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LANGUAGE ACQUISITION, THOUGHT AND DISORDER
|Chapter 1||Aspects of Language Acquisition|
|1. 1.||Language: A Developmental Process|
|1. 2.||Correlation Between Physical, Cognitive and
|1. 3.||Some Characteristics of Language Acquisition Process|
|1. 4.||Methods of Collection and Analysis of Data|
|1. 5.||Interpretation of the Characteristics - Models|
|1. 6.||Aspects of Second Language Acquisition|
|1. 7.||Structural Linguists and Second Language Acquisition|
|1. 8.||Communicative Competence|
|1. 9.||Transformational Grammarians and Second Language Acquisition|
|1. 10.||More on Language Teaching Methods|
|Chapter 2||Language, Thought and Reality|
|2. 1.||Limitations of Linguistics|
|2. 4.||Linguistic Approach to Thought|
|2. 5.||Jean Piaget on Thought, Concept and Language|
|2. 6.||Vygotsky on Thought, Concept and Language|
|2. 7.||Linguistic Relativity and Reality|
|Chapter 3||Language, Its Neurophysiology and Disorders|
|3. 1.||Some General Remarks|
|3. 2.||Neurophysiology: A Network of Nerves|
|3. 3.||The Central and Peripheral Systems
Their Roles in Information Processing
|3. 4.||Motor Theory of Perception and Auditory Theory of Perception|
|3. 5.||Neurophysiological Models of Behaviour|
|3. 6.||Language Disorders|
1.1. Language - A Developmental Process
There are essentially two approaches to account for the acquisition of language. The first approach assumes that language is learned like other behaviours. The second approach assumes that language is innate and that no real learning situation is there or even necessary. We shall see the details of these approaches below. However, all the theories accept that language is a developmental process in the sense that there is progressive emergence or learning of the structures of language. This progressive emergence or the learning is intimately linked with the progressive emergence of cognitive and physical stabilization, learning or maturity.
Some may tend to view this progressive emergence or the learning of structures that takes place in the cognitive, physical and linguistic planes in isolation. Some may not even appreciate the independent status of linguistic maturation. We take the position, however, that a coordinated and a thoroughly correlated approach, giving due importance to all the planes, is necessary. We take the position that a molecular approach alone brings out the totality and the significance of the processes involved in making the child a separate physical, social and psychological entity in his own right. To achieve each of these identities, the child needs the linguistic mechanism, the superior communicative tool available exclusively to Homo sapiens.
1.2. Correlation Between Physical, Cognitive and
The correlation between the physical, cognitive and linguistic milestones has not been missed, but the interpretations do differ. Many developmental charts are available in standard works. Attention may be drawn to developmental schedules described in Berry (1969) and Lenneberg (1966). The former gives a description of the progressive emergence of language in children from the first month to the third year. He also gives a developmental schedule of non-verbal adaptive behaviour from the first week to the 16th month. The latter gives the correlation that exists between the physical, cognitive and linguistic maturational milestones.
The one-month old child, according to Berry (1969), responds to sound and shows reflex smiling to the tactile and kinesthetic stimulation and mother's voice. The cries consist of some segmental varieties, which change, in pitch. A two-month old child attends to the speaking voice and shows signs that he is aware of his own sounds. In the production side, the child begins his babbling at this stage. Some speech sounds make their appearances. The child resorts to vocal play.
A three-month old child is aware of visual and auditory stimuli in environment. The child vocalizes appropriately his feelings. Yet no true speech sounds have been acquired.
In the fourth-month some non-verbal expressive signals are acquired. The child stretches out his expressive arm in order to be picked out. He is able to identify the auditory direction - he responds to noise and voice by turning his head in appropriate direction. In the production side the child continues his babbling. The utterances produced may consist of four to five syllables. He is engaged in the production of repetitive sound chain (ba - ba - ba; cha - cha - cha, etc). He indulges himself in self-initiated sound play.
The ability to recognize the direction, from which the voice he hears is produced, is further strengthened when the child is five-months old. The child acquires responses - an oral communicative chain is established in that now the child responds to angry tone by crying and responds to pleasant speech by smiling and laughing. Babbling continues and the child imitates his own noises.
In the sixth month the child distinguishes between friendly and angry talk. Utterances with several syllables are produced; the child tries to repeat heard sound-sequences. He is able to direct his utterances towards objects. He is able to make appropriate gestures also. The child uses intonation patterns.
In the seventh month the child pays attention to the speech of persons around him and his family members. He listens to his own private vocalizations and enjoys imitating sound sequences. He is able to vocalize emotional satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
When eight months old, the child begins to be alert to all stimuli in the immediate environment. In the production side, back vowels begin to sound more like speech sounds. The child vocalizes syllables, interjections and recognition. He copies the intonational contours.
In the ninth month, the child is able to comprehend the rudimentary symbolic gestures and intonation patterns. He comprehends negation and his own name. The utterances have a chain of syllables about 3 or 4. The length varies. Echolalia (constant imitation of sounds of the environment) is the chief characteristic of this month. Copying of intonation patterns continues. Facial and arm gestures accompany vocalizations. In the tenth month the child exhibits action response to verbal requests such as 'where is the book?' He can shake his head to express 'yes' or 'no'. The child produces utterances attempting to name repeated instances of objects. The imitation of intonation patterns continues. Many speech sounds clearly can be distinguished. Several non-speech sounds continue to occur. In the eleventh month the child differentiates between family and strangers. There is every likelihood of the appearance of first words in his speech in this month. The single word utterances begin to emerge. These are used to indicate the needs. When the child is one-year old, he understands phrases, simple grammatical patterns and responds in action to commands. One-word sentences are most common.
Between 12 and 18 months, the child understands most linguistic units but does not separate sequences into word units. He recognizes names of many familiar objects, persons, and pets. His repertoire consists of about 50 to 75 words out of which about 50 per cent are nouns. Many words are made by phonetic reduplication. In the production side, the child begins to use interjectional speech. The child extends the meaning. The construction is of pivot-open class type. He uses one word for many unrelated things. He repeats syllables or word sequences in an easy manner. There is much overflow with little or no phonetic value (laugh, sigh, etc). The vocal inflection is fair; the pitch is uncontrolled and it tends to rise.
Between 24 and 30 months, the child does not understand many specific words but develops functional equivalents of comprehension. There is action response to verbal request. He sometimes repeats the request and is able to use prepositions in and under. He listens to simple stories, especially linking those he has heard before. Of the total response, nouns continue to be more in number, followed by verbs, pronouns and adverbs. Unclassified items continue to occur in large number. From 1.5 word mean length sentence in the earlier stage, we now have a mean length of 1.8 word in a sentence. Egocentric and socialized speech is found to occur. The meaning extension continues. The child names and describes objects. The transformations seem to be used. All vowels and many consonants are clearly used. Adjectives and adverbs gain steadily at the expense of interjections. There continues to be omission of syllables when compared to adult speech.
Between 30 and 36 months the comprehension of sentence structure, syllable sequences and prosody develops speedily. The child comprehends time words and identifies actions in pictures. He can listen to longer stories. He understands the semantic difference in subject-object position of noun. His egocentric speech continues. He can give his full name. He can recite nursery rhymes. He uses question-making sentences. He makes independent improvisation of syntactic form. Pronunciation of words continues to be unstable.
Lenneberg (1966) identifies the simultaneous development of language and motor coordination. There is a progressive maturation of motor abilities and this progressive maturation of motor abilities is correlated with the maturation of linguistic abilities. The child's initial coos and chuckles at a period of first four months are his first initiation into vocalization and use of language. At this period the child is initiated into certain stabilization of motor habits such as self-supporting of head leading to the elimination of tonic neck reflex. At six to nine months the child is engaged in babbling and reduplication of sounds. At this stage, on the motor development plane, the child sits alone and has his first thumb opposition of grasp.
At 12 to 18 months, a small number of "words" follows simple commands and responds to no at this crucial linguistic stage the child can stand momentarily alone. He creeps, walks sideways when holding on to a railing and takes a few steps when held by hands. The important first steps for the use of bipedal mechanism are seen in this stage. In the period from 18 to 21 months the child's stock of 20 words increases to 200 words at the 21st month. The child points to many more objects, comprehends simple questions and forms two-word phrases. At the motor level the stance is now fully developed. The gait is stiff, propulsive and precipitated.
At 24 to 27 months, the vocabulary stock is about 300 to 400 words. The child has two-to three-word phrases. He uses prepositions and pronouns. The child at this age walks up and down easily and with one foot forward. The child runs but falls when making a sudden turn. He can quickly alternate between stance, kneeling or sitting positions. At 30 to 33 months period fastest increase in vocabulary is noticed. Three-to four--word sentences are common. Word order, phrase structure, and grammatical agreement begin to be more like those of adult speech. There is now good hand and finger coordination. The child exhibits improved manipulation of objects. At 36 to 39 months, the child has a vocabulary of 1000 words or more. He has well formed sentences using complex grammatical rules, but certain rules have not yet been fully mastered. Grammatical mistakes are much less frequent. He is able to understand about 90 per cent of what is told to him. In the motor level, the child has ability to run smoothly with acceleration and deceleration. He negotiates sharp and fast curves without difficulty and stands on one foot for a few seconds.
Lenneberg identifies certain correlations of linguistic and motor maturational milestones with effects of acquired employed in studies on language acquisition, before delineating some of the different approaches in the study of language acquisition. After this we present some aspects of the acquisition of second language.
1.3. Some Characteristics of Language Acquisition Process
A remarkable fact about the acquisition of language is the speed with which a child is able to acquire a language. Language is a complex phenomenon and a normal child masters this exceedingly complex phenomenon with an astonishing speed and in circumstances usually less than ideal. The speed of language acquisition is not conditioned by the socio-economic environments in which a child starts acquiring language nor is it conditioned by the history, culture or even the complexity of the language, which is being acquired by the child. Furthermore the span of time required by a child for acquiring a language is found to be more or less the same. Within a linguistic group normal children arrive at the same grammar of a language within a broadly identical brief span of time with almost the same speed.
There is not much of conscious education given to the children on the part of the parents. The situation obtaining between a child and his parents is far from a learning or instructional one. Usually parents do not tend to correct the 'defects' in the formal features of early speech by children. The 'defects' are rather relished by the parents. We tend to correct mistakes in truth-value. We tend to 'reinforce' the children's speech guided mainly by its content. In addition to this, a child encounters different samples of language, some or most of which need not be grammatical or coherent. In spite of these, normal children all around the world from diverse linguistic families acquire their language in three to four years.
A precondition for language acquisition seems to be that the meaning of utterances to which a child is exposed be obvious. The non-linguistic events referred to by the adult through the utterance should be simple so that the same can be matched with what is said. The syntax of speech addressed to children is also simple. The adults seem at times to imitate child speech in their efforts to simplify the structures of speech to suit the level of skill achievement by children.
When we look into the child speech we find that it has the characteristics of imitation and even at times rote learning. But it is the productive characteristic that plays the dominant role throughout. Children fail usually in their attempts to imitate adult speech in the beginning of syntactic development. They are more successful in spontaneously producing the sentences. Further a child becomes capable of putting the structures he has already acquired into use in increasingly novel ways. Many utterances may be regular from the syntactic sense but semantically they are novel and have not been uttered either by parents or by the child himself.
The utterances of a child are structured almost from the beginning. The combination 0f words and parts of words in child speech are systematic and not random, as many of us would imagine them to be. They tend to be highly regular and soon take on a hierarchical structure, which is however yet to become as elaborate as the adult speech. In fact, structures of child speech change in the course of development and need not correspond to adult structure.
Children around the world seem to start with a single word and go from one-word stage to a two-word stage. It is common knowledge, however, that children understand more than what they can speak in the beginning. (It is true also of subsequent stages and perhaps carried throughout adulthood).
The child's single-word utterances are preceded by the development of a remarkable comprehending capacity. Some scholars believe that the child's single-word utterances seem to function as one-word sentences before the development of syntax. The child names the salient features of an object he wants or recognizes. Very soon the single-word stage gives place to the two-word stage and this enables us to speculate about the child's underlying grammatical knowledge as to whether there are any formal regularities in the structure of utterances.
The two-word stage does not seem to be a universal phenomenon and happens to be a very brief stage wherever it is found. In this stage, one set of words occupies some fixed position and the other forms some sort of an open class to which new words are added. That is, distributionally defined word classes begin to emerge at this stage.
The three-word stage brings in immediate constituents with structured units. Word classes begin to emerge clearly and a number of them can be clearly defined and separated on the basis of distribution. Constituent phrases begin to emerge with an increase in complexity. The limitation to the length of sentences seems to fade out slowly at this stage. Further the child's grammar increases in complexity, variety and potential length of sentences and the length ceiling slowly disappears. It seems that the acquisition of ability to produce compounds and subordinate clauses most radically changes the maximum length, and as a result indefinitely long strings of compounds and appropriate branching of sentences on the right or the left are possible. Although the child's language consists of deviant utterances, wrong inflection and overgeneralizations of rules (correct forms may be driven out due to overgeneralizations), the patterns so far acquired by the child expand without loss. Furthermore, the properties of the structural slots also become stable. Last, but not the least, the child's language exhibits overtly the conceptual basis when morphological aspects are further acquired.
As we said above, children understand more than what they speak from the beginning. The constitutent analysis of words at the two- and three-word stages does not really reveal everything known to the child. The child seems to know more relations than those exhibited in sentences. If we restrict ourselves to a formal analysis of child's speech only, we would fail to identify the complexity of relations in the speech. A two-word utterance consisting of one noun followed by another noun represents conjunction, possession, agent-patient, attribution and location, etc. These relations expressed by the occurrence of another noun shows an awareness of some of the possibilities for combining lexical items with different relationships between linguistic elements. The child's ability to systematize the linguistic data is well beyond what he produces in his speech. In acquiring a language all the efforts of the child do not usually manifest on teh surface. Further, what young children say and do is usually related to what they do and see. The delayed speech which is characteristic of adult speech is not prominent in the early stages. Mention should be made also of the egocentric speech, which seems to play a crucial role in shaping the thought processes.
1. 4. Methods for Collection and Analysis of Data
The methods used in the description of adult speech are generally followed in the investigation of child speech. However, suitable modifications are made as children cannot be treated as adult informants. A tape recorder is always used for the recording of children's speech and it is generally hidden somewhere so that normal flow of speech is not interrupted. A child is allowed to follow his pursuits. The utterances, which the child emits during his pursuits, are recorded on tape for analysis. The investigator compiles the data and transcribes it in phonetic script.
At the phonological level, the investigator has to note two characteristics. The child speech has more free variation of sounds than we find in adult speech. This free variation reflects the ongoing process the child is engaged in to discriminate and stabilize the distribution of sounds. In other words the child is in the process of acquiring a speech similar to that of the adult and free variations occur as part of his efforts to match his speech with that of the adult. The investigator notes the free variation of sounds and compares the words with each other to determine contrasts of sounds/distribution of sounds in various utterance positions. Related to this difficulty is the child's limited vocabulary, which does not help us to identify appropriate minimal or analogous pairs. The second characteristic is that child speech changes rapidly. As a consequence, constant observation is necessary to identify the development. Most of the vocabulary items are to be caught on the run, and we need more observations of utterances to determine the range of free variation.
The knowledge of the adult system comes in handy here. Children's speech may be taken as a reflection of the partial knowledge of the particular adult speech to which the child is exposed. Hence, an investigator tries to identify the extent of adult rules found in child speech. Further, the limited structure and the vocabulary, which are manifest in the child speech, can be assigned to various classes generally only when we make a reference to the adult system. This is due mainly to the fact that the vocabulary of child speech does not occur in enough contexts. This does not mean that our investigation of child speech should be based wholly on the adult speech. The child speech has its own framework and there are difficult cases, which should be analyzed according to the possible correspondences with the adult speech. One must work for the internal relations and where internal relations fail to throw light on the structure one may make reference to the adult system.
A popular and yet a more reliable method followed in the investigation of child speech is the analysis of text materials. For this the first step is that one must establish the domain of the material to be analyzed. Language has discrete units and these discrete units must be identified in child speech. Decision as to whether a particular stretch is a sentence or not is based usually on common sense and no explicit criterion is ever presented or holds good in all the cases. Junctures play an important role in identifying what we usually call a sentence. The morphological segmentation is carried out on the basis of adult speech. The patterns of syntactic construction are also considered from the point of view of adult speech. The deviations if any would be considered as a faltering step in child's effort to approximate adult speech. Deviations are few and corrected early and easily. The mechanisms involved in the correction of deviations would also form part of our study.
The second step in the analysis of text material is the identification of the distribution of units. The distributional characteristics of units found in an utterance get corroborated in other utterances. However, we should not treat utterances in a text material as unrelated. In order to minimize this possibility, we must formulate and describe each adjacent stage on the one hand and identify the contexts in which the sentences are uttered on the other hand. In fact the use of contexts helps us to identify varying grammatical and/or the semantic relations expressed by a particular utterance.
Imitation may be used as a technique for identifying the capability. The investigators may give a word from adult speech and ask the child to imitate it to ~find out the phonemic distinctions a child is capable of making. For instance, to find out whether a child reared in Tamil environment is at the given time capable of distinguishing between an alveolar nasal and a retroflex nasal as exemplified in adult speech, we may give two words having the two nasals in a contrasting position, etc. If the child can imitate these words correctly making a distinction between alveolar and retroflex nasals, we may conclude that at least in the given positions the child is capable of discriminating the two sounds.
The same technique may be extended to identify the extent of adult phonological structure acquired by the child. When we present to the child a new word with the required adult phonological structure, we may find that the child has not acquired certain combinations of sounds or that certain sounds are not used in certain positions. This technique may be used even to find out the stage in which the child is placed in the acquisition of affixes and other morphological processes. We may even teach the child a new word or a structure and observe the shape, which he gives to the new word or structure.
Eliciting techniques also can be used in the investigation of child speech. We may present to the child real or pictorial materials showing objects, qualities or events. We may associate with each item a spoken text eliciting the required information. If non-lexical items are given to the picture or the material, which is presented along with the spoken text, the influence of rote learning may be minimized and the inflections or derivations may be elicited.
Several tests such as Berry and Talbott's Exploratory Test of Grammar (1966) which employ nonsense words in the context of real words to test morphological and syntactic knowledge are available. Such tests may be used for the identification of the stage of language development. Care should be taken to design the test in such a way as to elicit particular derivations or inflections. Testing techniques may also be used to identify the level of acquisition of language. These tests may be designed in such a way that obeying an instruction is linked with the production of a particular construction. Recognition of a picture depicting quality or event etc. correctly may also indicate comprehension. In all these cases we should take care that the responses can occur only through the grasp of the grammatical structure. The eliciting and testing techniques become effective only when a sufficient command of syntax to understand the spoken instruction is attained by the children.
Braine (1971a) suggests identifying what he calls the replacement sequence in children's speech. We find in children's speech many sets of utterances, which are related to each other in meaning as well as structure. In these utterances we find an attempt on the part of the child to build up a more complex form slowly. The longer utterances seem to be made from out of shorter ones and the shorter utterances are found to occur earlier than the longer ones in a chronological sense. The replacement sequences may be taken as a sort of free variation. These sequences provide information also on subordination relations. Braine suggests that a careful analysis of replacement sequences in child speech may 'distinguish components present in the shortest utterances and presumably essential for the child from apparently less essential components added in the longer utterances.' We may even identify the emergence of transformations through an analysis of replacement sequences.
An important point the investigator of child speech should bear in mind is that he is able to get only limited data. In spite of this limited nature of his data, the investigator must aim at a description of the data that accounts for the competence of the child. The description must characterize the present state and indicate the ongoing processes that would ultimately connect the present state with the adult speech. If we restrict ourselves to a static description of the state and fail to account for the emerging competence, our study would be pointless in its scope and aim.
1.5. Interpretation of the Characteristics
Scholars depending upon their theoretical basis explain the characteristics of child speech given in sections 1.2 and 1.3 in several ways. These approaches may be roughly put into two broad categories, namely, generative transformational theory and S-R theory as represented more effectively by Arthur Stants. We should, however, rush to caution our readers that within and apart from these two rather polarized approaches, we have several others represented by scholars like Palermo, Schlesinger and Braine. We present below the generative grammarian's approach to language acquisition, followed by criticisms of the same with alternative proposals from Staats, Braine and others.
1.5.2. The Chomakyan Model
The generative grammarian finds that the acquisition of language is the result of the interaction between the linguistic experiences a child has and the innate linguistic capacities endowed in the child. Hence he aims at a theory of language acquisition providing a description of the innate capacities of children, their interaction with experience and showing \how knowledge and use of language develop in a natural manner. His theory recognizes the tremendous speed with which the language is acquired and notes that for all purposes the acquisition of language is over when a child is four years old.
The generative grammarians find that this speed of acquisition is made possible by the emergence of linguistic abstractions. Linguistic abstraction is directly related to the relations between the deep and surface structures. This theory of acquisition provides for the acquisition of transformations, which relate the deep and surface structures.
The generative grammarians find that the actual speech to which a child is exposed does not show off the deep structures of sentences. Nobody gives programmatic steps for deriving one sentence from the other, which could act as model. The deep structures are abstract in nature and lay buried deep in the sentences actually spoken. In fact they are inaccessible to any one who does not already know the language or is not equipped with a device to analyze the data one encounters. Every child faces this seemingly insurmountable difficulty and yet overcomes the same. This forces the generative grammarian to eliminate the stimulus-response theories as inadequate to explain language acquisition. For, we are neither in a position to specify the stimulus nor are we in a position to anticipate the response.
To a generative grammarian, language acquisition is based upon the child's discovery of a generative theory of his language. This generative theory is deep and abstract from a formal point of view. Many of the concepts and principles of this theory are related to experience through chains of unconscious and quasi-inferential steps.
The child is predisposed to acquire the language and if he were not predisposed the child would have immense difficulty in acquiring his language against all sorts of odds. These disadvantages the child faces in acquiring his native language include the degenerate quality and narrowly limited extent of the available data. Further the character of the complex grammar that is acquired, the resultant uniformity in the grammar used by children of a community independent of intelligence, motivation, emotional state and wide ranges of socioeconomic variation all indicate that the acquisition achieved in a remarkably short duration is made possible because the child is predisposed as to the general character of the language phenomenon.
Acquisition of natural language by a child is inevitable and cannot be stopped. A child cannot help constructing his grammar to account for the data presented to him just as he cannot help perceiving differences between solid and non-solid objects or between line and angle. The general features of the language structure should be considered as reflecting the general character of one's capacity to acquire knowledge. Language acquisition is intimately connected with the acquisition of early knowledge.
Chomsky finds that the existing learning theories do not adequately characterize the language acquisition. Some claim that language is taught by conditioning or by drill. Structural linguists claim that language is learned/built up by elementary data processing procedures. They all agree that linguistic structures acquired by children are independent of innate mental faculties. If any innate property is accepted, it is only the procedures and mechanisms for the acquisition of knowledge and not of language that constitute the innate property of the mind.
The learning theories based on empiricist approach ascribe only certain elementary peripheral processing mechanisms for the structure of any acquisition device they may posit. These properties include an innate quality space with an innate distance defined on it (Quine 1960: 80), a set of primitive unconditioned reflexes (Hull 1943), aurally distinguishable components of the full auditory impressions (Bloch 1950). The device is assumed also to have elementary inductive principles of association and weak principles of generalization. It is assumed to use taxonomic principles of segmentation and classification of linguistic elements. It is also assumed that a preliminary analysis of experience is provided by the peripheral processing mechanisms. The concepts and knowledge are assumed to be acquired by the application of the available inductive principles.
In contrast to the above approach the generative grammarian takes the position that learning is largely a matter of drawing out what is innate in his mind. "The general form of a system of knowledge is fixed in advance as a disposition of the mind and the function of experience is to cause this general schematic structure to be realized and more fully differentiated" (Chomsky 1965: 51-52).
In the above background, the generative grammarian emphasizes that a child who is capable of language learning must have
The emphasis on "innate ideas" does not minimize the importance of exposure to language in real-life situations. We need exposure to this data and experience 'in order to the language acquisition device into operation', although such an exposure may not affect the manner of its functioning in the least. Such data enable the child to determine as to which of the possible languages [that is, the languages provided with grammars in accordance with a prior constraint (3) he is being exposed.
In a nutshell, language acquisition, from the point of view of the generative grammar, is considered as a process of implicit theory construction. But in this theory construction, there is no conscious and explicit intellectual operation. The child proposes linguistic hypotheses suggesting rules for sentences he is hearing. He makes predictions from these hypotheses about the possible linguistic structures in the language to which he is exposed. He verifies these hypotheses against the new sentences he encounters. In this process he continues to modify his hypotheses that are contrary to the evidence. The hypotheses that are not eliminated are evaluated using a simplicity principle. The simplest of the hypotheses is thus selected as the best concerning the rules underlying the sentences he has heard and will hear. The child is engaged in the process of hypothesis construction, verification and evaluation, which "repeat itself until the child matures past the point where the language acquisition device operates," (Katz 1966: 275).
