PSY 369: Psycholinguistics
Foundations of Language:
Language and animals
Language and the brain
Language and thought
Announcements
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Exam 1: Tuesday, Feb. 7th (1 week from
today)
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Coverage
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Chapters 1, 2, & 3
Format
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Multiple choice
Definition matching
Short answer
Evolution of Language
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Where did it come from?
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Difficult question to answer, no fossil record of
language
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Some evidence that we do have
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Fossil evidence suggests that Broca’s area in brain has been around a
long time (between 2 million and 300,000 years)
Articulatory apparatus hasn’t changed much in last 60,000 years
Systems of animal communication show some features of human
language system
Probably evolved out of other systems of
communication
For more see:
Pinker (1994) The Language Instinct
Bickerton (2009) Adam’s Tongue
What is communication?
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Any means by which two (or more) individuals
exchange information
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Paralinguistic techniques – non-verbal communication
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Non-linguistic communication - that do involve
vocalization
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Hand signals, facial expressions, body language, nods, smiles,
winks, etc.
Also includes things like tone of voice, tempo, volume, etc.
Grunts, groans, snorts, sighs, whimpers, etc.
Not all produced sounds are intended to convey
messages, so they aren’t communication
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e.g., snoring
What about laughing? Clearing one’s throat?
Some examples
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Animals use a variety of methods to communicate
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Dogs bark
Birds sing
Bees dance
People talk - we use language (as well as other
methods) for communication
Features of Language (Hockett, 1960)
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Arbitrariness
Displacement
Productivity
Discreteness
Semanticity
Duality of patterning
Hockett (1960) is available for download in the ‘optional readings’ on Blackboard
Arbitrariness

No resemblance between the language
signal and the thing that it represents
“labrador”
“dog”
“chien”
“my pet”
“hund”
“perro”
“Charles Barkey”
Features of Language
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Arbitrariness
Displacement
Productivity
Discreteness
Semanticity
Duality of patterning
Displacement
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We can communicate about things that are physically
and temporally removed from us
“Did you see what happened in Newts’ news conference last
week? He got really emotional and started to cry.”
Features of Language
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Arbitrariness
Displacement
Productivity
Discreteness
Semanticity
Duality of patterning
Productivity
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Our use of language is extremely creative.
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We have a limited amount of linguistic elements (e.g.,
sounds and words), but can combine those elements in
novel ways.
“I was tired of cleaning up after
my dog in my backyard so I
taught him to pole vault.
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Even though you’ve never heard this sentence before
you can understand it effortlessly
Features of Language
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Arbitrariness
Displacement
Productivity
Discreteness
Semanticity
Duality of patterning
Discretness
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Language signals are distinct
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I don’t change my pitch or volume to denote
size of an object
“dog”
“dog”
“dog”
Features of Language
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Arbitrariness
Displacement
Productivity
Discreteness
Semanticity
Duality of patterning
Semanticity
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Language signals have meaning
“dog”
- Four legged animal
- Common pet
- Fur
- Chases cats
- Barks
- Etc.
Features of Language
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Arbitrariness
Displacement
Productivity
Discreteness
Semanticity
Duality of patterning
Duality of Patterning
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Language signals occur on two levels
Symbols are meaningful,
discrete, and arbitrary
Smaller units that make up the
meaningful units don’t have
meaning
Words and morphemes
“dog”
Phonomes
/d/
/o/ /g/
Animals and language?
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Is language use a uniquely human ability?
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Parrots - can memorize chunks of human speech
Polly wanna cracker
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But are they really producing utterances based on
an underlying meaning?
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Irene Pepperberg’s work with Grey Parrots for
interesting counterpoint (video & another)
Animals and language?
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Is language use a uniquely human ability?
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Dogs - can learn to associate “food” or “walk”
with particular behaviors
I believe you
mentioned something
about food
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But is that the same thing as understanding the
meaning of food and walk?
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In the news: Chaser, the dog who knows 1000 words
Animals and language?
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Is language use a uniquely human ability?
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Birds use songs to serve territorial and courtship
functions.
Tweet chirp chirp
warble
warble chirp.
Translation: this is my tree
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Can songs be used productively?
Animals and language?
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Is language use a uniquely human ability?
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Birds use songs to serve territorial and courtship
functions.
Chirp chirp warble
warble tweet chirp?
Translation: Is this my tree?
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Can songs be used productively?
Gentner et al (2006)
Animals and language?
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Is language use a uniquely human ability?
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Honey bees dance to indicate where a source of
nectar is. (von Frisch, 1954)
• Angle of the dance indicates
direction
• Rate of looping indicates
distance
NOVA's bee dance page
Another bee dance video
pict Riley et al. (2005)
Animals and language?
Parrot
Dog
Bird
song
Arbitrariness
Displacement
?
?
?
?
?
Productivity
Discreteness
Semanticity
Duality of
patterning
Alex
Chaser
Bee
dance
Human
Language
What about chimpanzees?
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David and Ann Premack taught chimpanzees
language (others too, Gardners: Washoe, Terrace: Nim Chimpsky)
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Results of these attempts are controversial
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Can learn to associate signs with objects (words)?
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Nim Chimpsky
Yes, but limited vocabularies
Some evidence suggesting could distinguish words from proper names
Can they learn syntax?
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Depends who you talk to, some novel combinations of signs
Sarah
Washoe
Koko
Localization of function
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Josef Gall’s
phrenology
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Mental functions (e.g.,
intellect, morals, etc.)
are supported by
specific regions of the
brain
You can feel the skull
to assess people’s
mental abilities
Localization of function
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Modern Neuropsychology
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Psychological functions are localized in particular
regions of the brain
Localization of function
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Modern Neuropsychology
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Psychological functions are localized in particular
regions of the brain
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Today’s focus
4 critical questions (Pulvermüller, 2010)
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Where: which brain parts, areas, and eventually neurons are active during,
and are critical for, process P and representations(s) R that P relies on?
When: at which point in time in the usage or understanding of language
does process P occur; when is representation R activated and processed?
How: which neuronal circuit, which nerve cells linked in which way, is the
brain basis for representation R; which spatiotemporal pattern of neuronal
activation in this circuit does underpin the process P?
Why: for what reason are R and P located in these specific brain parts and
activated at these specific points in time, and why is R laid down in this
specific neuronal circuit, P being expressed by these specific activation
patterns?
Location of ‘Language Organ’
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Evidence for the localization
of language facilities comes
from:
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•
Patients with language disorders
•
“Split Brain patients”
Direct Electrical Stimulation
Modern Imaging Techniques
•
Ancient Egyptians & Greeks reported
speech loss after blow to head (brain
damage) 3000 years ago
Paul Broca (1861) found that damage
to left inferior frontal region (Broca’s
area) of a language impaired patient
(Tan), in postmortem analysis
Carl Wernicke (1876) Found that
damage to posterior part of the
temporal lobe caused a different kind of
language problems.
Lateralization of functions
• Human body is asymmetrical: heart, liver, use of limbs, etc.
• Functions of the brain become lateralized
• Each hemisphere specialized for particular ways of working
Right-hemisphere
Left-hemisphere
 Simultaneous analysis
 Sequential analysis
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Analytical
Problem solving
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primarily located in
the left hemisphere
(97% of right
handers, 81%
lefties)
Visual-Spatial skills
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Language
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Cognitive maps
Personal space
Facial recognition
Drawing
Emotional functions
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Synthetic
Recognizing emotions
Expressing emotions
Music
Location of ‘Language Organ’
•
Evidence for the localization
of language facilities comes
from:
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•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Patients with language disorders
Dysarthria – a motor speech disorder
characterized by poor articulation
Apraxia of Speech – a motor disorder
affecting an individual’s ability to
translate conscious speech plans into
motor plans
Agraphia (dysgraphia) - Impairment
in writing
Alexia - disturbances in reading
Aphasia - is an acquired language
disorder in which there is an
impairment of any language modality
•
•
•
Broca’s (cortical motor) - slow,
effortful halting speech, lacking
grammatical words
Wernicke’s (cortical sensory) - fluent
prosodic speech with little or no real
content
Conduction - fluent speech with good
comprehension but impaired repetition
and many phonological errors;
subcortical pathway between Broca’s
and Wernicke’s areas disrupted
Global - broad language impairment
across all facets of language; associated
with broad lessions
Anomic -word finding difficulties;
lesions often localized between
temporal and parietal lobes
Others: Transcortical motor,
Transcortical sensory, Mixed
transcortical
•
•
•
•
•
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Most also lost the ability to name persons or subjects (anomia)
Can utter automatic speech (“hello”)
Comprehension relatively intact
Most also have partial paralysis of one side of the body (hemiplegia)
If extensive, not much recovery over time
Broca’s (cortical motor) - slow, effortful halting speech, lacking
grammatical words
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Me … build-ing … chairs, no, no
cab-in-nets. One, saw … then,
cutting wood … working …
Cookie jar … fall over … chair …
water … empty … ov … ov …
(Examiner: “overflow”] Yeah.
•
•
•
•
•
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Fluent but “empty” speech
But contains many paraphasias
– “girl”-“curl”, “bread”-“cake”
Grammatical inflections
Normal prosody
Syntactical but empty sentences
•
•
•
Cannot repeat words or sentences
Unable to understand what they
read or hear
Usually no partial paralysis
Wernicke’s (cortical sensory) - fluent prosodic speech with little or
no real content
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[Examiner: “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 … [Examiner: “Excuse
me, but I wanted to know what work you have
been doing”] If you had said that, we had
said that, poomer, near the fortunate,
forpunate, tampoo, all around the fourth of
martz. Oh, I get all confused.
Well, this is … mother is away here working,
out o’here to get her better, but when she’s
working, the two boys looking in the other
part. One their small tile into her time here.
She’s working another time because she’s
getting, too.
•
•
•
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Intact auditory comprehension
Fluent (yet paraphasic) speech production
Poor speech repetition
Conduction - fluent speech with good comprehension but impaired
repetition and many phonological errors; subcortical pathway
between Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas disrupted
Arcuate Fasciculus*
*but see Bernal & Ardila (2009)
• Epileptic activity
spread from one
Location of ‘Language
Organ’
hemisphere to the other thru corpus

Evidence for the localization
of language facilities comes
from:
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
Patients with language disorders
“Split-brain” patients
Language
Dominant Side
Broca’s
Area
Motor
Cortex
•
callosum
Since 1930, such epileptic treated by
severing the interhemispheric
pathways.
–
–
–
–
Left hemisphere could read and verbally
communicate
Right hemisphere had small linguistic capacity:
recognize single words
Vocabulary and grammar capabilities of right is far
less than left
Only the processes taking place in the left
hemisphere could be described verbally
Motor
Cortex
Can point to and
identify the cat
• Epileptic activity
spread from one
Location of ‘Language
Organ’
hemisphere to the other thru corpus

Evidence for the localization
of language facilities comes
from:


Patients with language disorders
“Split-brain” patients
Language
Dominant Side
Broca’s
Area
Motor
Cortex
•
callosum
Since 1930, such epileptic treated by
severing the interhemispheric
pathways.
–
–
–
–
Left hemisphere could read and verbally
communicate
Right hemisphere had small linguistic capacity:
recognize single words
Vocabulary and grammar capabilities of right is far
less than left
Only the processes taking place in the left
hemisphere could be described verbally
Motor
Cortex
The left hand can point to it,
but you can’t describe it!
•
Penfield and Roberts (1959): During epilepsy
surgery under local anesthesia to locate cortical
language areas, stimulation of:
– Large anterior zone:
• stops speech
– Both anterior and posterior temporoparietal
cortex:
• misnaming, impaired imitation of words
– Broca’s area:
• unable comprehend auditory and visual
semantic material,
• inability to follow oral commands, point
to objects, and understand written
questions
Ojemann et al. (1989, 2004)
– Stimulation of the brain of an English-Spanish
bilingual shows different areas for each
language
– Stimulation of inferior premotor frontal cortex:
• Arrests speech, impairs all facial
movements
– Stimulation of areas in inferior, frontal,
temporal, parietal cortex:
• Impairs sequential facial movements,
phoneme identification
Location of ‘Language Organ’
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Evidence for the localization
of language facilities comes
from:



Patients with language disorders
“Split-brain” patients
Direct electrical stimulation
•
Location of ‘Language Organ’
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Evidence for the localization of
language facilities comes from:



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Patients with language disorders
“Split-brain” patients
Direct electrical stimulation
Modern imaging techniques
•
ERP (Event Related Potential)
•
•
MEG (Magnetoencephalography)
•
•
reading
speaking
thinking and speaking
•
Good spatial & temporal resolution
PET (Positron Emission
Tomolgraphy)
•
hearing
Good temporal resolution
Radioactive isotope, blood flow,
lower resolution, can move around
(some), relatively slow (lots of trials)
fMRI (functional Magnetic
Resonance)
•
Blood flow, fairly high resolution,
poor temporal resolution (5-10 s
after neuronal activity)
Storing information about words
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In ordinary dictionaries
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an entry for each word
all the information pertaining to that word is given
there
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Phonological, graphic, grammatical, semantic
all together in one place
In the brain
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The situation is entirely different
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M T
P
P
P
A
Each word is represented as a large network
Different kinds of information in different locations
So also each phrase that is learned as a unit
C
P V
Storing information about words
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The compact entry (as in ordinary dictionaries)
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All the information is there in one place – the lexical entry
Accessing the information
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First, locate (activate) the information (requires searching)
Then “read” it
Looking for the unitary meaning center: binding meanings and words
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
Epstein (1999)
Posner & DiGirolamo (1999)
Pulvermüller (1999)
Salmelin et al (1999)
Skrandies (1999)
Tranel & Damasio (1999)
Scott & Jonsrude (2003)
Hickok & Poeppel (2007)
Hodges & Patterson (2007)
Why is this interesting?

Knowledge of how words are represented in the
brain provides
 the key to understanding linguistic structure
 sheds light on how the brain works in general
Lanuage and thought
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How are language and thought related?
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Are inner speech and thought the same thing?
How does language impact thought?
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Are there things that we can’t think about because our language
imposes particular constraints?
Does our language affect how we perceive the world?
Can two people who speak different languages communicate?
The question has been debated for a long time

And still is today

New York Times article
Some history
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Plato & Socrates THINKING = INNER SPEECH
Socrates: And do you accept my description of the process of thinking?
Theaetetus: How do you describe it?
Socrates: As a discourse that the mind carries on with itself about any subject it is
considering. … I have a notion that, when the mind is thinking, it is simply
talking to itself, asking questions and answering them. … So I should describe
thinking as a discourse, … not aloud to someone else, but silently to oneself.
Some history
Aristotle: SPEECH IS THE SYMBOL OF THOUGHT
Spoken words are the symbols of mental experience and written words are the
symbols of spoken words. Just as all men have not the same writing, so all
men have not the same speech sounds; but the mental experiences, which these
directly symbolize, are the same for all, as also are those things of which our
experiences are the images.
Some history
John B. Watson (1913, early behaviorist):
… thought processes are really motor habits in the larynx, improvements, short
cuts, changes, etc., in these habits are brought about in the same way that such
changes are produced in other motor habits. This view carries with it the
implication that there are no reflective processes (centrally initiated processes).
But see Smith, Brown, Thomas, and Goodman (1947) – used curare to temporarily
paralyze all voluntary muscles, but participant (first author Smith) reportedly
could still think and solve problems
Some history
Vygotsky (Russian developmental psychologist)
• Language and thought have different origins
• Pre-linguistic child thinks independently of language
• Words are not symbols for thought, instead are properties of objects
• Speech sounds are not thought
• Language is acquired from the child’s social grouping
• Later speech and thought become connected
• Speech becomes representational
• Children’s monologues are internalized and become “inner speech”
Some history
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Franz Boas, father of American Anthropology
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Edward Sapir, student of Boas
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“grammatical meaning [can] only be understood in terms of the
system of which it is part”
“the ‘real world’ is to a large extent unconsciously build up on the
language habits of the group.”
Benjamin Lee Whorf, student of Sapir (and insurance
claims adjustor)
Benjamin Lee Whorf
“We cut up and organize the spread and flow of events as we do largely because, through
our mother tongue, we are parties to an agreement to do so, not because nature itself is
segmented in exactly that way for all to see.”
“Every language is a vast pattern system, different from others, in which are
culturally ordained the forms and categories by which the personality not only
communicates, but also analyzes nature, notices or neglects types of relationships and
phenomena, channels his reasoning, and builds the house of his consciousness.”
“From this fact proceeds what I have called the ‘linguistic relativity principle,’ which
means, in informal terms, that users of markedly different grammars are pointed by their
grammars toward different types of observations … and hence are not equivalent as
observers …”
Does language affect thought?
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Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
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Linguistic determinism
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Language determines thought (memory, perception, & action)
Linguistic relativity

Different languages map onto the world differently, resulting in
different cognitive structures
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Whorf posited that cultural thinking differences were the direct result of
differences in their languages
 Speakers of different languages see the world in different,
incompatible ways, because their languages impose different
conceptual structures on their experiences.
Weak version(s) of the hypothesis:

Language influences thinking & how we perceive the world
7 min video
The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

What evidence led Whorf to this conclusion?

