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25 Apr Conceptual Paradigms

Broken Egg

Conceptual Structure The different functions of language are acquired at different stages. As described by Sowa, these functions show why semantics can be considered a guide to how we learn syntax: “First, children associate words with concrete concepts used in perceiving the world and acting upon it. Next, they learn syntactic rules for mapping concepts […]

24 Apr What Was That Word?

Language Learning Stages

Learning Stages From a cognitive perspective, we have reason to believe that, for most ordinary communication, words are more important to successful communication than sentences. As the complexity rises, so rises the importance of well-formed phrases and sentences. At an early age, kids begin to communicate using sounds. They progress from there to the single-word […]

23 Apr Form and Substance in Communication

Substance and Form

Form vs. Substance If the substance is H2O, the form may be solid ice, liquid water or gaseous steam. What about language? We’ve talked about different language phenomena, including spoken, written and digitally stored language. Is the medium the form and the content the substance of language, or is there more? Saussure, a founder of the European flavor of structural […]

21 Apr Language Inherited

Innate Grammar

Language Acquisition How do children acquire language? How do they learn about grammar and productively apply its general rules to creating new utterances? Some attempts to explain this phenomenon have suggested that a set of grammar rules is innate. Advocates of this theory (Chomsky 1968) point to grammatical similarities, or universals, across languages and aver that a […]

19 Apr Learning by Doing or Active Osmosis

Thinking Before Speaking

Intuition When people use their native language, they don’t usually think about how verbs are supposed to be conjugated. They don’t stop to figure out number agreement, transitivity, or aspect. They just talk. Intuitions about language are probably not based on the grammar rules that govern how parts of speech go together. Instead, these intuitions […]

12 Apr Making a Pattern of Comprenshion

Speech and Hearing

In A Timeless Way of Building, Christopher Alexander points out that “…no pattern is an isolated entity. Each pattern can exist in the world only to the extent that it is supported by other patterns: the larger patterns in which it is embedded, the patterns of the same size that surround it, and the smaller […]

11 Apr Are You My Grammar?

Communication Generation

Quest for a Formalism Many grammar formalisms have been proposed for use with computers. Many existing formalisms have been borrowed for computer applications. Currently, one of the most popular grammar theories among linguists is called Government and Binding (Chomsky, 1986). This theory has been used in some computerized language-analysis programs, but poor outcomes have demonstrated that it is […]

03 Apr Causal Chains in Action

Pulling Together

Expectations are often influenced by our understanding of cause and effect. In physical interactions between our bodies and the external environment, and in social interactions between other complex people, we are capable of predicting an outcome long before it actually comes to pass. We are also capable of predicting an outcome immediately before it comes to pass, as […]

24 Mar School of Hard Knocks

Nature and Humans

Are you a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks, or like me, are you still trying to escape the gravity of freshman year? Lessons about how altitude affects physical objects may be learned by slipping and falling down a few stairs. These lessons become ingrained early. Burned fingers have a profound impact. Notions of hot and cold, […]

20 Mar Section 4 Intro – Perception and Cognition

Sensory Perception

Wha’cha Thinking? All the developers in the world could work forever to try to imitate brain functions, and even if they begin with a good understanding of the physiology of the brain and the microscopic mechanisms of electrical transmission between neurons, would have great difficulty passing a Turing test without some knowledge of perception, memory and cognition. Add Searle’s more demanding Chinese […]