Third year Psych student at Dalhousie. From NYC.
This semester in Psycholinguistics class, I will be writing the first chapter, on the history and major theories of Psycholinguistics. As much as I enjoy the science of psychology, I also am a history buff, and this is a way for me to channel my love for history in a major that doesn't usually deal with history. It's probably not grammatically correct to use history three times in one sentence. I'm also still getting used to the ins and outs of editing on the Wikiversity site, so please bear with me.
Blog Post 1- Jan 17
The first few lectures in this course led me to think a lot about what language is. We know that language is productive and generative, and that it has a set of rules. But is language necessary to communicate effectively? I would presume that it is. Without language, we have no way to express our thoughts and intentions. Even if you came up with a set of grunts and facial expressions, that is still a language, because it is still a mode of communication where you are expressing yourself. I also never really thought about the sheer amount of words in the English language. According to Dr. Newman's lecture, English has 10,000 nouns and 4,000 verbs. We can generate 6.4 trillion possible 5 word sentences. That is amazing, but if I think about it, I guess it isn't that surprising. It really is remarkable about how much languages have grown over the many thousands of years that they have been in existence. I went to Thailand, and a few locals told me about how complicated the Thai language is. Much like Mandarin and Cantonese, it is a very tonal language, so the same word might have two different meanings depending on tone. The Thai man told me that sometimes two Thai people have no idea what they are saying to each other, and you might even start a dispute depending on the tone of which you say a word, because it might come out the wrong way. I would be interested in further studying how languages like that work. I couldn't imagine living in a society where tone matters so much, but I suppose if I grew up in it, I wouldn't know any other way. Charles Kramer, Jan 16, 6:47 PM
Blog Post 2- Jan 24
I recently came across an interesting article in the New York Times science section (Jan 17) entitled "Sit. Stay. Parse. Good Girl!", by Nicholas Wade (2011). This article tells the story of a border colie dog named Chaser (from South Carolina) who has the largest vocabulary of any known dog. According to the article, Chaser knows 1,022 nouns, which is a record, and also may help scientists figure out and explain how children can explain language. One reason why Chaser was able to learn so many words was because her breed of dog, border collies, are bred to herd sheep tirelessly all day dog, and if they are given nothing to do, they will become restless. Therefore, Chaser was motivated to learn new words because it was in her genetics, and unlike most children who dread spending hours doing homework, Chaser was incredibly motivated and encouraged to learn new words. The challenge that Chaser had was that unlike when children learn words, Chaser had nothing to relate words that she was learning. For example, children can relate different kinds of furniture to each other, such as tables, chairs, and couches, whereas each word Chaser learned was a new and unique word. The relevant question to be asked is how impressive is Chaser's feat in the context of other animal language feats, such as Kanzi the Bonobo Chimp, which we learned about earlier. One of the experts quoted in the story said he wasn't surprised by the fact that Chaser knew all those words, but instead was surprised that Chaser's instructor had the patience to teach all those words to her. Chaser's instructor, Dr. Pilley, believes that most or all border collies could gain Chaser's command of language if enough time was put in. Another key difference in the way that Chaser learns words versus the way children learn words is that Chaser learns them through brute repetition, and that is not the way children learn. A big step would be to somehow teach Chaser syntax, and that if you change the order of the words, it could possibly change the definition that Chaser assigns to each words. So the question still remains as to how much of a sign of progression the case of Chaser is towards a bigger understanding of language. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/18/science/18dog.html?src=ISMR_HP_LO_MST_FB PS- this post is in italics, I've tried changing it, but I can't quite figure it out. My apologies. --Charliekramer 00:01, 24 January 2011 (UTC)
I'm sorry to be a giant creep, but in procrastinating on writing my own chapter, I was skimming through random blogs to see if I was writing enough...turns out you had the exact same issue I was confused about until I realized that the Wiki markup for italics is two single quotation marks, which you had instead of the one double quotation mark. Thus, random italics. Hopefully this helps.
That is all. Back I go to writing about reading... --jnvincent 00:42, 3 February 2011 (UTC)
Blog Post 3- Jan 31
One part of Dr. Newman's lecture on Friday that really caught my attention was the fact that most deaf people have problems reading. I never really thought about that idea, because it never came to me. But it actually makes total sense that deaf people would have some reading issues. They are unable to match the words they see to sounds since they cannot hear. That explanation helps me see why they are not as proficient readers as non-deaf people. Another key factor that doesn't allow deaf people to read as well as non-deaf people is the fact that American Sign Language (ASL) is their first language and mother tongue, and English is their second language. ASL has its own sentence structure and grammar rules that are unique to itself, and English operates completely differently, so I can see why there might be some problems reading. Also I would imagine that deaf people's locographic recognition and alphabetic reading would be somewhat compromised. Alphabetic reading involves matching words and sounds, and I would assume that that would be a weakness for deaf people. I think more research needs to be done in this field. Deaf people are not stupid, but one might get that impression if you see them not being able to read.
Blog Post 4- Feb 7
Due to the wondrous nature of snow days, as well as the equally magnificent Munro Day, there was very little lecture material to draw on this week. I started surfing the web for interesting nuggets I could find about the different quirks of language and I came across something interesting in a small little newspaper called the New York Times. What the article was discussing (and I will link below), was the idea of the language of space, and how we describe the orientation of the world around us. If I am giving someone directions, I could say turn right, then left, then right. I could also say, go North, then East, the North again. However, I would not give the latter description, and I don't think any of you would either. It is much more natural for us to use words like "in front of you," or "left or right." Those kinds of words are known as egocentric coordinates, whereas giving directions by using North, South, etc. are known as geographic coordinates. The egocentric coordinates system is dominant in our society because it feels significantly easier and more natural, after all we know where in front of us is, and where behind us is, whereas we may not immediately know where north is, or where south is. In other words, we don't need a map to figure that kind of stuff out. As it turns out, there are some languages that do not use egocentric coordinates, and do not use terms that we would consider "natural." As it turns out, a remote Australian aboriginal tongue, Guugu Yimithirr, from north Queensland uses the coordinate system, the article gives a few examples. If they want you to move over on the car seat to make room, they’ll say “move a bit to the east.” To tell you where exactly they left something in your house, they’ll say, “I left it on the southern edge of the western table.” This seems completely astounding to the majority of languages, since it seems so unnatural, but it is commonplace for people in that region of Australia, as well as some other scattered languages, in places such as Polynesia and Mexico. I imagine it would be somewhat difficult to be a speaker of the Guugu Yimithirr language, as you would seemingly have to have a compass in your mind that was operating all day, every day, with no percentage of failing. But I would also imagine that since those people are born into that culture, they have a knack for knowing their orientation within space at all times. That is one fascinating way in which language influences the way that we experience the world. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/magazine/29language-t.html?pagewanted=3
Blog Post 5- Feb 14
Over a year ago, an acoustics engineer named John Reid made an amazing discovery that he has been working on for over ten years. Reid claims that he is now able to understand the various clicks and whistles that dolphins uses, and that he is able to translate them into language we humans can understand. Reid and his wife Anneliese have been building a machine called a Cymascope, which he claims will be able to convert sounds that dolphins make into pictures that we can see and interpret. Using audio recordings of dolphins, they are now able to image, for the first time, the imprint that a dolphin sound makes in water (Ford, 2009). What comes out of the Cymascope is being labeled as cymaglyphs, and they are are reproducible patterns that are expected to form the basis of a lexicon of dolphin language, with each pattern representing a dolphin “picture word” (Ford, 2009). We have long suspected that dolphins have some sort of language pattern, but we have been unable to decipher them- until now, perhaps. This brings up very interesting questions. How exactly does this cymascope work, and how reliable is it? If we are able to make this breakthrough with dolphins, then might we be able to do something similar with other animals? Will this lead to humans being able to fully understand what dolphins are saying through their clicks and whistles. In my opinion, humans have shamefully kept dolphins cooped up in what is equivalent to us as a bathtub in venues such as Sea World, where they do childlike tricks. In reality, dolphins are too smart for that, and they need to be out in the open seas, where they are known to swim multiple miles per day. Will this breakthrough perhaps make us aware of how dissatisfied they are with that type of existence. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for dolphins (as I'm sure many others do), so I hope that this discovery makes an impact on animal language, and a nice benefit would be if it helps dolphins have better lives. http://www.sundaysun.co.uk/news/north-east-news/2009/04/12/dolphin-doc-makes-language-breakthrough-79310-23366782/