The generative grammarians take the universal categories and relations as linguistic abstractions. These are available to the child as innate ideas. The instant availability of universal aspects enables a child to discover the relations that exist between the sentences actually spoken. 'Various formal and substantive universals are intrinsic properties of the language acquisition system, these providing a scheme that is applied to data and that determines in a highly restricted way the general form and in part even the substantive features of the grammar that may emerge upon presentation of appropriate data'. The child 'approaches the data with the presumption that they are drawn from a language of antecedently well defined type, his problem being to determine which of the (humanly) possible languages is that of the community in which he is placed' (Chomsky 1965: 27). From the point of view of generative grammarian language acquisition is not possible if children were not endowed with specification of the possibility of features of all languages.
The discovery of transformational relations is a corner stone in the acquisition of language. The transformations of a particular language are in general idiosyncratic. But the types of relations between deep and surface structures are not considered to be idiosyncratic. The acquisition of transformations accelerates the speed with which a language is acquired. It is found, however, that the very early speech of a child is free of explicit transformations. Even at the two-word stage the occurrence of transformations is not explicit. This does not mean that the one-word and two-word stages are to be taken as a direct manifestation of the universal categories of deep structure of sentences endowed in children.
For, even an apparently simple two-word utterance can express deeper relations. Thus, basic grammatical relations cannot be, however, learned from a corpus of sentences. They cannot be associated with particular words or categories. The existence of a hierarchy of grammatical categories and the resultant functions and rigidity in order can be identified only when we have more than one word occurring in an utterance. The single word utterance is recognized as a quick transitory stage. In the stage in which more than one word occurs in an utterance, the components fall in an order, which quickly comes to be preserved. It is found that this order reflects underlying grammatical relations even in earliest patterned speech. This emergence of order lends itself to further refinements establishing a hierarchy of grammatical categories.
1.5. 3. The S-R Model of Arthur Staats
A vigorous and forceful criticism of generative grammarian s approach to language acquisition is presented by Arthur Staats (1968, 1971 a, b). Staats considers that an individual's language is composed of repertoires of skills that he must learn. These repertoires are learned according to different principles. The repertoire of speech responses is learned on the basis of instrumental conditioning. Classical conditioning is the principle by which large numbers of words come to elicit emotional responses. The theory of language must indicate the various repertoires which constitute a language, the learning principles which help the acquisition of particular repertoires and the manner by which language functions in the individual adjustment with the world at large.
Staats claims that the determinants of language behaviour can be found either in learning circumstances or in biological events and not in the behaviour itself. In general, explanation of behaviour cannot be drawn only from the observations of behaviour. Information about the behaviour itself (here language) does not provide evidence of internal structures or processes. The linguistic descriptions and observations are very useful in specifying the behaviour, which should be accounted for in any theory concerning language learning or in explanatory psychological theory. But a systematic description or the units of description by themselves do not provide the determinants of language behaviour.
The crux of the problem is to fix the independent variables (causative conditions) that bring forth the behavioural development. A theory proposing a biological determinant for language such as the one propounded by Chomsky, Lenneberg and others will be tenable only when the biological events supposedly connected with language acquisition are isolated, and the laws by which they produce the complex behaviours established. Hence "until observations are made of manipulability biological events that actually produce language development a biological theory based upon linguistic observations must remain the weakest of hypotheses."
Staats finds that linguists' observation of language is limited in scope. Many linguistic approaches including that of Chomsky are restricted to only one aspect of language, namely, the description of grammar within and between languages and the way the rules are involved in predicting grammatical utterances. The repertoires that constitute the language are not dealt with in these approaches. Thus a theory of language acquisition based on the linguists' description is bound to be narrow in scope and would rail to appreciate the many sided splendour.
Staats claims that the first step in research on language learning is to suggest tentatively the S-R mechanisms that appear to be involved. The S-R analyses suggest empirical hypotheses by which one may test and extend analyses. If this were not the case, we cannot contribute anything, as grammatical relations cannot be described until the child makes multiple word utterances. Because of this inherent limitation, linguists are compelled to ignore the language development and function prior to two-word utterance. The two- and multiple-word stages can be easily accounted under instrumental conditioning principles.
Staats posits another conditioning called instrumental higher order conditioning to account for the manner in which a discriminative stimulus transfers its control to other potential discriminative stimuli with which it is paired in a process. This instrumental higher order conditioning is responsible for assigning proper grammatical relations/ categories to the novel items encountered by the child. This higher order conditioning helps the generic classification of categories also. The above processes prove convincingly that the child's system consists of the S-R mechanisms like that of the adults.
The child is involved in a very complex training task in his acquisition of language. He may acquire the irregular forms as they are and use them correctly. This correct use of irregular forms in English slips into incorrect use once the child is in the process of stabilizing the acquisition of pattern of regular inflection in the language. At a later stage the child returns to the correct use of irregular forms. Further we find that when two sequences of verbal responses occur together on a number of occasions, they become a unitary response. This depends on the conditioning experience the child undergoes and is marked by hesitations and errors, etc. Thus individual words are acquired in many cases as separate syllables. Repeated training makes them into wholesome words, into individual units.
The parents and the people in the environment to which a child is exposed do their best in enabling the child in his complex training task. As a proof of this, Staats claims that the adult speaks differently to a child than to an adult. The adult changes his speech and makes it appropriate to the child's skill development. He uses mainly one word or simple utterances while speaking to infants. When a child looks at a doll, the child's parent says (repeats) doll, doll and this enables the child to associate the word doll with the object doll. This process of naming an object or events as the child experiences the object or event continues even at stages later than the one-word stage. This training enables the child to acquire a repertoire of specified and basic words before he goes over to the acquisition of other types of words. A progression from single word utterances to standard sentence production is achieved through the' training. This progression is characterized by the emergence of telegraphic speech type of utterances in the intermediate stages. It is found also that the adults while speaking to children indulge themselves in telegraphic speech which helps the child in his progression to the production of standard sentences.
The emission of a sentence is controlled by a number of stimulus events, which include word associations, and the words an individual has already emitted as part of an utterance. But this does not complete the picture. While a sentence is in the process of production, some partly or totally new stimuli can influence the speaker and this explains the change an individual makes many a time in mid-sentence. Likewise, embedding of sentences, taken as a crucial characteristic of creativity by the generative grammarians, can be explained by S-R mechanism. A new external stimulus occurs while the production of a sentence is half way through. This evokes a previously learned phrase, which then occurs within the sentence. The fact that embedding of phrases occurs only in points that would be considered grammatical is also due to conditioning mechanisms. Further the fact that such embedded phrases happen to be grammatical is dependent upon the individual's training.
Refuting the claim that language is innate and universal aspects of human languages are due to common innate ideas, Staats (1971 a: 141-42) claims that these aspects are due to the fact that "language is learned in response to the features and principles of the world in which man lives. One would expect considerable similarity in the features and principles of different languages in areas in which the language must be isomorphic with the features and principles of the world…languages should have commonalities in their terms and in their rules for relating the terms because the different languages have evolved to be isomorphic with the same world of events … These events follow the same physical, chemical, biological and psychological (learning) laws everywhere." Thus there is nothing innate about the universals of language.
1.5.4. Braine's Model of Language Acquisition
Another forceful criticism of Chornskyan model comes from Braine (1971 a, b), who finds the Chomskyan model to be an active process of formulating and testing hypotheses about the language being learned. That is, the Chomskyan model consists of a process for testing and evaluating hypothetical grammars against the input data. The problem of the child is to find out the correct (and by far the simplest) grammar of the language to which he is exposed, on the basis of information already available to him.
Thus, a child cannot achieve his goal unless he has access to information about both what is and what is not a correct sentence. The input data the child hears are not marked clearly for their correctness or otherwise to enable the child to distinguish the correct sentences from the incorrect ones. As such the child, if we agree to the Chomskyan model, will not be in a position to test and evaluate hypothetical grammars on the basis of input data and as a consequence would fail to acquire language. Braine finds that this is not the case and that the child learns language even without information as to whether a particular utterance to which he is being exposed is grammatical or not. There is none to guide and correct the infants in the real sense.
The above situation forces Braine to suggest an alternative model of language acquisition. This model has two principal components: a scanner that receives the input sentences and a memory component, which accumulates the features of sentences, noticed by the scanner. The memory component consists of an ordered series of intermediate memory stores. The last of these stores is the permanent memory store that contains the rules or pattern properties learned finally. When the data are presented, the scanner scans each input sentence, observes the pattern properties of the sentences and registers these in an intermediate store. When further data are presented to the scanner, properties observed in the input data would be compared with the properties already listed in the intermediate stores.
The properties that are encountered for the first time and hence not recorded already in the intermediate stores would be recorded in the first intermediate store. When a property noted by the scanner is the same and is listed already in an intermediate store, this property will move to the next intermediate store in the sequence. The recurring properties in the data thus move from one intermediate store to the other depending upon the recurrences and finally reach the permanent store. Once the property reaches the permanent store its registration on the intermediate store will be erased. The scanner has direct access to the information in the permanent store. Once the permanent store contains some information received through the intermediate stores, the scanner's analytic frame will be activated to make a preliminary analysis of incoming strings on the basis of its partial knowledge of the input corpus. The scanner incorporates a recognition routine as its first scanning step. The information already learned and available to the scanner from the permanent store about the structure of short strings will be used to group the elements of longer strings. This would result in recording the longer strings the child is exposed to as being composed of shorter strings. If any change in the strings were presented (due to transformations, etc.) the pattern properties of such strings would be recorded as deviations from already learned properties.
This model is expected to (but no provision is made for this in the frame) build up a small vocabulary at first and then to begin to register the structure of short strings containing the elements already familiar to it. Then the model would begin to analyze the longer strings into shorter ones. Thus in the acquisition of grammar the single lexical items and short phrases form the basis. The model assumes that a wide range of properties of sentences may be built directly into the scanning mechanism itself. These properties would include temporal relations and semantic properties associated with the child's perceptual and concept learning mechanisms. The scanner is expected to mark pattern properties as phonological, semantic, etc., thus ensuring the grouping of rules according to levels. The scanner will provide also for cross-references between rules. Further, the scanner will learn the order of rules and order of occurrences of pattern properties directly from the input strings, compare them with the properties already learned and register them as alterations of already learned structures in cases where transformations play a role in the sentences encountered. Thus the characteristics demanded of the language acquisition device by Chomskyan model can be accounted for without making the model a testing and evaluating mechanism as suggested by Chomsky.
1.5.5. Schlesinger's model of language acquisition:
Schlesinger (1971) proposes yet another model which may be termed as performance model. When a speaker is programmed in a manner described by the Chomskyan model, he will produce grammatical utterances of the language. But this does not provide an adequate description of what the speaker really does so far as it restricts itself only to the specification of processes involved in the production of grammatical sentences. In reality, a speaker produces not only a grammatical utterance but also an utterance appropriate to the occasion, his condition, etc. The speaker has certain intentions and he realizes these intentions in his speech. Thus Schlesinger's model incorporates a grammar mechanism that provides for these intentions as well. The following are the steps that the grammar takes up (Schlesinger 1971: 65):
It is assumed that speaker's intentions guide the grammar mechanism from the start. However, our experience shows clearly that not all our intentions find expression in our speech. Some may be drastically modified and some may not be found at all in the speech. Hence we shall concern ourselves only with those intentions of speakers, which are converted into the output sentence.
Schlesinger uses the term Input Marker (I marker) for the formalized representation of speaker's intentions as shown in the output. These markers are not, however, taken as the replica of speaker's intentions. What the speaker intends to convey are the relations such as agent and direct object and only these relations are included in the Input Marker. These Input Markers represent universal semantic relations. The realization rules (presumably based on the input data to which the child is exposed) convert the Input Markers into utterances. Unlike the Chomskyan model that posits retrieving an appropriate Phrase Marker before the realization of actual utterances, the present model demands that the child learns the correspondence between Input Markers and the utterances of persons in his environment. The child learns to associate the Input Marker representing the situation with the utterance he hears.
The child is assumed to have an innate cognitive capacity and this innate cognitive capacity is 'just the way the child views the world and will be the same whether he learns to speak, or fails to learn to speak due to some organic or environmental handicap'. There is nothing specifically linguistic about the capacity. Further the Input Markers are only concepts falling within the capacity that are not specified for the grammatical category. It is the realization rules (which are linguistic universals), which determine the category in which the concept appears in the utterance.
There are two kinds of realization rules, namely, position rules and category rules. The position rule accords a position to each concept found in the Input Marker in the utterance. The category rules determine the grammatical category appropriate in an utterance on the basis of examples from the adult speech. The child learns from the adult speech as to how words are placed relative to each other resulting in modifying relations. The category rule is generally based on word classes obtaining in adult speech. Schlesinger is of the opinion that the word classes are learned as stimulus response equivalents. As the category rules are language specific and thus are dependent upon adult speech, they must be assumed to have been acquired after position rules. Schlesinger claims that meanings come first in the form of Input Markers and later the child learns how these are realized in linguistic form.
Now, in conclusion, we would point out that although the models suggested above differ from each other in several ways, the problem they try to account for remains the same. The investigator has to characterize and specify first of all the input to children. He should find ways to control the input. He should also discover the structures and processes that help the child to withstand each stage of change, and progress towards the form and function of adult speech that is the common code for all. The investigator should find out how the structures and processes are assumed to be different features of the input. In all these, the investigator can manipulate only the input and not the structures and processes undergone by the child while acquiring a language. The latter are essentially inferential by nature and as a consequence is a matter for dispute until a convincing basis is found for them in biology. However, advances in the study of acquisition of language need not wait for break-through in biological research.
The scholars who study child speech must take into account the contexts in which the acquisition takes place. The child development studies have done this earlier in characterizing cognitive development of children. We must take into account not only the utterances of the child but also the utterances and other communication modes the adults employ in their communication with the child, the activity in which the child is engaged at the moment he gave vent to his ideas through the utterance and the whole environment in which the utterance and other communication modes are expressed by the child. We must also note that though the basic structures of a language may have been acquired by a child around the fourth year of his age, the child, or for that matter, every human being, is involved in a process of acquisition all through his life and that it will be a useful endeavor to include this information also in our study of acquisition of language.
1.6. Aspects of Second Language Acquisition
1.6.1. First Language versus Second language acquisition:
Except in some special cases, the majority learns the languages other than their first acquired language in instructional situations. Some, because of the special circumstances they are in, pick up a second language in the same way they learned their first language. It is but natural that even in these situations the processes of learning the first language and the capacity that goes into the learning is made use of by the second language learners. In fact some scholars do not distinguish between the first and the second language acquisition in terms of the theoretical assumptions of the processes involved, except for the special circumstances in which the second language learning takes place.
The theories of first language acquisition are extended to cover the second language learning. Hence we have a variety of theories accounting for the acquisition of second languages based on their corresponding theory of the first language acquisition. These theories in their turn are part of the learning theories proposed for all the spheres of learning. The strategies adopted in the teaching of the second languages and the plan and quality of materials to which the second language learners are exposed also depend upon the assumption as to how one acquires a second language. Here we propose to present only the salient features of the learning theories taken together. We will present, thus, two kinds of assumptions and strategies for language learning and teaching-one from the cluster of theories which emphasize habit formation and the other which emphasizes the rule-governed behaviour and creativity.
How wonderful and how complex is the acquisition of language! And how easily does the child acquire his first language. He is exposed to thousands of different sounds with variation in quality, pitch, length and loudness. But he restricts himself to the acquisition of the few, the significant sounds with their patterns of occurrence, and to the acquisition of the language system, the processes of word and sentence formation. He does imitate and yet he is capable of producing something uttered never before.
In a second language learning situation the learner does not go through the several stages of first language acquisition such as babbling, single, double and multiple word utterances. What we have is a conscious effort or attempt in learning another language. The learner of a second language knows already another language and, thus, he is in a position to communicate with appropriate content in majority of the cases. His problem is to express this content through the use of the norm of the structures of the second language in an appropriate manner.
An adult second language learner acquires a conscious knowledge of the rules of the second language and more often than not compares the rules of the second language with those of his native language. Further a child acquires his first language while attempting to use it. An adult learns his second language in a situation that may not fully match the situation of use. The teacher breaks the whole into bits and exposes his students to the materials usually controlled on the basis of the assumptions of the theory he follows in the class. In spite of such conscious efforts on the part of the teacher and the student that involve trial and error, rote memory, imitation, association and analogy, there is a large element of unconscious processing of the data by the student. Furthermore an adult may have the knowledge of the rules; yet he commits mistakes, thereby illustrating that knowledge of rules and their use are different.
1.6.2. Language Propensity in Children and Adults
It is common knowledge that a child is more at ease in learning a second language than the adolescent or the adult. It is also common knowledge that the adolescent and the adult have more superior intellectual powers than a child. The adult is conscious and aware of the potential of the rules he may learn in the class, but his performance is, to say the least, faulty in the beginning. Does it mean that children have more language propensity which is lost slowly when they attain maturity? There are several explanations given in this record. We shall consider some of these a moment later. We will only bear in mind that the instructional situation with its attendant adult techniques and capacities are not really necessary to learn a language because we see children learning second languages more efficiently and effectively without such techniques. The adults' ability to store abstract concepts for the classification and understanding of newer phenomenon should indeed help him to learn through the medium of words. Yet some aspects of language learning capacity seem to change with age.
1.6.3. Neurophysiological Constraints in Second Language Acquisition
There have been speculations about what is possible and what is impossible for humans to learn with respect to the learning of second language. It is a known fact that humans can and do learn languages other than their own first language. Acquisition of the first language is usually taken for granted whereas the learning of a second language is generally considered non-automatic, if not, artificial in some sense, perhaps for the reason that such acquisition takes place usually in the instructional situations as mentioned earlier. The perceptible difference in the quality of acquisition of second languages by children on the one hand and the adults on the other, so clearly revealed in the difficulty usually an adult faces in the acquisition of a good pronunciation has led to many speculations including neurophysiological ones. Some consider that such adult difficulties in the acquisition of a second language should be ascribed to neurophysiological constraints that set in with puberty.
Lenneberg (1967) finds that at the age of puberty, the power of automatic acquisition from mere exposure to a language seems to disappear, even though a person can still learn to communicate in a foreign language. It is common experience in India and all over the world that many illiterate adults learn new languages, when they have to, through a mere exposure. This indicates that even the adult's face essentially the same task that children do. They have to discover the structure of the language on the basis of spoken text materials to which they are exposed. It is true that pronunciation difficulties may increase after puberty. These difficulties can be largely overcome through phonetic exercises. Such difficulties may indicate the loss of phonological facility and not necessarily the loss of facility to acquire the other areas of language. As Braine (1971a) suggests, any decline in language learning ability with age may be a slow one associated with the decline of other facilities of middle and old age.
Penfield (Penfield 1958, and, Penfield and Roberts 1959) finds that a child's brain appears to be more elastic than a grown up's. If injury or disease destroys the speech areas of a child, control of the speech mechanism can be successfully transferred to the other hemisphere of the brain. If injury or disease destroys the speech areas of an adult, such transfers may not successfully take place. Penfield finds further that brain continues to retain, albeit feebly, whatever has been the focus of its attention once. On the basis of these observations, he concludes that children should be taught second languages early to enable them to acquire a good accent. The children will retain this acquisition, hidden away in the brain, for use at a later stage.
As Christophersen (1973:49) points out "unless brain damage occurs the lack of plasticity does not markedly affect the functioning of the speech s of an older person." Increase in difficulty with age in learning a second language may have to be explained with reference to other factors also (see below). Further a lot remains to be found out about the 'long term effects of early second language learning. How much of early acquired language competence is forgotten with disuse, and how easily can it be reacquired?
1.6.4. Psychological and Social Factors in Second Language Acquisition
We as humans have a capacity to acquire human languages. This capacity enables us to abstract and internalize the rules underlying the materials to which we are exposed as children. Exposure is very important to activate the innate capacity that enables us to acquire language. If a child is not exposed to human language within the critical period (puberty age), the ability to acquire language is lost. Second language learning begins usually after the instinctive capacity for language acquisition has matured to some extent. It may be true to some extent that the increasing difficulty of learning with age may be related to the loss of the elasticity of the brain mechanism. Yet at the same time one must take into account the psychological and social factors that may facilitate or hamper the acquisition of a second language.
First language acquisition is part of the socialization process the child is undergoing and is an important tool for the acquisition and stabilization of concepts. The child acquires his first language so as to become a member of the community he is born in. He is influenced by the behaviour of his elders, but slowly and steadily a personality of his own may develop with concomitant characteristics. Second language learning requires some adjustments with the culture imparted through the language. His habits, intelligence, aptitude, attitudes, motivation and other psychological and linguistic factors may facilitate his learning or may inhibit him from learning the second language. Personality factors and motivation play a very important role in the acquisition of second language.
In general, the ability to learn a second language varies from person to person. Some of the reasons for these differences may be ascribed to age, motive, native skills, intelligence, personality, auditory memory span, readiness to learn, emotion and drive. The arguments in favour of teaching the second language as early as possible include the assumed greater facility the children have in imitation, the flexibility of speech s as discussed above, less interference from previous experience and a lack of self-consciousness.
Motivation plays a very crucial role in all learning behaviour. Lambert (1963 and Lambert et al., 1968) identifies two kinds of motivation, namely instrumental motivation and integrative motivation. A learner with the integrative motivation learns a second language in order to become a full-fledged/potential member of the community whose language is learnt as a second language.
A learner with an instrumental motivation learns a second language in order to achieve certain functional ends. It is found that a learner with an integrative motivation learns his second language more successfully than the one who has an instrumental motivation. The integrative motivation is linked with personality. The learner must be prepared to evolve an identity for himself with persons who speak the target language. He must be prepared to accept the aspects of the behaviour of the target community. When an individual has a prejudice against the language he is learning and the people who speak it, has a tendency to self-sufficiency, his acquisition of a second language may be hampered.
The integrative language learning leads to the acquisition of a new set of verbal habits that are linked with the culture of the target community. As a result the learner becomes a member of two cultures. This, in its turn, may result in anomie, the feeling of social uncertainty he experiences when his first group membership begins to loosen in the process of the formation of his second group membership.
1.6.6. Rate of acquisition and retention of second languages:
The first language is not learned by everybody with the same rate of acquisition. There are individual differences in the degree of success with regard to the acquisition of different components of language. It is possible that such differences get reflected in the acquisition of second language, at least in the beginning stages of acquisition. (In so far as retention is concerned it is the domain of use that would play a crucial role). Likewise intelligence may also influence language learning in so far as it is concerned with the grasping of patterns, guessing meanings from the context etc. Good auditory memory span enables a learner to acquire good recognition. Instruction is not effective if the individual is not ready to receive it. Emotional attachment to a particular language can help learning it. The drive with which an individual is determined to learn a language is another important factor in the acquisition of a second language.
The age of the learner, his intentions, experience, the material, the context and the methods used for learning the language, the quantum of practice and repetition put into the learning and the amount of time that elapsed after the learning, all influence, facilitate or hamper the retention of the language. Memory, in general, increases during the first two decades of life and a slow decline is noticed from the forties onwards.
Learning must be thorough in order to retain what is learned for a longer period; repetition is the most important factor for this. Further active repetition rather than passive repetition (speaking rather than listening, writing rather than reading) contributes to retention; when a person has more experience with the second language it becomes relatively easier for him to retain and remember what is learned. When what the learner has learned has relevance to his needs and the demands of the situation confronted by the learned, he will be able to remember the materials more readily. The familiar word sequences and word connections help a learner to retain and remember what is learned. An understanding of the system and the way it works enables the learner as to what he should expect in a context. This awareness contributes to the retention of language.
1.6. 7. Second Language Teaching
Language is a wholesome phenomenon the use of which involves many factors at a time - the relationship between content and the expression, the coordination between listening and speaking, cohesion and order among the structures that constitute the language, conversational speed and memory span, habitual use, automatic selection, recall and monitoring capacity-all go into the making of language.
There are three major areas through which research on language learning including second language learning has been carried out. These are conditioning, verbal learning and motor learning and skills, and trial and error. Earlier we suggested that conditioning might explain the arbitrary connection between a word and its meaning. Verbal learning is concerned with serial learning (the memorization of syllables in a particular order), and paired associate learning (the memorization of one syllable or word with another in a pair). Motor learning and skills, and trial and error learning are of general nature that is not concerned with specific units and patterns of linguistic structure.
There are a few general laws (some of which have been indicated earlier), which have been found useful in the teaching of second languages. These include the laws of contiguity, exercise, intensity and assimilation and effect. The law of contiguity stresses the importance of the contiguity of the occurrence of the structures for mutual reinforcement and easy recall. The law of exercise stresses the importance of practice in the retention of a structure. The law of intensity emphasizes the importance of the intensity with which a structure is practised for its retention. The law of assimilation explains how a new structure may elicit the response that has been connected with similar stimulating conditions in the past. The law of effect stresses the need for a satisfying condition for the retention of a structure.
