Chapter 8 Language, Thinking, & Reasoning: Language Mental Representations Mental representations are symbolic means of representing our world or experiences. They come in a variety of forms including: ♦ Images ♦ Verbally-coded information: ♦ Ideas ♦ Concepts ♦ Principles They are often coded into a language for the purpose of communication… Language The Human Essence (Chomsky, 1972) a skill our brain evolved to support possibly about 50,000 years ago (Passer, Smith, Atkinson, Mitchell, & Muir, 2003). Languages According to Foss and Hakes (1978), there are an estimated 3000 distinct languages groups in existence today. Among humans, languages are essential for our social, emotional, and cognitive development and well-being. “Language… “…largely arbitrary system of communication that combines symbols (such as words or gestural signs) in rule-based ways to create meaning.” (Lilienfeld, Lynn, Namy, Woolf, Cramer, & Schmaltz 2011, p. 329). All Languages Are… Symbolic Semantic Generative All Languages Are Symbolic Languages make use of symbols for representing objects/organisms/events i.e., written signs, sounds, and gestures to refer to objects, events, ideas, and feelings. Arbitrary Symbols By and large, languages make use of arbitrary symbols for representing objects/organisms/events. Albeit, some seem to have common phonetic roots, so in this sense, they are not always entirely abritrary:
2 e.g., phonesthemes: sniff, snore, snooze, snoop, sneer, snort, snicker, snot, snob
All Languages Are Symbolic Because of the use of linguistic/symbolic representations, displacement is permitted: “Displacement refers to the fact that past, future, and imaginary events and objects that are not physically present can be symbolically presented and communicated through the medium of language.” (Passer et al., 2003, p. 383). All Languages Are Semantic Linguistic symbols are semantic; Semantic refers to the “…study of meaning in any and all of its manifestations.” (Reber & Reber, 2001, p. 664). i.e., use of linguistic symbols is intended to convey meaning. All Languages Are Generative: Symbols can be combined in infinite ways. The generativity inherent in languages, sets languages apart from animal “codes”. Languages are Generative because they Have Structure All languages are structured; i.e., they use syntax or grammar rules for organizing phonemes into morphemes and words into phrases and sentences. Examples: At the phonemic level: “Phl” and “sch” are permissible in English, but “ptz” and “rvc” are not. At the sentence level: The dog was bitten by the cat is permissible, but Bitten dog was the the cat by is not. Universal & Structural Properties of Verbal Languages Phonemes Morphemes Words Phrases Sentences Phonemes “…categories of sounds our vocal apparatus produces.” (Lilienfeld et al., 2011, p. 330). e.g. th, sh, é, â, ö, ph
3 There are about 100 phonemes that exist once all language groups are combined. Some languages use as few as 15 phonemes Some, as many as 80 English uses approximately 40 - 45 phonemes
Morphemes “…smallest meaningful units of speech.” (Lilienfeld, 2011, p. 330); Phonemes are combined into morphemes. e.g. hat and sick For English, while 50,000 exist in popularly-spoken English, over 100,000 morphemes do exist (Passer et al., 2003). These morphemes can be combined to create about 500,000 words (Passer et al.) Morphemes Examples: “hat”: morpheme and word “s”: morpheme, not word “hat” does not mean the same thing as “hats” Two Classes of Morphemes Content Morphemes Grammatical Morphemes Content Morphemes Nouns Verbs Adjectives Modifiers of nouns Adverbs Modifiers of verbs *note, these morphemes are words Grammatical Morphemes Morphemes that can be added to content morphemes (most words) to adjust meaning e.g., re, ed, s, ing added among words to adjust meaning of the phrase or sentence. e.g., a, the (articles) and, but (conjunctions) in, of (prepositions) Grammar?