Ancestral roots of human language in animal sounds: grunts, barks, whines 8-6 million years ago, humans split from chimpanzees
3.5 million years ago, African australopithecines, who have an apelike vocal tract, could not speak but communicated by gestures and grunts 3 million years ago, crude human proto- language is first seen
2 million years ago, Homo ergaster/archaic Homo erectus developed physical organs and mental capacity to produce a rough form of speech 100,000 years ago, first modern vocal tract appears in fossils of Homo sapiens 100,000-50,000 years ago, gradual brain enhancement and beginnings of development of symbolic thought and of language as we know it
Common origin of all human languages in a single language (Proto-World) first spoken in Africa around 70,000-60,000 years ago 32,000 years ago, earliest cave paintings and sculpture, clear evidence of symbolic thought and sophisticated language use
3,500 years ago (1,500 BC), earliest alphabetic writing emerges in the Middle East
Language is a symbolic system of communication. According to the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, language structures the human understanding of the world. ◦ The sense of reality is embedded in a speaker’s language. ◦ Language creates a subjective perspective of the objective world, a perspective shared by all speakers of a language.
Humans have an innate ability to acquire language and capitalize on its use. This can be shown by brain structures specifically tied to language interpretation and production.
The left hemisphere ◦ The left hemisphere plays an important part in language processes ◦ Anterior parts of the left hemisphere (Broca’s area), are specialized for speech output ◦ Posterior areas (Wernicke’s area) of the left hemisphere are crucial for speech comprehension ◦ The right hemisphere
The right hemisphere ◦ Perception of prosodic cues ◦ Aids with discourse by helping a person comprehend a story line, make inferences based on previous material, and find the main theme or lesson of a story ◦ Metaphorical and nonliteral use of language
Anterior & posterior regions ◦ Phonology Anterior regions ◦ Syntax Posterior regions of the left hemisphere ◦ Semantics
American Sign Language ◦ Hand symbols ◦ Syntax marked by word order, as well as the spatial location where a symbol is made, and the type of hand movement ◦ Relies on analogous regions of the left hemisphere as vocal language, but the right hemisphere is more important
Written Word and Music ◦ Relies on similar, but separate regions of the left hemisphere as spoken word Separable processes
Language is naturally based upon sound and paralinguistics (e.g. pitch, gestures, expressions). Additions to language, such as writing, are artificial language. They attempt to mimic natural language and cannot be innately acquired – must be taught.
Systematic – all language must have an identifiable grammar – or rules that outline a classification system, word sequencing, and other structuring. Sound – can convey universal meaning. ◦ Consider: Bouba Kiki What do these words look like?
Arbitrary – words are arbitrarily assigned. ◦ Signifier – the sounds meant to represent something physical. ◦ Signified – the object represented by the sound. ◦ Consider onomatopoeias for a dog barking: In English: arf, arf! In Spanish: guau, guau! In German: wau, wau! In Japanese: wung, wung!
Idioms – tendency to assign illogical meaning to random phrases (subset of arbitrariness). Creativity – even from within the confines of language and grammar, it is theoretically possible to produce infinite statements (hence fiction and lying). Redundancy – ensure accurate delivery (“I did it myself.” “I am.”) Markedness – degree of differentiation between languages
Noam Chomsky proposed that since humans have innate language competence, there must be an underlying universal grammar. Common grammatical genetic mechanism predicts three factors: ◦ “Genetic Endowment” – by genetically limiting language, it makes language acquisition possible. ◦ “External data” – ability to select language though experience (bilingualism). ◦ Principles not specific to the functions already performed by the brain.
◦ Phoneme- in a spoken language it is the smallest distinctive sound unit (syllable) ◦ Morpheme- in a language, the smallest unit that carries meaning ◦ Grammar- system of rules in language that enables us to communicate and understand others ◦ Semantics- sets of rules which we derive meaning ◦ Syntax- rules for combining words into sensible sentences in a given language
◦ Behaviorist- Skinner- learning of specific verbal responses ◦ Nativist- Chomsky- learning rules of language Languages Acquisition Device (LAD) ◦ Interactionist
◦ Additive Bilingualism ◦ Subtractive ◦ Code Switching ◦ Age of Acquisition effect
The Problem: ◦ There is something coming after you, and your village, and you need to communicate this to the rest of your group Rules: ◦ You can only use the words on the paper and other connecting words like: the, is, at, on, etc. ◦ You must have a least 4 sentences ◦ At least 2 different people must speak ◦ Try to make it entertaining
Language is constantly changing. E.g. English: Old English: ◦ Her for se here of East Englum ofer Humbremuþan to Eoforwicceastre on Norþhymbre, ond þær wæs micel ungeþuærnes þære þeode betweox him selfum
Middle English: ◦ Whan that aprill with his shoures soote The droghte of march hath perced to the roote, And bathed every veyne in swich licour Of which vertu engendred is the flour; Early Modern English: ◦ To be, or not to be, that is the Question: Whether 'tis Nobler in the minde to suffer The Slings and Arrowes of outragious Fortune, Or to take Armes against a Sea of troubles, And by opposing end them
As the cultures which speak a language become more “civilized” there is a tendency for consonants to move “forward” and vowels to move “up.” The Knights Who Say “Ni!” ◦
They live in a forest... this is a play on interpreted “civility” They find the use of the the ə sound in “its” repulsive compared to the high sound ǣ in “Ni!”
Language defines our reality. In many respects, language gives us our “humanness” – or at least our consciousness of it. Language is constantly evolving – it adapts to its needs and surroundings to promote its survival. ◦ Language accomplishes in hundreds of years what takes genetic evolution millions of years to accomplish.