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  1. Texts Recall we said that, even after you understandindividual sentences, we haven’t explained everything about language; people make inferences across sentences, leading researchersto posit that there is a representation they call a text.

  2. Texts 3 levels: Surface structure--exact words & phrases you read Text base--the meaning, represented as propositions Situation model--knowledge integrated from both the text and prior knowledge

  3. Text--example • A text is a group of connected sentences forming a paragraph or paragraphs. • Key aspect of texts: you make inferences about information that is not given. • “Oliver happily dug into the moist earth of the bed he had prepared. The sunshine glinted off the dew on the phlox.” • Is Oliver using a tool? • What time of day is it? • What is Oliver doing?

  4. Key aspect of texts: you struggle to make texts coherent. • “Oliver happily dug into the moist earth of the bed he had prepared. The sunshine glinted off the dew on the phlox. The large burlap sack moved slightly.

  5. Texts You make inferences about information that is not given You struggle to make texts coherent In fact, these two factors are related, because researchers believe that you make inferences when you detect some incoherence.

  6. Texts A key question: “how big a representation must be made coherent?” E.g., if you read “He picked up the vase and he hit her with the object in his hand” you want to know what the object was, and it’s no problem because the information you seek is in the sentence. What if the object was identified several sentences ago? Or what if several sentences ago you were told he had dropped the object?” Do you try to make individual sentences coherent? Do you try to make several sentences coherent? Do you try to make the textbase coherent?

  7. Text (O’Brien & Albrecht) • As Kim stood (inside/outside) the health club she felt a little sluggish. [Workouts always made her feel better. Today she was particularly looking forward to the exercise class because it had been a long, hard day at work. Her boss had just been fired and she had to fill in for him on top of her own work.] She decided to go outside and stretch her legs a little. She was getting anxious to start and was glad when she saw the instructor go in the door of the club. Kim really liked her instructor. Her enthusiasm and energy were contagious. Some participants saw “inside” some “outside” so the later sentence was either consistent or not--did it slow them down if it was inconsistent? Did it matter how far apart the incons. Info was?

  8. Answer: inconsistent information does slow you down, even if it’s separated by other information. Conclusion: you do seem to maintain a textbase, and you are motivated to maintain the consistency of the textbase.

  9. Is language special? • How it’s learned • How it’s handled in the brain • How it affects cognition • Whether other animals have it.

  10. Behaviorism’s attempt to explain language • Skinner’s (1957) Verbal Behavior • Child utters sound at random, gets reinforced for approximations to correct. Language is shaped.

  11. Chomsky’s (1959) reply Parents typically concerned with truth value, not grammaticality. • Ridiculous. Parents don’t do that. Child: Want other one spoon, Daddy. Father: You mean, you want the other spoon. Child: Yes, I want other one spoon, please, Daddy. Father: Can you say “the other spoon”? Child: Other . . . one . . . spoon. Father: Say . . . “other.” Child: Other. Father: “Spoon.” Child: Spoon. Father: “Other . . . Spoon.” Child: Other . . . spoon. Now give me other one spoon?

  12. Chomsky’s (1959) reply • Ridiculous. Parents don’t do that. • Language is generative. • “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously” • Maybe there’s a module (or modules) dedicated to language (LAD) • Domain-specific vs. domain-general

  13. Is language special? • How it’s learned • How it’s handled in the brain • How it affects cognition • Whether other animals have it.

  14. Aphasias

  15. Broca’s aphasia • Grammar-related deficits in production and comprehension • Example: “Lower Falls . . . Maine . . . Paper. Four hundred tons a day! And ah . . . sulphur machines, and ah. . . wood. . . Two weeks and eight hours. Eight hours . . . no! Twelve hours, fifteen hours . . . workin . . . workin . . . workin! Yes, and ah . . . sulphur. Sulphur and . . . Ah wood. Ah . . . handling! And ah sick, four years ago.”

  16. Aphasias

  17. Wernicke’s aphasia “What brings you to the hospital?” I asked the 72-year-old retired butcher four weeks after his admission to the hospital. “Boy, I’m sweating, I’m awful nervous, you know, once in a while, I get caught up, I can’t mention the tarripoi, a month ago, quite a little, I’ve done a lot well, I impose a lot, while, on the other hand, you know what I mean, I have to run around, look it over, trebbin and all that stuff.” Gardner (1974)

  18. Wernicke’s aphasia • Grammar seems intact, but utterances make no sense • Difficulty with object naming chair plick knee

  19. Aphasias • Broca’s = grammatical difficulty • Wernicke’s = content difficulty • Many other kinds of aphasias • NOTE: Things are not nearly as clear-cut as presented

  20. How it’s learned • How it’s handled in the brain • How it affects cognition • Whether other animals have it.

  21. Does language influence thought? Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: Strong version= you can’t think certain things in certain languages, because you don’t have the concepts to shape the thoughts. Weak version= certain thoughts are more difficult because they are clumsy to express in one’s native language.