The bulk of his evidence was drawn from cross-cultural
comparisons


He studied several Native American cultures.
But he also used examples drawn from his days as an
insurance investigator
Does language affect thought?

Whorf’s famous example

“Empty gasoline drums”

“Yet the ‘empty’ drums are perhaps more dangerous (in comparison
to the full drums), since they contain explosive vapor. …The word
‘empty’ is used in two linguistic patterns:
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
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(1) as a virtual synonym for ‘null and void, negative, inert,’
(2) applied in analysis of physical situations without regard to, e.g.,
vapor, liquid vestiges, in the container.
The situation is named in one pattern (2) and the name is then ‘acted
out’ in another (1), this being the general formula for the linguistic
conditioning of behavior into hazardous forms.” (Whorf, 1956, p.
135)
Does language affect thought?

Whorf’s famous example

“Empty gasoline drums”
Linguistic form
empty
Linguistic meanings
Container no longer
contains intended
contents
null and void,
negative, inert
Mental interpretations
drum no longer
contains gasoline
drum is no longer
dangerous; okay to
smoke cigarettes
Nonlinguistic observables
gasoline drum
without gasoline
worker smokes
cigarettes
The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

Some of the evidence:

Whorf claimed Inuit have several terms for snow

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Qanuk ‘snowflake’
Qanir ’to snow’
Qanunge ‘to snow’
Qanugglir ‘to snow’
Kaneq ‘frost’





Kaner ‘be frosty’
Kanevvluk ‘fine snow’
Natquik ‘drifting snow’
Natquigte ‘for snow to drift
along the ground’
And more
The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

Some of the evidence:

Whorf claimed Inuit have several terms for snow


However, there are many different Inuit languages and not
all posses the same number of terms.
Boas (1911) reported one group with four root terms.


This number is probably matched or surpassed by skiers
regardless of their language.
See Pullum’s Great Eskimo Hoax (1991)
The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

Specialization based on experience

Different groups within a culture vary in terms of the
number of words they use for things

Consider memory



Most people are aware of two kinds of memory, short term
and long term.
As we discovered previously cognitive psychologists have
many terms: Sensory registers, Iconic and echoic, short-term
or working or primary memory, long-term, verbal and
imagistic, declarative, procedural, and episodic.
It would be fair to say that the layman and the cognitive
psychologist think differently about memory.
Testing the theory
Two major approaches have been employed to test
the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.


Test the strong view – language determines thought by seeing
if the cognitive system can make distinctions that are not
linguistically represented
Test a weaker view – that language influences thought.

Two of the domains in which this issue has been studied


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Color terms
Counting and arithmetic
Others include: time/space language & grammatical categories
Cultural Variations

If your language didn’t have separate names for these,
would you see them the same way?
Color Terms

Much of the initial research focused on an aspect of
language which varies widely across cultures
 Color Terms


There are a few languages which have only two color
terms, and some with three.
Most languages draw their color names from 11 specific
colors.
Color Terms

Berlin and Kay (1969): Color hierarchy

Rules: Consist of only one morpheme, not contained within
another color word, not restricted to a small number of
objects, and commonly known



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In 2 color term languages the terms correspond to Black & White
In 3 color term languages they correspond to Black, White & Red
Languages with additional terms items are added as follows: yellow,
green, blue then brown, then purple, pink, orange, and gray.
This data runs contrary to Whorf’s hypotheses

They suggest a universal physiological basis for color
naming, independent of language
Color Terms

Brown & Lenneberg (1954): So do naming practices
influence our ability to distinguish or remember
colors?

If something in a culture is named frequently it may be labeled
with a brief name, less frequently with a longer name, and
infrequently with a phrase rather than a single word
The process of naming in this manner is known as codability.



Codability = how easily a concept can be described in a
language, related to the length of the word.
Asked people to name 24 colors (8 central, 16 others). Those
with longer names were named with hesitations and less
consistency
Color Terms

Hieder (1972) (Rosch, 1973 [same person])

Dani tribe of New Guinea use only two color names




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Mili – cool/dark shades (e.g., blue, green, black)
Mola – warm/light shades (e.g., red, yellow, white)
They had no difficulty in recognizing color chips that were from
an initial presentation from among distracters even though they
had no names for the colors.
Additionally, they were better at recognizing focal colors (e.g.,
the best example of blue) than non-focal colors (just as we
English speakers are)
This data does not support the strong view of Whorf’s
hypothesis.
Check out: ISU’s Mind Project Virtual Anthropology Lab
Color Terms

