I will pick one of these three and you pick the other for a total of two essays (2 pages max each; sketches free).

A NOTE ON ANSWERS:  THESE ARE THE ESSENTIAL POINTS; AS I SAID IN THE INSTRUCTIONS GRADES WILL BE GIVEN “on the basis of completeness and details .” YOU WILL ALSO BE DOCKED FOR ERRORS,

 IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR EXAM, WRITE ME A BRIEF NOTE AND RETURN IT AND EXAM TO ME NEXT CLASS.  I WILL REREAD THE RELEVANT PARTS.

1.  “Language Instinct?” (12 POINTS; SAME WEIGHTING AS ESSAY 2)

Outline and briefly discuss Pinker's arguments and evidence that there is a 'Language instinct.' Follow this outline—abc-- in your answer.

a) First say what it means that something like language is an instinct.

THIS IS NOT ASKING FOR PINKER’S REASONING ABOUT LANGUAGE BUT JUST SOMETHING ABOUT THE MEANING OF INSTINCT, E.G. BEHAVIOR AND CHARACTERISTICS GOVERNED BY A SPECIE’S GENES OR EVEN AN INNATE BEHAVIOR COMMON TO ALL MEMBERS OF A SPECIES.  YOU MUST SAY SOMETHING OR LOSE 2 POINTS.

I DON’T UNDERSTAND EVERYONE NOT GETTING 2 POINTS HERE?  ANYONE WITH AN EXPLANATION OF THEIR  NON-ANSWERS????

instinct

noun |ˈinˌsti ng kt|

an innate, typically fixed pattern of behavior in animals in response to certain stimuli : birds have an instinct to build nests | maternal instincts.

a natural or intuitive way of acting or thinking : they retain their old authoritarian instincts.

a natural propensity or skill of a specified kind : his instinct for making the most of his chances.

the fact or quality of possessing innate behavior patterns : instinct told her not to ask the question.

b) What are Pinker's four arguments for 'instinct?' Be complete here and cite examples of relevant evidence supporting EACH of those arguments. (TWO POINTS EACH X4)

LANGUAGE IS UNIVERSAL, FOUND EVERYWHERE; NO HUMANS GROUPS WITHOUT IT,

 ALL L HAS SIMILAR STRUCTURE- PHONOLOGY, WORDS, HIERARCHICAL PHRASES, CLAUSES AND MEANINGS CONSTRUCTED OUT OF MEANINGS OF THE MORPHEMES IN A GIVEN PHRASE STRUCTURE.

RAPID AND UNIFORM ACQUISITION—EVEN IN CASES WITHOUT A MODEL LIKE CREOLES AND NSL.

 FINALLY THERE ARE MANY BIOLOGICAL FACTS DIRECTLY (FOXP2) OR INDIRECTLY POINTING TO INSTINCT (VOCAL TRACT AND BRAIN ADAPTATIONS…. , CREOLES..)

 

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.) 

  2POINTS FOR ANYTHING REASONABLE; PRO OR CON.  SOME MENTIONED PIRAHA, HEMISPHERECTOMIES, LACK OF INFO ON MANY LANGUAGES, MORE ON FOXP2.  PERSONALLY I’M PERSUADED THAT AT LEAST SEVERAL LANGUAGE LEVELS ARE STRUCTURED BIOLOGICALLY AND ULTIMATELY BY A UNIQUE COMBO OF GENES.

 THE LEXICON VARIES NOT SO MUCH IN STRUCTURE BUT IN CONTENT.

 

2.  the language of thought, mental representation, and natural language (dialects like English, Chinese, Hopi..)

a-Explain the idea of a “language of thought” (Mentalese) and the kinds of mental representations that might be used in memory and thinking.  Use examples from readings and class discussion and videos to make your points clear.  (4 POINTS)

THINKING IS MANIPULATION OF REPRESENTATIONS TO SOLVE A PROBLEM. 

EXAMPLES OF REPRESENTATIONS INCLUDE VISUAL, MOTOR, EVEN AUDITORY IMAGES, EVEN EXTERNAL REPRESENTATIONS (MODELS.)  GRANDIN AND CHILDREN IN SIMCOCK, DEAF INDIVIDUALS, AND SOME ANIMAL PROBLEM SOLVING ALL SUGGEST THAT THOUGHT INVOLVES MANIPULATION OF  NON-LANGUAGE REPRESENTATIONS.

