March 8, 2010
First 5: Explain this sentence:
The soldier decided to desert his
dessert in the desert.
Objectives: To develop an
understanding of the structure of
language and its complexity.
Language and Thinking
Agenda: First 5
Group work on Articles from yesterday
English is difficult!
A farm can produce produce.
The dump was so full it had to refuse refuse.
The soldier decided to desert his dessert in
The present is a good time to present the
At the Army base, a bass was painted on the
head of a bass drum.
The dove dove into the bushes.
I did not object to the object.
The insurance for the invalid was invalid.
The bandage was wound around the wound.
They were too close to the door to close it.
Definition: Symbolism used to
communicate ideas &
concepts & to problem solve
All Language shares 3 things in common
1. Semanticity: True language conveys thoughts in a
meaningful way by use of symbols and sounds
sounds such as coughing or clearing one’s throat are not for
communication and therefore have no meaning and are not a part of
2. Generativity: Ability to combine words in new ways
3. Displacement: Ability to talk about objects that are
Parts of Language
Phonemes: Smallest unit of sound that can be understood as
part of a language
- Ex: The m of mat, the b of boy, or the ch in church
Morphemes: Smallest unit of sound that conveys a meaning
in a language. Can be individual or combinations of phonemes
- Ex: Unit consisting of a word, such as man
- Ex: A word element, such as -ed in walked
- Ex: Phoneme such as I
** cannot be divided into smaller meaningful parts**
Grammar: Set of rules that enables us to use our language
• Semantics – Refers to aspects of meaning assigned to language
(Ex: adding “ed” means it happened in the past)
• Syntax – The system of rules we use to string words together into
(Ex: adjectives come before nouns)
Phonemes: The smallest distinct sound unit in a
spoken language. For example:
bat, has three phonemes b · a · t
chat, has three phonemes ch · a · t
Morpheme: The smallest unit that carries a
meaning. It may be a word or part of a word.
Milk = milk
Pumpkin = pump . kin
Unforgettable = un · for · get · table
Phonemes Basic sounds (about 40) … ea, sh.
Smallest meaningful units (100,000)
Morphemes … un, for.
Meaningful units (290,500) … meat,
Composed of two or more words
Phrase (326,000) … meat eater.
Composed of many words (infinite)
Sentence … She opened the jewelry box.
Grammar is the system of rules in a language
that enable us to communicate with and
Semantics is the set of rules by which we derive
meaning from morphemes, words, and
sentences. For example:
Semantic rule tells us that adding –ed to the
word laugh means that it happened in the past.
Syntax consists of the rules for combining
words into grammatically sensible sentences.
In English, syntactical rule says that adjectives
come before nouns; white house. In Spanish, it is
reversed; casa blanca.
Children learn their
native languages much
before learning to add
We learn, on average
(after age 1), 3,500 words
Time Life Pictures/ Getty Images
a year, amassing 60,000
words by the time we
graduate from high
Language and the Brain
As a child grows, his/her language develops.
Usually, understanding language occurs before
the production of language.
Broca’s Area - Damage here
affects your ability to produce
Wernicke’s Area - Damage
here affects your ability to
Language Development (Year One)
Infant – Crying
4 to 6 months – Babbling
(sounds present in all languages)
9 months – Finite babbling
(narrow to sounds reflected back to them)
1 year – One-word stage
• Overextension: Applying a word to a wide variety of similar items
(Ex: using “horse” to refer to any four-legged animal)
• Underextension: Using a word to define only one object as though it
were a proper name
(Ex: using “bird” to refer to only the child’s pet and not to wild birds
in the yard or other winged creatures)
• Holophrasic Speech: Using one word to mean an entire sentence
(Ex: “shoe” means “Will you tie my shoe?”)
• Overgeneralization- Misuse of rules “goed” “sheeps”
Language Development (Past 1st Year)
18-24 months – Two-word stage
2 years old – Capable of relating past and
3 years old – Uses simple sentence
structure and can tell a simple story
4 years old – Five-word sentences are
characteristic of this age group
5 years old – Capable of complex syntax
Pic: Overview of
Pic: Units of Language
Theories of Language Acquisition
Skinner – Learned through association,
reinforcement and social imitation
Chomsky – Believed that language
acquisition is innate from his observations
that children create sentences they have
never heard before and learning is too rapid
to be explained solely by learning principles
*Possibly a combination of the two
as we get older…
Thinking and Language
Whorf’s Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis
Definition: Word order and word choice can affect our
“Language itself shapes man’s basic ideas”
- Hopi have no past tense, so they do not readily think about the past
- English has many words for self-focused emotions such as anger
- Japanese have many words for interpersonal emotions such as
- Bilinguals may show different personalities when taking the same
personality test in their two languages
English is difficult!
