Language and cognitive psychology Virginia Berling University of Phoenix Cognitive Psychology PSY/360 Eric Tomlinson September 06, 2010 Language and cognitive psychology Language, like the air we breathe, is often taken for granted and the complexity of language is often overlooked. Cognitive psychology has opened our minds to the fact that language is uniquely human, thereby provoking a better understanding of language (Willingham, 2007). Language must meet five criteria; communicative, arbitrary, structured, generative, and dynamic, and language must have definable structure in its phonemes, words, sentences, and texts (STIR, (n.. . )) (Pati, 2000) (Willingham, 2007). Cognitive psychology seeks to understand and explain how human beings acquire, comprehend, and produce language (STIR, (n. d. )). Definition of Language and Lexicon The best way to understand and study language is to first define what language is, thereby eliminating such information as animal communication. There are five main points that language must meet are: communicative, arbitrary, structured, generative, and dynamic (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. ) (Willingham, 2007). Communicative means that the language allows at least two individuals to express themselves and understand the expressions thus are able to communicate (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d)). Arbitrary means that there is no logical reason that any particular element of the language has a particular meaning, nor is there any reason that the meaning of one symbol preclude that the symbol of an opposing symbol have any similarities in its elements (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )).
Structured means that there must be rules that structure the way the symbols are put together to express meaning, and if the structure is not followed the meaning would either not have meaning, or not express the correct meaning (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). Generative means that that the symbols of the language can be put together in unlimited ways to express different meanings (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). Dynamic means that the language grows as new symbols are added and the structure is adapted to fit new rules (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. . )). No definition of language would be complete without explaining lexicon, which is the knowledge of symbols, or words, an individual knows and uses (Lu and Dosher, 2007). A prime example of a lexicon for those who use the English language is a dictionary, which provides them with a list of symbols, or words, with the meaning of each symbol, and often with information regarding the structure rules associated with the symbol (Lu and Dosher, 2007). Properties of Language Communicative
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While it is easily understood that language makes it possible for individuals to communicate with each other, there are many properties of this communication, such as specialization, displacement, and culturally transmittable (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )) (Willingham, 2007). Specialization is the property of communication which allows language to take the place of physical action, such as saying ‘Stop! ‘ to a child who is about to run into danger instead of having to physically stop the child (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. . )). The property of displacement enables individuals to be able to use language to think about, and communicate about information from the past, present, and future even if that source of the information is not immediately present (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). Language is also culturally transmittable, which means that the younger generations learn through language the knowledge and experiences from the older generations (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )).
This transfer of knowledge enables the younger generation to learn from the mistakes of the older generation, and to increase the knowledge since they do not have to invent what has already been invented, but to make those inventions better (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). This communication from the older generation to the younger generation also allows traditions and beliefs to be communicated which become a part of who the younger generation are, which affects how they think, and behave (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). Arbitrary
As stated in the definition of language, the arbitrariness is one of the many key features associated with language (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). The arbitrariness of language allows it to be very flexible, thus able to have new symbols, or words, be inventible (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). The arbitrariness also enables language to be so diverse, such as the wide variety of languages, which even though they may contain many of the same or similar phonemes, the symbol, or word, used for the same meaning are often very dissimilar (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). Structured
The duality of language consists of the primary level, the units, such as letters or phonemes in the English language, and the secondary level, the elements which make up the symbols or words within the language (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). Each language has its own rules in regards to how the primary level phonemes are arraigned to make the secondary level elements (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). The systematic feature of language insures that the particular manner in which the primary level units, letters, are combined limit the meaning of the secondary level element, word (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. . )). Structure-dependence are the rules which each language uses for the construction of the groups of elements, words, to accurately convey the desired meaning (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). Structure-dependence is also called the grammar of a language (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). Generative The ability to invent new words and new grammar rules are a key property to language, as this makes it possible to express new information and old information in a new manner (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )).