There are certain sociological factors and influences that facilitate or hamper the learning and retention of second language. These include the contacts (those with whom we live, those near whom we live, those with whom we work, those with whom we learn, those of the same national background, those with whom we pray, those with whom we play, such non-personal and passive contacts as radio, television and the cinema and such contacts with the written language as provided by our reading matter).
Another important factor in the mastery or maintenance of a second language is what the language happens to be used for. Part of the success in learning the first language is due to the fact that it is used for almost everything. Whether a person makes use of all the language skills or only one of them will also have some effect on his mastery of a second language. The skill with which a person starts might decide his eventual mastery of the language. If he begins with reading and becomes skilled in it, he may have a different pronunciation from that which he would have had if he had started with the spoken language. The amount of time spent in learning a second language is one of the most important factors in mastering and maintaining it.
1.6.8. Language Interference
A language acquired earlier may influence the learning of another language. This is supported by the generally accepted psychological dictum that the learning of one thing may influence the later learning of something else. Such an influence can be both beneficial and disadvantageous in the learning of additional languages. Beneficial because the grasp of patterns in the language being learned may be achieved with ease. A disadvantage because the similarity between the first and the second language may be superficial and hence can lead to wrong generalizations and hamper mastering the necessary discriminations in the second language. Such advantages and disadvantages can be related to all the components of language-grammar, lexicon and phonology, and the general laws governing the classifications and categorization of the external world through language.
The similarities that exist between the first language and the second language are generally assumed to facilitate the acquisition of the second language. The differences that exist between the first language and the second language are generally assumed to interfere with the acquisition of the latter. However, deceptive similarities can be a bothersome source of interference which one may have difficulty in eliminating, in spite of the repeated practice advocated by linguists and psychologists for the reduction or elimination of interference. One may associate a second language item with some item he finds similar in his first language and acquire the same easily. But he may later on realize that the second language item he has mastered is rather deceptively similar to the first language item in the terms of distribution the uses to which the item is put in the second language, etc.
Many tend to ascribe the errors in the second language committed by the learners to the interference of the first language. However, not all the errors can be ascribed to the interference of first language. As suggested above interference can be due to similarity as well as difference between the first language and the second language. Furthermore, one can never predict the exact nature and quantum of errors likely to be committed by the learners merely on the basis of similarity and difference and likely interference. Many errors may be due to incomplete learning, or due to the extension by analogy of patterns one has already learned in that language. It may also be due to simple confusion. In general, one may be able to make a post-mortem of the errors and identify the causes, but it is doubtful whether one can predict errors with certainty, as first language is not the only source of influence.
Following Corder (1967) we may distinguish between systematic and unsystematic errors. The errors of performance such as the slips of the tongue or of the pen may be considered as unsystematic as more often than not these errors are related to such factors as fatigue, memory limitation and strong emotions. The systematic errors represent generally a transitional stage in the learning. In the learning of a second language, the learner's errors should be considered as evidence of a system. The learner's language is unstable; each stage of his learning is a language by itself. Each stage may have its own errors. The totality of such transitional stages may be considered as an inter-language. The learner is making a progressive approximation to the target language through successive inter-language stages. Hence the language teacher and the material producer will do well if they make a careful analysis of the inter-language because it will help them to teach and present the materials in a more effective manner, to improve their teaching techniques, to decide as to which part of the syllabus is not yet learned and as to whether they should move to the next part and so on.
1.6.9. Mastery of Second Language
We say that a person has learned a language when he is able to use its structure with attention focused more on content than on the structure. He should be able to recall the structures and use them at normal speed, should have a normal memory span for the language structures and should be in a position to identify and rectify ordinary errors based on the practice he has had. This demand on the learner of a second language puts the entire business of second language learning as rather distinct from other learning tasks in which one considers that learning has taken place if the process is reversed, recalled or recognized.
Such an acquisition moves at different rates for different segments of the language components for different persons. Learning theories and linguistics can provide indirect support for the acquisition of second language in many ways, such as, the description of the articulatory organs involved in the production of an utterance and their movements, phonetic transcription, by providing synonyms and near synonyms, comparisons of the structures of the second language with those of the first language, by controlling the content and the structures, by introducing the structures in a gradual and graded manner and so on.
We shall now identify some general assumptions of linguistics with regard to second language learning and the strategies adopted to the teaching of second language based on these assumptions.
1.7. Structural Linguists and Second Language Acquisition
Structural linguists in general assume that the discovery procedures they employ in the identification and description of a language are convertible into classroom teaching methodology and that the materials for the exposure should be prepared and made available accordingly. Further they assume that the levels they posit for language as a general phenomenon and the specific structures they establish for a specific language should govern the teaching of the second language and exposure materials be prepared and introduced accordingly. They suggest that one should teach listening and speaking first before teaching reading and writing.
The learner must be enabled to perceive all the contrasts between phonemes of the second language. He should be enabled to pronounce the phonemes of the second language in such a way that the native speaker of that language can perceive the learner's use of the sound system as rather similar to his own use. The methods involve repeated practice of the patterns involved, introduction of the items in minimal and analogous pairs in contrast, introduction of items as a single group if the same process is involved in the derivation of the items, creating the awareness of grammatical properties of words through substitution exercises, use of drills and exercises for each and every structure of the language and so on.
Imitation and memorization are stressed upon. Hence the teacher is asked to provide good models to the students to enable them to achieve good imitations. The learners are asked to memorize the basic sentence structures. As normal use of language in face communication is conversation, the materials for the learning of a second language usually take the form of conversations. However, the objectives of the course determine the kind of exposure materials, duration of exposure etc. As language is considered a system of habits, emphasis is upon the shaping and formation of habits through pattern practice.
The vocabulary load is kept to the minimum while students are in the process of learning the sound and grammatical patterns of the second language. New vocabulary is presented in a familiar grammatical matrix. In essence, the practice is to emphasize the focus on an item from the point of view of the well-known dicta: from the known to the unknown and from the simple to the complex.
The patterns are taught gradually in cumulative and cyclical, graded steps. Cumulative because an attempt is made to utilize all the patterns introduced earlier for the present task. Cyclical, because an attempt is made to enable the student to go back to the old structures for further practice, reinforcement and stabilization. The teacher is asked to bear in mind that habits are acquired slowly and such an acquisition must be organized in a systematic fashion.
Linguists suggest that the second language learning may begin with sentences; other components introduced as part of the sentence structures. This is done because the sub-sentence elements do not have independent status.
1. 8. Communicative Competence
There is a conflict between the teaching strategy based on the assumptions of descriptive linguistics and the real language phenomenon. The assumptions lead to the dissection, arrangement and ordering of the structures of a language into different types of patterns and parts of patterns. Language, however, is a total phenomenon and the use of language in a particular context in a natural way involves different kinds of structures. That is, in order to enable a student to "acquire ability to communicate in an appropriate manner for a particular situation one should teach different kinds of structures. However, the graded steps suggested by the assumptions of structural linguists" and even learning theorists will not equip a learner for the purpose.
The learner has to slowly build up his competence on his own by putting the pieces together in novel and creative ways. Thus there is a conflict between the structural approach and linguistic needs of a situation. Fortunately this has not gone unnoticed and recent trends in linguistics and language teaching clearly recognize the need to look at the learning and teaching of language from the functional point of view of the uses to which the linguistic structures are put. Hymes (1971, 1961) suggests that to cope with the realities of children (for that matter all the users of language) as communicating beings "requires a theory within which socio-cultural factors have an explicit and constitute role." He further observes, "fluent members of community often regard their languages, or functional varieties, as not identical in communicative adequacy. Such intuitions reflect experience and self-evaluation as to what one can in fact do with a given variety."
This sort of differential competence is what one should aim at in learning and teaching a language to use structures appropriately to meet the requirements of a communicative situation. In order to impart such a communicative competence, we must have a comprehensive idea of the heterogeneousness of the speech community, differential competence, the constitutive role of socio-cultural features, socio-economic differences, multilingual mastery, relativity of competence in different languages, expressive values, socially determined perception, contextual styles and shared norms for the evaluation of variables (Hymes 1971). In order to develop this communicative competence in the learners a few steps have been suggested. An often-suggested solution is by keeping to a minimum the patterns introduced, say, in a dialogue, before they appear in graded steps. The notional syllabus suggested by Wilkins (1972) is another step towards the solution of this conflict.
Whereas structural linguists' assumptions for the teaching and learning of second language emphasize the importance of the form as terminal behaviour and view the whole business of teaching, exposure materials etc., from a formal point, Wilkins and his colleagues emphasize that second language acquisition should be geared to the acquisition of communicative competence in the second language. They suggest that we apply the procedures of selection and grading not to grammatical units in the manner of structural syllabuses of the familiar sort but to communicative units of one kind or another (Widdowson 1973).
'The first thing we have to recognize is that the names we give to these acts - promise, greeting, apology, praise, criticism, complaint and so on-are labels we use to identify forms of social behaviour. The teaching of communicative functions necessarily involves the teaching of cultural values. In a classroom the difficulty is that the learners have somehow to separate out from the situation as a whole just those features that serve as the necessary conditions whereby the act is effectively performed. This is a general difficulty with the situations devised to create a context for language in the classroom; language items are associated with the situation as a whole and not with those factors in the situation which are relevant in the realization of the communicative value of these items. Classroom situations may be effective for teaching the semantic signification of sentences and their constituents but they generally fail to teach the pragmatic value of utterances.
Somehow or other, the learner has to be made aware of what conditions have to be met for the utterance of a sentence to have a particular communicative effect. Simply presenting the sentence in a situation will not do since the learner has still to know which features of the situation are relevant and which are not. Furthermore, no matter how the teacher exemplifies the act he must represent the person performing it as having a certain role which makes him an appropriate performer of the act.
"The adoption of a notional or communicative syllabus requires the teacher to be familiar with rules of use as well as rules of grammar. But how does he acquire this familiarity? … What is urgently needed is a taxonomic description of communicative acts characterized in terms of the conditions that must be met for them to be effectively performed, and grouped into sets according to which conditions they have in common."
One needs to have a "kind of pedagogic rhetoric which will serve as a guide to rules of use in the same way as a pedagogic grammar serves as a guide to grammatical rules, an exteriorization of knowledge which the teacher can use as a link between his own learning of the language and his teaching of it to others."
"Teaching of languages in schools will continue to focus on the language system, and given that such teaching leads learners to acquire some knowledge of sentences, the problem is how to develop in the learner an awareness of how sentences can be used in acts of communication. What we need to do is to alter his concept of a language from one which represents the language as a set of patterns to be manipulated for their own sake to one which represents it as a means of conveying information, ideas, attitudes and so on and whose functions are comparable to those of the learner's own language. We can do this by devising exercises, which draw upon two kinds of knowledge: The first kind of knowledge is what the learner knows of the formal properties of English, incomplete and imperfect though this may be. The second kind of knowledge is that which he has acquired in other areas of his education: knowledge, for example, of geography, history, general science, etc. In his learning of these subjects he has quite naturally experienced language as a means of communication: indeed learning how information is conveyed in these different subjects is just as much a part of the subjects as learning what information is conveyed."
Material producers all over the world are concerned with how best the content of other subjects can be utilized for the learning, reinforcement and retention of second language. As we are concerned mainly with the theoretical aspects and not with applications, we are not presenting the details here.
1. 9. Transformational Grammarians and second language acquisition
Transformational grammarians suggest that a child acquires his first language because he has innate capacity for learning an infinitely intricate and complex system. There is none, who, in any sense, teaches the language to the child. In the learning of second language also one learns the language not by overt teaching but by a continual internalization process. Nobody is in a position to describe the whole of any language. As no language has been fully described, overt teaching of the whole of language is not possible. Yet a second language learner is able to acquire rules that do not form part of the overt teaching materials. Acquisition of rules of second language, which have not been explicitly used in overt teaching, is possible because of his general innate capacity to learn languages. This capacity is explained by the existence of linguistic universals, which perhaps have their basis in biology.
Neither the overt teaching nor the teacher plays the crucial role in the acquisition of second language. The learner is the most important factor and must be considered as the real basis. The main task of the teacher should be the creation of situations for the optimal use of learner's innate language learning capacity. Motivation takes precedence over grammatical gradation; grammatical gradation is not however completely dispensed with. The main emphasis is not on habit formation, not on controlling and shaping correct responses. Main emphasis is on the stimulation of students' innate language learning capacity for the generation of novel sentences. Sentences are novel and not just the copies of sentences used in the exposure materials or those committed to memory.
Conscious control of rules helps creativity. The exposure materials must consist of kernel sentences, followed by rules for transformational operations. The transformational operations will be arranged in an order of increasing complexity. The second language course is planned in a way that treats each stage of the course as a generative grammar. Each stage is a refinement over the preceding stage in terms of its capacity etc. Each stage becomes increasingly similar to the real grammar of the second language. The distinction between the surface and deep structures must be brought to the notice of the learner. Identical surface structures produced by different deep structures should be kept separate; exercises should be designed to arrive at the deep structures.
Though there is considerable enthusiasm among language teachers about the effectiveness of transformational approach, the usefulness and validity of the transformational approach for second language teaching, for that matter, the entire linguistic approach continues to be a bone of contention. Theoreticians such as Chomsky do not see any immediate use of theories for constructing a teaching programme, although the direction seems to be rather clear:
My own feeling is that from our knowledge of the organization of language and of the principles that determine language structure one cannot immediately construct a teaching programme. All we can suggest is that a teaching programme be designed in such a way as to give free play to those creative principles that humans bring to the process of language learning, and I presume, to the learning of anything else. I think we should probably try to create a rich linguistic environment for the intuitive heuristics that the normal human automatically possesses. (Noam Chomsky and Stuart Hampshire discuss the study of language in Listener 1968: 687-91).
1.10. More on Language Teaching Methods
Language teachers adopt various methods in the teaching of second languages. These methods include the audio-lingual method, direct method, and grammar-translation method. Grammar-translation method has fallen into disrepute. There is a blend of audio-lingual and direct methods generally used these days. There is also an increasing reliance on language laboratory. Language teaching has grown into a vast research-based area, receiving attention from psychologists, educationists, sociologists, linguists and others. We do not present here the details of this important field. A few selected books are referred to in the notes to which the enterprising and interested students may refer for additional information.
More often than not many of us assume that proficiency in the second language will not be and cannot be achieved in equal measure to that in One's own language. We assume that a second language or foreign language cannot be learned with the same ease and fluency as one's first language. We assume further that the second learnt language is in an essentially different relationship with the learner compared to that of the first learnt language. It is generally felt that the learning of a language other than one's own mother tongue is a mental "burden" and that in general learning of more languages means more mental 'burden'. We seem to have a feeling of proprietorship over our first languages. These and other such issues should be investigated fully. We do not, however, present any analysis of the factors underlying these issues here.
The last three decades have seen renewed interest in the acquisition of language by children. This renewed interest is due no less to the challenging positions taken by the generative grammarians, beginning with the writings of Chomsky. We have now abundant literature on the subject. The important texts have some introduction to the methods employed in the study of the acquisition of language; particularly, students will benefit from the excellent survey of Braine (1971a). There are quite a few publications that present the characteristics of child speech. Some of the important works in this regard are Bellugi and Brown (1964), C. Chomsky (1969), Bloom (1970,1973), Smith and Miller (1966), Menyuk (1971), Brown (1973), Ferguson and Slobin (1973), McNeill (1970), and Slobin (1971a and b). Slobin (1971a) presents several of the models proposed for the acquisition of language. Staats and Staats (1963) and Staats (1968) present Staat's position on language acquisition based on a refined exposition and construction of S-R theory.
Penfield and Roberts (1959) and Lenneberg (1967) present interesting information on the role of lateralization and neurophysiological factors in the acquisition of second language. Halliday, Mcintosh and Strevens (1964), Lado (1964) and Mackey (1965) are three important and really worthwhile studies on aspects of second language learning and teaching. Pattanayak (1969) presents aspects of applied linguistics. Christophersen (1973) presents a succinct survey of knowledge on second language learning. Lambert's writings (Lambert 1963, Lambert, et al 1966, and Lambert, et al 1968) and Jakobovits (1970) show the directions in which psycholinguistics research on second language may be profitably undertaken. Fries (1945) presents the structuralism approach to the teaching and learning of foreign languages. Thomas (1965) presents some of the early assumptions of the transformational generative grammarians about second language learning and teaching. Politzer (1972) presents a good introduction to the assumptions of the structuralisms and generative grammarians about second language learning and teaching. Wilkins (1972) and Widdowson (1973) present some aspects of the notional syllabus. Hymes (1961) gives functions of speech that may be incorporated in any teaching design.
Osgood and Sebeok (1965), Saporta (1961) and Jakobovits and Miron (1967) may be read with profit to have a comprehensive view of psycholinguistic problems. Miller (1970) presents an interesting survey of the psychology of communication and Miller and McNeill (1968) give an excellent review of state of art of the field of psycholinguistics.
2. 1. Limitations of Linguistics
In the earlier chapter we presented some models for the description of acquisition of language by children. A closer examination of the models would indicate that linguists' procedures are -restricted to a description and explanation, if any, of what linguists call structures-specifically abstractions of language.
A linguist studying language acquisition by children is interested in how a child acquires the structures of language, be they phonological, syntactic or semantic. He observes the acquisition of language and records the emergence of structures one-word utterances, two-word utterances, multiple-word utterances, acquisition and differentiation of grammatical categories, transformations, etc. He is aware that there is a correlation between the physiological, cognitive and linguistic maturational milestones. He is aware also that language comes to be used progressively for expressing what we call in common parlance as one's concepts, thinking, etc. Yet he is preoccupied (for his own justifiable reasons) with the study of emergence of linguistic structures. He ignores the concomitant developments linked with the emergence of language and in the process, the genesis of thought, reasoning and logical systems is never touched upon by him, or even when touched upon, he fails to weave them into a coherent theory embracing the whole gamut of language, thought and reasoning.
Even the generative grammarian who goes beyond other theorists of language in depth is no exception to it in the sense the emergence of language is not linked with the emergence of thought processes even in his theory. As emphasized above, this does not mean that a linguist closes his eyes with regard to thought, concept, reality and logic and their relations to language as a system. In fact the developments in related fields have pushed linguists to take positions and to restate their views on the subject. However, linguists are interested more in the analysis of the system (language) than in the uses of the system, among which they include thinking also.
Language is used for interpersonal and intra-individual communication. Intra-individual communication is as vital as the interpersonal communication. A good part of one's own life is led in the intra-individual plane and a good part of one's own language use is on this plane. Hence the mechanisms and the characteristics of intra-individual communication are as important as the mechanisms and characteristics of interpersonal communication. However, linguists seem to be interested only in the form, content, mechanisms of the interpersonal communication as exemplified in verbal language and only a passing reference, if at all there is any, is made on the form, content, mechanisms and use of the intra-individual communication as exemplified in 'silent' language. The genetic relationship between the two and the influence of one on the other hardly form the subject matter of linguistics.
This neglect, if at all it is to be considered neglect, rather than something dictated by common agreement among the practitioners about the scope of their field, is found even in psychology to some extent. Both psychologists and linguists shun subjective reporting done by the objects of study. In studies on thought processes one has to resort to subjective reporting in addition to others. Subjective reporting does not throw light on the ongoing processes and tends to be edited versions of what went on. However, developmental psychologists do not fail to note the thought processes and link them with language and logic.
2. 2. Thinking
Thinking is an unobservable, covert behaviour. There is no need for the immediate presence of the stimuli for one to indulge in thinking. It can be a self-generated process. One indulges in this to achieve some desired outcome or solution. Motor activity is not necessary for thinking. It is the central nervous system that accommodates this mental activity.
In everyday life thinking refers to reasoning, employing one's mind rationally and objectively in evaluating or dealing with a given situation. Thinking refers also to having conscious mind, remembering experiences, to call something to one's conscious mind, to invent or conceive something and to analyze or evolve rationally.
Thinking is and is not dependent on language. We find that organisms without language also indulge in thinking. Deaf children without language acquire concepts. They compare magnitudes, remember sequences and associations, and solve simple problems involving forms, colours, etc. These performances are generally well above the level of cognitive functioning that we find in animals. These findings suggest strongly that there can be a kind of thought without language.
Normal children in pre-language stage exhibit complex thinking and are able to solve problems. Once the child acquires a language, he is able to describe his actions and use an important characteristic of language, namely, variation in time and space. He is in a position to use the language characteristic, prevarication also; these two characteristics enable the learner to reconstitute the past and to anticipate the future. In both these cases the objects are not present. Further he is able to anticipate actions to the point where sometimes actions are replaced by words and are never actually performed. Thought becomes part of the communication and language comes to reinforce individual thinking with a vast system of concepts. The mastery of words begins to facilitate the mastery of concepts.
There is general agreement among the psychologists about the existence of prelinguistic thought and language without thought. But there is no agreement among them either about the nature of genetic relationship between the two, about the role of language in thought process or about the order of emergence. We shall present here first of all the relationship between language and thought as suggested by a few leading linguists and present two approaches to language and thought by psychologists and finally indicate the role of language and thought in relation to reality.
2. 3. Concept
Before we proceed on the lines suggested we have to deal with an important area which is closely related to thinking, namely, concept. Thinking and concept are inter-related and one can consider thinking as a covert process that largely involves the manipulation of concepts. Here, we must caution our readers that it is indeed difficult to define what a concept is. Concept may be taken as internal representation of classes or categories of experience an organism undergoes. These experiences can be either the direct response to aspects of the external environment or responses to other experiences. As experience can be infinite and diverse, the concepts can also be diverse and classified in. infinite ways.
Human organism is endowed with adequate capacity to categorize and classify the environment. A child acquires or forms his concepts in his infancy involving the objects, sensations, sounds and feelings. These concepts are based on the perceptual invariants of the experience the child undergoes. A child in the process of his acquisition of language identifies the names for the categories of experience he undergoes. These names are socially reinforced in the environment and begin to form the first concepts expressed through the medium of language. The categorization and classification include the identification of partial similarities between the events also. The child thus will also have a repertoire of partially similar concepts. As the concepts are termed as internal representation of experiences, it leads us to postulate that some concepts may be formed out of other concepts already internalized, usually on the basis of partial similarities existing between them. This may allow us to account for whatever novelty or creativity we may find in the acquisition of concepts. And yet a new concept may be formed which has no partial similarity or association with others.
The concepts differ in their degree of novelty and complexity in reference to their acquisition by an individual. Sometimes repeated occurrences are necessary to identify a concept; in several cases an individual acquires a concept just through an ordinary verbal formulation, through reading or writing. Many concepts are identified, learned and recognized in the latter manner. Many a time we learn the concepts without being aware of the process. Psychologists usually define concept learning in terms of our ability to recognize instances and our ability to formulate descriptions or to construct the instances of the concept. When translated into linguistics, the linguistic sign comes very close to the concept of psychologists.
A chief medium for acquisition and the demonstration of the acquisition of concepts is language. Verbal formulation of the concepts already acquired can lead to further acquisition and sharpening of older ones. However, the concept formation studies of psychologists do not usually emphasize the importance of verbal formulation. The reason may be the infinite ways in which a concept may be expressed through language or an assumption that using language for concept formation studies may not allow one to isolate the concepts as such from the acquisition and use of concepts through language medium.
Earlier, psychologists believed that we could identify a normal order of concept acquisition. With the layman there is a belief that concrete concepts can be more easily learned than abstract concepts such as number. But psychologists do not share this belief any more. They find that in the place of concrete vs. abstract division one should look for the complexity in terms of dimensions involved in acquiring a concept. The disjunctive concept is the most difficult one. Following Carroll (1964) a conjunctive concept may be defined as one for which a specified combination of attributes is criterial (for example, red figures with borders); a disjunctive concept is defined as one for which any of two or more alternative combinations of attributes is criterial (either red figure or one with two borders); and a relational concept is defined as one in which a specified relation between attributes is criterial (fewer figures than borders).
Carroll suggests that subjects in solving problems of concept attainment presented to them adopt four kinds of strategies or cognitive styles. These are:
In simultaneous scanning the subject makes a systematic trial of alternative hypotheses, taking into account the information obtained from each success or failure. In successive screening the subject makes a trial of only one hypothesis at a time. Furthermore the successive trials do not take advantage of the success or failure of the earlier trials. As a result some trials become inconsistent and/or redundant. In the conservative focusing the subject makes a trial of conservative variation. The subject selects some focus or positive instance. In focus gambling, the subject makes drastic changes of focus. These changes are made in the hope that such a gambling will somehow lead to the attainment of criterial attributes by a process of elimination.
We shall present different approaches towards concept formation below. It suffices to say that concepts are the internal representations of the classes and categories of experience and that concepts are close to what linguists call the signs.