Blog Post 6- Feb 28
In Friday's lecture, the professor discussed the various connectivities of language and music. I love music and am always fascinated about how it seems to be able to make an impact in almost every field. The professor laid out various similarities and differences between language and music. In language, our minimal sound units are phonemes, and in music they consist of musical notes. They are both devices we use to communicate what we are thinking and feeling, but they come out sounding different, and they also look different on paper. Someone with no musical experience would have absolutely no idea how to read musical notes, and they'd have no idea what it meant. So that is a major difference. There's also a major difference in the production of language vs. the production of music. Whereas we all speak fluently (for the most part), a lot of people do not sing well, and in fact are horrible (me included). The function of language is used for communication and social bonding, and the function of music is used for entertainment and personal expression. There are also similarities in language generativity. In language, we can generate an infinite amount of sentences as well as interpreting sentences that we have never heard before. In music we can generate an infinite amount of melodies according to the rules, and everyone can perceive these melodies as music (regardless of whether or not you think it's any good). Overall, there are many similarities and differences in language and music, they are both ways we express ourselves. PS I know this is late, I just arrived to Halifax after being home from the break, so my apologies.
Blog Post 7- March 7
I've always been interested in the development of newer languages, particularly in the 21st century, and whether they are able to thrive, given how ingrained languages like English and Spanish are in society. You rarely hear about anyone speaking a newer language, or a language that you've never heard of. While it's not an entirely new language, I came across a BBC article written about two years ago about the revival of an old language being developed within the United Kingdom for the Cornish people, which I found very interesting. The Cornish people live in Cornwall, UK, and their language died in the 19th century. It had previously struggled to gain acceptance within the UK and the EU, but a recent breakthrough has led for the Cornish Language Partnership to agree to a Standard Written Form, which will pave the way for the language to be taught more widely in Cornish schools. There are believed to be about 300 Cornish speakers, and there are four different dialects of Cornish, the most popular being Common Cornish. The Cornish people hope this will gain wider acceptance for their community as a whole, and will help bring the Cornish people together. The final step is developing an official Cornish format that will appear on road signs and other public places. This Cornish example brings up the interesting idea of whether other languages that have died will be revived by other people around the world. If this happens, will these languages gain legitimacy? Will it permeate into schools? These are all interesting questions that may be answered in the Cornish example, and could provide insight to people looking to revive other languages around the world. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/cornwall/7074487.stm
Blog Post 8- March 14
I recently came across an interesting video in which a noted linguist, Tucker Childs, and his research assistant, Hannah Sarvasy, traveled to the troubled land of Sierra Leone in order to document, transcribe, and study a dying language known as Kim. Kim is now only spoken in Lake Kwako, Sierra Leone, by only a handful of people, about twenty, who are mainly over sixty-years-old. The recordings and transcriptions that the researchers have documented will go into a database at the University of London, as proof that Kim once existed. The younger generations have grown up spoken Mende, which is a language that is easier to speak than Kim. Childs is quoted as saying that when you lose a language, you lose a culture. It must be very painful for the people who have spoken Kim all their lives for it to gradually die like this. However, I suppose that just like life, languages also conform to some sort of circle of existence, birth to death. The people of Sierra Leone have many problems worse than losing a language, such as finding food on a daily basis, and combatting AIDS. They will persevere through the loss of their language just as they are persevering through these incomprehensible and life threatening issues. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMFUBlEylj4
Blog Post 9- March 21
