Linguistics 110 Class 2 (9/23/02) Introduction Continued (1) Review of last class: • • • Linguistics: the scientific study of human language.


What constitutes our knowledge as a native speaker of language X? How do we acquire the knowledge?

(2) These facts about language acquisition point to the possibility of the following: • • • Our language ability is biologically innate. Some grammatical structures are already hard-wired in our brain when we are born. These form the Universal Grammar (UG), as termed by Chomsky. In a sense, the parts of the brain that are responsible for language processing can be seen as the specialized “organs of language” in the same way legs can be seen as “organs of walking” and eyes as “organs of vision”. And our ability to use language is an instinct, like the instinct to walk and see. Children’s task in language-learning is to fill in the part of the grammar not specified by UG. They acquire language the same way they acquire the ability to walk.

(3) Modularity • The claim: the brain is divided into distinct anatomical faculties that are directly responsible for specific cognitive functions, including language. • Q1: Given the claim, where will the crucial evidence come from? Q2: If there is really a language module in the brain, what will we expect from patients with brain damage? How many types of patients do you expect to see? Q3: If there is no language module, and language is simply a consequence of general human intelligence, how many types of patients with brain damage do you expect to see with respect to their language ability? (4) Mr. Ford • Stroke victim, damage to lower parts of the frontal lobe in the left hemisphere. • Language severely impaired. Interview with Howard Gardner, where Gardner asked about his work as a Coast Guard radio operator. “I’m a sig … no … man … uh, well, … again.” These words were emitted slowly, and with great effort. The sounds were not clearly articulated; each syllable was uttered harshly, explosively, in a throaty voice… …… “Were you in the Coast Guard?”


“No, er, yes, yes, … ship… Massachu … chusetts … Coast guard … years.” He raised his hands twice, indicating the number “nineteen.” “Oh, you were in the Coast Guard for nineteen years.” “Oh … boy … right … right,” he replied. “Why are you in the hospital, Mr. Ford?” “Arm no good. Speech … can’t say … talk, you see.” …… “Can you tell me, Mr. Ford, what you’ve been doing in the hospital?” “Yes, sure. Me go, er, uh, P.T. nine o’ cot, speech … two times … read … wr … ripe, er, rike, er, write … practice … get-ting better.” ➥ ➥ ➥ ➥ Omits endings like -ed, -s and grammatical function words like or, be, and the. Ok with content words, like oar, bee. Can name objects well. Understands “does a stone float on water?”—can deduce meaning from the content words. ➥ Cannot answer questions like “The lion was killed by the tiger. Which one is dead?”—requires grammatical analysis. • Other cognitive abilities not affected. ➥ Nonverbal IQ in high average region. ➥ Fully aware of where he was and why he was there. ➥ Can calculate, read maps, set clocks, make constructions, carry out command. Can we claim that there is a language module solely by observing cases like Mr. Ford?

(5) Denyse • Born with “split spine”—leaves spinal cord unprotected, causes brain damage. • Severely retarded: ➥ never learned reading or writing; ➥ cannot handle money or other daily functioning. • Has unimpaired language development. “I like opening cards. I had a pile of post this morning and not one of them was a Christmas card. A bank statement I got this morning!” “My mum works over at the, over on the ward and she said ‘not another bank statement.’ I said ‘it’s the second one in two days.’ And she said ‘Do you want me to go to the bank for you at lunchtime?’ and I went ‘No, I’ll go this time and explain it myself.’ I tell you what, my bank are awful. They’ve lost my bank book, you see, and I can’t find it anywhere. I belong to the TSB Bank and I’m thinking of changing my bank ’cause they’re so awful.” • With cases like Mr. Ford and Denyse, can we claim that there is a language module?

(6) Let’s zoom in closer— language is controlled by the left hemisphere. • • Hemiplegic children Hemidecorticate children


• •

Split-brain patients Dichotic listening

➥ Left hemisphere: better for language, rhythmic perception, temporal-order judgments, mathematical thinking. Right hemisphere: better for nonverbal stimulus, pattern matching, visuo-spatial abilities. • Right hemisphere is better for pitch perception. But what happens when pitch is used linguistically? Tone languages: Mandarin Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese etc.? Right hemisphere is better for spatial perception. But what happens in sign language processing?

➥ Left hemisphere handles abstract rules, hierarchical structure of language, not just sounds on the surface. (7) Let’s zoom in even closer—Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area • Mr. Ford’s aphasia: damage to lower parts of the frontal lobe in the left hemisphere—Broca’s area. ➥ Characteristics of Broca’s aphasia: • slow, labored speech; • loss of function words; • disturbed word order; • ok with object-naming; • ok in comprehension of speech. • Wernicke’s area: back portion of the left hemisphere. Interview between psycholinguist Howard Gardner and Wernicke’s aphasia patient Mr. Gorgan: Gardner: “What brings you to the hospital?” Gorgan: “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, trebbing and all that sort of stuff.” Gardner: “Thank you, Mr. Gorgan. I want to ask you a few—“ Gorgan: “Oh sure, go ahead, any old think you want. If I could I would. Oh, I’m taking the word the wrong way to say, all of the barbers here whenever they stop you it’s going around and around, if you know what I mean, that is tying and tying for repucer, repuceration, well, we were trying the best that we could while another time it was with the beds over there the same thing…”


➥ Characteristics of Wernicke’s aphasia: • fluent stream of more or less grammatical sentences; • speech makes little sense; • has problems with object-naming/lexical selection; • has serious comprehension problems.

• Q: What do the different charateristics of Broca’s and Wernicke’s aphasia tell us about language in the brain? • PET (Positron Emission Tomography) and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): • • Locate which part of the brain is more active when speech is being produced or processed—show there is a language module. Locate which part of the brain is more active when different aspects of the grammar are being produced or processed—show language itself is modular.

• TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation)