The exam consists of two essays and four short answers. I will pick one essay and one short
answer. You pick the remaining
essay and three more short answers.
Look at the board for
instructions; use the provided lined paper. WHENEVER POSSIBLE, USE EXAMPLES TO
ILLUSTRATE YOUR ANSWERS.
These will be graded, 10 points each, on the basis of completeness and
details. Two pages for each of two
Outline and briefly discuss Pinker's arguments and evidence that there
is a "Language instinct." Follow this outline—abc-- in your
a) First say what it means that something like language is an instinct.
b) What are Pinker's four arguments for "instinct?" Be
complete here and include examples of relevant evidence supporting EACH of
c) What do you think of this idea -- an instinct for language --so far?
Is there additional evidence, pro or con, that you think he should be aware of?
(Briefly characterize that evidence or say why you think the case is closed.)
In class we have discussed these functions from three
perspectives—individual, social, and cultural. Discuss each of these with at least three examples of each
language of thought, mental representation, and natural language
a) Explain the idea of a “language of thought” (Mentalese) and the
kinds of mental representations that might be used in thinking. Use examples from readings and class
discussion and videos to make your points clear.
b) Explain—using at least three of his arguments-- why Pinker
doesn’t believe we think “in” English or any natural language dialect.
Short answers (I
pick one (See board); you pick any other 3.) Two pages for four short answers.
We have seen a video of a woman from Iowa who had a stroke
that left her unable to understand a sentence “The bird that the cat watched
was hungry.” despite knowing about birds, cats, watching and hunger. In
regard to her ability to process language, what seemed to be her basic problem?
Explain the difference between a pidgin and Creole
language. What does this suggest about human language acquisition?
How does FOXP2 appear at present to play a role in human
What are Chomsky’s “two fundamental facts” about human language?
How does mechanoelectrical transduction play a role in human
We have seen how humans and animals might be involved in
communication regarding the danger of a tsunami. What is fundamentally
different about these two systems of communication?
How does the study of deaf individuals significantly inform
us about the relationship between human language and thought?
Pinker explains that human language works using “two
tricks.” What are they?
What evidence do we have on how two to three year old
children’s language interacts with their mental representations? Briefly
describe one research finding that bears on this issue.