I was recently reading an article in the NY Times about what kind of impact new technology is going to make on language, and the way we teach it to children. Within the article, Mark Liberman, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania (a member of the Ivy League) was quoted as saying that “the vast and growing archives of digital text and speech, along with new analysis techniques and inexpensive computation, are a modern equivalent of the 17th-century invention of the telescope and microscope.” This new period of innovation, much like the notable 17th century innovations, will open a figurative Pandora's Box in how we can teach and use language. In developing countries, literacy foundations can donate iPads, Kindles, and other similar gadgets that can teach language and reading in ways that we have never seen before. I would suppose that this can significantly boost the literacy rates in countries that are normally very low. Google is also contributing to this wave of innovation. They are building "a monumental collection of texts, known as a corpus, from the 18 million books it has scanned and digitized from major research libraries." This is a revolutionary step in terms of access to language. People from all over the world will have access to almost any piece of literature with just an internet connection. Hopefully with this step, people will be more informed about language and literature in the world. If they aren't, there will be no excuse for it, since easy and ready access is now definitely available. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/magazine/27fob-onlanguage-t.html?ref=onlanguage
Blog Post 10- March 28
Given the excellent guest lecture (I am unfortunately forgetting the lecturer's name at the moment) about the different kinds of aphasia, it has increased my awareness about this very serious and widespread condition. The lecturer pointed out that aphasia is more common in Canada than Parkinson's disease, which is a very widely known disease, partly due to some celebrities who are currently suffering from it. Such celebrities include Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali. Fox in particular has become a very public spokesman for Parkinson's, which has increased awareness of the disease around the world. One problem that aphasia sufferers have, and that the lecturer pointed out, is that aphasia sufferers don't have many public spokespeople because by definition, people with aphasia are unable to speak. The lecturer also showed us numerous videos of people suffering with aphasia, with varying degrees of severity. One older gentleman with aphasia could literally not saying anything except "doodoo." Another could not think of certain obvious words. It was obvious the level of distress the aphasia was placing on these men and their families. Before they got aphasia, usually from stroke, they were the main breadwinner of the family, successful lawyers or doctors. After they got aphasia, they could no longer work, or support their family. It is obvious the toll that aphasia takes is very large, and it is a shame that this extremely serious problem is not talked about more frequently in the public arena.
Blog Post 11- April 4
The fact that I am Jewish has led me to do a lot of thinking about the Israeli-Palestine conflict, the history behind it, and what the future may lead. This conflict is one of the most passionate and violent conflicts on earth, and it is thousands of years old. Israel almost destroyed Gaza a few years ago, and there was recently a terrorist bombing in Jerusalem. What is very sad about this issue is how similar the Jewish and Arab cultures are. They basically are the same people, and came from the same places. One of the most similar things about these two cultures is the language. They are both Semitic languages with common roots. There are many similarities in phonetics and grammar. Shalom in Hebrew is Salaam in Arabic. The word "day", which is Yom in Hebrew, is Yawm in Arabic. The word "you", which in Hebrew is "atta" is "anta" in Arabic. The word she, which in Hebrew is "Hee," is "Hiya" in Arabic. There are many other similarities between these cultures but the language aspect is one that stood out. Given that these two cultures are so similar, it is a tragic shame what has happened in terms of the blood shed over the last few thousand years. Maybe through language, some middle ground can be reached, and all people can live in peace.
Blog Post 12- April 11
Our debate today brought up some interesting issues that I would like to delve deeper into. Firstly, I would like to commend both sides for a job well done. I think the issue that we discussed is a very important one that deserves further examination. I firmly believe that it is in the best interest of every child in the United States and in Canada for English to be the dominant language taught. As I mentioned in the debate, if English is not the primary language taught during the child's developing years, there are major consequences to this decision. In America or Canada, it is nearly impossible to find suitable employment if English is not spoken fluently or proficiently. This will lead to many problems, such as a lack of income. A lack of income opens up even more problems, such as a lack of proper housing, and in the case of the USA, a lack of health care. Even if one was able to get proper health care while not speaking suitable English, it would be a challenge to communicate with your doctor to try to explain what the problem is. Such a loss in translation can result in the doctor missing something, and could cause even more health problems. Not knowing proper English will also lead to not being able to meet people and engage in casual conversations. In an English dominated society like the one we have in America and Canada, not speaking English fluently can have many unspoken effects and consequences.