Concepts And Structures Of Language Biology Essay

Language, as described by the cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, is “ the gem in the Crown of knowledge ” ( Siegler 212 ) . Out of all our mental procedures of knowledge, linguistic communication is arguably one of the most used and intricate procedure, as evidenced by the about 6,909 different linguistic communications used in the universe today ( Lewis, ethnologue.com ) . As Noam Chomsky wrote, “ when we study the human linguistic communication, we are nearing what some might name the ‘human kernel ‘ ” ( Chomsky 88 ) . Chomsky refers to linguistic communication as the “ human kernel ” because it is one of the few cognitive abilities that is so cardinal to human development, while at the same clip seting human existences in their ain echelon of biological complexness in beings.

Equally much as we take linguistic communication for granted, an foreign species foreign to our methods of communicating may go funny or puzzled when watching us communicate. After all, we sometimes sit for long periods of clip, listening to our fellow worlds make hushings and squeaks with their vocal chords. We do this because that these sounds that we make have construction, significance, and significance. In our day-to-day lives, each one of us wields the tools of linguistic communication non merely to convey information, but besides to actuate, influence, or bid attending. To understand linguistic communication, there are four cardinal countries that merit attending: the construction of linguistic communication, different phases in linguistic communication development, changing positions in linguistic communication acquisition, and the biological science behind linguistic communication.

Structure of linguistic communication

Although linguistic communication is improbably complex, as mentioned before, linguists have found ways to divide linguistic communication into different parts. Harmonizing to the current methods, linguistic communication is comprised of three simpler edifice blocks: phonemes, morphemes, and grammar.

The smallest unit of linguistic communication is a phoneme, which are the basic sounds of a linguistic communication. For case, the English word cat is made up of three phonemes, including the get downing c- sound, followed by the vowel a- , and eventually the difficult harmonic t- stoping. While at first glimpse phonemes may look to be tantamount to letters, this is non the instance. In English, uniting two vowels frequently generates a new phoneme, such as the ou- vowel sounds in moue.

Harmonizing to linguists who have studied over 500 different linguistic communications, worlds use around 869 different phonemes. English is comprised of around 40 different phonemes, with other linguistic communications holding anyplace from 20 to 90 ( Meyers 383 ) . A chart naming the chief English phonemes is provided ( see fig 1 ) .

In linguistic communication, altering phonemes in words alters their significances. For case, altering the phoneme between the letters b- and t- creates twelve new significances: “ chiropteran, turn, beat/beet, bought, stake, boot, spot, boat, bite, but, and come-on ” ( Wardbaugh 189 ) . As of import as vowel sounds may look, harmonic phonemes really carry more information: “ The treth ef thes statement shed be evedent frem thes bref dementretien ” ( Meyers 383 ) .

Another interesting phenomenon that we encounter in our day-to-day lives is the trouble people have with articulating words from different linguistic communications. This is chiefly because as we grow and learn linguistic communication, we learn the set of phonemes required by our native linguistic communication, but we besides have trouble with phonemes from other linguistic communications. For case, a common illustration of this is a native German talker ‘s trouble with the English phoneme th- . When seeking to articulate the word this, German talkers frequently say dis alternatively. This is because the th- phoneme does n’t be in the German linguistic communication. Likewise, English talkers have problem with the German turn overing r- and breathy ch- phonemes. Surprisingly, this is besides common among gestural linguistic communications every bit good. With about 200 different mark linguistic communications used in the universe today, native signers of one linguistic communication may hold trouble with the phoneme-like edifice blocks of other sign-languages. Harmonizing to the research worker Ursula Bellugi, “ Chinese native signers who come to America to larn mark normally sign with an speech pattern ” ( Klima and Bellugi 158 ) .