2.4. Linguistic Approach to Thought
2.4.1. General Remarks
Although linguists have been mainly concerned with the description of linguistic structures, as suggested above, several leading figures among them have shown considerable interest in the relationship between language, thought, concept formation and reality. Their concern has been mainly of speculative nature, raising questions such as "Can we think without language"? "How are language and thought related"?' "Is our thinking influenced by the structure of our language"? And so on.
In their speculations about language, thought, concept and reality, linguists have been influenced by psychological theories of thinking, concept formation, perception and cognition current in their times. They have been influenced also by theories on neurophysiological mechanisms underlying the use of language in all these speculations. However, linguists do not go into the details of the mechanisms of the thought processes. They seem to concern themselves with making statements by way of emphasizing the role played by verbal symbols in thought processes and concept formation.
The linguists realize that many of our concepts are given verbal labels. They are aware at the same time that the verbal labels need not necessarily pre-suppose the formation and use of concepts that have reality in the outside world. For instance, linguists are aware that the gender concept they find in human languages need not be real in the external world. They find that the natural gender distinction is different from the grammatical gender concept in a language like Hindi. They also find that language has certain non-referential uses in which the communication of ideas ('ties of union') is created by the mere exchange of words.
These expressions are there to fulfill a social function and not to convey the symbolic meanings of the words that constitute the utterance. Such utterances are considered by some as revealing the fact that language need not function always as a means of transmission of thought. On many an occasion expressions are uttered which are not the result of any thinking. These have no intention or discernible effect on the listeners, activating their thinking mechanism.
Even though linguists of yore had given appellations and definitions to some grammatical categories and constructs as though these were the main mechanisms of thought processes, as for instance, subjunctive mood was considered a thought mood and abstracts as thought names, the current trend is to avoid such appellations and definitions, taking generally a formal view of language. In what follows here we present the ideas of a few linguists with regard to the interrelationship between language, thought, concept formation and reality.
2.4. 2. Bloomfield (1935:28) considers thinking as talking to oneself. As children we start talking to ourselves aloud. Soon our elders correct us and this impels us to learn to suppress the sound producing movement and replace them by very slight inaudible ones. By this characterization Bloomfield seems to suggest a progression from the audible language to the suppressed inaudible ones through a gradual change from voice to whisper to sub-vocal mechanisms. Bloomfield recognizes that we think before we act and that we think in words. Thinking in words is defined as soundless movement of the vocal organs, taking the place of speech movements, but not audible to other people. This thinking is nothing but sub-vocal speech.
Bloomfield follows in general the position taken by the leading behaviourist psychologist of his time. J. B. Watson. Watson considers thinking as an implicit language habit and that children make the transition from overt to whisper and to implicit language. These three forms may go on together from the start also. The environment of the child does not force him to a rapid shift from explicit to implicit language.
Watson further considers that thinking is silent talking, but not all thought is laryngeal. Thought is a highly integrated bodily activity that can be carried out even without laryngeal involvement, so essential for explicit, oral language. The position that thought is a highly integrated bodily activity is in contrast with the psychophysical dualism that considered language as the expression of thought through the use of speech sounds. However in most of our thinking we use articulate speech or even lip speech. Further thought is a constituent part of every adjustment process. It is not different in essence from tennis-playing, swimming or any other overt activity except that it is hidden from ordinary observation and is more complex and at the same time more abbreviated as far as its parts are concerned than even the bravest of us could dream of' (Watson 1919: 325). Watson emphasizes that we should not abstract language, overt or implicit or other implicit thought processes from their general setting in bodily integration as a whole.
Watson identifies four forms of thought:
2.4. 3. Hjelmslev suggests that we can abstract from different languages the common factor. This common factor is the purport, common signification or the thought itself conveyed and found as the common factor of all the languages. This is an amorphous mass-just as the sand and just as the cloud that can be put into different molds and different shapes, thought itself can be structured differently in different languages.
2.4. 4. Firth (1964)Firth considers that meaning is a property of the situational context of people, things, and events as well as the uttered words of a speaker. The uttered words are not the only important factor in the correct characterization of the meaning of anything. The words become part of habitual action. "The only meanings they can have are the behaviour patterns, of which they are the coordinating function" (p.177).
Firth identifies the habitual use of speech and thus suggests that not all our utterances are the product of thought process. He notices the controversy as to whether each visual perception (such as reading) is accompanied by suppressed articulation or is it something psychic which controls and conducts the whole process or is it possible to have an idea of the sound b without feeling some movement etc. He reports of an experiment in which two American psychologists attempted an experimental investigation of the movements of the tongue in internal speech or verbal thought. Such movements when they occurred corresponded to movements in overt speech of the same words only in 4.4%. He even suggests an experiment for the reader to try it on himself: "We should hold our lip down from the teeth or the tip of our tongue out of our mouths between the thumb and finger, and repeat silently to ourselves, 'Peter, Piper picked a peck', etc., or 'Baa, baa, black sheep.' 'Does this interfere with the sound or feel of the words, or is there some articulatory discomfort?'
2.4. 5. Sapir
Among American linguists, Sapir is more concerned with the relationship between language, thought and reality. Language is primarily an auditory system of symbols that can be transferred into a motor system. The motor processes are means leading to auditory perception in both speaker and hearer. For the communication to be considered as successfully conducted, the auditory perceptions should further be transferred into the appropriate and intended flow of imagery or thought or both. Thus the course of communication process may undergo endless modifications for transformations into equivalent systems, not losing its essential formal characteristics.
An abbreviation of the speech processes involved in thinking is the most important of all these modifications. There are many different forms of thought, according to the structural or functional peculiarities of the individual mind. In the least modified form of thought one talks to oneself or one thinks aloud. The speaker and the hearer are one and the same. Another form of thought consists of all the varieties of silent speech and of normal thinking in which the sounds of speech are not articulated at all.
Sapir (1921) considers that auditory imagery and the correlated motor imagery which leads to articulation are "by whatever devious ways we follow the process, the historic fountain-head of all speech and of all thinking." As regards concept it is "the convenient capsule of thought." The speech element 'house' is the symbol, not of a single perception, not decided on the basis of the notion about the object, but it embraces thousands of distinct experiences. A concept will be and should be capable of taking in and accounting for many more such individual experiences. The actual flow of speech may be considered as a record of the setting of these concepts (single significant elements of speech) into mutual relations.
As regards the questions rose often whether thought is possible without speech and whether speech and thought are but two facets of the same psychic process, Sapir suggests that the flow of language itself is not always indicative of thoughts. Though the typical linguistic elements replace a concept, the use to which language is put is not always or not even mainly conceptual. In ordinary life one is not much concerned with concepts, but with concrete particularities and specific relations. Most of our day-to-day sentences have no conceptual significance whatever, even though each element in a sentence defines a separate concept or conceptual relation or both combined.
Such uses to which language is put make language seem like a dynamo capable of generating enough power to run an elevator, operated almost exclusively to feed an electric door bell: Language is an instrument capable of a whole range of psychic uses. The flow of language parallels that of the inner content of consciousness, on different levels ranging from the state of mind that is dominated by particular images to that in which abstract concepts and their relations are alone at the focus of attention and which is ordinarily termed reasoning.
The outward form of language is constant for every one to use, but its inner meaning, its psychic value or intensity will be different for different individuals depending upon their attention, selective interest and their general development. Thought must be defined as "the highest latent or potential content of speech, the content that is obtained by interpreting each of the elements in the flow of language as possessed of its very fullest conceptual value." Thus language and thought are not strictly coterminous. "At best language can but be the outward fact of thought on the highest, most generalized, level of symbolic expression. To put our viewpoint somewhat differently language is primarily a prerational function. It humbly works up to the thought that is latent in, that may eventually be read into, its classifications and forms; it is not, as is generally but naively assumed the final label put upon the finished thought."
Sapir assumes that language arose prerationally. We do not know how it arose and on what level of mental activity was man at that time. The highly developed system of speech symbols could not have been brought out before the genesis of distinct concepts and of thinking. Sapir would have it that the thought processes set in along with the beginning of linguistic expression, "as a kind of psychic overflow." A concept gets its individuality and status or life only when it has a distinctive linguistic embodiment. In a sense language and thought grooves are one and the same. The infinite variability of linguistic form is simply the infinite variability of the actual process of thought. A manifest form of a language is nothing more nor less than a collective art of thought.
2.5. Jean Piaget on Thought, Concept and Language
2.5.1. Introductory Remarks
Jean Piaget, a great developmental psychologist, was behind the upsurge of interest in the systematic study of thinking for several decades now. His studies concentrate on how the thinking of children and logical systems develop and also on the structure of mental development in the child. His work is characterized generally as genetic epistemology, seeking answers for epistemological questions through the developmental study of the child. Epistemology is defined as a branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods and limits of human knowledge. Piaget's theory is a theory of equilibration, explaining the balancing processes between the social and physical environment and the organism's need to conserve its structural systems. We may call Piaget's theory as forming a new field of experimental philosophy.
Piaget's work may be easy to read but difficult indeed to interpret. His research has had several phases, some of which may seem to be in conflict with each other. Piaget finds that there are parallels between the thought of children and the philosophical systems, that philosophical systems derive ideas implicit in the thinking of children and that there is partial constancy of cognitive structuring over long periods in human history.
Children construct ideas different from those entertained by the adults about the world around them and are thus in a necessity to regulate their own growth with that of the adult society. Here the growth of knowledge is conceived not as a simple learning process, but as a giving up of erroneous ideas for correct ones and/or as a transformation of ideas into a higher and complex level. Mental growth is the result of the interaction between innate structures and the influence of the environment. However, Piaget would not emphasize or exaggerate the role of innate structures, but would relate them to the genesis of the phenomenon, all the time emphasizing the universal laws of nature.
Piaget traces in his later works the origins of the structure of knowing to the sensori-motor coordination of infants. Sensori-motor coordination of infants is the forerunner of both the form and content of adult thought. Piaget's major interest has been the study of the development of logic-mathematical thought from early childhood to adolescence. It is but natural that the works of a great and prolific mind like Jean Piaget's has changes in emphasis. Hence when one refers to Piaget's position, date becomes very important. Here we base our presentation of Piaget's position mainly on his works of 1959, and 1964 which contain works undertaken in some instances some decades before their publication in the above forms.
2.5.2. Jean Piaget and Innateness
Logic forms the corner stone of Piaget's genetic epistemology. Logic pervades all the phenomena. It governs the mind, biological processes and the physical world. Logical operations help the child to reconstruct and understand the physical, social and biological phenomena. This does not mean that logic is innate in the child. In fact Piaget (1964: 119) takes the position that logic is not innate in the child and that the child constitutes logical structures little by little in course of his development. Logical structures are constructed gradually in connection with language and social change.
Piaget (1964) finds that recourse to initiate factors merely passes the problems on to biology and that biology at present is not in a position to throw light on this. We must make a distinction between the characteristics acquired through heredity or endogenous origin (originating within the body) or heredity stemming from ancestral acquisitions as a function of environment and of experience. Piaget, relying on an experiment he conducted decades ago, concludes that there is intervention of environmental action on the reflex mechanism and even on morphogenesis (Piaget 1964: 418).
This experiment was aimed at the analysis of sensori-motor adaptations of the Limnae stagnalls. The Limnae stagnalls is a fresh water mollusk. This has an elongated shape in the marshes. But in large lakes with smooth and pebbly banks, it has a contracted and globular shape, because of the movements it has to make during its growth to resist the agitation of the water. Piaget, first of all, established that this shape is not a simple phenotype, but inherited with stability over six to seven generations.
This was demonstrated using pure and cross breeding in the aquarium. Among the two types of Limnae stagnalls the contracted form can live anywhere. Piaget transplanted the contracted type of the species several decades ago to a marsh where its descendants are still prospering and have conserved the elongated shape found in the lakes. Such a survival cannot be explained by chance alone. The formation of this race, the contracted shape, was achieved as adaptation to the movements of the water in large lakes. Piaget concludes that no explanation is possible in this instance other than the intervention of environmental action on the reflex mechanism and on morphogenesis.
The "innate" sensori-motor behaviours are perhaps the result of the latter category, resulting from environmental influence. Further maturation, a point usually given in support of innateness, is never independent. It depends on function-exercises the organism undergoes. Exercise can accelerate or retard certain forms of maturation. Maturation of nervous system opens up possibilities for behaviours and logical operation, depending upon physical experiences such as manipulation of objects and social conditions such as exchange of information. But in itself maturation is not a sufficient condition for the emergence of logical operations.
2.5.3. How Logical Structures are Formed
The logical structures are formed when actions are exercised upon objects. The objects are governed by universal logical rules and when actions are performed on objects, the child gets exposed to logical rules. This is the source from which a child draws his logic. The actions performed on objects may change the object and these changes constitute new sources of knowledge. We act upon nature in order to be productive but in the process the law of nature governs us.
Just as the universal laws applicable to objects help the emergence of logical operations, social laws or necessity come to play their role in the constitution of logical structures. The coordination of interpersonal action through work and verbal exchange contributes to the constitution of logical structures. What one person does is completed by another through addition, correspondence and so on. Arguments and disagreements give rise to negations, inverse operations, etc.
Governing the whole rubric of logical structures is the factor of equilibration which is dialectical in nature. Every structure acquired creates a disequilibrium which is brought to equilibrium, when the acquired structure is organized into an equal reversible structure. Each new level of equilibrium is preparatory to a new disequilibrium. A process of thesis, antithesis and synthesis is in constant operation in the constitution of logical structures.
2.5.4. Developmental Schedule of Logical Structures
While dealing with the formation of intelligence and of logical operations, which is his major area of research, Piaget distinguishes four age periods (Piaget: 1964: 116-142). The first one is the age period from birth to one and a half to two years which is a sensorimotor period prior to language. During this period there is no logic and no operation, but there is preparation for reversibility operations on structures. There is also construction of invariants. In the early stage the child does not show any searching behaviour when an object disappears from his visual field. After a few months, a systematic searching behaviour comes into existence demonstrating the acquisition of an invariant-permanent object in a fixed and proximal space.
During the second period which is between two and seven to eight years one finds the emergence of symbolic function through processes such as symbolic play, deferred imitation, and mental imagery as well as the unison of thought with language. The actions achieved through the sensorimotor plane so far undergo a progressive internalization and form the basis of unison of thought and language.
Reversibility of operations, hallmark of full-fledged logical operations and thought processes, is achieved at the end of this period in certain areas. For instance, a child is given two balls of modeling clay of the same weight and dimensions. One ball is transformed into a cake shape and the child is asked:
The correct answer to the first question is obtained when the child is about seven to eight years; for the second when he is around nine to ten years and for the last around the age of eleven to twelve.
2.5.5. Egocentric and Socialized Speech
It is during the second period that the major part of language acquisition takes place. Piaget (1959) divides the functions of child language into two large groups, namely, egocentric and socialized. The child engages himself in egocentric speech to talk to himself or to talk for himself without bothering to know to whom he is speaking or whether he is being listened to. The chief characteristics of egocentric speech are thus talking to oneself and taking no care to place oneself at the viewpoint of others.
Piaget divides egocentric speech into three categories, namely repetition, monologue and dual or collective monologue. In the repetition, child repeats the words and syllables for 'he pleasure of talking. In the monologue, the child talks to himself as if he were thinking aloud. No one is addressed. In the collective monologue of children, we find that each child sticks to his own idea and does not expect the other to understand or to respond. The other children serve only as stimulus.
The socialized speech is divided into five categories, namely, adapted information, criticism, commands, requests and threats, and questions and answers. In the adapted information, the child talks to specified information and exchanges his thoughts with others. The child tries to see the point of view of others. The category criticism includes all remarks of the child about the work or behaviour of others. Definite interaction among children characterizes the category of commands, requests and threats.
Questions and answers also need definite interaction and as such are considered to be socialized speech. It is difficult to say as to whether egocentric speech precedes the socialized speech. The observation indicates that both the forms exist side by side, though there is a clear predominance of egocentrism. In course of time, certain forms of egocentric speech, especially monologue, begins to make a gradual disappearance. Piaget finds that "both spring from the undifferentiated state where cries and words accompany action, and then tend to prolong it and both react one upon the other at the very outset of their development."
Egocentrism is an important milestone and embraces all children's behaviour. The egocentrism is in the first place ascribed to a combination of external circumstances such as absence of knowledge, being restricted to one small place, environment and social group. In the second place, egocentrism "as a mode of spontaneous appreciation, which is common to every individual and as such needs no preliminary, consists of a kind of primary adjustment of thought, an intellectual simplicity of mind in the sense of absence of all intellectual relativity and relational system of reference," (Piaget 1959: 270).
Piaget (1959: 268) defines intellectual egocentrism in child as '"he assemblage of all the different pre-critical and consequently pre-objective cognitive attitudes of the child's mind." Egocentrism is not a conscious phenomenon. Egocentrism is no longer egocentrism, when it becomes self-conscious. It is not also a phenomenon of social behaviour, as behaviour is an indirect manifestation of egocentrism but does not constitute it. Piaget considers egocentrism of the child as an illusion of perspective, a kind of systematic and unconscious illusion.
There is qualitative difference between child and adult thoughts. The adult can keep to himself his thoughts whereas the child, up to an age limit, probably somewhere around seven, cannot keep to himself the thoughts which enter his mind. This does not mean that the child socializes his thoughts more than the adult does. The child's verbalization of his thought accompanies and reinforces his activity. The adult's thinking is social even when his thoughts are most personal and private, because the adult has in his mind's eye his fellow being and places himself at their point of view. On the contrary the child speaks to his neighbors for the most part as if he were alone and rarely places himself at the point of view of his listeners. He speaks as if he were thinking aloud. In a nutshell, 'the adult thinks socially even when he is alone, and the child, under seven, thinks egocentrically, even in the society of others."
The reasons for the egocentric speech and thought are to be found in the type of social intercourse between the children of less than seven or eight years and in the fact that language used in the fundamental activity of the child, namely, play, is one of gestures, movement and mimicry as much as words. There is no sustained social intercourse between the children of less than seven or eight. The type of children's society under normal conditions does not display division of work, centralization of effort and unity of conversation, etc., which characterize adult's society. In child's society the individual and social life are not differentiated. This lack of differentiation explains egocentric speech and thought.
The gestures, movement and mimicry cannot express every thing and as such intellectual processes will remain egocentric. When the desire to work with others manifests itself around seven to eight, the proper conversation begins to take place; egocentric talk begins to lose its ground and the children 'begin to understand each other in spoken explanations, as opposed to explanations in which gestures play as important a part as words' (Piaget 1959: 42).
Piaget distinguishes between directed or intelligent thought and undirected thought or autistic thought. Directed thought is conscious thought directed towards an aim, adapted to reality and can be proved true or false. Further directed thought can be communicated through language. Undirected thought is subconscious and works through images. It is strictly individual and cannot be communicated through language.
Between autistic and directed thought, according to Piaget (1952), there are several intermediate varieties of thought. These intermediate varieties are subject to special logic, which must be considered as intermediate between logic of autism and intelligence. These intermediate varieties of thought may be considered as the egocentric thought. The chief form is the type of thought which seeks to adapt itself to reality, but does not get communicated as such.
2.5.6. Maim Categories of Child Thought
What are the main categories of child thought? Based on the functions exemplified in child thought, we have three categories. These are (a) explicatory function related to causality, reality, time and place, (b) mixed function related to motivation of actions and justification of rules and (c) implicatory function related to classification, names, number and logical relations. Up to the age of three, the child takes what he desires as real; slowly he comes to distinguish between what is real and what is imagined. This happens around the age of three and is reflected in the use of verbs 'to think', 'to believe' etc.
In this period we see the child beginning to use the language characteristic prevarication. Further it is in this period the child begins to manipulate grammatical complexity such as cases, tenses and subordinate propositions-the tools necessary for the formulation of reasoning-begin to be incorporated. These enable the child to achieve some amount of conscious realization which in its turn enables the child make a distinction between the imagined or desired and the real. The child comes to grips with the intentions of people and things around him from what he perceives, since the intentions of people and of things around him sometimes conform to his desires and sometimes not. This makes him to feel the resistance-reality to his desires and when there is resistance, he ascribes intentions to people and things around him.
The categories of child's thought are the result of the intentionalism. The mind turns to the external world in the explicatory function. Once the child becomes conscious of intentions of people and of things around him, he feels the necessity to project these into and adjust himself with the world around him, since this world until this day did not reveal anything contrary to his belief. The implicatory function enables the child to trace his way back to the directing motive or idea from the intentions he has identified through explicatory function. The intermediary function, mixed function, is necessary to account for the innumerable transitional cases. This is a case of progressive divergence.
The following table gives the characteristic differences between egocentric thought and intelligent/directed thought (Piaget 1959: 47).
|1.In the egocentric thought
the reasoning is not made explicit.
It is more intuitive
and syncretistic than deductive.
|1. The directed thought renders|
explicit the relations between
|2. Proof is not attached
|2. Emphasis is on proof.|
|3. Analogy is resorted to.
Memories of earlier reasoning
freely used, which control
the present course of reasoning.
|3. Analogy is avoided and|
is replaced by deduction
|4. Visual effect is more crucial
and is considered as proof.
|4. No such emphasis is given.|
|5. Personal judgment of values
have more influence on
egocentric than communicable thought.
|5.Personal judgment of values|
are eliminated. Collective
judgments of values are preferred.
2.5.7. Socialization of Thought
Piaget raises the question as to with whom the socialization of thought takes place. Is it in the presence of the adults or the children, the child begins to give up his egocentric speech, albeit gradually? In the course of this gradual socialization of child's thought, what modifications do we notice between his relationships with the adults and other children? First of all it is found that child's attitude towards other children and his attitude towards the adult are essentially different: the first is made up of cooperation; the second is made up of intellectual submission.
This difference in attitudes is reflected in the use of forms of speech and of egocentrism. The speech forms of dialogue and adapted information are represented more in conversation with children than in conversation with the adult. Piaget (1959: 257) notes that between 3 years and a month and 3 years and four months dialogue with children is 23% as against 16% with the adult. During this period the coefficient of egocentrism of child is 71% with the adult and 56% with children. During the period between 3 years and 11 months and 4 years and one month the coefficients of egocentrism with the adult and with children become somewhat equal, 43.5% and 46% respectively. But in this later period, dialogue represents only 19% of speech whereas it rises to 35% with children.
Thus egocentric speech passes through a semi-stationary dialogue represents only 19% of speech whereas it rises to 35% with children. Thus egocentric speech passes through a semi-stationary phase marking gradual decreases, even though it fluctuates between half and one third of total amount of speech. The data given above further suggest different scales based on child's attitudes towards the adult and towards his fellows.
Certain studies have shown, however, than children's speech is more socialized with their parents than with each other. This apparently goes against the findings of Piaget. But he finds that such differences in results should be ascribed to the qualitative differences in contexts in which observations were pursued. The child usually fluctuates between soliloquy and interrogation, when there is only minimum interference from the adult. Once the adult intervenes and goes on intervening to elicit information, confessions, etc., the coefficient of egocentrism with the adult will begin to be less. On the contrary the coefficient of egocentrism is higher when child's activity tends to be natural play. Once the activity approximates real work conditions, the situation becomes a conversational context demanding conscious and relevant participation and fulfillment of roles.
2.5.8. The Third and Fourth Stages of Logical Operations
The third stage in the acquisition of logical operations is around seven to eight years during which the child arrives at the constitution of concrete operational structures. During this period which extends up to the period of eleven to twelve years, the operations of thought are concerned with reality itself, with objects that can be manipulated and subjected to real action.
A chief feature of this stage is the emergence of verbal syncretism in children. The child believes that he has understood what is said but in actuality he may not have fully understood what is said. He often hears phrases and thinks that he understands these phrases. He assimilates these in his own way, all the time distorting what he hears. This is a wide and comprehensive but obscure and inaccurate activity where no distinction is made and things are heaped one upon the other. There is no analysis of what is perceived. His egocentrism makes him to believe that he understands everyone and everything. This prevents him from going in for specifics of word and sentence meanings. The whole is assumed to be understood, before the part is analyzed.
Thus when the child is confronted with sentences which he has not understood, he does not analyze the words employed in the sentences for an understanding. He goes in for the general scheme of things. However, there is a progressive adaptation, a progressive analysis of details in consonance with the shedding of egocentrism and the emergence of proper logical operations of the next stage.
This stage, from the linguists' point of view, does not involve acquisition of any basic linguistic structure. Yet the manipulation of linguistic structures is not stabilized in relation to logical operations. The child is still incapable of verbal reasoning about simple hypotheses. Piaget (1964:62) reports that children of nine or ten can arrange colours into series but cannot answer the questions of the following sort: Edith has darker hair than Lily. Edith's hair is lighter than Susan's. Which of the three has the darkest hair?
The last stage consists of operations of logical proposition. This commences around eleven to twelve years and gets stabilized around fourteen to fifteen years. During this stage the child is in a position to apply mental operations to objects and is capable also of reflecting these operations in the absence of objects. The objects may be replaced by propositions such as sentences, mathematical symbols, etc. The child can engage himself in hypothetical-deductive thought and draw conclusions from pure hypotheses and not merely actual observations. It is observed that "concrete thinking is the representation of a possible action and formal thinking is the representation of a representation of possible action."
