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7.3: Lugha

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    Malengo ya kujifunza

    • Eleza lugha na uonyeshe ujuzi na vipengele vya lugha
    • Kuelewa jinsi matumizi ya lugha yanavyoendelea
    • Eleza uhusiano kati ya lugha na kufikiri

    Lugha ni mfumo wa mawasiliano unaohusisha kutumia maneno na sheria za utaratibu wa kuandaa maneno hayo kusambaza habari kutoka kwa mtu mmoja hadi mwingine. Wakati lugha ni aina ya mawasiliano, si mawasiliano yote ni lugha. Spishi nyingi huwasiliana kwa njia ya msimamo wao, harakati, harufu, au vocalizations. Mawasiliano hii ni muhimu kwa aina ambazo zinahitaji kuingiliana na kuendeleza mahusiano ya kijamii na maelezo yao. Hata hivyo, watu wengi wamesisitiza kuwa ni lugha inayofanya binadamu kuwa wa pekee kati ya aina zote za wanyama (Corballis & Gudddorf, 2007; Tomasello & Rakoczy, 2003). Sehemu hii itazingatia kile kinachofautisha lugha kama aina maalum ya mawasiliano, jinsi matumizi ya lugha yanavyoendelea, na jinsi lugha inavyoathiri jinsi tunavyofikiria.

    Vipengele vya Lugha

    Lugha, iwe ni kusema, saini, au imeandikwa, ina vipengele maalum: lexicon na sarufi. Lexicon inahusu maneno ya lugha fulani. Hivyo, lexicon ni msamiati wa lugha. Sarufi inahusu seti ya sheria zinazotumika kufikisha maana kupitia matumizi ya msamiati (Fernández & Cairns, 2011). Kwa mfano, sarufi ya Kiingereza inaamuru kwamba vitenzi vingi vinapokea “-ed” mwishoni ili kuonyesha hali ya zamani.

    Maneno hutengenezwa kwa kuchanganya fonimu mbalimbali zinazounda lugha. Phoneme (k.m., sauti “ah” vs “eh”) ni kitengo cha sauti cha msingi cha lugha fulani, na lugha mbalimbali zina seti tofauti za fonimu. Fonimu huunganishwa ili kuunda morphemes, ambazo ni vitengo vidogo vya lugha vinavyofikisha aina fulani ya maana (k.m., “I” ni foneme na morpheme). Tunatumia semantiki na syntax kujenga lugha. Semantiki na syntax ni sehemu ya sarufi ya lugha. Semantics inahusu mchakato ambao tunapata maana kutoka kwa morphemes na maneno. Syntax inahusu jinsi maneno yanapangwa katika sentensi (Chomsky, 1965; Fernández & Cairns, 2011).

    Tunatumia sheria za sarufi kuandaa msamiati katika njia za riwaya na ubunifu, ambazo zinatuwezesha kuwasiliana habari kuhusu dhana halisi na za abstract. Tunaweza kuzungumza juu ya mazingira yetu ya haraka na yanayoonekana pamoja na uso wa sayari zisizoonekana. Tunaweza kushiriki mawazo yetu ya ndani, mipango yetu ya baadaye, na kujadili thamani ya elimu ya chuo. Tunaweza kutoa maelekezo ya kina ya kupikia chakula, kurekebisha gari, au kujenga moto. Ubadilikaji ambao lugha hutoa kwa relay aina tofauti za habari ni mali ambayo inafanya lugha kuwa tofauti kama njia ya mawasiliano kati ya wanadamu.

    Language Development

    Given the remarkable complexity of a language, one might expect that mastering a language would be an especially arduous task; indeed, for those of us trying to learn a second language as adults, this might seem to be true. However, young children master language very quickly with relative ease. B. F. Skinner (1957) proposed that language is learned through reinforcement. Noam Chomsky (1965) criticized this behaviorist approach, asserting instead that the mechanisms underlying language acquisition are biologically determined. The use of language develops in the absence of formal instruction and appears to follow a very similar pattern in children from vastly different cultures and backgrounds. It would seem, therefore, that we are born with a biological predisposition to acquire a language (Chomsky, 1965; Fernández & Cairns, 2011). Moreover, it appears that there is a critical period for language acquisition, such that this proficiency at acquiring language is maximal early in life; generally, as people age, the ease with which they acquire and master new languages diminishes (Johnson & Newport, 1989; Lenneberg, 1967; Singleton, 1995).