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Figure 1- English Phonemes

Morphemes are the 2nd edifice block of linguistic communication. While phonemes are the basic sounds of a linguistic communication, morphemes are the smallest units of linguistic communication that convey significance. There is some convergence between morphemes and phonemes ; some phonemes, such as the English a- and I- , are both basic sounds every bit good as words that carry intending. More frequently, nevertheless, morphemes are combinations of multiple phonemes. Some may be full words, but others are parts of words. While words like tally and plaything are morphemes, prefixes and postfixs like pre- and -ed qualify every bit morphemes every bit good.

The 3rd and most complex edifice block of linguistic communication is grammar. The English linguistic communication is composed of 40 phonemes, which combine to organize around 100,000 different morphemes, which so combine to organize over 1,000,000 different words and derivations ( Meyers 384 ) . In order to manage all of these words in a structured and organized mode, we develop regulations and forms to make a standard method to pass on between one another. The two chief divisions of grammar include semantics and sentence structure.

The first subdivision of grammar is semantics, which is the set of regulations that governs how we derive intending from words, morphemes, and sentences. In semantics, we study the relationship between forms and their denotata. Forms are the marks, words, or phrases that we are interested in, while denotata is what these objects stand for. For case, from the regulations of semantics, we know that adding -ed to the verb blast means that the action happened in the yesteryear.

The 2nd subdivision of grammar trades with sentence structure. Syntax is the set of regulations that gives intending to the order of the words in the sentence. Syntax varies wildly from linguistic communication to linguistic communication, as there is no cosmopolitan set of regulations. In English, for illustration, adjectives frequently come before their nouns, as in the phrase “ big house. ” However, in Spanish, syntax dictates that adjectives normally come after the nouns they describe. The same phrase in Spanish would be “ casa grande, ” with the adjectival approach after the noun it describes.

Grammar has and ever will be improbably intricate. As Steven Pinker wrote in 1994, “ There are Stone Age societies, but there is no such thing as a Stone Age linguistic communication ” ( Pinker 15 ) . However, this is the unconditioned beauty of linguistic communication: complexness built out of simpleness. When you look at each of the different edifice blocks of linguistic communication by themselves, they are n’t excessively difficult to understand ; in fact, at some points, they may even be seen as intuitive and simple. However, the infinite combination of words, phrases, and sentences that we are able to organize with the assistance of linguistic communication enables us to show about any emotion or feeling through linguistic communication.

Phases in linguistic communication development

While we frequently take human communicating for granted, worlds have an astonishing bent when it comes to developing a high proficiency in linguistic communication in such a short period of clip. Many of us have 10s of 1000s of words stored in our heads as we go about our day-to-day lives, and we are able to build sentences with these words with about perfect sentence structure with easiness. We use about three words a 2nd as we speak, and this is frequently done spontaneously, with small to no planning ahead. This subdivision seeks to research how we get to this degree of proficiency.

Each individual enters this universe as a tabula rasa for linguistic communication ; we have no cognition of linguistic communication at all, and for rather some clip, we remain this manner. At 4 months of age, babes begin to develop their receptive linguistic communication, or ability to understand and grok spoken word. Initially, they begin to fit sounds with traveling lips. They prefer to be looking at the face that makes the sound, and they begin to larn that certain uses of the oral cavity make distinguishable sounds. Then, at 7 months of age, they are able to differential separate words from a watercourse of spoken sound.

What ‘s rather astonishing is that research workers have found that immature kids around 7 months of age have an innate advantage when it comes to sectioning spoken sounds. A survey conducted in the mid-1990s placed several grownups and 7-month old kids in suites with a computing machine breathing a sound. To most of us, the sound that the computing machine was doing would sound like wholly random sounds jumbled together. However, the research workers had placed reiterating syllables inside these sounds, and it turned out that the immature kids had an easy clip separating the reiterating syllables than the grownups ( Meyers 387 ) . This information plays a big function in surveies of 2nd linguistic communication acquisition, which we will analyze more closely when looking at critical periods for linguistic communication acquisition.

