I am a 4th year Neuroscience student at Dalhousie University, Halifax NS.
Blog Post 1
I am extremely enjoying this class. I liked the material presented this week in regards to the brain. I found that the information was helpful in understanding the material in general, but I also found that it was not an overwhelming amount of "Brain Stuff." I enjoyed the presentation about the imaging techniques. I found that after first year and the quick introduction we are given to these techniques, they are always mentioned in classes, but never really explained as to why, or how they are related to the material. I found it nice that the techniques were not only explained but quickly related to how they are used in this field.
As a small aside, I just wanted to comment about the attendance in this class. I was extremely surprised that after first class, when it was explained that all the lectures are posted and podcasted online, that attendance in the class did not decrease dramatically. Also, I expected this to occur as there was not separate mark for attendance. I believed that many students would stop coming to class. Instead this did not occur in Psycholinguistics, but did occur in another class in which attendance is mandatory and a part of the class mark.
In general, my thought of the first week of class are pleasant, and I am happy with the way this class is progressing. The material is engaging and interesting. I find that my attention is on the material at all times.
Blog Post 2
Language is something that majority of the population uses on a daily basis without thinking about it's nature or form. Language is something that, unless you have a specific need to, you may pass your entire life without ever having to think about it.
Today Professor Newman talked about how Phonological Rules are part of the speakers' implicit knowledge, and that even as we are beginning to develop language, we already understand that there are certain constraints with combinations of phonemes. Even as an early speaker, children know that the sounds NRGL do not go together and do not start words. My question in regards to this would be, How are we able to decide that these rules are implicit? Does that mean that we are born knowing that certain sounds do not belong together? Personally, Im not sure what to agree with, as children are born prepared to speak any sounds produced by humans, but eventually, they only speak the sounds of their language. The other side of this idea would be that, as children are being exposed to language, perhaps they are learning the patterns that they hear around them. Perhaps children are not born with these implicit rules, but learn them quickly before they are able to speak.
Blog Post 3
Children who learn languages with a better grapheme-phoneme-correspondence seem to have better phonological awareness. This can be seen in languages such as Turkish and Italian. Do these children have an advantage when they learn a second language that has a different grapheme to phoneme correspondence? As these children already have a great phonological awareness, are they better prepared to learn new word-sound associations seen in other languages. Is it also possible that having certain languages as a primary language make learning other languages harder? This seems to be shown with the children who learned chinese as a locographic language. These children do not learn phonological awareness because this is not a part of their language. This may be seen as a disadvantage when learning a language that requires high phonological awareness to learn it. Do children who learn certain languages have certain advantages or disadvantages when learning a second language based on the nature of their first language?
Blog Post 4
Monday's lecture on morphology started me thinking about a study I had done in the past through the psych department. The premise of the study was to sit and watch different strings of words. Each string of words was repeated many times and all were connected by the same premise. For example, one string of words had a negative connotation well another string had a positive connotation. One string of words was neutral. As the study was progressing, all the participant was asked to do was to focus on the words. They were not asked to remember or repeat them, just watch them as they flashed on the screen. While I was participating, I was wondering what type of task I would be asked to complete at the end of the focusing phase of the study. I was thinking about how the researcher would ask me to relate or remember the words. This led me to think of meaning of words and such. In the end, all that was asked was whether you liked or did not like the word. The idea was that the words that had been shown over and over again would be liked more than new words that were shown in the testing phase. In the context of this lecture, I was wondering how words are given meaning and how they are remembered.
Blog Post 5
Friday's lecture was about sentence processing and syntax. The lecture started off talking about the new computer named Watson. I found this information very interesting as it shows a practical application of the study of language. This type of technology could be extremely useful in the medical field as it could lead to quick and accurate diagnoses just by listening to a patient talk about their symptoms. The lecture then went on to talk about some theories regarding grammar, syntax and the rules for combining words into sentences. There is a theory called Universal Grammar that states that some aspects of language are hard-wired into the brain and do not need to be taught. Although this may be true, there are some things that cannot be hard-wired into the brain. Assuming that the computer was programmed with these theories in mind, how would it be able to understand some of the things that take experience and adaptation for humans to understand. For example, would the computer be able to understand someone who was asking a question while stuttering? Is the computer able to understand non-native language speakers who may have extremely thick accents?
Blog Post 6
Today's lecture was about discourse. The topic of discourse and language was closely related to the idea of memories and making inferences. When you talk with someone, you are engaged in a type of discourse. During the span of a conversation, you are required to use your short term memory as well as your past ideas and experiences to relate to the topic at hand. As conversation does not have very good visual component, a person must use their own schemas to create mental representations of the conversation. I really enjoyed how this was shown in the story example about Donald. Stories are also a type of discourse. We were read a short story about Donald and a date that he had with his third wife and then were asked a few questions relating to the story. The story itself was very vague without many details, but the questions asked about the details. Based on personal experiences, the details were inferred and the questions could be answered with a fair amount of confidence. The story named the restaurant as Mario's and it was believed that the reader would relate this to an italian restaurant and a fancy dinner with all the other hints given in the story. Personally, I know of a restaurant named Mario's and it gives me a very different type of idea than the story was aiming for. I have a different schema for this idea. If I have a different schema for this one idea, other people must have other schemas for the same idea. It seems to me that with all these different ideas, it would be difficult for a large group of people to all come to the same conclusion.
