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The psychology of language

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Language is a complex and fascinating subject, but how do we as humans communicate? Language is a system of symbols, sounds, meanings, and rules of combination that allows for communication among humans. Language is generative which means it has a limited number of words that can be joined to produce endless sentences.

Language is made up of several effects, Phonemes are the smallest speech units (e.g., /s/ in dogs; /z/ in cats) the English language has about 40 of these. Morphemes, the smallest unit of meaning, about 50 000 in the English language. Semantics are the meaning of words an word combinations and Syntax which is a system of rules for arranging words into sentences. Each language has its own set of rules.Everyday language consists of Pragmatics, the way we use and understand language in everyday life, how we decode messages. Discourses, the understanding of language at a broader level, as exact words, gist or general meaning. Nonverbal communication such as Body language, gestures, eye contact, physical distance, facial expressions, touch, coughs, and signs.

Theories of language acquisition include Skinners theory of behaviourist which is, that language is shaped by learning specific verbal responses due to conditioning of responses. Chomsky's, Nativist which is learning the rules of language from innate abilities and the today's widely believed theory of Interactionist, language is acquired by interaction of strong innate component and implicit learning.

There is a specific time in which children should be exposed to language in order to learn it, between 2 & 5 years of age. Isolated children often have difficulty learning a language. It is increasingly difficult to learn a second language after the age of 12.

There are 4 stages of learning a language, babbling to single words to two-word combinations then to sentences. At 6 month a child's babbling sound begins to resemble its surrounding language. At 1 year the first word will appear, this is similar cross-culturally. at 18-24 months the child will have a vocabulary spurt but with over and underextensions. at the end of the second year the child will start to combine words. By the end of the third year they will be single complex ideas, plurals and past tense. At around 4 years old the child will be using imaginary speed and form 5-word sentences. At around 5 the child will use more complex syntax and complex story forms and at about 6 they will display meta-linguistic awareness.

Research has shown that there is little difference in vocabulary between bi-lingual and mono-lingual children. However bilingual's show slightly higher scores on cognitive flexibility, analytical reasoning, selective attention and metalinguistic awareness, but have a slight disadvantage in terms of language processing speed.

Language problems are called Aphasia, they include Broca's Aphasia and Wernicke’s Aphasia. Broca's Aphasia is often called 'Broken Speech'. It is caused by damage to the Broca's area located in the frontal region of the left hemisphere. It consists of halting ungrammatical speech, they string together single words. Broken speech will ofeten sound something like “Alright… Uh… stroke and uh.. I …h…h…hot tub…and the…. Two days…”. Wernicke's Aphasia is due to damage of the Wernicke's area located in the temporal lobe of the left hemisphere. It is often called 'word salad' because sufferers have fluent and grammatical speed but it is meaningless and doesn't make sense. This is an actual quote from somebody suffering from Wernicke's Aphasia “It just suddenly had a feffert and all the feffert had gone with it. It even stepped my horn.”

 

 


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