2.5.9. The Role of Language
When we compare the child's pre-language behaviour with behaviour after the acquisition of language we find that the child is now in a position to use what we called earlier the displacement and arbitrariness features of an event. The child is now in a position to go beyond the sensori-motor perceptions and express himself on events not immediately present or even concrete. He indulges in clear manipulation of these features with ease.
This shift from sensori-motor schematization of children in the pre-language period to a representative schematization of concepts, etc., at the period during which language emerges, according to Piaget, however, does not prove that language is the source of thought. For, prior to language and along with the emergence of language symbolic play appear in children. During this play, the child develops a system of signifiers or symbols which are not arbitrary, but resemble the object or event in some way. They are like linguistic signs but different from linguistic signs in a very significant aspect in that linguistic signs are arbitrary whereas the symbol has some perceptual relationship or similarity with the object or event.
A second form of symbolism is deferred imitation in which the internalized event is repeated exactly in the absence of the model to which it corresponds. The third form is mental imagery which is a symbol of the object not yet manifested at the level of sensori-motor intelligence.
Piaget considers that these three types of personal symbols, namely, symbolic play, deferred imitation and mental imagery form the links between the sensori-motor behaviour and the representative behaviour which involves the characteristics of arbitrariness and displacement. The function of these three types covers both the system of verbal signs and that of symbols in the strict sense. The function is to differentiate the signifiers (signs and symbols) from the signified (objects and events that are conceptualized or schematic).
In the sensori-motor level also we have systems of significations but these are only aspects of what is signified. These aspects do not evoke any representation of signifier through any mental process. The symbolic function, however, differentiates the signifiers from what is signified leading to the evocation of the representation of the representation of the signified through thought process. Piaget does not go into the question whether the symbolic function brings about thought or thought allows the formation of symbolic function. In his words (Piaget 1964: 91), to ask whether the symbolic function engenders thought or thought permits the formation of symbolic function is as vain as to try to determine whether the river orients its banks or the banks orient the river.
Language is a form of the symbolic function and consists of collecting signs mainly arbitrary in nature and is characterized by the use of displacement feature. According to Piaget the existence of the three forms of symbolism, explained above, even before the emergence of language suggests that thought precedes language and that 'language confines itself to profoundly transforming thought by helping it to attain its form of equilibrium by means of a more, advanced schematization and a more mobile abstraction'.
Just as the emergence and stabilization of symbolic function independent of language signs, certain logical operations also emerge independent of language and become the forerunner of thought processes involving language. Early logical operations involve additive and multiplicative operations upon classes and relations which result in classifications, serriations (occurring in one or more series), correspondences, etc. The sensori-motor intelligence that exists prior to language acquisition indicates the existence of the above.
Transitivity of serial relations occur clearly before language emerges. An observation in this connection is given in Piaget (1964: 98) as follows: Jacqueline (at one year and seven months) watches me when I put a coin in my hand and then put my hand under a coverlet. I withdraw my hand closed; Jacqueline opens it, and then searches under the coverlet until she finds the object. In this the child clearly uses the transitivity relation: "the coin was in the hand and the hand was under the coverlet; therefore the coin is under the coverlet."
What happens really is that before be can combine or dissociate relatively universal and absti act classes, the child can classify collections of objects in the same perceptual field. He can combine and dissociate them before he can do so linguistically. Thus we find in the infant's elementary practical coordination's the functional equivalents of the operations of combination and dissociation: the characteristics of formal thought.
Piaget concedes that language, the emergence of language, makes the structures thus far available more universal and mobile than the sensori-motor coordination's. From his point of view language is a necessary and useful condition for pro-positional logic involving implications, disjunctions, incompatibilities, etc., unlike the concrete operations of the previous involving mere additions or multiplications, but is not sufficient in and of itself to give rise to these operations.
Piaget poses that the psychological problem in the formation of propositional operations consists of determining how the subject passes from elementary concrete structures (classifications, serriations, etc.) to the structure of the 'lattice'. What distinguishes a lattice from a simple classification (such as zoological classifications, for example) is the intervention of combinatory operations. The question then is to ascertain whether language makes such combinatory operations possible or whether the operations evolve independently of language.
Piaget takes the position that a formal thought of this high order takes place independently of language and has nothing to do with the acquisition, emergence and evolution of language. When subjects are asked to combine three or four different colored discs according to all the combinations possible, up to eleven to twelve years the combinations remain incomplete. They are constructed unsystematically; after the above period the subjects manage to construct all the combinations and follow a complete and methodical system. Language is already there but the logical operations take their own time and follow their own schedule. Hence it is difficult indeed to conclude that this system is a product of language.
Thus we find that in the three domains, namely, symbolic function, concrete operations and propositional operations, language is not enough to explain the source of thought. In fact we find that symbolic functions and concrete operations do emerge before language is acquired and as for propositional operations, we find that even when language exists, the operations do not emerge until a particular age level. From Piaget's point of view we should seek to find roots for the structures that characterize thought only in action and in sensori-motor mechanisms which are deeper than language, which exist before language and even without it. Yet at the same time it is quite clear that the more the structures of thought are refined with the acquisition of transformations which constitute new sources of knowledge, the more the language necessary for the achievement of elaboration.
Language is found necessary for the construction of logical operations on two important counts. The symbolic expression, that is language, elevates the logical operations from the personal level to the inter-personal plane. Language enables the successive actions of logical operations to get integrated into simultaneous systems, encompassing a set of interdependent transformations. The symbolic condensation and social regulation that characterize a language are indispensable for the elaboration of thought. Hence language and thought should be considered as 'linked in a genetic cycle where each necessarily leans on the other in interdependent formation and continuous reciprocation. In the last analysis, both depend on intelligence itself which antedates language and independent of it.
2.5.10. Additional Remarks on Piaget's Work
Piaget's work is an excellent hypothetico-deductive work on language, thought and logical operations. Its merit lies in the painstaking observation of the context, of the entire field in which the child is left to pursue his own course. Piaget and his colleagues make note of each and every movement the child makes, and each and every dynamic event or object in the field. Everything is noted without prejudice to their possible relevance to the hypothesis on hand. A careful analysis of these observations helps the investigator to build his theory bit by bit. Without such an all-comprehensive and exhaustive observation it would have been indeed difficult to arrive at paraphrasing skills. Paraphrasing is a complex skill usually refined and made more explicit through conscious education. Understanding an utterance when uttered may be different from demonstrating this understanding through matching with paraphrased materials. And yet the study of proverbs offers an excellent linguistic tool to study the phenomenon of syncretism, and the genius of Piaget exploits this tool admirably.
2.6. Vygotsky on Thought, Concept and Language
2.6.1. Vygotsky's Approach
A different yet stimulating approach is presented by a Russian Psychologist Lev Semonovich Vygotsky. He finds that although speech and thought emerge from different roots they have a close correspondence and this correspondence is not found in other animals. The problem is to identify how these two merge to make man what he is, as an adult.
We can have two extreme views on the relationship between language and thought. It may be an identification view, which posits a complete fusion of thought and language. Or it may be a total disjunction or segregation of languages and thought. To what purpose should we study the relationship between language and thought if they are one and the same? And the relationship arising from disjunction and segregation would only be a mechanical external relationship rather than intricate relations between language and thought demanded by the pre-linguistic phase of thought and pre-intellectual development of speech. For psychologists concede the existence of a pre-linguistic phase in the use of thought and a pre-intellectual phase in the use of speech.
There is a vast gulf, in Vygotsky's terminology a dialect leap not only between total absence of consciousness (in inanimate matter) and sensation but also between sensation and thought. This gulf is created by the generalized reflection of reality in thought. This generalized reflection of reality is exhibited through words in that a word is used not to refer to a single object but to a group or a class of objects. A word as a linguistic sign is not tied down to the same specific object. There is no primary bond between thought and word at first instance. A connection is made, which changes and grows in the course of evolution of thinking and speech. This connection results in the emergence of word as the unit of verbal thought.
Word represents an integral combination of sound and meaning. In acquiring the speech the child starts from one word and connects two or three words. He advances from simple sentences to complicated ones and finally to a coherent speech consisting of series of sentences. Thus he adopts the strategy of proceeding from the part to the whole in the acquisition of external speech. When we look at the phenomenon from the meaning point of view, the single word utterance of a child forms a whole sentence with full meaning.
The child begins to differentiate between the meanings of words, sentences etc., as he proceeds from this amorphous whole. The external and the semantic aspects of speech develop in opposite directions. One starts from the particular to the whole, from word to sentence, and the other from the whole to the particular, from sentence to word. When the child's thought becomes more differentiated, he does not express the same in single words but begins to construct a composite whole. In this attempt progress in speech helps the child's thoughts to progress from a homogeneous whole to well defined parts.
Vygotsky is aware and critical of Piaget's position. In fact he devotes considerable energy to explain and elucidate Piaget's position. Piaget considers that an adult thinks socially even when he is alone and child under seven thinks and speaks egocentrically even in the society of others.
The desire/motivation to work with others manifests itself around the age of seven or eight and with this egocentric talk begins to subside. But Vygotsky does not agree to the position that egocentric speech is merely a milestone; it does not fulfill any realistically useful function in evolving the later day thought processes and simply subsides when the child approaches a particular age. Instead, he suggests that egocentric speech is not just an accompaniment to child's activity.
Egocentric speech becomes an instrument not only of expression and release of tension but also in seeking and planning the solution of a problem. Egocentric speech should be considered a transitional stage in the evolution from vocal to inner speech. Support for this stand comes from the fact that there is a close correspondence between the egocentric speech of preschool children, and the mental operations of the school child.
The older children often examine the problem or situation in silence and then find a solution. When asked about what they were doing (when confronted with the problem) we get answers quite close to the thinking aloud of the preschool children. Then the mental operations that a preschool child carries through the egocentric speech are carried through silent inner speech by the school children. The functions of the egocentric speech are already relegated to the soundless inner speech. The inner speech of the child has the same functions in that child's inner speech is not socialized and would be difficult to understand as the child omits to mention what is obvious to the speaker.
The child continues to think for himself. When the egocentric speech subsides, it does not simply disappear but goes underground. When this change takes place we find children facing a difficult task, sometimes resort to egocentric speech and sometimes to silent reflection. It is Vygotsky's hypothesis that the processes of inner speech develop and become stabilized approximately at the beginning of school age and that this causes the quick drop in egocentric speech at that stage. The child begins to develop abstraction from vocalized egocentric speech.
2.6.2. Vygotsky's Stages of Development of Thought
The scheme of development suggested by Vygotsky is different from the scheme of development we find elsewhere. Vygotsky posits social speech as the first stage after which the egocentric speech develops and which then changes into inner speech. As we have seen earlier Piaget's general position is from nonverbal autistic thought to egocentric thought and speech to socialized speech and logical thinking. Vygotsky's position refutes the schema of vocal speech, whisper and inner speech totally.
Vygotsky's major premise is that the primary function of speech in both children and adult is communication, social contact. Hence the earliest speech of the child is also essentially social. Its early global and multifunctional character gets differentiated, leading to a sharp division of speech into egocentric and communicative types at one stage. The egocentric speech makes its appearance when the child transfers his social forms of behaviour to the sphere of inner-psychic functions. The child thinks aloud.
This thinking aloud, egocentric speech, leads to inner speech, serving both autistic and logical thinking. In Vygotsky's view, autism is a result of the differentiation and polarization of the various functions of thought. Autistic thought is a later development, thinking in concepts. It gives a degree of autonomy from reality and permits satisfaction in fantasy of needs frustrated in life.
A crucial suggestion which will be of immediate concern to present day linguists is Vygotsky's assertion that non-human beings are incapable of speech in its real sense. He recognizes that the medium of sounds is not what decides language. It is the use of signs that makes a system to qualify as a language. Animal's inability to speak has not much to do with their improper voice box but is due to their non-use of signs. There is a coincidence of sound production with gestures in animals endowed with voice. Man also has this characteristic. But in animals intense vocal reactions do not allow a simultaneous intellectual operation as in man. Further voice is used for emotional release as well as for psychological contact with others.
However, this effort at emotional release or psychological contact is not connected with intellectual reactions. This effort is not intentional and is not used in any way to influence others. Thus even the existing "speech" of animals occurs without having any connection with their thought process. That animals, at least anthropoids, have pre-speech thought is revealed by the inventions of apes in making and using tools, or in finding detours for the solution of problems.
From the phylogenetic point of view Vygotsky formulates the following: Thought and speech (if we call the voice of animals as speech) have different genetic roots. The two functions develop along different lines and independently of each other. There is no clear-cut and constant function among them. Anthropoids display an intellect somewhat like mans in certain respects (the embryonic use of tools) and a language somewhat like man's in totally different respects (the phonetic aspect of their speech, its release function, the beginnings of a social function). The close correspondence between thought and speech characteristic of man is absent in anthropoids. In the phylogeny of thought and speech, a pre-linguistic phase in the development of thought and a pre-intellectual phase in the development of speech are clearly discernible.
On the ontogenetic level also we find two different genetic roots. The existence of a pre-speech phase of thought development is supported by the evidence of thinking involved in the use of tools. The child is capable of comprehending mechanical connections and of devising mechanical means to mechanical ends. The action is performed in a conscious and purposeful manner before the appearance of speech.
The pre-intellectual roots of speech are supported by the fact that child's early speech of babbling, crying and even his first words are predominantly an emotional form of behaviour. But the most interesting and important feature is that at about the age of two, thought and speech till then separate begin to join to form a new kind of behaviour. At this instant speech begins to serve intellect and thought.
An indication towards this is found in child's sudden, active curiosity about words, and his questions such as what is this. He tries to learn the signs attached to objects. There is a sudden rapid increase in his vocabulary also. The child feels the need for words and seems to have realized the symbolic function of words. Prior to this stage, the word is taken only as an attribute of the object rather than as a sign. The child grasps the internal relation sign-referent after he grasps the external structure, object-word. At this stage, speech which was so far affective-cognitive enters the intellectual phase, facilitating the meeting of the lines of speech and thought development. Thus the speech becomes rational and thought verbal.
Verbal thought does not include all forms of thought or all forms of speech. A vast area of thought has nothing to do with speech. Likewise a vast area of speech has nothing to do with thought. Thought and speech should be considered only as two intersecting circles. We have given examples of pre-intellectual speech and pre-linguistic thought. In the adults, thinking manifested in the use of tools does not usually have anything to do with speech. Thought can function without any detectable speech movement. No direct correspondence is there between inner speech and the subject's tongue or larynx movements. Speech prompted by emotion is an example of speech without thought. Actually we have phrases such as thoughtless speech in every language.
Yet the vast area of verbal thought is the corner stone of scheme of thinking in human beings. The speech and mental operations involving the use of signs follow the same course of development. Vygotsky identifies four stages in their development. The first is the primitive stage of pre-linguistic thought and pre-intellectual speech.
The second stage is called naive psychology. The child is exposed to his own body and to the objects around him. This experience is applied to the use of tools. This is when the child's practical intelligence emerges. At this stage the child acquires the correct use of grammatical forms and structures, although he does not understand the logical operations for which the forms and structures stand. He is capable of using expressions such as because, if, when and but, before he acquires causal, conditional or temporal relations.
In the third stage he distinguishes external signs and external operations used as aids in the solution of internal problems. He counts on his fingers and resorts to mnemonic aids. In this stage he enters the egocentric speech stage.
The fourth and final stage is the "ingrowth" stage. In this stage the external operations turn inward. The child would start counting in his mind and is in a position to manipulate logical memory, to operate with inherent relationships and inner signs. This stage sees the final stage of inner, soundless speech. A constant interaction is established between outer and inner operations. One form changes effortlessly and frequently into the other. In essence "inner speech develops through a slow accumulation of functional and structural changes; it branches off from the child's external speech simultaneously with the differentiation of the social and egocentric functions of speech. Speech structures mastered by the child become the basic structures of his thinking."
Vygotsky suggests that thought development is determined by language, by the linguistic tools of thought and by sociocultural experience of the child. The development of inner speech depends upon the development of logic in the child. And the development of logic in the child is a direct function of his socialized speech. "The child's intellectual growth is contingent on his mastering the social means of thought, that is, language."
Vygotsky suggests that the development of inner speech and of verbal thought must not be taken as a simple continuation of the roots of speech and thought which spring from different sources, because the nature of the development itself changes from biological to sociohistorical. Verbal thought, as mentioned earlier, is conditioned by the growth and development of logic and by the, development of socialized speech. The growth and development of verbal thought is subject to the premises of historical materialism.
2. 6. 3. Concept formation
Vygotsky's chief contribution lies in the study of concept formation by children. He recognizes that the sensory material and the word are indispensable parts of concept formation. Hence neither the investigations of concept formation through the elicitation of verbal definitions of concepts from the children nor the investigation of the same from the associationist point of view characterizes the problem correctly.
Essentially concept formation is a creative process and a concept emerges and takes shape when solution to a problem is sought. A concept is never formed and internalized through memorizing words and connecting them with objects. A child is capable of grasping a problem and visualizing the goal it sets at an early stage in his development. This leads the child to develop functional equivalents of concepts. These functional equivalents of concepts are however, radically different from those of adults and the form of thought that he uses in dealing with these tasks differ from adults' in their composition, structure and mode of operation.
The crux of the problem is the acquisition of signs which are the central part of the total process. In concept formation, the sign is the word which at first plays the role of means in forming a concept and later becomes its symbol. As regards maturity in formation and manipulation of concepts the processes begin early but then ripen, take shape and develop only at puberty. Until puberty the child forms and manipulates functional and not genuine concepts. Vygotsky finds that these functional concepts (to be detailed below) stand in the same relationship to true concepts as the embryo to the fully formed organism. If we equate these two, we would be ignoring the definitive and lengthy developmental processes between the two.
Another factor shall also be considered while characterizing the processes of concept formation and the thought processes. The presence of the problem itself is not the cause of the process that leads to concept formation. The socic-cultural tasks set by the society interact with the developmental dynamics and lead to the formation of intrinsic forms between them. This coupled with the acquisition and understanding of the relations between signs through the use of word, becomes the immediate psychological cause of radical change in the intellectual process that we find in the threshold of adolescence. Vygotsky asserts that 'learning to direct one's own mental process with the aid of words of signs is an integral part of the process of concept formation. The ability to regulate one's actions by using auxiliary means reaches its full development only in adolescence.
2.6.4. Vygotsky's Three Phases in Concept Formation
Vygotsky identifies (1962: 59) three phases in concept formation, each phase having several stages in its turn. We may call the first phase as syncretic phase in which children put together objects which do not have any inherent relationship in unorganized 'heaps'. These heaps show an undirected extension of the meaning. Word meaning at this stage is a vague syncretic conglomeration of individual objects, a merger of the most diverse elements into one image, obtained through change impressions and because of this, the syncretic relationship is unstable. Many words, however, have in part the same meaning to the child and adult, especially words referring to concrete objects and this suffices to ensure mutual understanding between children and adults.
There are three distinct stages noticeable in the first phase. The first is the manifestation of the trial and error, in which additions are made at random to the group and deletions from the group made when the guess is proven wrong and found unworkable. In the second stage the children are guided by their immediate perception of relationships between objects in terms of contiguity in space, time or some other more complex relationship. As a result of the influence of immediate perception, a syncretic organization of the visual field comes into existence. In the third stage, advancement is made in terms of classification of the syncretic image. The children begin to combine elements taken from different heaps, although such a combination of elements leads only to the formation of additional unorganized heaps. The relationships that are perceived between objects of the heaps continue to be subjective.
The second phase in concept formation is thinking in complexes. Subjective impressions of children about the bonds existing between objects continue but at the same time they begin to see the bonds actually existing between objects. At this stage the children partly outgrow egocentricism and are capable of distinguishing between their own subjective impressions and the actuality. The abstract and logical operations are, however, yet to blossom and the relationships of objects remain factual. The factually present connections lead to the inclusion of a given element into a complex, 'while a concept groups objects according to one attribute, the bonds relating the elements of a complex to the whole and to one another may be as diverse as the contacts and relationships of the elements are in reality'.
There are five types of complexes which occur one after the other. Associative-type of complex is formed when the child notices a bond between the sample object and any other object. There need be no consistency in this regard in the sense that what prompts the child to group one object with the sample object need not be used for grouping another object with the sample object. If colour is the basis for the clubbing of an object with the sample object, additions to the group need not be restricted to this criterion but can be extended on the similarity of shape or for that matter on the basis of any bond that the child may visualize between the sample and another object.
The second type consists of collections-placing of objects together on the basis of differing traits of objects. A principle of contrast and complementation seems to be at work here. Collections are made in such a fashion that the objects comprising the collection contrast with each other in some attributes. But here again consistency is not maintained in that a trait chosen for contrast is soon given up in preference to another. No definite reason is deducible for such waywardness. But soon experience teaches the child to go in for functional sets: cup, saucer, and spoon, etc. Thus the relationships between objects noticed in practical experience characterize the collection type.
Next comes the chain complex type which is a "dynamic, consecutive joining the individual links into a single chain, with meaning carried over from one link to the next." The child starts with the grouping of objects on a single trait but soon comes to group objects on the basis of another trait. As a result we have subgroups within a group, each having a central trait and each trait having some link with the other. But the group as a whole has no central significance. No single trait is abstracted from the rest, and given a pivot role as in the full-fledged formation of a concept.
The fluidity of the relation that exists between objects in the chain complex leads to the next type called diffuse complex. In this complex objects are united by indefinite, indeterminate and fluid connections. The child picks up trapezoids after picking up triangles, perhaps on the assumption that the trapezoid is but a triangle without its top and so on.
The last type is called pseudo-concept type. The child arrives at a generalization which is almost like a concept. The child may have grouped the objects into a homogeneous and consistent group on a seemingly single trait. Yet the child is not in a position to put this idea into operation when the problem is repeated. If we give a yellow triangle as the sample, the child picks out all the triangles in the experimental/material; he seems to have been guided by the general idea of concept of a triangle. However, experimental analysis shows that in reality the child is guided by the concrete, visible likeness and has formed only an associative complex limited to a certain kind of perceptual bond. Even when the results are identical, the process by which they are reached is not at all the same as in conceptual thinking. This is a transitional link between thinking in complexes and real concept formation.
In actual contexts where the child grows with adult language, the development of complexes is conditioned by and predetermined by the adult speech meanings. The generalizations will be guided by the adult speech. The child has no direct access to adult's thought processes but be is left with the words of adult speech around which his own complexes of thought processes generally develop. Pseudo concept complex and real concept are misunderstood by many as one and the same, but there is a functional equivalence between them.
There is coincidence of meanings in adult and child's speech. There is large mutual understanding between adult and child. However, the similarities should not make us to conclude that all forms of adult intellectual activity are already present in embryo in child thinking and that no drastic change occurs at the age of puberty. For, the concept is not provided ready, and the pseudo-concept does not help the child in the repetition of operations. The pseudoconcept is only a connecting link towards the ascent to real concepts.
Vygotsky finds support and evidence for thinking by complexes in the acquisition of language itself in the processes by which meanings of words are acquired and changed in course of time. We distinguish between meaning and referent in linguistics. Calcutta and the biggest city of India may refer to the same referent, but the words constituting the biggest city of India have 'meaning' of their own. There can also be identity of referent combined with divergence of meaning as in the case of synonyms. These words may have been arrived at through two or more different thought processes one word emphasizing one aspect and another a different aspect.
Transfers of meaning act exactly in the same way as thinking in complexes. In Russian the word Sutki has the meaning 'day and night'. This word originally meant a seam, the junction of two pieces of cloth. Later it came to be used for any junction; then for twilight where day and night meet. Finally it came to mean the time from one twilight to the next, the 24-hour stretch. Likewise a child incorporates different things into a group on the basis of concrete imagery.
The naming process in language also is governed by complexes. Most of the time, objects are named after their non-essential attributes. As such the name does not fully characterize the concept - the name is always too broad or too narrow. The history of naming objects in languages reveals a "ceaseless struggle between conceptual thought and the heritage of primitive thinking in complexes." The primary word does not serve as a straightforward symbol for a concept but as an image, a picture, and a mental sketch of a concept. This pictorial concept is linked with other objects in a group.
The third phase of concept formation enables us to abstract and single out elements. This abstracted element can be viewed apart from the totality of concrete experience which led to the concept formation. The genuine concept formation is revealed when the child is able to unite and/or to separate abstracted elements.
This third phase consists of several stages. In the first stage the child groups together the maximally similar objects. In the next stage of the development of abstraction, the grouping of objects on the basis of maximum similarity is superseded by grouping on the basis of a single attribute. These traits are stable and these form the potential concepts. There is similarity between potential concepts and thinking in complexes in that single elements are abstracted in both the cases. However, the abstracted elements change frequently in thinking by complexes whereas in thinking by potential concepts the abstracted elements are stable. The mastery of abstraction in conjunction with child's ability to think in advanced complexes detailed above enables the child to acquire genuine concepts. A concept is a concept only when the abstracted elements can be synthesized anew. The synthesis thus achieved becomes an instrument of thought and its successful operation.