The property of being able to use symbols, or letters, in new ways, and give these new ways meaning is what allows the language to grow with human understanding (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). Human beings are always growing in knowledge, inventing new things, and new ideas thus without the generative property of language they would not be able to give this new information form that could be explained to others, or future generations (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). Dynamic The generative property of language leads into the fact that language also has the property of being dynamic (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. . )). This property of being able to incorporate new elements, or words, allows the language to grow with each generation (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). This dynamic property also allows language to form new grammar rules which ensure clearer understanding (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). The fact that language is “stimulus free”, meaning that there are unlimited statements which could be uttered upon the individual receiving any type of stimulus, shows how language is productive, and limitless (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). Structure and Processing of Language
All languages possess some form of structure and process, which includes phonemes, words, sentences, and texts (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). Phonemes are the various sounds associated with a particular language, and while the origins of the first phonemes and the first subsequent words are still debated, all languages begin first with these sounds and their associated symbols (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). The amazing thing is that infants are born with the ability to make the verbal phonemes of all languages, but only retain those of their cultural language (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. . )). The generative property of language enables the ability to arrange the various phonemes into words which are given meaning (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). The limitless quality of arranging phonemes aids in the ability of language to grow with the knowledge of humans (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). The arbitrariness property of language allows the arranging of these phonemes into words to have a specific meaning regardless of how the phonemes are arranged (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )).
The structure of language dictates how phonemes are able to be joined to create words, but this does not limit the quantity of words that can be created but insures that the words will flow naturally according with the language (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). The sentences made from the words are as dynamic, arbitrary, and generative as the words from which they are made (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). Sentences, while they are subject to more structure, are made clearer and more understandable by the structure, yet this does not preclude or limit their ability to be dynamic and generative (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. ). Syntax, which deals with the rules of how sentences are constructed, explains how the use of “noun phrases, verb phases, prepositional phrases,” in conjunction with the rules established in the lexicon is used to insure understanding in sentences (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). Sentences are grouped together to form texts, but the manner in which the sentences are grouped together is as important as how the sentences are arranged (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). Text is the representation formed by the grouping of sentences, where each sentence has some connection with the other sentences (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. . )). Cognitive Psychology and Language Linguists focus on the structure and use of language, while cognitive psychologists focus on how language is acquired, comprehended, and produced (Lu and Dosher, 2007). The dynamic use of language helped to prove that human beings behave in a more complex manner than presented by behaviorist psychology (Lu and Dosher, 2007) (STIR, (n. d. )). Cognitive psychology seeks to answer how human beings acquire language, how as an infant, toddler, child, and adult, language is learned, how non-native languages are learned (Lu and Dosher, 2007).
Cognitive psychologist seeks to understand how the human brain is capable of language, which is witnessed by the fact that infants produce all of the phonemes of all languages, or through the creation of private languages by children (Lu and Dosher, 2007) (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )) (Willingham, 2007). Cognitive psychology seeks to understand how the human mind creates, comprehends, stores, manipulates, and retrieves language information (Lu and Dosher, 2007).
Finally, cognitive psychology seeks to understand how the human mind manipulates the language information into new and dynamic information (Lu and Dosher, 2007). Conclusion Language is the most profound human ability. Language is not only uniquely human, but is also one of the most intricate, specific, adaptable, and complex of human behaviors. True language meets the five criteria; communicative, arbitrary, structured, generative, and dynamic (STIR, (n. d. )). True langue is structured in its use of phonemes, words, sentences, and texts (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. . )). True language allows human beings to pass on their knowledge, to communicate in the present, and to create for the future (Pati, 2000) (STIR, (n. d. )). Cognitive psychology seeks to understand the processes of how language is acquire, comprehended, and produced, so that they are better able to understand how the human mind works (Lu and Dosher, 2007). References Lu, Z. , Dosher, B. A. , 2007. Cognitive psychology. Scholarpedia, 2(8):2769. Retrieved on August 31, 2010 from http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Cognitive_science Pati, D, April 26, 2000.
Summary: Luger, G. F. (1994) Chapter 13: Language representation and processing. In Cognitive Science: The Science of Intelligent Systems. Academic Press, San Diego, CA. Retrieved on August 31, 2010 from http://www. jimdavies. org/summaries/luger1994. html STIR, (n. d. ). Key properties of language. Retrieved on August 31, 2010 from http://www. speech-therapy-information-and-resources. com/key-properties-of-language. html Willingham, D. T. (2007). Cognition: The thinking animal (3rd ed. ). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Allyn &??Bacon.