At 4 months, kids besides begin developing their productive linguistic communication. The first phase is referred to by scientists and psychologists as the babble phase. During this phase, babes create random sounds strung together that have no significance. Babbling is universally similar ; in other words, a Chinese babe ‘s babble would be no different from a Russian babe ‘s babble. The family linguistic communication has no bearing on the sounds created during this phase. However, if the babble has no significance, what is its intent? The babble phase is nature ‘s manner of fixing the kid for a huge array of phonemes, since different linguistic communications require different phonemes.

At 10 months, babble has changed. Alternatively of runing a huge array of phonemes, the sounds created by the kid will be the same as the sounds of the family. At this point, a well-trained ear can listen to the sounds that a kid makes and will be able to separate with a just grade of certainty which linguistic communication is spoken in the family. At this point, kids are said to be functionally deaf to sounds outside of their native linguistic communication. This is similar to scenario presented earlier contrasting a German talker with an English talker. Likewise, this consequence can besides be seen in Nipponese grownups who move to an English speech production state. Nipponese talkers can non distinguish between the English r- phoneme and the l- sounds. For case, a Nipponese talker will hear the same thing when an English talker says both right and light. This is because the Nipponese talker is functionally deaf to the difference between these two phonemes ( Meyers 385 ) .

Young kids normally enter the phase known as the one-word phase around their first birthday. At this phase, most know that sounds convey significances, and they are able to link words with images. I add-on, the kids will normally get down to utilize one syllable phrases or short words to pass on with others. This phase is where the baby ‘s linguistic communication begins to fit the linguistic communication spoken by the household in the family. Vocabulary acquisition is comparatively moderate, with the babies larning around a word a hebdomad, but this speeds up to a word a twenty-four hours 18 months of age.

Finally, at the age of 2, kids enter the two-word phase. Because the phrases used are normally in the noun-verb form, the address is frequently called telegraphic address since it resembles the short messages that telegraphs relayed. Besides, merely like the old telegraphs, the address about ever follows the regulations of sentence structure ( large Canis familiaris alternatively of Canis familiaris large ) .

Once kids move out of this phase, they normally begin to make longer phrases instead quickly. An interesting fact that is noted respects kids who get a late start in larning their linguistic communication. This job can originate if a kid is an international adoptee, traveling to a foreign state where another linguistic communication is used in the family. Psychologists have noted that even though the kids get a late start on larning the linguistic communication, they move through all of the phases noted above, except they do so at a faster gait ( Meyers 386 ) .

Figure 2- Summary of phases of development

How we learn linguistic communication

In the kingdom of psychological science, many people have tried to explicate the method behind how we get linguistic communication at an early age. Although no cosmopolitan theory has been developed, the contrasting positions of two of import people- B. F. Skinner and Noam Chomsky- provide differing sentiments about linguistic communication acquisition.

B. F. Skinner, a celebrated behaviourist, believed in a theory known as Operant acquisition. Harmonizing to his theories, kids acquired linguistic communication through three good known rules: association, imitation, and support. Association trades with linking sounds with words, images, or objects. A kid who is told to indicate to his olfactory organ will be able to turn up his ain olfactory organ with pattern. Imitation, the 2nd rule, explains how kids pick up grammar. Children hear grownups utilizing proper grammar, and so copy the forms that they hear. Finally, the last rule is reinforcement. Harmonizing to Skinner, acquisition of linguistic communication is n’t complete until kids receive positive feedback for making sentences or pass oning right ( Meyers 386 ) .