There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in
pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England.
Quicksand works slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither
from Guinea nor is it a pig.
If you have a bunch of odds & ends and get rid of all but one, what do you
If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats
vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
Why do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send
cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? How can a slim
chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house
can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and
in which an alarm goes off by going on.
If Dad is Pop, how come mom isn't Mop?
In your groups of 3:
Write on 1 sheet of paper what each person
thinks about the theories on language
acquisition- which theory they believe to be
the most reasonable and why.
What did each person in your group believe
about the theories?
Language Influences Thinking
Linguistic Determinism: Whorf (1956) suggested
that language determines the way we think. For
example, he noted that the Hopi people do not
have the past tense for verbs. Therefore, the Hopi
cannot think readily about the past.
Break down this sentence into phonemes
and morphemes: I walked the dog to the pet
Morphemes: I, Walk, the, dog, to, the pet,
Phonemes, I, w,
Language Influences Thinking
When a language provides words for objects or events,
we can think about these objects more clearly and
remember them. It is easier to think about two colors
with two different names (A) than colors with the same
name (B) (Özgen, 2004).
Thinking in Images
To a large extent thinking is language-based.
When alone, we may talk to ourselves. However,
we also think in images.
We don’t think in words, when:
1. When we open the hot water tap.
2. When we are riding our bicycle.
Images and Brain
Imagining a physical activity activates the same
brain regions as when actually performing the
Jean Duffy Decety, September 2003
Animals & Language
Do animals have a language?
Honey bees communicate by dancing. The dance
moves clearly indicate the direction of the nectar.
Do Animals Think?
Common cognitive skills
in humans and apes
include the following:
1. Concept formation.
3. Problem Solving
4. Culture African grey parrot assorts red
blocks from green balls.
Animals display customs and culture that are
learned and transmitted over generations.
Michael Nichols/ National Geographic Society
Copyright Amanda K Coakes
Dolphins using sponges as Chimpanzee mother using and
forging tools. teaching a young how to use
a stone hammer.
Can animals infer mental states in themselves
To some extent. Chimps and orangutans (and
dolphins) used mirrors to inspect themselves
when a researcher put paint spots on their faces
Do Animals Exhibit Language?
There is no doubt that
whales and even honey
Copyright Baus/ Kreslowski
with members of their
species and other
Rico (collie) has a
The Case of Apes
Chimps do not have a vocal apparatus for
human-like speech (Hayes & Hayes,1951).
Therefore, Gardner and Gardner (1969) used
American Sign Language (ASL) to train
Washoe, a chimp, who learned 182 signs by the
age of 32.
Animals, like humans, exhibit communication
through gestures. It is possible that vocal speech
developed from gestures during the course of
American Sign Language (ASL) is
instrumental in teaching chimpanzees a
form of communication.
Paul Fusco/ Magnum Photos
When asked, this chimpanzee uses
a sign to say it is a baby.
Computer Assisted Language
Others have shown that bonobo pygmy chimpanzees can
develop even greater vocabularies and perhaps semantic
nuances in learning a language (Savage-Rumbaugh,
1991). Kanzi and Panbanish developed vocabulary for
hundreds of words and phrases.
Copyright of Great Ape Trust of Iowa
1. Apes acquire their limited vocabularies with a
great deal of difficulty, unlike children who
develop vocabularies at amazing rates.
2. Chimpanzees can make signs to receive a
reward, just as a pigeon who pecks at the key
receives a reward. However, pigeons have not
learned a language.
3. Chimpanzees use signs meaningfully but lack
4. Presented with ambiguous information, people
tend to see what they want to see.
If we say that animals can use meaningful
sequences of signs to communicate a capability
for language, our understanding would be
naive… Steven Pinker (1995) concludes, “chimps
do not develop language.”
Cognitive Psychology – Seeks to study how
people think, problem solve, make decisions,
communicate, understand concepts and access
Components of Thinking - Concepts
• Definition: A mental grouping of similar
objects, people, events, etc.