 

b-Explain how ambiguity of language plays a role in Pinker’s belief that it is “absurd” that we think “in” English or any natural language dialect. (2 POINTS)

ENGLISH FOR EXAMPLE, RARELY HAS A SENTENCE WITHOUT MORE THAN ONE INTERPRETATION (STRUCTURAL DESCRIPTION).  IN OTHER WORDS, MOST OF OUR UTTERANCES ARE AMBIGUOUS.  DOES THAT MEAN OUR MOST OF OUR THOUGHTS ARE AMBIGUOUS?  NO!  SOMEHOW WE DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE STUFF OF THOUGHT, UNAMBIGUOUS IN ITS REPRESENTATIONAL POWER, AND HOW THAT STUFF IS REPRESENTED IN ENGLISH AS WE SPEAK OR WRITE. 

c-What do developmental studies of young children suggest about these relationships between language, memory, and thought?  (3 POINTS)

3 POINTS FOR ANYTHING REASONABLE WITH AN EXPLICIT STATEMENT.

E.G. CITING SIMCOCK & HAYNE (2002) OR GANEA ET AL (20XX) WITH SOME DETAILS

d-What –in a few sentences—is your opinion of these issues at the moment? (2 POINTS)

2 POINTS FOR ANYTHING REASONABLE.  AT THE VERY LEAST WE SHOULD AGREE THAT WE DON’T NEED L TO THINK IN AND PROBABLY NEVER THINK “IN” L THOUGH L MAY BE AN IMPORTANT INFLUENCE ON THOUGHTS, EG. PRIMING ETC.

3.  How does “human language work?”

a- Pinker says there are two “tricks” or principles that underlie “the language instinct—not to be confused with Chomsky’s “two facts” (p. 75).  State these “tricks”, and elaborate on them with several examples each. (4 POINTS)

THE TWO TRICKS, ATTRIBUTED TO DESAUSSURE (1) AND VON HUMBOLDT(2) ARE 1-THAT THE SIGN IS ARBITRARY (NOTHING INHERENT IN THE SOUND DETERMINES WORD MEANING) AND 2- THERE MUST A FINITE REPRESENTATION OF THE INFINITE SET OF SENTENCES.  (SEE CHAPTER 4)  2 POINTS EACH (4)

b- Your discussion should include the concepts of “a discrete combinatorial system”, “lexicon”, “grammar”, “no longest sentence”,  “recursive phrase structure rules” and combinatorial (compositional) semantics. 6 POINTS  ONE FOR EACH CONCEPT MENTIONED ACCURATELY.  DEDUCTIONS FOR MISTAKES.

THUS ALL DIALECTS OF HUMAN LANGUAGE HAVE A LEXICON WHERE THE WORDS (SIGNS, MOPHEMES) ARE STORED.  ALL WORDS HAVE BEEN CREATED BY INDIVIDUALS AT SOME POINT IN HISTORY; ANY CONCEPT MIGHT BE REPRESENTED BY ANY OF A LARGE SET OF AVAILABLE SOUNDS.  WORDS CONTRIBUTE MEANING TO THEIR PHRASES.  SEVERAL WORDS (E..G. THE SMALL DOG) ARE COMBINED SEMANTICALLLY IN THEIR PHRASES.  THE MEANING OF THE ENTIRE SENTENCE IS BUILT UP OUT OF THE MEANING OF ITS PHRASES.  THIS IS COMBINATORIAL SEMANTICS.

 

GRAMMAR THUS CONSISTS OF GRAMMATICAL CATEGORIES, RECURSIVE PHRASE STRUCTURE RULES THAT CONTRIBUTE THE “INFINITE” ASPECT LANGKUAGE.   WE CAN SEE THIS BY DEMONSTRATING THERE IS NO LONGEST SENTENCE IN ANY HUMAN L.  WE CAN USE THE RECURSIVE RULES TO ALWAYS PUT ANOTHER PHRASE ON ANY GIVEN SENTENCE THEREBY MAKING AN EVEN LONGER SENTENCE, (E.G.(SPOT IS A DOG.  SPOT IS A YELLOW DOG.  I THINK SPOT IS A YELLOW DOG.  SUE THINKS I THINK  SPOT………


Short answers—average ½ pages each.  Do four; I may select one at exam time.

1. How does FOXP2 appear at present to play a role in human language? 4 POINTS

FOXP2 APPEARS TO REGULATE MANY OTHER GENES.  FOR THIS QUESTION IT IS ENOUGH TO SAY FOXP2 IS FOUND IN ALL MAMMALS AND CONTROLS THE DEVEOPMENT OF FINE MOTOR CONTROL, NOTABLY OF OUR VOCAL TRACTS.  THIS IS QUITE DIFFERENT IN CHIMPS, ETC WHO SEEM TO HAVE MUCH LESS CONTROL.

