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Based on Ch. 8 of The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker

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1 Based on Ch. 8 of The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker
The Tower of Babel Prof. Julia Nee Based on Ch. 8 of The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker

2 Are languages more similar or more different?
Martin Joos: “languages could differ from each other without limit and in unpredictable ways” Noam Chomsky: a Martian scientist would conclude that earthlings, aside from their mutually unintelligible vocabularies, speak the same language Thoughts?

3 Are these similarities or differences?
Isolating languages vs. Agglutinating languages Isolating: Use fixed words to mark the players in a sentence. The dog bit the man. The man bit the dog. Agglutinating: Add affixes to mark the players in a sentence. Person.marker+base+aspect-mood.marker (Mixe) Fixed word order vs. flexible word order

4 Word Order What are the possible orders for Subject – Object – Verb?
SVO and SOV account for the majority of languages A few are VSO Less than 1% OVS OSV? The fact that there are six possibilities, but only two are common and one may not even exist  is there some underlying mental grammar?

5 Theories explaining language universals
There is a “language gene” (the capacity to learn language is a part of our brain) Language originated only once Language developed out of a general learning strategy in our brain

6 Are we genetically wired for language learning?
What if language originated only once? All existing languages come from the original source Similarities come from that original language Counter-arguments: Creolization New signed languages Creolization: two languages come into contact  speakers develop a pidgin, then a creole (2 generations); follows language universals, even if those universals are not present in either of the original languages

7 Creolization When speakers of different languages are forced to communicate, they develop “pidgins” Pidgin: strings of words borrowed from the component languages; variable in word order; little or no standard grammar Hawaiian sugar plantations called for Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Philippinos, and Puerto Rican workers THERE ARE NO NATIVE SPEAKERS OF A PIDGIN

8 Creolization Ex: Me capé buy, me check make. He bought my coffee; he made me out a check. I bought coffee; I made out a check When the second generation of speakers is exposed to the pidgin, they regularize it into a language, with a standard grammar Da firs japani came ran away from japan come. The first Japanese who arrived ran away from Japan to here. Complete grammar; use English verbs as auxiliaries, prepositions, case markers etc. FLESH THIS OUT

9 Signed Languages Naturally occurring languages that are found wherever there is a community of deaf people Signed Languages are not necessarily related to one another Nicaraguan Sign Language 1979: Establishment of the first school for the deaf in Nicaragua Brought together deaf students from around the country never before exposed to sign language Due to the Sandinista government Trained children in lip reading and speech Video - (7mins)

10 Signed Languages First students brought their own systems of gesture or homesign Combined to form a pidgin – Lenguaje de Signos Nicaragüense Younger deaf students were exposed to the pidgin Created a creole – Idioma de Signos Nicaragüense Full study

11 Signed Languages ISN was more complex and had fixed grammatical structures Greater number of verbs with a greater number of arguments Greater number of inflections per verb Greater agreement on each verb New students learn the more complex system

12 Are we genetically wired for language learning?
What if language originated only once? Creolization New signed languages What if language universals reflect universals of problem solving and thought? Why would it be easier to conceptualize things one way or another? Rules are arbitrary in an information sense, but not in a grammatical sense START HERE ON TUESDAY Mice-eater vs. *rats-eater

13 Language Acquisition Hypothesis that there is a “critical period” in language acquisition (before age 7) Our general problem solving skills increase with age, but our language learning skills decrease with age Children are excellent at figuring out language rules subconsciously; adults are terrible at figuring them out consciously

14 Critical Period in Language Acquisition
Need to be exposed to language input during the critical period before about 7 years old in order to develop language Evidence for a critical period: Immigrants Children in captivity Deaf children of hearing parents Immigrants: Living in the US at least 10 years Shown sentences with grammatical errors: The farmer bought two pig. The little boy is speak to a policeman. Immigrants arriving between 3-7 = American-born individuals 8-15 = worse 17-39 = worst of all Deaf children of hearing parents Never as good at signed languages as those exposed in early childhood Children in captivity Genie: discovered at age 13 (1970) in an LA suburb; kept without interaction with other humans  no language input; could only say “Mike paint. Applesauce buy store. I like elephant eat peanut.” Isabelle: discovered at age 6.5 from her grandfather’s house where she lived with her mute mother  learned to speak normally “Why does the paste come out if one upsets the jar? Do you go to Miss Mason’s school at the university?” IF WE’RE SWIMMING IN TIME AFTER DAY 1, GET THESE STUDIES FOR THE STUDENTS TO PRESENT THEMSELVES!

15 Immigrants Studied immigrants living in the US at least 10 years
Shown sentences: The farmer bought two pig. The little boy is speak to a policeman. Immigrants arriving between 3-7 performed the same as US-born individuals 8-15 performed worse 17-39 performed worst

16 “Wild Children” Genie Isabelle Mike paint. Applesauce buy store.
I like elephant eat peanut. Isabelle Why does the paste come out if one upsets the jar? Do you go to Miss Mason’s school at the university? Genie: discovered at age 13 (1970) in an LA suburb; kept without interaction with other humans no language input; could only say “Mike paint. Applesauce buy store. I like elephant eat peanut.” Isabelle: discovered at age 6.5 from her grandfather’s house where she lived with her mute mother  learned to speak normally “Why does the paste come out if one upsets the jar? Do you go to Miss Mason’s school at the university?”

17 Deaf Children of Hearing Parents
Deprived of language input if they are not exposed to a signed language Develop gesture or homesign When exposed to signed languages, they can learn, but if they are too old when they’re first exposed, they never gain fluency

18 Specific Language Impairment
Inability to inflect (plural, tense) The boy eat three cookie. Yesterday the girl pet a dog. Could not pass the “wug” test Sass  sasss Wug  wugness Zat  zackle Given intensive speech and language therapy, but it didn’t solve the problem

19 Specific Language Impairment
Classic example of dominant gene: Those who have the disease have a 50% chance of passing it on If you’re not impaired, your children are not impaired Could the children have learned it? Not likely  same environment (even the third generation twins)

20 Aphasia Damage to Broca’s area  Broca’s aphasia
Understand what is said but have difficulties speaking (slow, ungrammatical) Me…build-ing…chairs, no, no, cab-in-nets. One saw…then, cutting wood…working… Damage to Wernicke’s area  Wernicke’s aphasia Fluent speech, but doesn’t make sense [“What kind of work have you done?”] “We, the kids, all of us, and I, we were working for a long time in the…you know…it’s the kind of space< I mean place rear to the spedwan…” Me…build-ing…chairs, no, no, cab-in-nets. One saw…then, cutting wood…working…

21 Aphasia and ASL Speakers of ASL are affected the same way by aphasia!
Can use their hands for purposes other than signing Can pantomime Shows that ASL actions are organized differently in the brain than other actions

22 Teaching Language to Apes
Allen and Beatrice Gardner taught a chimp named “Washoe” a version of sign language Francine Patter raised gorillas “Koko” and “Michael” with signs Herbert Terrance worked with the chimp “Nim Chimpsky” Equivalent of 3 year old English Humans usually improve on this; even in cases where they’re exposed to incomplete language (pidgin) they add complexity

23 What discovery marked the beginning of “comparative linguistics”
What discovery marked the beginning of “comparative linguistics”? / ¿Cuál descubrimiento inició el campo de “lingüística comparada”? What is the strongest factor used in defining a language as a “language” or as a “dialect”? / ¿Cuál es la consideración más decisiva en etiquetar un habla como “lengua” o “dialecto”? Why is African American Vernacular English considered only a dialect of English? / ¿Por qué se considera que el inglés vernáculo de los africanos-americanos es nada más que un dialecto de inglés? Identify the following rules as “prescriptive” or “descriptive”: Double negation is used in African American Vernacular English. You shouldn’t use double negation in English. The second person singular past tense inflection in Spanish is –aste or –iste; these are the only acceptable forms. In Mexican dialects of Spanish, -astes, -aste, -istes, and –istes are all used as second person singular past tense inflections. Identifiquen las siguientes reglas como “prescriptivas” o “descriptivas”: Se usa negación doble en inglés vernáculo de los africanos-americanos. No se debe usar negación doble en inglés. La inflexión para la segunda persona singular, tiempo pasado, en español es –aste o –iste; no se aceptan otras formas. En dialectos mexicanos del español, -astes, -aste, -iste, y –istes son aceptadas como inflexiones para la segunda persona singular, tiempo pasado. Describe the process of creolization. / Describan el proceso de criollización. Is it possible that language originated only once? Consider creolization and the presence of new signed languages in your response. / ¿Es posible que el lenguaje se originara una sola vez? Consideren criollización y las nuevas lenguas de signos en su respuesta.

24 Teaching Language to Apes
Basic signed communication Taught explicitly Apply signs to larger categories Produce new strings of signs Equivalent of 3 year old English Humans usually improve on this; even in cases where they’re exposed to incomplete language (pidgin) they add complexity One learned the word for “drinking straw” and applied it to all tubes Water bird = swan; cookie rock = stale roll

25 Teaching Language to Apes
Apes’ use of signs suggests: They have concepts that are structured similarly to ours They can attach concepts to external symbols (signs) Do they have a mental grammar? Have basic word order (“Roger tickle Lucy” vs. “Lucy tickle Roger”) Very redundant (“give orange me give eat orange me eat orange give me eat orange give me you”) As the utterances get longer, they don’t get more complex (unlike child speech development): play me, me Nim, tickly me, eat Nim  play me Nim, eat me Nim, eat Nim eat, tickly me Nim  eat drink eat drink, eat Nim eat Nim

26 Teaching Language to Apes
Don’t acquire vocabulary the same way as human children Ape language learning more similar to learning a written language system like Chinese Acquisition of signs may be the result of general learning strategies; language learning is different Human children learn about 10 words a day to get up to 10,000 words by age 5

27 Teaching Language to Apes
Can apes communicate? Can they acquire grammar? Is their communication like the human use of language?

28 Why is this significant for comparative linguistics?
Look for similarities and differences that are significant Some linguistic traits are common, so they may have arisen by chance Traits that are more unique are more reliable for comparing related languages If we are genetically wired for language, all languages are likely to have SOMETHING in common End here Tuesday???

29 Why do languages change?
Freeman Dyson: “it is nature’s way to make it possible for us to evolve rapidly” by creating isolated ethnic groups in which undiluted biological and cultural evolution can proceed swiftly But linguistic evolution does not have foresight

30 Why do languages change?
“The formation of different languages and of distinct species, and the proofs that both have been developed through a gradual process, are curiously parallel…we find in distinct languages striking homologies due to community of descent, and analogies due to a similar process of formation…Languages, like organic beings, can be classed in groups under groups; and they can be classed either naturally, according to descent, or artificially by other characters. Dominant languages and dialects spread widely, and lead to the gradual extinction of other tongues. A language, like a species, when extinct, never…reappears.” -Darwin

31 Factors in Language Change
Related languages are the result of evolution from a common language or proto-language Languages change through: Variation: linguistic innovation Heredity: ability to learn Isolation: migration or social barriers

32 Learning in Language Evolution
Why do we need to learn languages? Why isn’t the language innate? Communicative – we need to share our code with our communicative partners Generation to generation, there are changes  learning language rather than having fully innate language allows us to adapt Takes a lot of hard wiring to have a genetic component for EVERY linguistic element

33 Variation in Language Evolution
Borrowing Coining new words Reanalysis: listener interprets language differently from the speaker “naranja”  “norange”  “a norange”  “an orange”  “those oranges” “hammer-did”  “hammered” Syntactic Changes: optional things become obligatory “Give him a book” and “give a book him” Reanalysis  we are constantly looking for rules, so sometimes we find rules where there are none!

34 Separation The majority of the language is preserved each generation
Colin Renfrew: Indo-European spread as farmers began cultivating more and more territory


36 Separation

37 Hittite Was spoken in present-day Turkey
Date back to 16th or 17th century BC! Written syllabically with logograms for borrowed words Difficult to know the exact sounds (esp. vowels) b/c it’s extinct and it was a syllabic writing system

38 Tocharian Discovered in 1900 in China Two distinct dialects
Texts that were found are incomplete Along the silk road Texts are mostly translation of Buddhist writings  good because easy to translate; bad because didn’t tell much about culture of tocharians

39 Indo-Iranian Indic Iranian

40 Indic Oldest is Sanskrit, specifically the Vedic language of the Vedas
Panini wrote grammar in 4th century BC Sanskrit used (like Latin) long after it was no longer spoken Developed into languages of modern India (Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarathi, Sinahlese, Romani) Originated in Punjab, then spread to the south Veda = knowledge; oldest hindu religious texts Dravidian languages (UNRELATED) are the farthest south

41 Hindi-Urdu एक दो तीन ایک دو تین One/Two/Three
Devanagari script vs. variation on Arabic script

42 Iranian Avestan – language used in the “Bible” of teachings of Zarathustra Old Persian – language of King Darius of the Persian empire


44 Balto-Slavic Slavic Baltic Old Church Slavonic – oldest from c. 865 AD
First use of Cyrillic alphabet East Slavic – Russian, Ukrainian South Slavic – Bulgarian, Macedonian, BCS West Slavic – Polish, Czech, Slovakian, Sorbian Baltic Lithuanian and Latvian Old Prussian (now extinct) Latvian and Russian/Polish

45 Balto-Slavic Numbers Number Russian Polish Latvian 1 один [ah-DEEN]
jeden Viens/viena 2 два [dvah] dwa Divi/divas 3 три [tree] trzy Tris/tris 4 четыре [che-TYH-ree] cztery Četri/četras 5 пять [pyat'] pięć Piece/piecas 6 шесть [shehst'] sześć Seši/sešas 7 семь [syehm] siedem Septini/septinas 8 восемь [VOH-seem] osiem Astoni/astonas 9 девять [DYEH-vit'] dziewięć Devini/devinas 10 десять [DYEH-sit'] dziesięć Desmit

46 Celtic Originally from Central Europe Became extinct on the continent
Only “Insular Celtic” survived Celtic Welsh Cornish Breton Irish

47 Italic Latin Italian Spanish Catalan Portuguese French Romanian Occitan Extinct languages of the Italian Peninsula (Umbrian, Oscan, Faliscan, South Picene) Video of Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian

48 Germanic South of Norway and Sweden, Denmark and Germany
East Germanic (Gothic)  extinct North Germanic (Scandinavian languages) West Germanic (English, Frisian, Dutch, German) Angles and Saxons went to England, where they spoke “Old English” Frisian is the closest relative of English because Angles, Saxons, and Frisians were a community in NW Germany before the migration to England Clips from Germanic languages vid

49 Conclusions Languages of the world have profound similarities despite surface differences. This leads us to believe that we have an underlying “language instinct” that is hard-wired into our brains. Language evolves in a way that is similar to species evolution: innovation, heredity, and isolation contribute to new language traits.

50 1. Critical period A. Because people speak different languages, we need this ability in order to communicate. 1. Periodo crítico A causa de que la gente habla lenguas distintas, se necesita esta habilidad para comunicarse. 2. Specific language impairment B. Exercise where people are asked to form the plural of words. 2. Trastorno específico del lenguaje B. Ejercicio en el cual se pregunta anotar el forma plural de palabras. 3. Broca’s aphasia C. The first part of our lives when we are able to successfully acquire language. 3. Afasia de Broca C. La primera parte de la vida en la cual se puede aprender idiomas exitosamente. 4. Wernicke’s aphasia D. Borrowing and reanalysis are examples of this. 4. Afasia de Wernicke D. Préstamo y reanalysis son ejemplos de ello. 5. Wug test E. A disorder that causes people to speak fluently, but the speech doesn’t make sense. 5. Examen “Wug” E. Un trastorno que causa un habla normal, pero que no tiene sentido. 6. Learning F. Because people do not live in united geographical areas their languages develop differently. 6. Aprendizaje F. Porque la gente no vive en áreas unidas por geografía sus lenguas desarrollan de maneras distintas. 7. Separation G. A genetic disorder that results in the inability to fully learn language. 7. Separación G. Un trastorno genético que resulta en la incapacidad de aprender el lenguaje. 8. Variation H. A disorder that causes people to understand what is said but have difficulties speaking. 8. Variación H. Un trastorno que resulta en una persona quien puede entender lenguaje, pero quien tiene dificultades en hablarlo.

51 Extra Credit: Name any three languages that are in the same language family listed here!
Credito Extra: Nobra tres lenguas de la misma familia de uno de las familias nombradas aqui! Separation 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

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