Describe two principles you think might be common to all languages.

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July 29, 2019
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July 29, 2019

Describe two principles you think might be common to all languages.

PSYC/LING 375 Psychology of Language

Assignment 1

Please proofread your answers before you turn your assignment in. Papers that are difficult to read and understand due to spelling and grammar issues will automatically lose 5-10 points.

Question 1. Noam Chomsky argues that all human languages share a common set of principles called Universal Grammar. These principles are argued to be innate and common to all human languages and operate only for the acquisition and processing of language (they are domain specific).

a) Describe two principles you think might be common to all languages.

b) Explain three arguments to support the idea of Universal Grammar.

c) Explain three arguments that argue against the idea of Universal Grammar.

Question 2. Animal researcher Con Slobodchikoff has argued that prairie dogs have the most complex communication system that has so far been observed in animals. The following video describes his findings. Examine the information in this video in terms of the 7 Hockett’s features discussed in lecture—which features are present and seem to apply to prairie dog communication? Which features seem to be absent from prairie dog communication? Explain.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_hUIEBwlEo

Question 3. Consider the major language subfields: phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics.

a) What aspects of language are non-human primates (NHP) more successful at learning? What methods work better for teaching these aspects of language?

b) What aspects of language are NHP less successful at learning? What methods work better for teaching these aspects of language?

c) Researchers disagree about whether NHP can learn language. What are arguments some researchers use to defend the position that NHP can learn language? What are arguments other researchers use to defend the position that NHP cannot learn language?

Question 4.

a) Explain the difference between the modular (domain-specific) and the interactive (domain-general) views of the relationship between language and other cognitive processes.

b) How does research with non-human primates support the modular view? Explain in detail.

c) How does research with non-human primates support the interactive view? Explain in detail.

Question 5. Do the activity below out on four friends who are not taking this class. You can have them do this together in pairs or individually.

· Tell two friends that it is a logic puzzle: they should figure out how the symbols go together.

· Tell the other two friends that this is a language puzzle: they should figure out which words are tied to each symbol and how sentences can be formed on the basis of those words.

· They may ask you questions about how to do this. Tell them that there are no right/wrong answers. You’re interested in the process they use to solve the puzzle, not whether they actually do it.

Answer these questions:

1. What differences in strategies are used by these two groups?

1. Do the two groups differ in terms of what they think the symbols mean at the end?

1. When Premack (1979) trained students to learn the token language in the same way that Sarah did, he found that they could perform correctly but that they had no idea the strings of symbols were sentences. What does this outcome suggest about whether or not Sarah’s performance was an example of language? Explain.

 

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