    Children begin to learn about language from a very early age (See Table \(\PageIndex{1}\) below). In fact, it appears that this is occurring even before we are born. Newborns show preference for their mother’s voice and appear to be able to discriminate between the language spoken by their mother and other languages. Babies are also attuned to the languages being used around them and show preferences for videos of faces that are moving in synchrony with the audio of spoken language versus videos that do not synchronize with the audio (Blossom & Morgan, 2006; Pickens, 1994; Spelke & Cortelyou, 1981).

    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\): Stages of Language and Communication Development
    Stage Age Developmental Language and Communication
    1 0–3 months Reflexive communication
    2 3–8 months Reflexive communication; interest in others
    3 8–13 months Intentional communication; sociability
    4 12–18 months First words
    5 18–24 months Simple sentences of two words
    6 2–3 years Sentences of three or more words
    7 3–5 years Complex sentences; has conversations

    DIG DEEPER: The Case of Genie

    In the fall of 1970, a social worker in the Los Angeles area found a \(13\)-year-old girl who was being raised in extremely neglectful and abusive conditions. The girl, who came to be known as Genie, had lived most of her life tied to a potty chair or confined to a crib in a small room that was kept closed with the curtains drawn. For a little over a decade, Genie had virtually no social interaction and no access to the outside world. As a result of these conditions, Genie was unable to stand up, chew solid food, or speak (Fromkin, Krashen, Curtiss, Rigler, & Rigler, 1974; Rymer, 1993). The police took Genie into protective custody.

    Genie’s abilities improved dramatically following her removal from her abusive environment, and early on, it appeared she was acquiring language—much later than would be predicted by critical period hypotheses that had been posited at the time (Fromkin et al., 1974). Genie managed to amass an impressive vocabulary in a relatively short amount of time. However, she never developed a mastery of the grammatical aspects of language (Curtiss, 1981). Perhaps being deprived of the opportunity to learn language during a critical period impeded Genie’s ability to fully acquire and use language.

    You may recall that each language has its own set of phonemes that are used to generate morphemes, words, and so on. Babies can discriminate among the sounds that make up a language (for example, they can tell the difference between the “s” in vision and the “ss” in fission); early on, they can differentiate between the sounds of all human languages, even those that do not occur in the languages that are used in their environments. However, by the time that they are about 1 year old, they can only discriminate among those phonemes that are used in the language or languages in their environments (Jensen, 2011; Werker & Lalonde, 1988; Werker & Tees, 1984).

    After the first few months of life, babies enter what is known as the babbling stage, during which time they tend to produce single syllables that are repeated over and over. As time passes, more variations appear in the syllables that they produce. During this time, it is unlikely that the babies are trying to communicate; they are just as likely to babble when they are alone as when they are with their caregivers (Fernández & Cairns, 2011). Interestingly, babies who are raised in environments in which sign language is used will also begin to show babbling in the gestures of their hands during this stage (Petitto, Holowka, Sergio, Levy, & Ostry, 2004).

    Generally, a child’s first word is uttered sometime between the ages of 1 year to 18 months, and for the next few months, the child will remain in the “one word” stage of language development. During this time, children know a number of words, but they only produce one-word utterances. The child’s early vocabulary is limited to familiar objects or events, often nouns. Although children in this stage only make one-word utterances, these words often carry larger meaning (Fernández & Cairns, 2011). So, for example, a child saying “cookie” could be identifying a cookie or asking for a cookie.

    As a child’s lexicon grows, she begins to utter simple sentences and to acquire new vocabulary at a very rapid pace. In addition, children begin to demonstrate a clear understanding of the specific rules that apply to their language(s). Even the mistakes that children sometimes make provide evidence of just how much they understand about those rules. This is sometimes seen in the form of overgeneralization. In this context, overgeneralization refers to an extension of a language rule to an exception to the rule. For example, in English, it is usually the case that an “s” is added to the end of a word to indicate plurality. For example, we speak of one dog versus two dogs. Young children will overgeneralize this rule to cases that are exceptions to the “add an s to the end of the word” rule and say things like “those two gooses” or “three mouses.” Clearly, the rules of the language are understood, even if the exceptions to the rules are still being learned (Moskowitz, 1978).