2.6.5. The Adolescent and Concept Formation
The study of the intellectual processes of adolescents indicate that the primitive, syncretic and complex forms of thinking give place to potential concepts which in their turn make room for the emergence and use of genuine concepts. But the formation of concepts does not come to an end at this age. In actuality, the giving up of potential concepts in preference to genuine concepts is only a beginning.
The adolescent continues to operate with the elementary forms and with thinking in complexes. Adolescence, as to be expected from a study of concomitant factors, is not a period of completion but only a period of crisis and transition. The adolescent is able to form and use a concept correctly in a concrete situation. He still has difficulty to express that concept in words. The verbal definition of the concept given by an adolescent will be narrower than the manner in which he has used the concept. This is not exclusively found in the adolescents only. At one time or other the adult exhibits this discrepancy. Vygotsky takes this phenomenon as the confirmation of his assumption that concepts evolve in ways differing from deliberate conscious elaboration of experience in logical terms and that analysis of reality with the help of concepts precedes analysis of the concepts themselves.
There are several obstacles an adolescent encounters in the application of concepts he has acquired. He must be able to transfer the application of a concept acquired in a situation to a new set of contexts in a different set of configuration. He should also be able to define a concept acquired in a concrete situation and to use it in an entirely abstract plane. The greatest difficulty lies in the manipulation of reversibility. The use of acquired concept and its abstracted element in a concrete situation again will pose problems and these problems should be overcome to conclude that a genuine concept is formed. In the final analysis, Vygotsky finds concept formation "as a movement of thought within the pyramid of concepts, constantly alternating between two directions, from the particulars to the general, and from the general to the particular."
2.6.6. Spontaneous and Scientific Concepts
Vygotsky distinguishes between spontaneous and scientific concepts. The latter concepts are obtained through conscious effort mainly achieved by instruction. However, the developmental processes of spontaneous and scientific concepts are related and they influence each other. A concept and its acquisition should be looked at from the point of view of a system. One becomes conscious of a concept and uses it with deliberate control only when it is a part of the system. Consciousness is generalization and generalization leads to formation of superordinate concept which includes the given concept as a particular case.
Thus there is a hierarchy of concepts with different levels of generalization. The conscious concepts or scientific concepts are acquired in school in relation to some other concept already in existence; the child lacks conscious awareness of relationships in spontaneous concepts. He handles the relationships correctly in an unreflective manner. He is able to understand the meaning of the word, because, in the sentence, He won't go to school because he is sick, but unable to identify the causation. In the place of causation he substitutes the consequence.
2.6.7. Speech and Writing
The relationship between scientific and spontaneous concepts should be viewed from the relation of school instruction to the mental development of the child. Vygotsky finds that the development of the psychological foundations for instruction in areas such as writing does not precede instruction but unfolds in a continuous inter-action with the contributions of instruction. The development of writing is conscious and is thus non-spontaneous. The difficulty faced by the child in acquiring writing should not be taken as due to inability to manipulate muscles. The source of difficulty should be sought in deeper reasons.
Written language differs from oral language in structure and mode of functioning. Even the minimal development of writing requires a high level of abstraction. The child disengages himself in a second degree of symbolization. The acquisition of oral speech by itself is the acquisition of signs. The acquisition of writing is a step further and the child must now transfer the symbolization he acquired in the process of speech acquisition to written language. Vygotsky compares this to the acquisition of algebra which is harder than arithmetic. Thus, the difficulty a child faces in the acquisition of writing should be ascribed to the inherent abstract quality of writing and to child's unpreparedness to appreciate and acquire this inherent abstract quality.
Added to the above problem is the fact that writing needs no interlocutor. This is a new and strange situation to the child. In speech the child is governed by his immediate need and the dynamic situation in which the speech is carried out helps the child to understand the motives of interlocutors. Writing is far removed from his immediate needs. Here we have to create the situation, and to represent it to ourselves. This requires detachment from the actual situation, for which the child is not yet ready.
Writing is conscious because deliberate analytical action is demanded on the part of the child. The discrete nature of linguistic units should be appreciated consciously when the child learns writing. He must recognize the sound structure of each word, dissect it and reproduce it in alphabetical symbols, which he must have studied and memorized before. This same deliberate preparedness is needed to put words in a certain sequence to form a sentence.
2.6.8. Speech, Written Language and Inner Speech
Another feature we must notice is the relation that exists between speech and inner speech on the one hand and written language and inner speech on the other. It is obvious that inner speech follows speech, whereas the written language follows inner speech. Actually written language presupposes the existence of inner speech, as the act of writing implies a translation from inner speech.
Vygotsky suggests that the syntax of inner speech is the exact opposite of the syntax of Written speech, with oral speech standing in the middle. There is still another difference between inner speech and written language in that in the inner speech the subject of thought is always known to the thinker, whereas in the written language the situation must be explained in full in order to be intelligible. This requires an ability to abstract and as in the earlier case this ability is not readily available to the child.
The above analysis of the differences between oral speech and written language holds good for several other areas including the conscious acquisition of techniques of grammatical analysis. In essence, the child's development lacks abstraction and this lack of abstraction and analytic operation explains any difficulty the child may face in the acquisition of conscious concepts.
The child's overcoming these difficulties indicates not only the relevance of instruction but also the process which unfolds along with development. Even on the temporal relation between the processes of instruction and the development of the corresponding psychological functions, Vygotsky finds that instruction usually precedes development. The child is made to acquire certain habits and skills in a given area before he comes to apply them consciously and deliberately.
The scientific concepts acquired through instruction in different subjects act as one complex process and do not stand separately. They interact with each other, each facilitating the learning of others. The same holds good even for the relationship between scientific and spontaneous everyday concepts. We found that the scientific concepts are acquired much earlier than the developmental schedule. Such acquisition helps bring in clarity and quality in the acquisition of everyday spontaneous concepts.
2.6.9. Foreign Language Acquisition
Vygotsky likens the influence of scientific concepts on the mental development of the child to the effect of learning of a foreign language. Foreign language acquisition is conscious and deliberate from the start. This presupposes some awareness of phonetic, grammatical and syntactic forms. In the acquisition of foreign languages the higher forms develop before spontaneous, fluent speech, which is the reverse of what we find in the acquisition of native language.
The child conjugates and declines correctly, but without realizing it. He cannot tell the gender, the case, or the tense of the word he is using. In a foreign language he distinguishes between masculine and feminine gender and is conscious of grammatical forms from the beginning. The child transfers to the new language the system of meanings he already possesses in his own. The reverse also is true - a foreign language facilitates mastering the higher forms of the native language.
The child learns to see his language as one particular system among many, to review its phenomena under more general categories, and this leads to awareness of his linguistic operations. Likewise the acquisition of scientific concepts through instruction enables the child to look at his non-conscious, day to day concepts from a new angle. Vygotsky asserts "concepts do not lie in the child's mind like peas in a bag, without any bonds between them. If that were the case intellectual operation-requiring coordination of thoughts would not be possible, not any general conception of the world. Not even separate concepts as such could exist. Their very nature presupposes a system.
2.6.10. The Law of Equivalence of Concepts
The development of word meanings at a higher level is governed by the law of equivalence of concepts. This law states that any concept can be formulated in terms of their concepts in a countless number of ways. "One" for instance may be expressed as 1000 minus 999 or in general, as the difference between any two consecutive numbers, or as any number divided by itself, and in a myriad of other ways. This is a pure example of equivalence of concepts. The higher levels of equivalence and generality of concepts help a child to remember thoughts independently of words.
2.6.11. Some General Remarks on Piaget and Vygotaky
Piaget and Vygotsky present two basic and representative approaches found among psychologists. These approaches seem to run counter to each other, especially when Piaget proposes socialization after individualization and Vygotsky proposes individualization before socialization. These approaches do not exhaust all the available ones. Particularly interest in Vygotsky outside the former Soviet Bloc is not really much.
Furthermore, the traditionalist controversy between centralist and peripheralist positions are not at all dealt with in our chapter. These differences relate mainly to the neurophysiological treatment of the problem, the centralist holding the position that brain events constitute thinking and the peripheralist holding the position that it is the execution of the receptors and the consequent neural impulse that are crucial in thinking.
In other words, the peripheralist demands responses to arrive at a solution, whereas the centralist does not. The developmentalists like Piaget and Vygotsky seek an explanation through an interaction of socio-cultural and historical processes with mental operations. The diligent reader interested in pursuing an analysis through the neurophysiological mechanism is recommended to wade through McGuigan (1966).
2.7. Linguistic Relativity and Reality
2.7.1. Some General Remarks
Earlier in this chapter we presented ideas of linguists on the inter-relationship between language and thinking. We did not, however, present a stimulating and a controversial linguistic approach to thinking in relation to reality through language. This approach is called Whorfian or more appropriately Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of linguistic relativity.
Thinking is a covert process, sometimes independent of language; many a time expressed and carried through language. When language is the most important medium of thinking, when we find that thought can be enriched, sharpened, and transmitted through the use of language, and when the concepts which are elements of thought are closely linked with the verbal unit, word, and when thought is but a conceptualization of reality, it is but natural that there is intricate relation between language and reality.
Sapir was more explicit in recognizing and asserting that our perception of the world around us and even our thought processes are influenced, controlled and guided by the native language we speak. Human beings, according to Sapir, are very much at the mercy of the particular language which is the medium of expression for their society. Nobody adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language. Language is not an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection. No human being lives in an objective world alone but in a world unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group to which an individual belongs. Our experience of the world around us is what it is because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation.
2.7.2. Whorf on Relativity and Reality
In his writings on linguistic relativity (Whorf 1956), Benjamin Lee Whorf, a chemical engineer-turned fire insurance agent, turned a great exponent of linguistics, took to investigate the inter-relation between language, thought and reality. The theory of linguistic relativity which is bow the Whorfian hypothesis is characterized, states in essence that all higher levels of thinking in human beings are dependent on language and that the structure of language one habitually uses influences the manner in which one understands his environment.
In the course of his work as an insurance agent, Whorf found that many fire accidents which could have been easily averted took place because of certain linguistic assumptions of the individuals involved in these accidents. In a storage of gasoline drums the people tended to be cautious and to refrain from smoking or tossing cigarettes about, whereas in a storage of "empty" gasoline drums, which was more dangerous than the former ones, people tended to be slack. And this had resulted in serious accidents.
For Whorf the underlying linguistic system, namely the grammar of a language, should not be considered a mere reproducing instrument for voicing ideas. The underlying linguistic system of a language is the shaper of ideas. It is the program and guide for the individual's mental activity. The formulation of ideas is not an independent activity but is related closely to the particular grammar. The ideas are organized by the linguistic systems in our minds We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe significance as we do, largely because we are parties to an agreement to organize it in this way--an agreement that holds throughout our speech community and is codified in the patterns of our language. The agreement is, of course, an implicit and unstated one, BUT ITS TERMS ARE ABSOLUTELY OBLIGATORY; we cannot talk at all except by subscribing to the organization and classification of data which the agreement decrees. (Whorf 1956: 212-14).
Whorf poses two important questions:
Whorf finds that for the first question the answer is that we are indeed conditioned by the language we habitually use. As regards the second question he finds quite a bit of traceable affinities between cultural and behavioural norms and large-scale linguistic patterns.
A comparison of European languages and Hopi, an American Indian language, brings to the fore the wide gap that exists between the categorization of events in these languages. In European languages plurality and cardinal numbers are applied to real plurals and imaginary plurals. That is, we can have expressions such as ten men as well ten days.
The first is a perceptible spatial aggregate and the second is a metaphorical aggregate. The latter is extended to the concept of cyclicity or times in expressions such as ten steps forward, ten strokes on a bell. In all the cases, we look from the quantity point of view and the whole thing is objectified. In Hopi, there is no imaginary plural. Pluralization is restricted only to those which can be objectified. The length of the time is regarded as a relation between two events in lateness.
In European languages we have individual nouns which denote bodies with definite outlines such as a tree, a stick and a man; we have mass nouns. But in Hopi all nouns have an individual sense and both singular and plural forms. A Hopi says not a glass of water, but a water, not a piece of meat but a meat.
European languages objectify terms such as summer, winter, September, morning, noon, and sunset. We can use them as subjects or objects and they can form expression such as at sunset, in winter. In Hopi all phase terms like summer, morning, form a formal part of speech by themselves, distinct from nouns, verbs and even other Hopi adverbs, giving the meaning when it is morning or while morning-phase is occurring. One never says it is a hot summer or summer is hot; summer is only when conditions are hot, when heat occurs. One says summer now and not this summer. The three tense system of the European languages is conspicuous by its absence in Hopi.
In Hopi verbs have no tenses like the European languages, but have other forms which specify the event more clearly. A form denotes that the speaker (not the subject) reports the situation (present and past. Another form denotes that he expects it (future), etc. The aspects are used to indicate different degrees of duration and different kinds of tendency during duration. There is no objectification of time as in the European languages.
The European languages express duration, intensity and tendency through metaphors of size, number (plurality), position, shape, and motion. Duration is expressed as long, short, great; much, quick, slow, etc., intensity as large, great, much, heavy, light, high, low, sharp, faint, etc., tendency as more, increase, grow, turn, get, approach, go, come, rise, fall, stop, smooth, even rapid slow. This is a part of the scheme of objectifying indulged in by the European languages.
In Hopi such metaphor is absent. Hopi does not use space terms when there is no space involved. However, Hopi has abundant conjugational and lexical means of expressing duration, intensity, and tendency directly as such. The major grammatical patterns do not lend themselves for analogies for an imaginary space. This is a huge class of words, denoting only intensity, tendency duration and sequence. The intensities, strengths, their continuity, and variation and their rate of change, distinctions of degree, rate, constancy, repetition, increase and decrease of intensity, immediate sequence, interruption or sequence, after an interval, etc., and also "QUALITIES of strengths, such as we should express metaphorically as smooth, even hard, rough." Hopi does not use any terms in these cases that would resemble each other as we find in European languages. Thus Hopi in its nouns is highly concrete, whereas in the use of tenses "it becomes abstract almost beyond our power to follow."
The comparison, according to Whorf, is a proof that the same physical evidence does not lead to the same picture of the universe, unless the linguistic backgrounds of the viewers are similar. Or the linguistic backgrounds can be calibrated in some manner. The "strange" expressions conveyed through 'strange' grammatical categories are related clearly to the habitual thought of Hopis. Whorf suggests that European languages analyze reality largely in terms of what they call things (bodies and quasibodies) plus modes of extensional but formless existence. The Hopi language on the other hand seems to analyze reality largely in terms of "events, or better, eventing," objectively and subjectively.
A Hopi looks at reality the way his language enables him in a predetermined manner. His serialization of events and things are governed by the categories available to him in his language, which are different from those available in the European languages. Thus we find that different systems of rationalization are in operation in different groups of languages.
2.7.3. A Brief Critique of Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
The theory of linguistic relativity has kindled stimulated thinking and discussion in linguistics and psychology. The interest and attention bestowed upon this theory by linguists, psychologists and even lay public show interest in the eternal mystery of our own being and our skepticism and uncertainty about the way we go about categorizing the universe and judging others, objects and events. A theory such as the one propounded by Whorf runs through every culture as lay belief. But these lay beliefs were not to be taken seriously, until Whorf's demonstration of differences of grammatical categories, etc., in diverse language in relation to differences in the way the universe is conceived.
Yet the theory, however fascinating, could not get hundred percent approval from linguists and psychologists. In fact the current thinking in linguistics and psychology has deduced evidence to disprove it at least partly. First there can be no two opinions about the importance of language as a system of signs in shaping and enriching thought processes and in the categorization of universe.
There can be no two opinion also about the importance of language as a socio-cultural and historical vehicle of communication of a specific community in providing, guiding, shaping and sharpening the concepts of the categories of universe. But the question should be looked at from the point of view as to whether a human can transcend the supposed barriers set supposedly by the language of his habitual thought and acquire concepts of different nature such as the ones of Whorf quoted above. Further if every difference between languages is to be considered as reflecting differences in the categorization of universe, communication between communities should be just not possible. It is found that in some languages qualifiers occur after the qualified, in some before the qualified and in several others in both ways. There are several other characteristics such as the one we have in Hindi for specifying the gender of even inanimate objects. Do these lead to any difference in the compartmentalization of the universe?
In English, we have expressions such as the following. I lost my book; My book is lost; The book is lost, An agent is implied in all such cases. The episode can be expressed as though the object got lost by itself in Tamil. No agent is required. Does it mean that in the former case the speakers have perceived that an inanimate cannot get lost by itself, etc., and that in the latter case the speakers have perceived that inanimate objects behave like animate ones?
Another objection stems from recent preoccupation of linguists with the universals of language. The universals of language are conceived not only from the linguistic point of view but also from an extrapolation of biological factors. Existing information on diversity of language indicates that the diversity is rather marginal.
Apart from the above, the experimental evidence in studies of relationship between language and cognition is against the acceptance of the theory of linguistic relativity. Brown and Lenneberg (1954) while questioning the Whorfian assumption that the world is differently experienced and conceived in different linguistic communities and that language is causally related to these psychological differences find that nonavailability of words for phenomena is no indication that the speaker is unable to perceive the differences.
A subject may be able to distinguish two situations perfectly well and yet he need not care to do anything about it. One might say that more namable categories are nearer the top of the cognitive deck. They suggest that increased frequency of perceptual categorization means a generally greater availability of that category and that is why the Eskimo distinguishes his three kinds of snow more often than Americans do.
Brown and Lenneberg point out that Whorf's assumption that structural categories are symbolic categories is not borne out by linguistic investigations. As we mentioned earlier grammatical categories in many cases such as grammatical gender do not seem to signify anything to the speakers. It is true that languages can cause a cognitive structure. This is because language is a sign system. For communication to become feasible members of a community adopt common conventions and to that extent they share a common view of the world. Brown and Lenneberg compare life to a river, and speech to a babbling brook whose course parallels that of the river. The babbling brook is a guide to the structure of the more complex but also more interesting river.
Speakers of languages differ from each other in giving the names of various shades of colour. Even within a group of people speaking the same language this phenomenon is found to occur. This "cultural" difference introduces an important variable, codability, that is, certain colours are differentially coded in different languages. Linguistic evidence for this manifests in environmental distinctions expressed lexically in one language and word combinations in another language.
The Brown and Lenneberg Experiment aimed at discovering additional behavioural indices of codability with a view to exploring the behavioural consequences of differential availability of cognitive categories. Their experiment, on the recognition of colours showed that correlation between recognition and codability scores increase as the importance of storage in the recognition task increases. This is in agreement with the observation a linguist normally would make about the functional role of language as a sign system.
Brown and Lenneberg assert that 'if a single colour were exposed, removed, and then identified with minimal delay, subjects might retain some direct memory of the colour, perhaps as a visual image. In this situation discriminability would be a determinant of recognition but codability would not be. However, when the number of colours is increased and the interval period filled with activity, the importance of linguistic codability should increase.
The experimenters found that the differences in the English codability of colours are related to the differences in the recognition of these colours. But this does not in any way prove that language is the reason for recognition. Brown and Lenneberg go further: "If we may be permitted a guess it is that in the history of a culture the peculiar features of the language and thought of a people probably develop together. In the history of an individual born into a linguistic community the story is quite different. The patterned responses are all about him. They exist before he has the cognitive structure that will enable him to pattern his behaviour in the approved fashion. Simple exposure to speech will not shape anyone's mind. To the degree that the uncultivated individual is motivated to learn the language of a community to the degree that he uses its structure as a guide to reality, language can assume a formative role." We have as yet no reason to disagree with this view.
"Language, thought and reality as revealed through language" is a fascinating subject in all cultures. Thought is considered as a distinguishing mark of human beings. Carroll (1964) is a good introduction to the subject. Carroll (1953) also presents aspects of the problem. Burner, et al (1956), Humphrey (1951), Hunt (1962), Adams (1972), Furth (1966), and McGuigan (1966) present aspects of thinking and concept formation. Voss (1969) may be referred to for different mathematical models of thinking.
Hoijer (1954), Church (1961), and Brown (1958) present discussions of the Whorfian hypothesis of linguistic relativity. Several good and easy introductions are available for Piaget, particularly Boyle (1969), Almy (1966), Beard (1969) and Athey and Rubadean (1970).
3. 1. Some General Remarks
Language performance is a highly complex activity. The tongue and lips must make skilled movements and there must be highly coordinated muscular activity involving even areas which are not directly involved in the production of speech. The speech is performed so rapidly that we are not even aware of the process. But speech is more than Just a complex motor activity. It is also a complex mental activity which involves the acquisition of the language structures, associating words, objects and concepts and so on. The acquisition, storage and retrieval of language involve the Central Nervous System.
We will present here a sketch essay on the known structure of the Central Nervous System (CNS) and its role in the production and control of speech. We will present also certain important neuropsychological theories proposed as constructs of the process that underlie human behaviour. Then we will identify and describe pathologies of speech from the neurophysiological and linguistic background.
3. 2. Neurophysiology: A Network of Nerves
Our knowledge about the structure and functioning of the human nervous system and the brain continues to be scanty in spite of intense research activity in this area. We know now a great deal about the anatomy of the nervous system. We know also about the neuron which is the basis of the nervous system. But nothing in detail is known about how any one particular function is carried on in the nervous system; nor do we have answers to questions such as what happens in our brain when we are involved in language activity, how do we associate a word with an idea, and what is its neurological correspondence, how do we associate a word with an idea acquired long ago, what is the corresponding neural activity for the thought which occurs before we start speaking, what is the precise nature of the storage and retrieval system that must underlie language and all human behaviour.
The nervous system consists of billions of neurons which are interconnected. These neurons are the basis of the nervous system. The neuron is a living nerve cell. It is a small mass of protoplasm covered by a semi-permeable membrane. This membrane allows the materials essential for maintaining the cell's life to enter and the waste products to go out. The neurons have some features common to all of them. These include cell body, cell nucleus, the axon or nerve fibre, terminal arbor, dendrites and synapses. (See Fig. I). The cell body contains the cell nucleus.
|Fig. 1. A Typical Neuron|
|2. Cell Body|
|6. Terminal Arbor|
|7. Nerve Endings|
The axon is a fine filament which extends from the cell body and which can be even several feet long, as in the case of the axon from the spinal column to the muscles which control the movement of the toes. The axon has several side branches and these side branches terminate as the terminal arbor in a fine network of filaments. Dendrites are extensions that sprout from the cell body of a different neuron. Synapses are the junctions at which connections between neurons are made. The synaptic junctions are very important for the activity in one nerve cell to excite the neighboring cell.
Receptor cells are those cells which receive sensory information from their environment. These help in coding the information thus received into electrochemical pulses which are responded to by the effector cells. The fine surface membrane which covers the neuron maintains a difference in chemical constitution between the neuron's interior and exterior.
The interior of the axon contains a concentration of positively charged potassium ions. The cellular fluid through which the axon runs contains positively charged sodium ions. Negatively charged chlorine ions are present in both fluids. The neuron is stimulated strongly and this stimulation leads to a quick exchange of ions between the inside and outside of the surface membrane. A pulse of electrical activity passes along the axon. But energy is not transmitted from one point to another over the axon. It is only the local electrical activity that moves along the axon.
A neuron must be sufficiently stimulated for the impulse to be sent along the fibre. The stimulus thus sent must be increased to the neuron's threshold level. When the stimulus is sufficiently greater than the level of excitation the neuron sends a pulse along its axon. The shape and amplitude can be relatively independent of the intensity of~ the stimulus. We notice a refractory period, very minute indeed, but this refractory period is sufficient enough to avoid the production of a new pulse, regardless of how intense the stimulation is. This is an absolute refractory period. There is yet another refractory period slightly longer in which the neuron's threshold level will be higher than the normal level. Neurologists relate these intervals to the time necessary for the displaced ions to move back to where they were before the pulse occurred. Notice that this time gap is also necessary for the completion of an utterance. Note also that we have the phenomena in which the overlapping of utterances takes place.
The production of pulses by the neuron depends upon the intensity of the stimulus. There is a limit, however, on the number of pulses which a neuron can produce each second because of the refractory period. When the nerve fibre reaches its maximum rate, increase in stimulus activity can have no effect. Several fibres are fired even for hundred pulses per second. The diameter of the axon decides the velocity at which a pulse travels along a nerve fibre.
The large nerve fibres of human beings have a layer called the myelin sheath. (See Fig. 2). This sheath is a fatty substance and is an electrical insulator.
|1. Cell body|
|2. Myelin sheath|
|3. Node of Ranvier|
This sheath has periodic nodes at which very short lengths of the axon membrane are exposed. The pulses seem to proceed with greater speed in such noded fibres. There seems to be a jump from one node to the other. Though the process and the organization are not yet fully understood, the noded fibres seem to be a leap forward in the wiring structure of the nervous system. This is so because the lower forms of life do not have such noded fibres.