When the celebrated linguist Noam Chomsky heard of Skinner ‘s theory of linguistic communication acquisition, he believed that it did n’t explicate the whole image. Chomsky steadfastly believed that kids learned new vocabulary and rules of grammar excessively rapidly to be explained by Skinner ‘s Operant acquisition. For illustration, Chomsky pointed out that kids tended to overgeneralise grammar regulations when foremost get downing out, making fresh sentences utilizing regulations they had n’t been taught earlier. In Chomsky ‘s position, linguistic communication acquisition was like “ assisting a flower grow in its ain manner ” ( Holyoak and Thagard 170 ) . Chomsky proposed the thought of a linguistic communication acquisition device. Though it has non been proven scientifically, the construct behind the linguistic communication acquisition device is that it acts as a switch box, with certain “ switches ” necessitating to be turned on or off in order to bring forth linguistic communication. These switches are conditions that we are exposed to as we developed or linguistic communication.

In add-on to the linguistic communication acquisition device, Chomsky besides believed in a construct frequently called the “ congenital cosmopolitan grammar. ” Chomsky noted that all of the universe ‘s linguistic communications were built out of the same edifice blocks-nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. Therefore, we learn the specific grammar of linguistic communications that we experience readily, since cosmopolitan grammar comes prewired into our encephalons. This proposal is supported by the fact that all kids begin stating nouns before traveling on to other parts of address, such as verbs and adjectives.

While both Chomsky and Skinner propose valid statements supporting their theories, psychologists believe that true linguistic communication acquisition is a medium between both theories. Skinner ‘s thoughts were more related to the raising facet of the argument, while Chomsky believed in the nature side. As with about every psychological topic, the true reply is that development is merely possible with both nature and raising working together.

Research has besides shown that critical periods do in fact exist for linguistic communication acquisition. Deaf kids who received cochlear implants before the age of two developed far better address than those who received the implants after the age of four. Childs who are n’t exposed to linguistic communication until the age of 2 or 3 receive a “ haste of linguistic communication, ” “ unleash [ ing ] their encephalon ‘s idle linguistic communication capacity ” ( Meyers 387 ) . These kids normally go on to go strongly adept in linguistic communication accomplishments.

However, kids who have n’t been exposed to any linguistic communication ( such as deaf kids without exposure to subscribe linguistic communication ) by the age of seven easy start losing the ability to get the hang any linguistic communication. A recent survey compared kids deaf by birth who did n’t larn gestural linguistic communication until the age of nine with kids who learned English before going deaf around the age of nine and larning gestural linguistic communication. The kids who learned English foremost developed a far greater command of mark linguistic communication than the kids who were deprived of linguistic communication. As Meyers concluded in his book, “ when a immature encephalon does non larn any linguistic communication, its language-learning capacity ne’er to the full develops ” ( Meyers 388 ) .

This window for linguistic communication acquisition besides plays a portion in 2nd linguistic communication acquisition ; those who wait longer to get down larning another linguistic communication tend to hold a more hard clip with the procedure. In a survey done in the early 1990s, two research workers asked Korean and Chinese immigrants whether each of around 270 short sentences that they were displayed were grammatically right or non. Some of the immigrants had come to the United States in their childhood, but all of the immigrants tested had lived in the United States for around 10 old ages. When the information was collected and documented, it was seen that the older the immigrant was when he or she arrived in America, the worse they performed on the grammar trial. The consequences of the survey are graphed in Figure 3. Research done into the encephalon ‘s engagement in 2nd linguistic communication acquisition is covered in the following subdivision.

Figure 3- Results of the immigrant survey

The biological science behind linguistic communication

When it comes to linguistic communication and communicating, people are ready to believe that many of the accomplishments that we associate with language- reading, authorship, and speaking- are governed by the same countries of the encephalon. However, surveies looking into the effects of aphasias, or hurts that impair linguistic communication ability, revealed some surprising consequences. Harmonizing to Meyers, “ some people with aphasia can talk fluently but can non read ( despite good vision ) , while others can grok what they read but non speakaˆ¦ still others can compose but non read, read but non write, read Numberss but non letters, or sing but non talk ” ( Meyers 389 ) .

Puzzled by the changing effects of aphasia, scientists began analyzing patients with these mental upsets and