Posted: Nov 29, 2010 4:03 am
by Mr.Samsa
jez9999 wrote:Boy oh boy, that Horizon video was irritating. ALmost every time they switched to the video of him saying 'far', the fucking commentator woman started talking. How am I meant to concentrate on the test if you're talking over the top of it, bitch?!

:lol: There are other videos on YouTube I think, I just picked that one as it goes on to explain what's happening.

katja z wrote:
Mr.Samsa wrote:
Hmm.. grammar obviously does rely on concept formation,

Uh, yes. What I was getting at (very ineffectively :tongue:) was that the ability for symbolic thought comes first, and provides the basis for the ability to string symbols together into regular patterns (grammar). You could have the first without the second, but not vice versa.

:nod: Agreed.

katja z wrote:That would be about right. In fact, I'd argue that after you've learned the basics of one language, this helps you with any other language, because you are already able to "do language". So you're able to learn a completely different language even without a mediator (or else where did Cortes' interpreters come from?), starting from the scratch of nonlinguistic clues all over again like a baby, something feral children seem unable to do.

True, to a degree, I think. On one hand, being able to use language effectively would be useful in learning a second language, but I also think it would make some aspects more difficult just as a result of having to forget old rules that don't apply to the new language and learn new ones. So I would probably think that it's easier to pick up a language from scratch, or your first language, than it is to pick up a second language.

katja z wrote:I was speaking about the validity of the critical periods for other aspects of language. In the case of phonemes, we know what and how it happens. It isn't an irreversible process though. It takes a lot of practice but it is perfectly possible to learn to hear new distinctions - and once you hear them, to produce them correctly enough to be functional, even though you'll probably realise the individual phonemes slightly differently from native speakers. Interestingly, there are vast individual differences here, with some people just having "the ear" for languages - I don't know what the reason is.

Yeah I've noticed the "ear for languages" thing too, and it's certainly interesting. I wonder if it's a result of a loosely formed concept class for their own language's phonemes (so phonemes from other languages can slip in easily), or whether they have exposure to other languages at a young age and so have the basic skills needed to pick it up..

katja z wrote:ETA: Just a thought, what about the critical period for sign language in deaf people? Has any work been done on that? I'll do some googling tomorrow, here in Mitteleuropa it's so late that it's already early ...

I'm sure that it is the case:

The basic rule of neuroscience is use it or lose it. If you don't use the areas of the brain set up for language use then it gets reappropriated by another function or deteriorates. (And obviously sign language uses the same brain structures as verbal language).

katja z wrote:Hmm, it is with phonemes just as with grammatical features, some are widely distributed over a vast number of languages and some are more restricted to groups or even single languages (?). On the other hand, it is true that the phonetics of a language is probably the aspect that can change most rapidly (and at some point phonetic change will translate into a change in the phonemic system) so very often even two closely-related languages will be very similar in vocabulary and grammar but fairly different phonetically.

Good points..