We do not have myelin sheaths for dendrites and nerve endings. Neurologists find that we transfer activity from one nerve to the other with the help of these. But again the process is yet to be fully understood. They suggest chemical means for the transmission process across synapses. The synapses can have either excitatory or inhibitory function. In the first a pulse reaching a nerve end makes the succeeding neuron fire. In the second a pulse reaching a nerve end prevents the succeeding neuron from firing. It is the combined effect of the stimuli that finally determine the response.
3.3. The Central and Peripheral Systems: Their Roles in Information Processing
The nervous system may be divided into central and peripheral subsystems. The brain and the spinal cord make the central nervous system. The peripheral system consists of the nerve fibres that connect all the parts of the body with the central nervous system. The fibres of the peripheral nervous system may be either sensory or motor. The sensory fibres transmit impulses initiated by external stimuli to the central nervous system generally. The motor fibres of peripheral nerves conduct the nerve pulses to the parts of the body to cause appropriate muscular movements. There are also other fibres of the peripheral system. These fibres go to organs of the body, such as glands and control the activity of these organs.
The central nervous system is responsible for the coordination and direction of most human behaviour. The central nervous system sorts out the information brought by the peripheral nerves, interprets the information and initiates appropriate action. The central nervous system can also initiate its own action without external stimuli.
The CNS seems to be organized on some hierarchical lines. The spinal cord is concerned with the interpretation of elementary information and initiation of elementary activities such as automatic reflex responses. The brain may be considered as the high level in this hierarchy (See Fig. 3).
|1. Cerebral Hemisphere|
|2. Cerebral Cortex|
|5. Medulla oblongata|
|6. Spinal Cord|
The medulla oblongata which lies at the upper end of the spinal cord, controls the reflex mechanisms of the respiratory, circulatory and digestive systems. The cerebellum receives information about body position and movement, and muscles and their movement. The central hemispheres have many deep convolutions. They control many lower functions as well as memory, consciousness and voluntary activities. The human brain's hemispheres have a great complexity that has not been found in the brains of animals. The folded surface of the hemispheres has concentrations of neuron. These concentrations are known as the cerebral cortex.
As stated earlier, the neural processes involved in the thought prior to speech, speech production itself, retrieval of speech and so on are poorly understood even today, though we have now a variety of techniques to obtain information and conduct research in this area. Anatomy of the nervous system is largely known through postmortem dissections. This has enabled us to trace the origins and ends of nerve fibres, to have a good description of the kinds of synapses and the neurons.
Scientists have made observations of the nervous functions using live animals. The electrodes inserted in different parts of the auditory pathway observe nerve pulses which result from the acoustic stimulation. Again the electrodes are used to map the areas of the brain essential for certain functions like hearing, vision, or motor activity. Certain areas of the brain have been removed and the resultant activity or lack of it studied. Likewise certain nerves may be cut and the resultant communication conditions studied.
This enables us to know about the functions of various localized areas of the nervous system. The external electrodes are used to observe electrical activity. However, major surgery is necessary, to observe electrical activity in localized areas and this involves danger to the subject. Still direct experiments have been conducted on the brain, as a last resort only on cases whose maladies are severe. And on the basis of such direct experiments we come to know of the essentiality of certain localized areas of the cerebral cortex for the production of speech and comprehension. This indicates that large areas of the brain may be removed without impairing speech production and comprehension.
A speech production originates from a high level in the central nervous system, whereas the hearing process begins in the inner ear. The inner ear receives the signals and these signals are conducted to the sensory s of the cerebral cortex. While such signals are transmitted, some information processing may take place at the synapses. The information is carried on to the central nervous system. Further there is a complete and complicated feedback loop by which control is exercised over the peripheral organs. We do not however know in any detail the what, how and why of the information processing procedures.
It is still a mystery as to how the acoustic signals are perceived by the ear and then transmitted to the central nervous system. We do not know how our ears determine the loudness, how they analyze the complex sounds into component tones and so on. The current view places an emphasis on the inner ear's capacity to analyze the frequencies of the sound waves.
The hypothalamus, a phylogentically very old part of the brain, is considered to be the motivational center of the brain. This seems to control several behaviours and physiological functions, such as sham rage, regulation of body temperature. The reticular activating system (RAS) is located above the spinal cord and below the thalamus and hypothalamus. This system seems to be involved in sleeping, wakefulness and attention. The RAS is stimulated by the sensory information and it relays this new information or the presence of stimulation to the cortex. This is sent in the form of attention calls which enable the cortex to get ready to process the specific information through specific input channel to the cortex. Attention thus seems to be controlled by the RAS, the destruction of which can make the animal to tune off completely.
Neurophysiologists suggest that habituation takes place as soon as novelty of stimulation is lost. Habituatory control perhaps is not the function of higher brain centers which may concentrate on more novel and significant information. The distinction between habituatory and non-habituatory information and the relative importance and novelty of the information may be made either at the periphery or in the central analyses. Knowledge on this count is scanty once again.
We have two kinds of views about the neural basis for the retention of learned behaviour in the dynamic view, the learning situation leads to a continuing electrical activity in appropriate neural circuits. The memory is related to the persistence of the continuing electrical activity in the circuits. In the structural view the learning situation leads to some rather long lasting physical change in the nervous system. This lasting of the physical change is not dependent upon the original circuits which brought in the change. Experiments have shown that even when the electrical activity is reduced or completely eroded, the learning continues to be retained. As regards the second view, information is scanty and controversial either to confirm or to reject it. Neurological evidence suggests that the ribonucleic acid (RNA) is a very strong contender for being the memory molecule.
Neurologists attempt to identify the biochemistry of the brain, seeking answers for the difference in the learning capabilities of individuals. They try to identify the chemicals, and their relative spread in the different areas of the brain. They try to measure the amount of chemicals in neural cells in specific brain structures and identify the changes they undergo in specific activities undertaken by the subject. One may manipulate the rearing and learning experiences of animals with a common background and identify how their brain chemistry has been changed in the light of experience gained. Further, one may find out how the behaviour of individuals with different distributions of chemicals varies from each other.
3.4. Motor Theory of Perception and Auditory Theory of Perception
In the previous sections we presented some information about the network and the functions of nerves and the central and peripheral systems with their roles in information processing. Before we take up the neurological models of behaviour, we would like to draw the attention of our readers to two approaches to speech perception, viz., the motor theory of speech perception and the auditory theory of speech perception.
The current research on the role of motor movements in perception, especially of speech perception, indicates that a child perceives sound sequences in terms of his own motor reactions. This motor theory of perception, however, does not deny the importance of the acoustic events, but gives priority to the motor kinesthetic feedback loops in the comprehension-use of language. For the motor theory of perception the proprioceptive impulses are very important. They have their origin in stretch or tension, receptors in muscles, tendons, joints, and in the vestibular apparatus of the ear. "The resulting appreciation of position, movement, balance and change in the equilibrium is called proprioception or kinesthesis" (Berry, 1969).
Proprioception is carried on in sensori-motor loops with bi-directional tracts. These sensorimotor loops are found to be used in comprehension use of language. A.M. Lieberman, the chief proponent of the theory, asserts that the perception of speech sounds is somehow more closely related to the articulation than to the acoustic stimulus. Speech is perceived by the articulatory movements and their sensory effects mediate between the acoustic stimulus and its perception. The articulatory movements that a listener makes in reproducing the acoustic patterns help in determining the cues for perception of words.
Linguists like Twaddell (Twaddell 1952) also are of the opinion that listeners classify sound sequences on the basis of motor articulation rather than acoustic properties. Further some psychologists like Cherry (Cherry 1957) suggest that if there is an order in acoustic and articulatory events, we perceive the sound sequence only after the neuromuscular patterns of articulation have been mediated. (For details of this approach, one may like to read A.M. Lieberman's articles particularly Lieberman, et al 1963; and Lieberman, 1957).
The studies in the auditory perception of speech concentrate on a person's ability in hearing for speech. In these studies, the attributes of tone, namely, fundamental frequency, amplitude and duration form the basis of analysis and are found embedded in the discrimination cues to phonemic sequences of speech. The auditory perception researchers study also how the different parts of the ear and other systems such as reticular, thalamus and cortex are involved in the auditory perception. These studies deal mainly with the temporal management of information from the input. They aim at explaining how a person's nervous system learns to comprehend and make use of auditory information. Such studies include several information, namely, analysis of the rapidly successive bits of information that crowd the auditory mechanism at the initial stage, initial patterning of the information through activating and feedback processes, linking up these patterns with other wave patterns from modalities and modification of wave patterns effected partly by earlier patterns activated in cortical and subcortical areas. Auditory perception of speech depends also upon memory, that is, the retained auditory patterns in the nervous system. The physiological limits set by the auditory apparatus may also be studied in the auditory perception of speech.The studies of auditory perception of speech, thus, include both the physical aspects of sound and the physiological aspects/apparatus for audition. In these studies, time as a measure is considered to be a very important factor in all the neural events including frequency variations, duration of input signals, periodicity into elements, identification and match of elements, and in the production of speech patterns (Berry, 1969). The auditory perception may be imagined to be taking place in several phases.
Berry (1969) presents three phases in auditory perception of speech, while agreeing at the same time that such identification and segmentation of auditory processes of perception are merely a kind of abstraction for the matching of specific neural activity with the temporal phase. In the first phase activation of neurons takes place and this requires a chemical mediator which is responsible for the sensitivity of end organs. Further the change in the end organs should be transformed into a form of energy capable of discharging the nerve terminals. In the second phase, the wave pattern makes connections with various parts of the hearing apparatus. While these connections are being made, modification and discrimination of the auditory patterns continue. At this stage information from other modalities, particularly from the reticular system, is available for organizing and focusing the perceptive field of audition.
In the third phase, certain neural events occur in order to improve the quality of the perceptual processes of audition. All the systems that are relevant for perception in general pool their resources in arriving at a comprehensive auditory perception of speech and other events. At this phase short-term memory (use of retained auditory patterns from earlier inputs) is utilized. Analysis by synthesis of various number and kinds of information is the highlight of the auditory perception process in the third phase. In linguistic terms, ordering and sequencing of syllables, words, phrases and sentences are achieved in this phase. For detailed information in relation to aspects of auditory perception of speech, the readers may refer to Fay (1966), Lieberman (1967), Rosenblith (1961) and Granit (1962).
3. 5. Neurophysiological Models of Behaviour
3. 5. 1. General Remarks
In every society we have a belief in one form or the other that man's intelligence is a gift given to him by the Almighty. There is also a belief in every society linking brain and intelligence. The existence of such a belief can be found in their language in which the intelligence is referred to as emanating from the brain. Many societies posit entities called mind, brain and others which are supposed to control human behaviour in some sense or the other. Clinical neurologists, neuropsychologists and neurophysiologists--several of them--are and have been involved in intense research work to identify the exact cerebral localization for the various mental and physical functions. In fact the clinical neurology and neurophysiology are dominated by research activities with the identification of exact cerebral localization as the main focus.
Researchers demanding 'exactitude' assume that they can find a correlation, perhaps one to one correspondence, between the part or structure of any size of the brain and specific kinds of behaviour or functions. For every action and for every function there must be a center, a nerve or something else in the brain and in finding such correlations depends our ability to characterize and explain human behaviour. The above assumption is a historical product and is a direct reflection and extension, in general, of the reflex theories. Coupled with such a concept of cerebral localizations is the attempt on the part of the researchers to seek their models in the machines and mechanisms about which they have an explicit knowledge.
Usually a communication model is constructed and the characteristics of these models are assumed to be the underlying neural processes etc., on grounds such as communication is not possible without these characteristics and so on. Thus we have theories based on hydraulic systems, telephone, radio and others. Such an approach may clarify the issues and sharpen the focus. At the same time it can lead to a narrow view which leads to comparisons, and deductions based on materials which may not have direct relevance. We must rather study the brain and the behaviour to find out how the brain works instead of making comparisons. Similarities in such comparisons may be the product of an oversimplification of the problem of behaviour.
Earlier we have presented certain anatomical descriptions of the parts of the brain, neurophysiological processes and indicated even certain localizations of functions in the brain parts. We will present below three approaches which are in some way complementary to each other in accounting for the neuropsychological organization of human behaviour including language.
Our behaviour is a product of our nervous system. This fact has been recognized by psychologists. Many psychologists have used neurophysiological constructs even as the basis of their theories. Even linguists are no exception to this. However, there is and has been a very strong tendency to base the explanations mainly on the observable phenomena. As a result the physiological constructs have been avoided in several influential psychological theories.
Bloomfield, the most influential among the American structural linguists, opposed the mentalistic interpretation of language and took a behaviouristic view. Linguists were in the process of establishing their field as a separate entity and they succeeded to a large extent in their effort. In this effort and process, the emphasis has been to avoid the so-called psychologizing and neurophysiological assumptions and implications, even though some makers of modern linguistics resorted to neurophysiological interpretations of the language phenomenon and its underlying mechanisms.
The field of psychology also has been characterized in the past by the use of certain constructs which cannot be directly observed. The behaviourists emphasized the need to base their constructs and explanations on the directly observable phenomena. Coupled with this movement was the swing towards the separation and establishment of psychology as an independent field of activity on its own merits.
Though such a demarcation of the fields, and establishment of independent constructs and techniques are essential for any field to grow and to contribute in a precise manner to the general body of knowledge, excessive independence can lead to disastrous results. This is especially so with regard to the relationship between psychology and neurophysiology. This is true also for the relationship between psychology, linguistics and neurophysiology.
3.5.2. Hebb's Model of Behaviour
Hebb (1949) presents a theory of behaviour, seeking a common ground with the anatomist, physiologist and neurologist, showing them how the psychological theory is related to their problems. He finds that one is forced to oversimplify when he deals with behaviour, because of the scanty knowledge we have about the underlying mechanisms. This leads one to a kind of concealed mysticism, even when one takes a formalistic view.
Though psychologists take for granted that the behaviour and neural functions are perfectly correlated and that the problem of understanding behaviour is the problem of understanding the total action of the nervous system and vice versa, Hebb finds, to his regret, that there is a tendency in psychology to stop using physiological hypotheses. He also finds that many physiologists take the same position with regard to psychology. One is on a formal and certain ground when he studies the electrical activity of a well-defined tract in the brain. However, a question arises as to whether such specific and particular studies alone can lead to a physiology of the human brain.
The parts and their properties may be discovered in isolation, but the parts may have properties not discernible in isolation. Perhaps it is necessary to study the brain as a whole, in addition to a study of the specifics and parts of the brain, to have a clear and realistic picture of the functioning of the human brain. Hence Hebb calls for learning about what the parts of the brain do, which belong basically to the physiologist's field and for relating the human behaviour as far as possible to this knowledge, which is basically the psychologist's field. He calls for seeing what further information can be had about how the total brain works from the discrepancy between actual behaviour and the behaviour which would be predicted from the addition of what is known about the action of the various parts of the human brain.
The problem we face in accounting for human behaviour has two facets. From the psychological view it is a problem of thought. Here we have a process which is not fully controlled by environmental stimulation and yet it goes along with the environmental stimulation. From the physiological point of view it is a problem of the transmission of excitation from sensory to motor cortex. Transmission can be a very complex process involving time lag between sensory stimulation and the final motor response. Hebb considers that both psychology and neurophysiology are not in a position to handle thought and its corresponding neurophysiological mechanism adequately. One is not in a position to describe behaviour simply as an interaction directly between sensory and motor processes. Something intervenes and this something we call thinking.
This thinking must be due to the operation of central processes. Though one is able to identify the pathways to cortex and the pathways from cortex and also about the structures that link the two, the complexity of the links is not yet fully understood. As a result one does not know anything about what goes on between the arrival of an excitation and its later departure from the motor area of the cortex.
Two types of formula have been proposed to account for the processes. The first one may be called a switchboard theory and the second one may be called a field theory. In the first type the cells in the sensory system acquire connections with cells in the motor system. The cortex functions as a telephone exchange. In the second theory the conception of field is utilized. The cortex is made up of cells and the sensory control of motor s depends upon the distribution of the sensory excitation, ratios of excitation and not on the locus or the action of any particular cell. Connections do not control learning. However, Hebb finds that both these two theories do not account for the delay between stimulation and response which is characteristic of thought. Intra cerebral events must be a prolonged one is such a case. But this has not been explained or provided for.
Hebb presents a speculative physiological theory of behaviour with a synthesis of psychological information. This presents a temporally organized intra cerebral process with the psychological facts of perception, learning, expectancy, attention and so on. He suggests that a frequently repeated stimulation leads to the slow development of a cell assembly. This is a diffuse structure of cells in the cortex and diencephalon and possibly in the basal ganglia of the cerebrum. This can act as a closed system delivering facilitation to other such systems and usually having a specific motor facilitation. The series of such events makes a phase sequence and this phase sequence is the thought process.
Each assembly action can be aroused by a preceding assembly. It can be aroused also by a sensory event. The central facilitation issuing from one of these activities and impinging on the next is the prototype of attention. The adult waking behaviour is the result of the cortical organization of the slow development of a cell assembly. There is an alternate intrinsic organization. This occurs in sleep and in infancy and consists of hypersynchrony in the firing of cortical cells. There is also disorganization as the assembly depends completely on a fine and delicate timing which might be disturbed by metabolic changes and sensory events which are not in accordance with the pre-existent central process. Transitory type of such disturbance is called emotional disturbance. A chronic disturbance is neurosis or psychosis.
Hebb's theory, as he himself calls it, is a form of connections, one of the switchboard variety. The connections are not direct connections to and from the cortex. The connections are there to establish autonomous central activities and these autonomous central activities form the basis for further learning. Further no nerve cell or pathway is essential to any habit or perception.
3. 5. 3. Luria's Model
A. R. Luria from Russia (former Soviet Union) was a great neuropsychologist of all times. His contribution to an understanding of the organization and disorganization of human behaviour is of vital importance for many reasons. His experiments were conducted mainly on human beings, using that medium, namely, language which defines man as man. Luria identified and established a method for neuropsychology to probe and penetrate the underlying mechanisms not manifest in overt behaviour.
Luria argues that the complex mechanisms of organization and disorganization of human behaviour cannot be explained as a simple play of neurophysiological processes. The causes of the affective processes should not be sought in the peripheral apparatus, but in the central. No phenomena of elementary neurodynamics can explain the configurations of integrated behaviour specific for the human beings as social subjects. Perhaps even the elementary neurodynamics may be comprehended only through an analysis of the culturally created psychological functions which include the involved behaviour of work, speech and complex indirect operations.
Luria does not attempt to deduce the laws of higher activity from simple aerodynamically processes. Neither the laws of dynamics of tendency nor the conditions of reflex connections can throw light on the most complicated forms of human behaviour. Only a careful description of the specific systems of behaviour produced in the process of socio-historical development alone will help us in comprehending the higher neurodynamics.
Luria attacks the tendency to introduce naive concepts and analogies with artificial things to explain the nervous system. The telephone system was considered the basic theory of nervous activity. Related to this is the concept of the structure of neuropsychology, which posits a series of separate self-sufficient mechanisms. These mechanisms were assumed to have been arranged with the help of the connecting excitations and inhibitions.
In the above view, the whole nervous apparatus is assumed to consist of separate neurons and the brain is assumed to be nothing more than a centralization of these neurons and their conduits which connect the neurons. Accepting this assumption means that the laws of behaviour must be found in those laws which hold for the individual neurons. The behaviour has to be understood merely as a preservation of equilibrium between the separate apparatus of the nervous system. The pathological conditions which one notices must be deduced as a destruction of this equilibrium. This kind of analogy leads to naive postulations. This makes one to postulate that the elementary processes of excitation and inhibition are basic, found in every nerve cell and carried throughout the whole organism. This also leads one to believe that at a given moment only certain cells of the nervous system are in a state of excitation and others in a state of inertness. Other cells are in an inhibitory condition.
Luria suggests that the process of excitation and inhibition are elementary processes and this occurs in the isolated nerve preparation. Luria asks whether we can express all the forms of organization or disorganization of human behaviour in terms of elementary inhibition and excitation. He finds that this conception does not extend adequately to the whole phenomena. The behaviour cannot be explained as an equilibrium of the separate systems. The disease of any of the mechanisms causes general changes which can be understood only from a most complicated functional, reciprocity of the internal behaviour. The conceptions which one needs for an understanding of the characteristic mechanisms of complicated human behaviour requires that we take into account the whole organization of behaviour, with its structure and dynamics. The organization is sought in a functional correlation of the systems because these systems are not combined in an accidental way but as very definite parts into an integrated functional structure. The parts are functionally equal. Certain systems are meant for governing and regulating while others for supporting and exacting one for another function.
Luria finds that the organization and disorganization of human behaviour, conditions, laws and formulations are the most important problems of psycho-biology. There are some general laws operative in the organization of behaviour. These general laws depend upon the inclination of some special vital forces. The organization we find in adult human behaviour is the product of a fairly complicated and long development. This development precedes in such a way that it dominates the primitive laws and not in the way that it becomes the simple representations in new stages.
By taking a developmental view we can arrive at an understanding of the activity of the human personality. The development will include the new regulating systems intended to overcome the primitive forms of behaviour and transfer them to a new and more systematized organization. In this development the question of age does not play the leading role. The primitive forms of organization of behaviour is characterized by the sub-cortical activity. This activity is transferred into the process of the highest development. There is a conflict between the development of newly regulated systems and the primitive sub-cortical activity. This conflict creates all the new forms of organization. The higher cortical mechanism plays an active role in the formation of the new organization. Because of this participation the higher cortical mechanism is included in the regulating systems.
The development of a child involves several processes. First there is a general development of regulations and this begins with the primitive aspects of instinctive capabilities. With the development of higher psychological mechanisms the most complicated forms of control of behaviour is achieved. Such an achievement begins with the complicated organic mechanism and with the higher cultural systems conditioning new forms of organization.
There are two general groups of approaches for the study of the motor functions of the human being. In the first group scholars study the development of motor movement coordination, motor formulae and their destruction caused by certain diseases of the nervous system. This study concentrates on the motor function as a physiological process. This can conceal symptoms underlying the disturbance. In the second group the motor activity of the human being is only a means to study the complicated psychological and physiological processes. The structure of the movement is studied as a reflection of certain changes concealed from immediate observation. For the scholars who pursue this type of research the motor activity is significant in so far as this is connected with the psychological changes. Such an approach makes the investigation more complicated and yet infinitely more significant than the previous one. The main problem is to differentiate the motor changes which are the product of the psychological influence from those resulting from the organic peculiarities. Luria's research is more closely allied with the second group. He is only very slightly interested in the motor activities of the subject per se.
Luria suggests that we study voluntary movements in the analysis of behaviour. The voluntary movements are not less regular, not less suitable than the reflexes. He argues in favour of the combination of the central and the motor activities in one functional system. If we combine we can record that the central change is necessarily reflected in the motor system. What we have here is a united whole. The central part is concealed from direct study and yet the motor functions can be objectively registered.
This method of the basic combination of the central and motor activities is called the combined motor method. Luria steered his researches toward an understanding of the neuropsychological processes through the combined method. The subject is asked to reply to a word given him by the first thought which enters his mind. While doing so he is asked to press the finger of the right hand of the receiver of an apparatus lying in front of him. Such a process stimulates in the subject two systems of activity. These systems are connected with each other so closely that they are set into motion by two simultaneous occurrence of the activities of one and the same process.
When we ask a subject to answer a given word by another one, his central process is excited in a very complicated manner, and this is very close to the speech system. When we analyze the result psychologically we can in some cases find its associative process, in some cases its primitive fate and in others its reintegration with the origin of the whole image of the details contained in the word, or the production of some other details entering together with what is represented in the word-stimulus into one and the same formation." In this process we evoke definite and a complicated neurodynamics process which cannot be observed immediately and which leads after a certain period to the speech response.
The language response is connected to the motor reaction of the hand and uniting those two into a single process, Luria finds that we can estimate 'the actual changes in this obscured process as necessarily reflected in a clearly defined process and we see that the differences in the neurodynamics structure of the central process are reflected in the evident differences of structure in the motor curve Luria suggests that every short fluctuation and every tendency to a speech response, and, even more so, every marked affective disorganized character of the central process does not remain without influence on the structure of the compounded motor reaction; and analyzing it, we have at hand a very objective means for drawing conclusions concerning the structure of the internal neurodynamics process."
The psychologists and neurophysiologists who are interested in identifying the hidden processes between movement of stimulation and the movement of clear response have to surmount many obstacles. Failure in characterizing the underlying mechanisms is due in no small measure to this almost insurmountable obstacle. We have to find out whether the evident response is indeed the result of the undisturbed and uninterrupted process or the process is connected with the struggle of the direct tendencies. There can be internal suppressions. Even an honest subject can inadvertently or because of his socia-cultural inhibition may suppress his original response and give another one in its place. Luria is aware of these difficulties and suggests that the combined method can be so manipulated that we can objectively study only the central process. In a number of experiments the subjects are sought to answer with the first word they thought of. In these experiments they are asked to first give the answer and then press the button.
