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BBI3215

Introduction To Psycholinguistics
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Lecture 1: Beginning Concepts


Assoc. Prof. Dr. Yap Ngee Thai
A029, Block A, FBMK
ntyap@upm.edu.my
603-89468673
BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee Thai

What is psycholinguistics?
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An interdisciplinary field of study in which the goals are to


understand
how people acquire language,

how people use language to speak and understand one

another, and
how language is represented and processed in the brain.

BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee Thai

What is psycholinguistics?
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Psycholinguistics is a sub-discipline of psychology and linguistics. It is also


related to:
developmental psychology (studies how we develop and age)
Cognitive development
Social development
emotional development, and
physical development
cognitive psychology (studies internal mental processes, for e.g. how

humans perceive, remember, think, speak and solve problems)

Nuerolinguistics (nueral mechanisms in the human brain that control the

comprehension, production, and acquisition of language)

speech science (studies production, transmission and perception of

speech)

BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee Thai

Key concepts about language


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Serve to distinguish language from other aspects of

human behaviour and cognition


Example of other aspects of human behaviour:
Responses to sensory and mental information;
emotional responses;
non-verbal motor activity cycling, swimming etc.

BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee Thai

Key concepts about human language


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Language allows for creativity: Linguistic creativity


2. Language is not speech
3. Language is not thought
4. Language is more than just a system of communication
1.

BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee


Thai

Study Questions for Chapter 1


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1.

What are the two types of linguistic creativity that give


us insight into the nature of human language?

BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee Thai

Question 1
Two key concepts: linguistic creativity & nature of human language
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What is linguistic creativity?

Linguistic creativity vs. creativity in general


Linguisitic creativity is commonplace to every person who knows a language.

The two types of linguistic creativity:


We can use a finite (limited) knowledge of sounds, words,
principles to produce and to comprehend an infinite number of
novel sentences.
We can use language to communicate anything we can think of

Contrast these properties with the animal system of communication

BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee Thai

Nature of Human Language


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No matter how eloquently a dog may bark,


he cannot tell you his parents were poor but honest.
- Bertrand Russell
(How do we know a dog cannot communicate this idea?
What must the dog be able to do in order to be able to
communicate this idea)

BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee Thai

What is language?
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Language is not speech, thought or merely a

communication system.
How do you explain or support this statement ?

BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee


Thai

What is language?
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Children born with hearing difficulties may not learn to speak

but they are not deprived of language. They can acquire a


sign language. Therefore, language is not speech.
Children who cant speak can still do other cognitive tasks.

They can still problem solve etc. Therefore, language is not


thought.
Language has properties that most systems of

communications do not have.


Eg. linguistic creativity and recursiveness.
BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee
Thai

Study question 2
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Why is it important to distinguish between language and

general intelligence?

BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee


Thai

Question 2: Why is it important to distinguish between language


and general intelligence? (see page 5)
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Because language and thought can be disassociated as

demonstrated by the different types of neurological


pathologies.
Children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) lag behind

their peers in terms of language development but perform


within the normal range for non-verbal intelligence task.
Children with Williams Syndrome are deficient in many

aspects of cognition but have good language skills (vocabulary


and ability to form grammatical sentences).

BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee Thai

What is language?
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Language is a formal system for pairing signals with

meanings. The pairing is arbitrary and has to be learned.

LANGUAGE

meaning

signal

Different types of language signals: sound waves in

speech or gestures in sign language


BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee
Thai

What is language?
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The linguistic system that enables sound and meaning to be

paired contains a complex and highly organized set of


principles and rules.
These rules are the source for the infinite creativity of
language.
The set of rules that create sentences in a language is a
languages grammar and the words of a language are its
lexicon.
Knowing a language involves knowing its grammar and
lexicon.
With this knowledge, you can organize ideas into words and
sentences, and sentences into sequence of sounds. This
knowledge is called tacit knowledge or implicit knowledge.

BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee


Thai

Universality of human language


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All human languages are highly similar. They all have a

grammar and a lexicon that allow for linguistic creativity.


Because all humans have languages of similar

organization and function, it strongly suggests that


language is part of human biological endowment.

BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee


Thai

Implications for first language acquisition


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The universality of language has interesting implication for our

understanding of language acquisition.


Young children effortlessly learn to talk and walk.

Learning the first language seem like a natural process and is

likely a result of the fact that language is a faculty of the


human brain.
As the brain develops, it organizes the language the child is

exposed to in ways that are common in all humans.


BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee
Thai

BUT second language acquisition is different


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Second language acquisition often involves more effort.

Second languages are more difficult to master, in

particular pronunciation
Why?
First language interference
Age effects
Nature of exposure
Read page 11 for more details.
BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee
Thai

How does the language system work?


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All languages has a grammar and a lexicon.


There are three kinds of rules that make up the grammar:
1.
Phonological rules: e.g. phonotactic rules, allophonic rules
2.
Morphological rules: e.g. word derivational rules
3.
Syntactic rules: e.g. movement rules

BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee


Thai

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The lexicon consists of all the words a person knows and


the linguistic information connected with them.

Each lexical entry is associated with:

Information about the words meaning


Information about the words morphosyntax
Information about the words morphophonology.

BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee


Thai

More study questions


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5.

What determines the meaning of a sentence?

6.

What does it mean to say that a structure is psychologically real,


though abstract?

Clue: (see page 12- 14)


In contrast to sounds and words, syntactic structure is not
represented in the spoken or written signal [but] it is a central
aspect of every sentence. Though it has no physical reality,
sentence structure has psychological reality: it must be
represented by the speaker and recovered by the hearer in order
for the meaning of a sentence to be conveyed. In other words,
the meaning of a sentence depends on the structural
organization of the sentences words.
BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee Thai

Final Study Question for Chapter 1


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How do the views of contemporary psycholinguistics

differ from the view of the behaviorists from the first half
of the twentieth century?

BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee Thai

Behaviorist Psychology
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Behavioral psychologist in the 1950s believed that speech

as simply a type of motor behavior exhibited by people.


All complex behavior are associated to smaller behaviors.
Behaviorists believe that all organisms learn everything

the same way through conditioning.


Learning consisted of the acquisition of behavioral

routines, and all behavioral routines were acquired by the


same principles of learning.
BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee Thai

Modern Linguistics
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In the late 1950s, the view of language which is limited to speech

and as behavioral routines was challenged by Noam Chomsky.


Chomsky argued that speech should not be the object of study to

understand human language. Instead the object of study should be


the set of rules (in the mind) that create speech and the
grammatical system that underlie observable speech.
Although the grammatical system is not observable like speech, it is

possible to test hypotheses about properties of the grammatical


system and thereby discover the set of rules that constitute
knowledge of language.

BBI3215 Introduction to Psycholinguistics Dr. Yap Ngee Thai