Language

Language Development and Acquisition

Brain Talk and Brain Waves

Researchers studying the brains of toddlers say the strength of their brainwaves can indicate language ability. As ScienCentral reports, this research might lead to early identification of language impairment. Why might studying language ability in toddlers not necessarily predict future abilities?

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How Babies Learn Language

The clip includes footage from Toby Mintz’s lab and description of his current research. In this particular study, he uses infants who are 7 months old because that is when infants typically perceive speech patterns. How do the researchers know if an infant is paying attention to word or non-word auditory stimuli? Is vowel harmony an innate skill in infants? What kind of evidence would support this statement?

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Baby Babbling

A baby babbles to himself white he tries to go to sleep. What is babbling and how does it lead to the development of speech? What is variegated babbling and how old are babies when they start that? What stage of speech production comes after babbling?

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Ali G Interviews Noam Chomsky

The actor Sacha Baron Cohen interviews Noam Chomsky while in the character Ali G. Some potentially offensive content follows. However, the clip shows a light-hearted Chomsky and his thoughts on basic questions about language that students may also hold. Why is studying language important? How many words does a normal human know? How does Chomsky feel about being bilingual or multilingual?

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Kanzi Understands Spoken Language

Kanzi's ability to understand spoken language can be seen in this video. He is asked to find the lexigrams, or symbols, for specific words. It is in this way that chimps, bonobos, and other types of apes are taught to “speak.” Using this technology, would you be able to have a conversation with Kanzi? Why or why not? How does syntax play into your answer?

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Kanzi and Novel Sentences

Kanzi's language comprehension has been demonstrated in research using novel sentences — phrases that preclude the learning of specific responses. How is language acquisition demonstrated differently in this video than in the previous video (Kanzi Understands Spoken Language)?

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Wild Child: The Story of Feral Children

This clip is a trailer for a documentary about wild, or feral, children. The girl featured here grew up for six years, surrounded by dogs rather than humans. The girl has many qualities characteristic of dogs, including barking rather than speaking. How do you think her upbringing has affected and may continue to affect her speech? How might you explain it in terms of the critical period hypothesis?

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The Parts of Language

Lord Syntax and Simple Sentences

Lord Syntax and his friend Nemesis sit a club to eat dinner. Lord Syntax notices that the piano player is playing the same tune all evening with a small variation. In the case of the piano player, different keys, chords, and tempos are used to create variation. In the case of sentences, small variations exist also. The four variations on the simple sentence are given. What is syntax? Why is syntax important in the discussion of language?

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Steven Pinker - The Stuff of Thought

[Please note: This video contains strong language.] Pinker sits with an interviewer in a park to discuss topics from his 2007 book The Stuff of Thought. Some potentially offensive content follows. Pinker discusses the etiology of taboo and profane words and their emotional impact despite meaning and syntax. Why do sexual terms and profanity exist in our culture? Why does profanity often lack grammatical rules and proper syntax? Under what circumstances do people use taboo words?

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Phonemes Experiment

This clip is made up of individual English phonemes and edited together. Phonemes are differences in sound that make a contribution to meaning. By cutting together these different sounds, the author of this clip is able to create an approximation of a pretty famous quote. Without visiting the YouTube page or the home page for the video can you make out what the man is saying?

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Garden Path Sentences - Going to Sound Ridiculous

Garden path sentences are sentences that give the subjective impression that one is following a garden path to a predictable destination until it is obvious that you are mistaken. This is a clip from the Micallef Program, a sketch comedy show from Australia; the man explains that what he is about to say “sounds ridiculous.” Is there an example of a garden path sentence in this clip? Why or why not? Try writing a couple of examples of these types of sentences.

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Homophones

On the show Between the Lions, Brian McKnight and Cleo the Lion sing a duet about a “special love” they share – homophones. Homophones are two words that that mean something different but are pronounced the same. Of the examples they give, which are function words and which are content words? How do homophones affect our processing of language?

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George Lakoff: Conceptual Metaphor Theory

This video features George Lakoff explaining how he decided to start his work on conceptual metaphor theory. According to the conceptual metaphor theory, metaphors and other forms of figurative language are not necessarily creative expressions – we use metaphor to make sense of our experiences. How many examples of conceptual metaphor does Lakoff give? Are these figures of speech more helpful to understand the situation than using plain language? Why or why not?

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Paramore - Misery Business

Figurative language is language that means one thing literally but is taken to mean something different. Two types that have been examined extensively by psycholinguistic research are indirect speech acts and metaphor. This song features several different types of figures of speech – can you identify them all?

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Disorders

Broca’s Aphasia

In this video, a man with Broca’s Aphasia is being interviewed. He is asked questions about a problem he has had with his legs. What are the symptoms of Broca’s Aphasia and how does this man demonstrate them? What are some possible causes of Broca’s Aphasia? How does it differ from Wernicke’s Aphasia?

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Wernicke’s Aphasia

This video is from the same study as the video above (Broca’s Aphasia). As you can tell, while the subject is speaking a great deal more than the man in the first video, it is much more difficult to follow the conversation. How does comprehension vary between those with Broca’s Aphasia and those with Wernicke’s Aphasia? What other types of aphasia are there, and what are their main symptoms?

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Swedish Chef – Meatballs

In this short clip from The Muppet Show, the Swedish Chef teaches us how to make meatballs. Of course, as is the hallmark of this character, we cannot understand what he is saying. Can you identify what some of his articulation issues might be? What are the manners of articulation, and how might you help the Swedish Chef with them?

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Word Salad – Finding the Right Words

In this public service announcement, a mother tries to talk to her daughter about drugs. She is unable to find the words, and so her speech comes out as a random collection of unrelated words. Word Salad is a condition in which the speaker believes they are speaking clearly, but are in fact speaking in the gibberish-like manner presented in this clip. What are the causes of Word Salad? How can it be treated?

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Foreign Languages and Bilingualism

Bilingual Kids

A Parents TV anchor interviews directors of a language program and parents on the topic of bilingual children. The benefits to the child and parents are discussed. Is becoming bilingual beneficial or detrimental to children? Explain your stance with points from the video and personal experience. The director of the language program states that it is important to engage children emotionally during the class sessions. Why is emotional engagement important to learning?

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Cherokee Language Lesson Tsalagi Syllabary Giduwa Dialect Eastern

This tutorial aims to teach the Cherokee language, Tsalagi. This language is an example of a syllabary – a set of written symbols that represent syllables. These symbols are then combined to form words. A syllabary is one of three main types of orthographies, or methods of mapping the sounds of a language onto a set of written symbols. What are the other two main types, and what are examples of each?

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Race and Racism: Paraguay's Linguistic Equality

Paraguay is the only bilingual country in Latin America. Spanish is the official language in Paraguay where native cultural tradition is still thriving in modern times. Every citizen is also fluent in Guarani, the language of the country's indigenous people. What is the difference between simultaneous bilingualism and sequential bilingualism? How does bilingualism affect metalinguistic awareness and cognitive control?

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