Language and Thinking
  • Learning Language

    Humans speak naturally and spontaneously and learn the language spoken around them. Babies start to say words about 12 months. In the second year, a child develops vocabulary of about 250 words and makes simple statements. Children use correct sentence structures by the age of three. Vocabulary increases to about 2600 words at the age of six.

    Babies spontaneously make nonverbal sounds that with brain maturation and practice gradually form sounds into recognizable words. Speaking is a spontaneous feature of the brain, and all normal children will speak if they hear a language spoken; any language will do. Older infants imitate words they hear spoken and if adults engage them in conversation, will expand their vocabularies and start to make meaningful statements.

    Adults spontaneously speak “baby talk” to infants using high pitched, somewhat melodic and nonverbal sounds, exaggerated facial expressions and hand gestures. Babies like the entertainment and babble and coo in response. This mimetic exchange marks the beginning of human conversation. Human conversations always retain an infrastructure of nonverbal sound communication.

    The coherent, syntactical aspect of language is an overlay of more precise communication. Words go with gestures Young children point with a pudgy index finger and say the name their pointer indicates. Pointing and naming remains an endearing characteristic for the rest of a human life. Babies follow the path of language evolution. Their progress is from the description of the immediate and concrete objects to making abstract statements about events. The first thing you do when you are learning a language is point and name. You invent nouns. Little tykes can get a lot accomplished with their pointing finger and a few nouns. Tourists in a foreign country revert to the two year old strategy of pointing, naming, using pantomime to replace the verbs they do not know.

    Children's play contains a rich mixture of aerobics, theatre, fantasy, competition, cooperation, conflict, resolutions of conflict and talk. Play conversations are a mix of real language and nonlinguistic sounds and gestures. Much of the sound emitting behavior observed in conversations is old primate behavior. Chimpanzees could trade places with children and feel quite at home. Children at play, for example, interact with a continuous sequence of sounds as they run, jump, squat, push, pull, and hit. Some sounds they emit are single or double word commands. Brief phrases are uttered, usually shorter that 6 syllables. Shouts, shrieks, laughter and occasional cries or crying complete the cacophony of play. Like primate relatives, children will climb trees, swing from branches and make primate sounds.

    There is a growing consensus that young females are better at language skills and males are better at spatial skills. Young females do better at elementary schools than males, in part because schools are more “girl friendly” and emphasis focal attention and written language as the main learning path. Females on average have greater verbal fluency; do better with arithmetic calculation, precise manual tasks and recalling landmarks. Kimura suggested that males have an advantage on tests that require spatial rotation of objects, target-directed motor skills, mathematical reasoning and navigation.

    You can list several components involved in reading, beginning with visual scanning, fixation, encoding 2-dimensional patterns, orthographic encoding, letter identification, word identification, context recognition, syntactic encoding, semantic encoding, and phonetic encoding. Reading out loud adds further motor functions to produce speech and hearing functions to monitor and correct motor output. Such a diverse array of functions distributed throughout the brain is easy to disrupt in a thousand ways. The understanding of reading, writing and speech difficulties is therefore primitive and preliminary.

    • Dr. Gislason wrote: "In this brief reflection I describe some basic truths about languages that are aspects of human nature most likely to endure. I feature storytelling and selftalk as the two most important features of the human use of language. I consider how languages fit in the larger scheme of intelligence and human interactions. Interesting challenges emerge when language is used to describe itself. Spoken language is an innate ability of humans that emerges in all human groups. Spoken language is the key to interaction among humans. There are several thousand languages in human groups that enhance group cohesion and at the same time separate groups that cannot communicate. I trace the evolution of sound communication from animals who have lived on earth for hundreds of millions of years to computer programming that uses condensed forms of cryptic languages that are received and expressed by electronic circuits."

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      Print Books Read Topics Download
      Human Nature
      The Good Person
      Pieces of the Puzzle
      The Sound of Music
      Surviving Human Nature
      Language and Thinking
      I and Thou
      Emotions and Feelings
      Neuroscience Notes
      Children and Family
      Intelligence and Learning
      Religion for 21st Century

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      The Psychology, Neuroscience and Philosophy series was developed by Persona Digital Books. The books are copyright; all rights to reproduction by any means are reserved.
      The author is Stephen Gislason and the publisher is Persona Digital Books.