• Function: Help us to order our world into
categories and communicate with fewer words
• Prototypes: Our best example of a concept
Ex: concept: dog
prototype: your Poodle (the image that pops into your
head when you think of “dog”)
Components of Thinking - Problem Solving
Trial and Error: Trying one solution after another in no particular order
Ex: Thomas Edison – light bulb
Means-Ends Analysis: Given a current state and a goal state, an action is
chosen to reduce the difference between the two. The action is performed
on the current state to produce a new state, and the process is recursively
applied to this new state and the goal state.
Ex: Used often in computer programming and artificial intelligence
Insights: Sometimes answer just comes to us out of nowhere when we are
not focusing hard on it
Ex: Trying to remember someone’s name at a party and can’t. Go home that night
and while brushing teeth the name pops into your head.
Ex: Taking a test in class and can’t remember name of psychologist who
conditioned dogs. Later at lunch the name Pavlov suddenly appears in your
Components of Thinking - Problem Solving
Algorithm: A systematic procedure used to solve a
problem which guarantees a solution, although it may
take longer than a Heuristic approach.
-Like a recipe to solve something
Heuristics: Using a rule of thumb strategy to problem
solve and make decisions.
-Often comes from our past experiences and personal judgments.
-Usually quicker, but more error-prone, than algorithms.
-Sometimes called“mental shortcuts
Ex: If you are having difficulty understanding a problem, try drawing a picture.
If you can't find a solution, try assuming that you have a solution and seeing what you
can derive from that ("working backward").
If the problem is abstract, try examining a concrete example.
Definition: The process of choosing among a number of
Representativeness Heuristic – When we make a decision
based on how much a new situation or object resembles our
(Ex: truck driver vs. Ivy League professor)
Availability Heuristic – When we base a decision on what
we have most available in our memory. Things that come to
mind are presumed to be more common.
(Ex: letter “k”…more frequent 1st or 3rd letter)
(Ex: casino noises)
Comparison – When we measure the value of two
alternatives by comparing them on a point-by-point basis
Errors Made in Problem Solving
Functional Fixedness: Inability to use familiar
objects in new ways
• Ex: Need a flashlight? Use your cell phone.
• Ex: Someone who does not show functional fixedness is a
robber who uses women’s hosiery placed over his head to
distort his facial features
Mental Set: When people continue to use problem-
solving strategies that have worked in the past
Irrelevant information: When someone becomes
fixed on information that is given in the problem that
does not impact the solution
Unnecessary Constraints: The inability to solve a
problem because we place constraints on the solution
that really don’t exist
Faulty Decision Making
Confirmation Bias – A tendency to seek out
information that confirms our previously held beliefs
Belief Perseverance – The tendency to hold onto our
belief even in the face of evidence against our
belief…our beliefs distort our logic
Overconfidence – The tendency to count on our own
estimates and beliefs too much
Framing Decisions – The way we are presented the
information needed for making the decision can
impact what we decide
Ex: coat for $100 or same coat for $150 at 33% off
Thinking Game: The Matchstick Problem
How would you arrange six matches to form four equilateral triangles?
Solution to Matchstick Problem
Visualize Yourself Studying
The effects of mental practice on skilled motor performance.
• Many athletes mentally ski their slalom course, make their free throws, or execute
their gymnastic routine.
• Might there also be payoffs to mentally simulating successful academic performance?
In 1998 UCLA researchers explored the surprising benefits derived by mentally
simulating how one might achieve a goal.
Study: Engaged intro psych students who would be taking a midterm exam in five to seven days.
½ told to imagine a positive outcome (visualizing themselves scanning the posted grade list, seeing their A,
beaming with joy, feeling confident, feeling proud) and to repeat this "outcome simulation" for five minutes
each day before the exam.
½ were controls and did nothing differently
***This had little effect, adding only two points to exam scores compared to control subjects not
engaged in mental simulation.
½ instructed to imagine themselves studying in a way that would lead to an A (visualizing themselves
studying the chapters, going over notes, eliminating distractions, declining an offer to go out). Were also told to
repeat this "process simulation" for five minutes each day.
½ were controls and did nothing differently
***Compared to the control students, these students began studying earlier, spent more hours
studying, and beat the control group exam average by nearly eight points.
Based on this and other experiments, they conclude that it is better to spend
your fantasy time planning how to get there than it is to dwell on the
Far Side Jokes