HUMAN FOXP2 SEEMS TO FACILITATE SUBTLE ARTICULATIONS AS WELL AS MOTOR LEARNING.

2. Explain the difference between a pidgin and Creole language.  What does this suggest about human language acquisition?

PIDGINS ARE HUMAN COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS BEWEEN GROUPS THAT SHARE NO COMMON LANGUAGE.  WORDS ARE DRAWN FROM EACH L.   THEY ARE FOUND EVERYWHERE DIFFERENT LANGUAGE GROUPS MEET (SLAVES, SEAPORTS, ETC.)  THESE SYSTEMS TYPICALLY ARE FRAGMENTS OF L, WITHOUT THE GRAMMATICAL STRUCTURES NORMALLY FOUND IN HUMAN DIALECTS.

 

CREOLES ARE COMPLETE HUMAN LANGUAGES, FORMED IN ONE OR TWO GENERATIONS FROM PIDGINS.  THE MECHANISM OF CREOLE FORMATION IS VIA THE ACQUISITION OF L BY CHILDREN.  CHILDREN EXPOSED TO A PIDGIN –WITHOUT A MODEL OF A COMPLETE LANGUAGE—WILL CREATE A NEW LANGUAGE COMPLETE WITH GRAMMATICAL STRUCTURE, PRESUMABLY USING THEIR INNATE KNOWLEDGE (UG) OF LANGUAGE.

3. We have seen how humans and animals might be involved in communication regarding the danger of a tsunami.  What is most fundamentally different about these two systems of communication?

ANIMAL RESPONSE TO INFRASOUND IS A REFLEX OR IN SOME CASES MAYBE A LEARNED RESPONSE (CONDITIONING, OBSERVATIONAL LEARNING.)  HUMANS IN THE MOKAN MYTH VIDEO, USED A VERY DIFFERENT SYSTEM—LANGUAGE BASED STORIES—TO CONVEY THE DANGER AND RESPONSE. WE MAY NOT EVEN HEAR THE INFRASOUND. BUT THE KEY TO ANSWERING THIS QUESTION IS:

THE ANIMAL SYSTEM IS CLOSED—NOT MUCH NEW CAN BE PUT INTO IT OTHER THAN A LENGTHY EVOLUTIONARY PROCESS (AND MAYBE LIMITED CHANCE CONDITIONING).  HUMAN MYTH/SCIENCE SYSTEMS—BASED ON LANGUAGE-- ARE OPEN AND NEW ONES CAN BE ADDED AND OLD ONES REPLACED/MODIFIED OVERNIGHT.

 

 

4. What evidence do we have on how two to three year old children’s language relates to their mental representations? Briefly describe at least one experimental research finding that bears on this issue.  What was the key result in that study?

THE QUESTION ASKS FOR “EXPERIMENTAL” FINDING SO EITHER SIMCOCK & HAYNE OR GANEA ET AL WILL DO.  YOU ALSO NEED THE DETAILS.

5. William James, discussing Mr. Estrella, said “Of course no man can think without some kind of mind-stuff to think in.” What do you see as the strongest argument against the idea that the stuff we think in is English (or any human dialect)?  Explain your reasoning.

SEE ESSAY 2.

6. Describe, with an example, the idea of “lexicalization.”             

IT’S THE PROCESS OF CREATING A WORD (LEXICAL ITEM) THAT CAPTURES A COMPLEX IDEA MAYBE TAKING A FEW SENTENCES OR BOOKS TO OTHERWISE REFER TO, E.G. FEMTOSECOND FOR 10-18TH OF A SECOND

7. 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?  What is a significant implication of this case?

SHE CAN’T COMPUTE GRAMMATICAL RELATIONSHIPS (WHAT IS THE SUBJECT/OBJECT OF THE SENTENCE, ETC.) THAT CONVEY WHO DID WHAT TO WHOM.  SHE HAS TO GUESS BASED ON AVAILABLE WORD KNOWEDGE (WHICH SEEMS GOOD), HER GENERAL KNOWLEDGE OR HER “COMMON SENSE” (CATS EAT BIRDS; RARELY THE OTHER WAY AROUND) AND COGNITIVE SKILLS. 

LANGUAGE TRANSCENDS REAL WORLD PROBABILITIES AND THAT PROBABLY IS A MAJOR COGNITIVE FUNCTION OF LANGUAGE. IN COMPREHENSION OF SENTENCES, SENTENCE STRUCTURE RULES OVER COMMON SENSE!