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Unit 4: Cognitive Processes
The Structure of Language
 Language: the communication of ideas through
  symbols and sounds that are arranged according to
    We communicate, problem solve and make
     decisions based on learning that has been
     transmitted through language
 Language consists of 3 Elements
    Phonemes
    Morphemes
    Syntax
 Semantics is the study of meaning
 The smallest units of sound
 Phonemes can be represented by a single letter
    Example: consonants, vowels or combinations of
     letters ( t/e/sh)
 There are about 100 different recognizable sounds
  but not all are used in all languages
    There are 43 sounds in the English language
 The smallest unit of meaning in a given language
 Made up of one or more phonemes
 Morphemes can be a word, a letter, a prefix, or a
 Language rules that govern how words can be
  combined to form meaningful phrases and
 Every language has its own grammatical rules
    For example in English we place adjectives in
     front of nouns
 The study of meaning in language
 Some words have multiple meanings, which require
  us to use context and our knowledge of grammar to
  make sense of the meaning
Language Development
 Psychologists largely disagree on how language is
  acquired and developed by children
 B.F. Skinner believed that children learn language
  as a result of operant conditioning
    When children utter sounds that are similar to
     adult speech patterns, their behavior is reinforced
     through smiles and extra attention.
       Children therefore repeat the behavior,
        eventually learning to produce speech
 Critics of Skinner argue that children understand
  language before they can speak or receive
Language Development
 Social Learning Theorists argue that children learn
  language through observation, exploration, and
    Social Learning advocates state that children use
     language to get attention, ask for help or gain
     other forms of social contact
    By responding to the children, parents (and other
     adults) stimulate language acquisition and
 Noam Chomsky theorized that infants possess an
  innate capacity for language, meaning that children
  inherit a mental program that allows them to learn
  grammar (called Transformational Grammar)
How Language Develops
 Beginning at birth, infants can cry and produce other sounds
  that indicate distress
 At about 2 months, infants begin to coo (long, drawn-out
  sounds such as ooh)
 Infants go through four stages of language development
    1. At about 4 months, infants reach the first stage of
     language development – babbling (dadada)
        When babbling infants learn to control their vocal cords
         and to make, change, repeat, and imitate the sounds of
         their parents
       At about 9 months, infants refine their babbling to
        increasingly include sounds that are part of their native
        language (whether is be oral or gestures)
How Language Develops
 Infants go through four stages of language development
    2. At around 12 months, infants begin to utter single
       These words are used to describe familiar objects and
    3. By the end of their 2nd year, children can place a
     couple words together to express an idea.
       A child’s vocabulary has expanded to about 50-100
    4. At ages 2-3, children form sentences of several words.
       These sentences follow a pattern of telegraphic speech
        (children leave out articles, prepositions, and parts of
 By age 5, language development is largely complete.
  Sentence complexity and vocabulary continue to develop
Animals and Language
 Animals communicate with each other, but animals
  do not possess the ability to use language
    Language involves rules of grammar, combining
     words or phrases into meaningful sentences
Cultural Differences
 People use language to communicate their culture
  and express their ideas
 Do people who speak different languages think
    Whorf argued that language affects our basic
     perceptions of the physical world
    Linguistic Relativity: refers to the idea that
     language influences thoughts
    EX. Snow
       Whorf stated the Inuit have many different
        words for snow because their lives and survival
        depend on it, where Americans have very few
Gender Differences
 Some people argue that certain words in language
  create stereotypes
 The use of pronouns also affects our thinking
    Secretaries and nurses are usually referred to as
     she, while doctors and engineers are referred to
     as he