • Kay & Kempton, (1984) • Investigated English and Tarahumara • In Tarahumara there are no separate terms for blue and green • The task was see 3 chips pick the one least similar in color G G G • Predictions: • Visual stimuli as only basis pick C3 as odd • Naming practices influence pick C2 as odd • Results: • Tarahumara speakers pick C3 • English speakers tended to pick the chip they would label blue (C2) even though in the spectrum it was closer to C1 than was C3 • Support for a weak version of the Whorfian hypothesis G G B B B B
Color Terms • Winawer, Boroditsky and others (2007) • English and Russian divide up blues differently • Russian makes an obligatory distinction between lighter blues (”goluboy”) and darker blues (”siniy”). • Results • Russian speakers were faster to discriminate two colors when they fell into different linguistic categories (one siniy and the other goluboy) than when they were from the same linguistic category (both siniy or both goluboy). • English speakers tested on the identical stimuli did not show a category advantage in any of the conditions. • Support for a weak version of the Whorfian hypothesis, categories in language affect performance on simple perceptual color tasks
Color Terms • Siok, Kay and others (2009) • fMRI study • Results: • Lexical color information was accessed in color discrimination • It also enhanced the activation of color region V2/3 • Discussion: • “Language, by enhancing the activation level of the visual cortex, differentially influences the discrimination of colors presented in the left and right visual hemi-fields.” • Support for a weak version of the Whorfian hypothesis, categories in language affect brain activation during perceptual color tasks
Higher Cognitive Processes • Color naming may not seem like a very complex cognitive process: • What about more complex mental processes? • Counting and other Arithmetic processes
Counting & Arithmetic • Greenberg (1978) has identified some cultures where the only number terms correspond to one, two, many. • Piraha tribe; Gordon (2004) (Mike Frank video, start at 8:52 to 17:00) Hoi (falling tone = one), hoi (rising tone = two), badgaiso (= many) • Task – Matching, show an array of objects, they have to put objects down to match the array • Results - relatively good matching up to 2 or 3, but performance was considerably poorer beyond that up to 8 to 10 items • Conclusions – The lack of terms for numbers in the language greatly impacts the way they think about quantities, evidence supporting a strong view of determinism
Counting & Arithmetic • English and French have complex names for numbers • Japanese, Chinese and Korean have simpler systems Miller & Stigler (1987)
Counting & Arithmetic • The greater regularity of number names in Chinese, Japanese and Korean as compared to English or French facilitates the learning of counting behavior beyond 10 in those languages. • Another advantage is earlier mastery of ‘place value’ (understanding that in # 23 there are 2 tens and 3 ones) Miller & Stigler (1987)
Counting & Arithmetic Miller & Stigler (1987)
Conclusions • At this point it is apparent that the strong view of Whorf’s hypothesis is not supported. • Steven Pinker (The Language Instinct, 1994) • • “The famous Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of linguistic determinism … is wrong, all wrong. … There is no scientific evidence that languages dramatically shape their speakers’ ways of thinking.” • • “Most of the experiments have tested banal “weak” versions of the Whorfian hypothesis, namely that words can have some effect on memory or categorization. Some of these experiments have actually worked, but that is hardly surprising.”
Conclusions • However, there is continued support for the weaker version(s) of the hypothesis • The data from areas of investigation concerning color naming, counting & arithmetic, reasoning, visual memory, and other areas (e.g., social inference) indicate that the use of certain specific terms can influence how we think • The question that remains is how much of the differences are because of the language and how much due to the culture? • Problems • Language cannot be randomly assigned • Therefore we cannot rule out some third variables such as culture. • At this point it is apparent that the strong view of Whorf’s hypothesis is not supported.