Friday, October 9, 2009

Language Assignment

1. Summarize the foundations of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis about language.
-The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that language determines the way we think and the distinctions of one language are not found in any other language. He argues that language is the only way for humans to organize concepts in their heads, so language determines the way we think. For example, if a language only has one word for things that fly, they can only think about objects that fly using that word compared to another language that uses ten words to describe objects that fly. This is also an example of linguistic relativity, or that the distinctions found in one language do not exist in any other language. For example, Eskimo has many different words for snow, while another language may only have one. The distinctions between different types in snow that are found in Eskimo would not be found in any other language.
2. Summarize 4 to 5 major ideas about Chomsky's "Universal Generative Grammar."
- The main argument of the "Universal Generative Grammar" theory is that there is a universal grammar that all humans are born with and that any language can fit into this template.
- Chomsky argues that this system of grammar is innate because there is no way that children can learn languages very easily. This also proves that the grammar system works for any language because an American child can learn chinese if he or she is raised around people who speak chinese.
- Chomsky also argues that a generative grammar is innate because there is no way that children could learn all the complexities of grammar in a language without learning them. He argues that most people cannot even understand the grammatical rules for these complexities, but children pick them up without anyone having to teach them.
-He also argues that although there are millions of different combinations of sentences, we do not need to run through a bunch of sentences to figure out the solution to an issue with grammar, we just know.
3. Describe what Einstein states about the necessity of language. Do you agree or disagree? Explain.
Einstein claims that images are required for thought and not words. He says that the physical elements of thought are images and signs, not words. I agree that humans generally think in terms of images and symbols, but to have complex thoughts they need words to elaborate on the images in their heads.
4. Summarize what Piaget states about the role of language. How similar or different is it from Einstein's view?
Piaget says that humans use symbols for thought before language develops and that the brain uses a symbolic system that can analyze symbols or images and words. He also says that language is required to exchange thought with other people, but it is not necessary for thought. His views are very similar to Einstein's, the only difference is that Einstein says that words play no role in thought, while Piaget views them as symbols as well that develop in the brain as a person grows older.

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