Blog Post 7
Today's lecture was about speech production. The big question relating to this topic is how do we get from thought to speech. Professor Newman talked about a study in which people were asked to read a list of words, then name a list of pictures. It was found that naming the pictures took longer then reading the list of words. It is believed that this happens because of the delay that it takes in the brain to retrieve the name for the picture and then to say that name. This delay does not occur when a list of words is just read. In general, there it takes 200 ms longer to name a picture than read a word. If a person has a reading problem, such as a stutter, that causes them to slow their reading, would they show a similar time in both the reading and naming tasks? These people may show a slower time when it comes to reading the word list due to their reading problem, but would this delay be present when they name a picture?
Blog Post 8
This past week contained lectures that I found extremely interesting. In particular, I especially enjoyed the lecture about gestures. I found the little demonstration at the beginning very interesting, as I had never thought of gestures being a part of speech before and they clearly were. I had never thought of gestures as being important in communication, just as an additive to supplement communication, but after this lecture, I can easily see the purpose of gestures in communication. I also enjoyed the break-down of the types of gestures, as I had not known there to be such a long list of different types of gestures. After this lecture, I started to look at people when they talked and did indeed notice that people gestured a lot while they talked. It got me to thinking about how blind or deaf people might gesture while speaking. I think that there would be some type of difference between these two groups of people, but I am unsure of what they might be. Would they show only certain types of gestures, or perhaps would they be missing certain types?
Blog Post 9
I really enjoyed today's class about the development of language. I find this topic very interesting, perhaps the best parts of the class. I really enjoyed the parts of the lecture that talked about how babies are able to categorize things at a very early age. They are able to categorize languages, novel phonemes and stress patterns and more, all at different ages. I find this remarkable, as babies are not even able to talk at this point. I understand completely, that these skills grow on each other and that the baby adds to a prior skill to gain a new one. What I find hard to understand is how the babies are able to make any distinctions in the first place. Especially when some of the things that babies are able to differentiate easily are things that I must take time and listen to repeatedly to hear the difference. Children are even sensitive to voice onset time changes and phoneme changes, but how are they able to identify these differences in the first place. Their perception is extremely great!
Blog Post 10
The statistics mentioned in class today surprised me greatly. I have been hearing about aphasia a long time, but it was surprising to hear that so many people have this condition. Over 15 000 new cases of this condition are seen each year but it is not something that people talk about or hear about everyday. This disorder seems to have an unspoken tendency but is prevalent in society. The fact that this condition is not talked about often may be due to the fact that the people who have it are not able to advocate for the disorder themselves. These people are not able to communicate and it affects their everyday life. The video of the couple is a great example of how aphasia affected the man's speech. He was able to comprehend much of what his wife was saying, but he had difficulty expressing his thoughts. As you could imagine, a person with aphasia would not be able to take as active a role in daily life as before they had aphasia. These people have difficulty living their own daily lives, so it may be a stretch for them to teach the public about the disease. Other things that can be affected by aphasia is their reading an writing abilities. Some people who have aphasia are able to speak very fluently, but what they say does not make sense. People with this condition would not be able to share their experiences with other people. The person may feel like they are explaining themselves well, when in fact, for the people listening, they are not making sense at all. This part of the condition may add to the fact that this condition is not known about or spoken about in everyday life. Some people are able to gain some improvement if they receive therapy early. They may be able to have some of their reading, writing and speaking skills recover after therapy, but this recovery differs in each patient.
Overall, this class, with the guest speaker, was a great addition to the lectures by Dr. Newman. I enjoyed how specific the lecture was and the detail that was in the lecture.
Blog post 11
Today's class was a debate that involved the topic of whether Ebonics should be taught as the primary language of instruction in a community in which the majority of people speak the minority language. The against group stated that learning a second language will help provide a feeling of achievement and promote a greater sense of self-esteem in these individuals. Although I plan on using a different language as an example, I feel like this relates to this particular issue. There have been studies done between French and English speaking students and how the language of instruction affects their grades. English children who enter a french immersion school tend to get grades that are much lower than they would have, had they gone to an english school. Eventually, if the children stick with the French school, they will achieve better grades and have an increased IQ, but few students complete their education in a different language. When children enter the french school, they start achieving grades that are low, thereby lowering there self-esteems. This may cause them to leave the school and transfer to an English school, they still have this feeling of lower self-esteem and may fall into a pattern of underachievement as they are not used to getting good grades. Based on their previous lower grades, why would they work harder to get better grades now just cause they understand the language better. They have already been conditioned not to get the good grades.
By using this argument, I would like to say that sometimes learning a second language in school is not the best idea, and can harm the students.
Blog post 12
I would like to use this blog post to talk about my experience of preparing and presenting my first debate. I really enjoyed the format of the debate and the structure and instruction that the groups were given. I feel that this made all the presentations better as there was not a lot of wiggle room to mess around with. This allowed for the majority of presentations to be well prepared, well-rehearsed and well researched.
I do not personally enjoy working in groups as you are not able to fully control the situation, but I found, with this particular group and project, that was not a large issue. Of course there were still issues and problems that arose, but they seem to be handled relatively well. The members of our group were extremely motivated to do well. I found it difficult to relinquish the control of the project sometimes but we found a way to make it work. Quite often, I feel that other people are not able to complete a project as well as I believe that I can, but the collaboration of the members of the group worked out really well.
It was also nice to have within our group, a couple of people who related to the topic very well. Some of us were using English as a second language, while others were trying to learn other languages as second languages. Being able to relate to the topic allowed us to form opinions easily. This works well in a debate as you are trying to sway others to your point of view. If you believe in what you are arguing, people will see that and be more apt to change their opinions as well.
Overall, I thought this project was an excellent way to wrap up the school year and bring the class to a close. Not only was it fun, it was informative and allowed for a very hands on approach to the topics that we had previously learned. I enjoyed the process a lot and am very pleased with how the presentation ended.