  22. Few people (if any) believe the strong version. E.g. there is no word for the concept “truth which everyone knows but no one speaks about” in English, but English-speakers can understand and appreciate this concept. (There is a word, “mokita” for this concept in Kiriwana, spoken in New Guinea)

  23. Color naming research Color naming research:Seemed ideal, because there is an objective reality to color (wavelength) but different languages divide the color spectrum into different numbers of names.

  24. The Dani have two terms for color; “mili”: darker colors & “mola” for lighter colors. English has 11 common color names. Rosch (1972) showed Dani speakers color chips and had them remember them for a later recognition test. You might expect that Dani speakers would easily confuse all “mola” chips but they don’t. They perform more or less like English speakers, and like English speakers, they remember “focal” colors best.

  25. More recent work Ian Davies and his colleagues have tested speakers of several different languages and found some very small differences in memory that are consistent with the Sapir Whorf hypothesis. . . Bottom line: these color-naming studies show small, inconsistent effects, but are not a great way to study the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis).

  26. Place values Some asian languages make place values explicit in the names of numbers. E.g., 26 = two-ten six; 38 = three-ten eight. Miura and associates have recent data indicating that Japanese, Korean, and Chinese speaking kids learn place value concepts faster (by about 6 months) than English, French or Swedish speaking kids

  27. How it’s learned • How it’s handled in the brain • How it affects cognition • Whether other animals have it.

  28. Nim Washoe Ape language What are the cognitive capacities of non-human primates? Early studies= vocal speech = failure ASL studies: Gardner & Gardner (Washoe); Terrace (Nim Chimpsky) Patterson (Koko) Abstract symbols: Premack (Sarah); Savage-Rumbaugh (Kanzi) They have opportunity to learn Symbolic nature of words? Syntax? Recall from our earlier discussion that these are not arbitrary criteria, but are crucial to what we consider language to be.

  29. What do they learn? • Signs • Certainly 125 or so • Some may be gestures chimps do in the wild. • Palm out = request • Shaking hand = hurry. • Do they understand the signs as arbitrary symbols, or is it more in the manner of a rat pressing a lever to get food?

  30. Ape language--arbitrariness Ape “conversation” Savage-Rumbaugh and her colleagues had two chimps engage in a conversation. 1st: observe a trainer hide a food item in a container. 1st: press the key on a keyboard with the symbol for the food item 2nd never saw the food, but can see key that 1st presses what item was hidden. 2nd: request that specific food item 1st and 2nd split the food. Sounds like the 2 chimps are communicating, and that the 1st is “telling” the second which food to request. BUT PIGEONS CAN DO THIS TOO.

  31. Arbitrariness--pigeons Jack and Jill. They had adjoining cages, with a transparent wall between them. Jack: pecked a key labeled “WHAT COLOR?” Jill: looks behind a curtain where there were three lights--red, green and yellow—that were not visible to Jack. Jill: pecks one of three keys—R, G, or Y—which Jack could see. Jack: pecks a key labeled THANK YOU Jill : given a food reward. Jack: pecks one of three keys indicating which light was illuminated, and received his own reward. Thus, we can conclude that pigeons can use symbolic language, or we can conclude that we need more stringent tests of the symbolic use of language.

  32. Apes--Grammar They do put words in non-random order some of the time—e.g., Nim Chimpsky put “more” before a word more often than after. But closer analysis of video tapes showed that Nim’s sentences were frequently imitations of what a trainer had just signed.

  33. Apes--Grammar • Also note unbelievable repetitiveness of Nim’s sentences • Here are the top ten four-word uttererances by Nim: • Eat drink, eat drink • Eat Nim eat Nim • Banana Nim banana Nim • Drink Nim drink Nim • Banana eat me Nim • Banana me eat banana • Banana me Nim me • Grape eat Nim eat • Nim eat Nim eat • Play me Nim play • “give orange me give eat orange me eat orange give me eat orange give me you.”

  34. Bottom line on ape language Apes likely do have some rudimentary capacity to treat signs as symbols, and some capacity re: grammar. It is not clear why it is so important to us, as humans, as to whether or not animals have language, as we do.