Comparative judgments among colors are affected
by color naming practices

Kay & Kempton, (1984)



G
G
G
G
G
B
B
B
B
Investigated English and Tarahumara
In Tarahumara there are no separate terms for blue and green
The task was see 3 chips pick the one least similar in color

Some trials had chips English speakers would call C1 green, C2
blue and C3 was a focal example of green but farther away in
light spectrum from C1 than was the case for C1 vs. C2
Color Terms

Comparative judgments among colors are affected
by color naming practices

Kay & Kempton, (1984)




G
G
G
Investigated English and Tarahumara
In Tarahumara there are no separate terms for blue and green
The task was see 3 chips pick the one least similar in color
Predictions:


G
G
B

Results:

B
B

B

Visual stimuli as only basis pick C3 as odd
Naming practices influence pick C2 as odd
Tarahumara speakers pick C3
English speakers tended to pick the chip they would label blue (C2)
even though in the spectrum it was closer to C1 than was C3
Support for a weak version of the Whorfian hypothesis
Color Terms

Winawer, Boroditsky and others (2007)

English and Russian divide up blues differently


Results



Russian makes an obligatory distinction between lighter blues (”goluboy”)
and darker blues (”siniy”).
Russian speakers were faster to discriminate two colors when they fell
into different linguistic categories (one siniy and the other goluboy) than
when they were from the same linguistic category (both siniy or both
goluboy).
English speakers tested on the identical stimuli did not show a category
advantage in any of the conditions.
Support for a weak version of the Whorfian hypothesis, categories in
language affect performance on simple perceptual color tasks
Color Terms

Siok, Kay and others (2009)


fMRI study
Results:



Lexical color information was accessed in color
discrimination
It also enhanced the activation of color region
V2/3
Discussion:


“Language, by enhancing the activation level
of the visual cortex, differentially influences the
discrimination of colors presented in the left
and right visual hemi-fields.”
Support for a weak version of the Whorfian
hypothesis, categories in language affect brain
activation during perceptual color tasks
Higher Cognitive Processes

Color naming may not seem like a very complex
cognitive process:

What about more complex mental processes?
 Counting and other Arithmetic processes
Counting & Arithmetic

Greenberg (1978) has identified some cultures where
the only number terms correspond to one, two, many.

Piraha tribe; Gordon (2004) (in conjunction with ISU’s Dan Everett)
 Hoi (falling tone = one), hoi (rising tone = two), aibai (= many)



Matching tasks - show an array of objects, they have to put
objects down to match the array
Results - relatively good matching up to 2 or 3, but performance
was considerably poorer beyond that up to 8 to 10 items
Different languages terms for numbers also has effects on arithmetic
Counting & Arithmetic
Miller & Stigler (1987)


English and French have complex names for numbers
Japanese,Chinese and Korean have simpler systems
From Miller & Stigler
(1987)
Counting & Arithmetic
Miller & Stigler (1987)


The greater regularity of number names in Chinese,
Japanese and Korean as compared to English or French
facilitates the learning of counting behavior beyond 10 in
those languages.
Another advantage is earlier mastery of ‘place value’
(understanding that in # 23 there are 2 tens and 3 ones)
Counting & Arithmetic
Miller & Stigler (1987)
Conclusions

At this point it is apparent that the strong view of
Whorf’s hypothesis is not supported.
Steven Pinker (The Language Instinct, 1994)
• “The famous Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of linguistic determinism …
is wrong, all wrong. … There is no scientific evidence that
languages dramatically shape their speakers’ ways of thinking.”
• “Most of the experiments have tested banal “weak” versions of
the Whorfian hypothesis, namely that words can have some effect
on memory or categorization. Some of these experiments have
actually worked, but that is hardly surprising.”
Conclusions


At this point it is apparent that the strong view of
Whorf’s hypothesis is not supported.
However, there is continued support for the weaker
version(s) of the hypothesis

The data from areas of investigation concerning color naming,
counting & arithmetic, reasoning, visual memory, and other areas
(e.g., social inference) indicate that the use of certain specific terms
can influence how we think
 The question that remains is how much of the differences are
because of the language and how much due to the culture?
 Problems
 Language cannot be randomly assigned
 Therefore we cannot rule out some third variables
such as culture.
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PSY 369: Psycholinguistics