    Language and Thought

    When we speak one language, we agree that words are representations of ideas, people, places, and events. The given language that children learn is connected to their culture and surroundings. But can words themselves shape the way we think about things? Psychologists have long investigated the question of whether language shapes thoughts and actions, or whether our thoughts and beliefs shape our language. Two researchers, Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf, began this investigation in the 1940s. They wanted to understand how the language habits of a community encourage members of that community to interpret language in a particular manner (Sapir, 1941/1964). Sapir and Whorf proposed that language determines thought, suggesting, for example, that a person whose community language did not have past-tense verbs would be challenged to think about the past (Whorf, 1956). Researchers have since identified this view as too absolute, pointing out a lack of empiricism behind what Sapir and Whorf proposed (Abler, 2013; Boroditsky, 2011; van Troyer, 1994). Today, psychologists continue to study and debate the relationship between language and thought.

    WHAT DO YOU THINK: The Meaning of Language

    Think about what you know of other languages; perhaps you even speak multiple languages. Imagine for a moment that your closest friend fluently speaks more than one language. Do you think that friend thinks differently, depending on which language is being spoken? You may know a few words that are not translatable from their original language into English. For example, the Portuguese word saudade originated during the \(15^{th}\) century, when Portuguese sailors left home to explore the seas and travel to Africa or Asia. Those left behind described the emptiness and fondness they felt as saudade (Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\)). The word came to express many meanings, including loss, nostalgia, yearning, warm memories, and hope. There is no single word in English that includes all of those emotions in a single description. Do words such as saudade indicate that different languages produce different patterns of thought in people? What do you think??

    Photograph A shows a painting of a person leaning against a ledge, slumped sideways over a box. Photograph B shows a painting of a person reading by a window.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): These two works of art depict saudade. (a) Saudade de Nápoles, which is translated into “missing Naples,” was painted by Bertha Worms in 1895. (b) Almeida Júnior painted Saudade in 1899.

    Language may indeed influence the way that we think, an idea known as linguistic determinism. One recent demonstration of this phenomenon involved differences in the way that English and Mandarin Chinese speakers talk and think about time. English speakers tend to talk about time using terms that describe changes along a horizontal dimension, for example, saying something like “I’m running behind schedule” or “Don’t get ahead of yourself.” While Mandarin Chinese speakers also describe time in horizontal terms, it is not uncommon to also use terms associated with a vertical arrangement. For example, the past might be described as being “up” and the future as being “down.” It turns out that these differences in language translate into differences in performance on cognitive tests designed to measure how quickly an individual can recognize temporal relationships. Specifically, when given a series of tasks with vertical priming, Mandarin Chinese speakers were faster at recognizing temporal relationships between months. Indeed, Boroditsky (2001) sees these results as suggesting that “habits in language encourage habits in thought” (p. 12).

    One group of researchers who wanted to investigate how language influences thought compared how English speakers and the Dani people of Papua New Guinea think and speak about color. The Dani have two words for color: one word for light and one word for dark. In contrast, the English language has 11 color words. Researchers hypothesized that the number of color terms could limit the ways that the Dani people conceptualized color. However, the Dani were able to distinguish colors with the same ability as English speakers, despite having fewer words at their disposal (Berlin & Kay, 1969). A recent review of research aimed at determining how language might affect something like color perception suggests that language can influence perceptual phenomena, especially in the left hemisphere of the brain. You may recall from earlier chapters that the left hemisphere is associated with language for most people. However, the right (less linguistic hemisphere) of the brain is less affected by linguistic influences on perception (Regier & Kay, 2009)


    Language is a communication system that has both a lexicon and a system of grammar. Language acquisition occurs naturally and effortlessly during the early stages of life, and this acquisition occurs in a predictable sequence for individuals around the world. Language has a strong influence on thought, and the concept of how language may influence cognition remains an area of study and debate in psychology.


    set of rules that are used to convey meaning through the use of a lexicon
    communication system that involves using words to transmit information from one individual to another
    the words of a given language
    smallest unit of language that conveys some type of meaning
    extension of a rule that exists in a given language to an exception to the rule
    basic sound unit of a given language
    process by which we derive meaning from morphemes and words
    manner by which words are organized into sentences