What we have in behaviour is a union of internal processes and its resultant manifestation. In the combined method what we get in essence is an active union which gives us a unified acting structure. The unified acting structure consists of both the obscure and externally observed symptoms. The changes initiated in one side are reflected inevitably in the other side. An analysis of this active union enables us to study the character of the highest psychological processes.
Luria, thus, is a psychologist, a neuropsychologist using mainly the linguistic utterances as basic items/tools for the analysis of underlying mechanisms. He occupies a unique position among the psychologists and others, because of his use of linguistic items and lucid exposition of underlying mechanisms. In addition to using linguistic items as tools of his analysis, Luria has conducted several experiments to identify the underlying mechanisms of language performance. We give below an experiment he made to elucidate the conflict of the language.
We find that various languages use very different words for one and the same set of contents. A person speaking in a language creates a definite setting in that language which loses its forms when transferred to another language. But the expressed contents remain completely untouched as far as the motor innervations are concerned. Luria in this experiment aims at bringing into collision such language settings, evoking a conflict of two very complicated structural systems. He wants to investigate the neurodynamics of the conflicts that may result in a person in such a transfer.
Subjects who know the languages equally well are given words from both these languages and are asked to answer by the first word they thought of in every case. But the answer must be given in the language of the given stimulus in every case. Thus the experiment includes the conditions of the conflict. The conflict, however, is not connected with the content of the word. There are two parallel series of the experiment. This is to ensure that the relations we obtain are not connected with the ignorance of the foreign language but with the factor of the sudden change of the setting. In the first series five foreign words are scattered among twenty-five Russian ones. In the second series, five Russian words are scattered among twenty-five foreign words.
A basic setting is created when the first eleven words of each series are from the basic language of the series. The stimuli words themselves are of equal difficulty. The results indicate that one problem is quickly transferred to another language setting, after the setting to that language is created. It is found that crucial reactions occur with a distinct slowing and considerable disturbance in the accompanying motor system. Associations do not create the disturbance, as the subjects know both the languages equally well. The disturbance is due to the position of the critical words in the series. This is revealed in the second series which has only five Russian words scattered among the twenty-five foreign words. The critical Russian words call out more inhibited reaction than even the foreign critical words in the Russian series. This is because we have two processes - a transfer to a new setting and a removal of the former setting. We meet with disturbance in the accompanying motor activity in cases connected in one way or another with the conflict of the settings.
The sudden appearance of the new language setting produces a shock which may disturb the receptory activity or cause a conflict in the motor system. The receptory failure is due to the sudden change of setting. The reaction to word depends upon the context in which the word is used. It is found that when the context is altered, perception can be difficult, the word inaudible or it changes its sounds and so on. In the second case, a setting is created to react to a definite language.
This setting is not removed during a sudden transfer and continues, when the transfer collides with this tendency to continue. A conflict in the linguistic motor system is brought out. The subject begins to give the equivalent in the basic language instead of working himself to think and give another word. Such a tendency can even be extended to non-critical words in the series. These processes indicate the conflict the subject is undergoing. The conflict in the motor activity is clearly shown in the graphic curves. The conflict causes a shock of the higher speech processes in the subject. This is accompanied by a breaking of the functional barrier and the emancipation of the motor area from the connected organized process. The inhibition of speech reaction we find usually in such shocks and transfers is found to be due to the direct transfer of the excitation to the motor sphere. Further the conflict caused by the critical stimuli leaves traces which continue for some time and gets extinguished only gradually, influencing all the while the reactions to other stimuli.
Luria, like his late colleague Vygotsky, recognized that speech can be used for auto stimulation and organization of behaviour. Speech is the means of regulating and organizing the external world. It is an agent for organizing the behaviour. It is an agent for planning further actions; it enables the human to avoid subordination by direct optical means. Organizing the behaviour begins with speech auto commands and ends with the complex forms of judgment. Luria finds that the mechanism of the substitution of the primitive process by cultural signals is the most important factor in the control of human behaviour.
Finally, Luria is skeptical about the attempts which localize the intricate psychological process in parts or the brain and the nervous system. It is easier to think in terms of things than in terms of process and this is perhaps the reason for continuing attempts to localize the psychological processes. It must be assumed that the acquisition of speech, the use of instruments and the transition of the new cultural forms of organization of the individual behaviour, all achieved in social settings, will also change the structure of the psychophysiological processes. These changes, the functional changes, are much more important, for in several cases. Luria claims the use of these compensates for serious defects in the morphological, structure of the nervous apparatus. There may be a definite organization of the cerebral apparatus underlying complex psychological phenomena, but there need be no specific morphological new formulations for every peculiarity. "Cultural behaviour does not require a new brain morphology, and the brain of a savage may be morphologically identical with that of a member of Academy of Sciences."
3.5. 4. Lashley's Model of Behaviour
Lashley's contributions are very significant for an understanding of the organization and control of behaviour. Lashley did not use linguistic utterances as his major tool for the analysis of the underlying mechanisms of human behaviour. He relied upon surgery to demonstrate the untenability of the localization concept. In Lashley's words: "In experiments extending over the past thirty years I have been trying to trace conditioned reflex paths through the brain or to find the locus of specific memory traces The results for different types of learning have been inconsistent and often mutually contradictory in spite of confirmation by repeated tests." (Lashley 1960) Both Lashley and Luria arrived at some similar conclusions and findings through the use of different approaches, methods and tools.
Lashley has chosen rats and monkeys as his subjects. In a few cases chimpanzees were also his subjects. He followed two lines of approach. In the first one which is a behavioural type the analysis of the excitations was done. These excitations are actually associated with reactions in learning and are effective in the elicitation of the learned reactions. Lashley analyzed the associated reactions also. This approach defined the patterns of nervous activity at the receptor and offector levels. The second approach is by surgical destruction of parts of the brain. Lashley trained animals in wide ranging tasks from direct sensory motor associations to the solution of difficult problems. Portions of the brain and associated links were cut or removed. The resultant effect of these surgical operations was measured. When the experiments were over the brain parts were sectioned and the extent of damage reconstructed from serial sections.
In an experiment monkeys were trained to open various latch boxes. After this training their motor areas were removed resulting in a temporary paralysis. Yet, after eight to twelve weeks the animals became capable of opening the boxes. The monkeys did not have access to the training boxes. When sufficiently recovered they did not exhibit even exploratory movements. Hence learning must be considered as the specific localization of the whole of cerebellum.
As regards the role of cortex and the connections to it, Lashley's experiments showed that neither the motor cortex nor the connections are indispensable for the transmission of the conditioned reflex pattern. Lashley trained rats on the maze and then made knife cuts through the cortex and underlying fibres. This disconnected or cut through different functional areas. After recovery the animals did not show any significant loss of the learned behaviour. The general assumption in the field is that there are conditioned reflex paths connecting sense organ and the motor cortex via association areas. Lashley's experiments, however, disprove involvement of the motor areas. Further his experiments show that the memory trace cannot be localized anywhere within the nervous system. It is perhaps true that limited regions are essential for learning or retention of a particular activity. But even if there is such a limited region, the parts within the region seem to be functionally equivalent.
The frontal, parietal, occipital and temporal areas of the cortex are considered as associative areas because of their anatomic relations and these are considered as the storehouse of images of sensations. Lashley suggests that these associative areas are concerned more with the modes of organization than with any specific memory storage. Further these areas seem to be concerned with the general facilitation or maintenance of the level of vigilance. Destruction of these does not lead to amnesia but only to difficulties in the performance of tasks involving abstractions and generalization.
As the parts of a region have equivalent capacity, there may be multiple representation of an event in a region. The pattern of excitation leads to a pattern of activity and this pattern of activity is fully reduplicated throughout an entire functional area, "much as the surface of a liquid develops an interference pattern of spreading waves when it is distributed at several points." Further, Lashley suggests that all the cells of the brain must be assumed to be in constant activity. There is no cell in excess which is reserved as the storage of memories. He would argue that one should not seek for the trace of any activity merely as an isolated connection between the sensory and motor elements. The spatial and temporal axes of the nervous system which underlie the behaviour must be considered as the basis even for the trace of any activity.
The two concepts which Lashley formulated have been already indicated in the foregoing paragraphs. These are the concepts of equipotentiality and mass action. "Equipotentiality of parts is the capacity of any intact part of a functional area to carry out, with or without reduction in efficiency, the functions that are lost by the destruction of other parts." This is "not an absolute property but is subject to the law of mass action whereby the efficiency of performance of an entire complex function may be reduced in proportion to the extent of the brain injury within an area whose parts are not more specialized for one component of the function than for another." (Lashley 1960)
Lashley was a contributor to and adherent of the gestalt psychology. He believed that what the organism perceives is the total pattern and the behaviour is a series of conditioned reflexes. It is tempting to follow the association-connectionistic theories, especially after the discovery of neurons and the synapses. But no simple connectionism can explain the human behaviour and the neurophysiological mechanisms. Localization does not solve the problem of how a part functions in a complex system. Specificity is perhaps there in some measure in the visual area, but it is very much less elsewhere.
Mind must not be sought in localization as an integrated interaction of processes reflected in an organization of its own. The mental phenomenon must be subjected to an analysis as complete and detailed as that which is being made of neural activities. Only as progress is made in such an analysis and as the picture of the brain's activities is completed, will it be possible to make significant correlations between the two organized systems. Meanwhile, there is no logical or empirical reason for denying the possibility that the correlation may eventually show a complete identity of the two organizations. (Lashley 1960)
Lashley considered that the temporal organization of behaviour is the most fundamental and troublesome problem in neurology. (Even now it continues to be so, not only in neurology, but also in psychology and linguistic semantics and conceptualizations). A solution may be found, according to Lashley, if we study the translation of temporal orders of action into spatial patterns and also the reverse in the brain. In such cases the after-discharge of the sensory excitations persist with a spatial distribution in the brain. Language may represent the characteristic integrative functions of the cerebral cortex, but temporal integration is found in all our behaviour.
In the associative chain theory an element in the chain excites the next element. When applied to language this approach loses its ground. In a sentence, the order of occurrence of words, one may think, represents the real order of associations of one word with the next. But words in a sentence can have associations not only with their immediate neighbour but also with the remote ones. The different positions of the word "right" in the sentence "the Millwright on my right thinks it right some conventional rite symbolize the right of every man to write as he pleases" are determined by the meanings which the positions in relation to other words denote, but those meanings are given by other associations than those with the words in the spoken sentence." Thus "the individual items of the temporal series do not in themselves have a temporal "valence" in their associative connections with other elements. The order is imposed by some other agent. The order in which the fingers of the musician fall on the keys or fingerboard is determined by the signature of the composition. This gives a set which is not inherent in the association of the individual movements." (Lashley 1960)
We find that one can easily change the form of expression of the idea and that different word orders may be employed to express the same thought. These indicate that the temporal integration is not inherent in the preliminary organization of the idea. In fact all the elements of an idea must be considered cotemporal. This precludes the possibility that the intention to act or the idea to be expressed determines the serial order. Lashley suggests that the mechanism 'which determines the serial activation of the motor units is relatively independent both of the motor units and of the thought structure'. The evidence for this is found in the mistakes of order, and the slips and interferences which occur in writing and speaking. Then how does the order come into practice?
Lashley suggests that prior to the internal or overt composition of sentence, a whole range of word units is partially activated or readied. Syntax is then impressed on the acts as they occur. There are three things which we should consider in working out the serial order of behaviour in so far as language is concerned. In the first place we must identify the activation of expressive elements. As said earlier, these elements do not contain the temporal relations. In the second place we must identify the chacteristics of the determining tendency. In the third place, we should consider the syntax of the act-on habitual order or mode of relating the expressive elements; a generalized pattern or schema of integration which may be imposed upon a wide range and a wide variety of specific acts'. The essential problem of the serial order thus is: 'the existence of generalized schemata of action which determine the sequence of specific acts, acts which in themselves or in their associations seem to have no temporal valence' (Lashley 1960). As far as language is concerned, the understanding of speech and the production of speech may involve essentially the same problems. The performance and reaction to a speech event demand that we postulate an after effect or after discharge of the sensory compounds for a significant time following stimulation.
As regards the integration of temporal and spatial systems Lashley suggests,
the same cells in the visual cortex participate in a great variety of activities. Practically all of the cells of the area must be fired by every visual stimulation, and these same cells must be the ones which retain the visual memories. The conclusion follows that differential responses depend upon the pattern of cells which are excited in combination. The visual cortex is a network of cells of short axon without long interconnections between its parts or with other cortical areas. Its integrative functions are an expression of the properties of such a network. The same conception must be applied to other cortical areas. There are, of course, long association tracts in the cortex.
But Lashley finds that these long associations may be only skeletal structures and that they do not have any special function. The major integrative functions must be assumed to be carried out by the network of cells of short axon. He argues in favour of analyzing the properties of such networks of cells to understand the mechanisms of the cerebral cortex. All the cells in the network must be considered as in constant excitation and are firing; this happens subject to their recovery from the refractory state. Because of this excitation state, mutual interference of circuits takes place and this results in complicated patterns. These complicated patterns get stabilized in the absence of differential stimulation. What happens at any particular point in the system, as at an efferent neuron, is the statistical outcome of the interconnection of the myriads of neurons, not of the transmission of impulses over a restricted path, of which that efferent cell forms a link. "Perhaps one will be able to isolate the parts of the system, but the isolated parts are influenced by multiplicity of effects, for which no trace may be found in the isolated preparation of an isolated part."
3. 6. Language Disorders
If we assume that psycholinguistics is concerned with the symbolic activity of human beings, it is all the more important that in such a study the destructional processes of this activity find a crucial place. The psychobiologists like Luria have demonstrated that the study of the destructional processes actually contributes to an understanding of normal human behaviour. A contrast is available, the factors in several cases can be isolated and one can reconstruct the normal behaviour, in the process identifying the relative importance of the factors and the structures that go into the composition of normal human behaviour. Furthermore the analysis of the destructional processes has immediate applicational value in ameliorating the unfortunate conditions of the suffering humanity.
Speech and Hearing is a very special field to which several disciplines contribute their theories, research methods and findings. There are speech disorders which require surgical and clinical operations. But these operations need not lead to the establishment of normal speech. In some cases they do not definitely lead to normal speech. Hence the importance and the need for the speech and hearing expertise apart from the expertise of surgical and clinical fields, psychology and neurophysiology, etc.
The speech and hearing expert acquires a knowledge of the neurophysiology of speech pathologies. He acquires a competence in the psychological analysis of the speech disorders. He can appreciate the role of other psychological factors involved in the maintenance and destruction of speech. He acquires a sound knowledge of the physical aspects of sounds both at the production and auditory levels. He has a knowledge of linguistics, language history of the patients etc., which enable him to diagnose a patient linguistically and sec before himself formal linguistic objectives.
Speech pathology is the study of abnormalities of speech-speech disorders. There are certain social conventions, neurophysiological bases and psychological reasons for considering someone's speech behaviour as pathological, as speech defects. If a person's voice is not loud enough, as demanded in normal discourses of a community, his speech is considered a defective speech. Inaccurate articulations which are wholly or partly unintelligible are also considered as a speech defect. If a person does not follow the rules of his language, which results in his speech not being understood by the speakers of the same language the person's speech is considered a discovered one. Some people do have, from the point of view of listeners, unpleasant voice. Their speech, because of some reasons not fully explainable, is also considered as disordered. We have some intrinsic notions about the quality of speech in terms of its rate of delivery, rhythm, pitch, loudness, timbre, some special sounds with regard to age of persons and their sex. When such expected notions are violated by the "peculiarity" of individual's speech, then we consider it as defective. Even the accompanying gestures, grimaces, postures and additional noises can lead to someone's speech being considered as a disordered one. In essence, in a defective speech the listener's attention is distracted from the subject matter of the discourse to its mechanical mode of delivery.
The speech and hearing expert does not consider every speech defect a disorder. If the defects stem from neurophysiological, physiological and anatomical bases, they will be considered as disorders.
The literature on conditions that facilitate acquisition and performance of normal speech does not indicate firm grounds, which help speech facility. However, some experts consider that better physical strength, early establishment of right-handedness, type of intelligence (humanistic, artistic and linguistic talents) and tendency to appreciate and enjoy music help the speech facility. Acquisition and performance of speech are not facilitated if the individual has poor physical strength, no clear establishment of right-handedness, tendency to acquire, appreciate and enjoy mathematics and sciences (Q-type of intelligence) and lack of interest in music. The role and function of the above in the development and maintenance of speech facility are quite controversial. Speech defects are found in both groups, although certain forms of speech disorders such as stuttering are found more among the male population.
The speech disorders may have their bases in the central and peripheral nervous systems. However, the speech and hearing experts insist that one should not jump to conclusion as to the structural bases of any disorder. A proper investigation may show that a disorder is due simply to psychological factors and that it does not require surgical and clinical operations. Hence a cautious approach taking a comprehensive view of the etiological conditions is absolutely necessary.
It is indeed difficult to characterize a voice as a disordered one purely on objective criteria. Certain social and cultural conventions play a vital role in deciding upon the quality of voice. Generally we consider a voice as defective if it has no adequate loudness, clearness of tone, when its pitch does not match the expectations for the sex and the age, when there is no proper movement of pitch to be followed in a language. Such vocal defects are called dysphoni or aphonia. In dysphonia we have vocal defects and yet one retains the voice. In aphonia one loses the voice.
It would be interesting indeed to study how social and cultural conventions characterize a voice as pleasant, unpleasant, mellifluous and so on. When a voice lacks vibrato, one may call it metallic, flat or bard etc. Inappropriate pitch levels to the age and sex may invite a characterization as high shrill, etc. Irregular vibrato leads one to characterize a voice as tremulous and so on. A thin voice is that which lacks adequate loudness. A husky voice is that which lacks clearness of tone.
There can be structural, neuropathological and emotional disorders, and improper vocal habits can also contribute to dysphonia.
In maintaining the quality of voice the glottis plays a very significant role. The glottis should have properly formed edges which can be brought close together. When the edges are brought close together it should allow the escape of any air only when brought about by chest pressure. Further they should be brought together in such a way that it would allow the free movement at the bands when vibrated by the air stream. In a normal situation the throat and the mouth are kept open enough to achieve proper resonance of the tone. When these are not obtained, we get defective speech based on the deformities of the glottis. The deformities do not allow for proper flow of air as demanded.
Anatomically there may be some form of growths on the cords which lead to improper approximations. When the bands show active pathology, the expert does not give voice training. When the bands show irremediable irregularities, no surgery or medicine can help. Voice training is also of no help. The patients may have to develop their sensory-motor control of the voice through ear training drills. They may be encouraged to learn to adjust the larynx. Relief may be extended to people whose bands have irregularities as a result of the misuse of voice. Persons such as singers, auctioneers, and public speakers belong to this category and can be treated successfully.
Another phenomenon which is often considered as dysphonia is the carry over of the high-pitched voice of the childhood into adolescence and even adulthood. There are many psychological factors that induce the boy to retain his high-pitched voice. Ultimately he gives up the high-pitched voice and acquires an adult voice. When the boy reaches puberty the glottis becomes bigger and lengthened. In this process the boy's voice gets a lower pitch, almost one half of the pubescent rate of frequency. Several boys, however, do not make the grade and continue to prefer the high-pitched voice, though they have had an option to adopt either the high-pitched or the low-pitched voice. This may be due to the premature setting in of the pubescence and/or the unusual lengthening of the vocal cords. The premature development leads to the emergence of a sort of husky voice not appropriate to his age level and not found among his mates. To avoid embarrassment the boy may choose the high pitched voice which sets in so heavily in his speech habits that he cannot give it up even after the entry into adolescence and adulthood. The therapy will be a psychotherapy, kindling in the individual a desire to change his voice. Intensive training is followed.
Cleft palate is a congenital deformity. There may be a hiatus along the central seam of the palate. Or there may be a gap on the alveolar border and the related structure of the lip. The first one is cleft palate and the second one is usually called a harelip or cleft lip. One must first establish a control over the opening into the nasal chamber. Only then sufficient pressure can be built up in the mouth to produce sounds such as plosives, fricatives and sibilants. The therapist will try to eliminate excessive nasality and sharpen the discriminations between the consonants. He will also try to eliminate the usually accompanying movements and sounds; the patient has developed as substitutions.
In another speech disorder obstruction of the nasal passage causes the patient to produce corresponding consonant stops for the nasals. The hypertrophy of the pharyngeal tonsil can lead to this condition. The patient tends not to use the nasapharyngeal sphincter, as he is able to build up air pressure in the mouth cavity without using the sphincter. And this leads him to develop the habit of speaking without involving the velum. This nasal obstruction can be removed by surgical and clinical operations to certain extent. However, such operations are only a step forward in the actual treatment of the disorder. Intensive speech training is necessary to bring in normalcy. The speech habits acquired earlier can be eliminated only by intensive speech training. Complete elimination is not guaranteed.
In addition to the above disorders based on structural deformities, the experts include the following also: open bite in which the upper and lower lip incisors do not meet each other. This leads to the defective nature of the fricative sounds produced; short chin causes incorrect articulations of bilabials and sibilants. In prognathic mandible condition, the patient has difficulty with the control of his jaws. He must adjust his speech habits for the production of fricative sounds. A narrow and pointed roof of the mouth can also lead to the defective production of sibilants.
In stuttering we have muscular spasms which interfere with speech. The spasms can be of repetitive (clonic) or continuous (tonic nature). The vocalization and articulation of speech are repetitions and these consist of hesitations. The stutterer gives a feeling that he is engaged in a struggle to overcome the spasms. Such struggles increase in social tensions. The spasms can spread to other muscles also in acute and advanced cases of stuttering. The stutterer thus has a laboured and tense voice, because of his muscular hypertonicity. The stuttering is found more among the boys than among the girls. The incidence is high in the age range of 5 to 10 years. There is rather a rapid decrease as puberty age is approached. Perhaps the higher incidence of stuttering among the males may be ascribed to the comparatively late development of language in the males. Stuttering can be acquired socially, through heredity or by imitation. The stutterer's blood seems to contain more animal sugar than the blood of the non-stutterer and they are found more often in families which have multiple births. They are also found more often in families which have left-handers. Further, stutterers are found more often in families which are susceptible for allergies.
Stuttering can be caused by the anxiety a child develops when his clumsy speech is ridiculed as stuttering by his playmates, parents and other contacts. It may be also a hysterical phenomenon to gain the attention of parents and others. It may be a result of sexual immaturity and/or a phenomenon seeking compensation for fear, etc. Experts consider that stuttering may be a result of conflicts of control between the right and the left cerebral hemispheres. It may be due also to the delayed development of the myelin sheath of the nervous system. It is found that the myclin sheath develops and grows faster in girls than in boys.
The jerky and involuntary speech, called chorea speech, is found among the girls. Stuttering occurs usually before puberty and the chorea speech occurs usually after puberty. The chorea speech is of repetitive nature.
Bulbar polio is due to the damage caused to the peripheral nerves which control the muscles of articulation. One notices stiffness of the neck, fever, muscular pain and severe headache. The speech disturbance is noticed only after the sickness with the above symptoms runs into a full course. Bulbar polio can disturb the already formed speech habits and it can also arrest further development. The speech disorders which have their bases in the central nervous system include the following: encephalitis, neurosyphilis, chronic subdural hematoma, intra cranial aneurysm, cerebral abscess and glioma. Encephalitis is caused by the inflammation of the brain which usually occurs from the second to fourth decade. Articulation as well as the function of language is disturbed. Syphilis in the blood stream causes the neurosyphilis. The speech is disturbed by dysarthria as well as by other emotional and aphasic disorders. In chronic subdural hematoma, a cyst of blood tumor occurs under the covering of the brain, which may press the brain down and cause a paralysis. This cause disturbance in the articulation of speech as well as in the use of language. The cerebral abscess is like a boil which presses upon the tissues of the brain. Glioma is a type of tumor which can cause articulatory incoordinations.
Aphasia is the term we often use to denote the impairment of the faculty of using or understanding language, both spoken and written. Linguistic impairments can be congenital or non-congenital. Infantile aphasia is classified into four major types. These are aphasia proper in which there is a deficit of spoken language. This is often called motor aphasia. In the auditory aphasia there is deficit of the hearing of the language. In alexia the patient is unable to read the language. In agraphia, the patient is unable to write the language. The patient is unable to read the language not because of impairment in his vision. The patient is unable to write the language not because of paralysis of fingers. It is the faculty which underlies language performance that must be considered as the basis of the aphasic conditions. Paralysis of the tongue, peripheral deafness, blindness and the paralysis of the fingers are not considered as factors which decide the description of a disorder as aphasia. The etiology of aphasia is traced generally to the underdevelopment and damage of language centres in the cerebrum. Feeblemindedness can result in aphasoid which is characterized by paucity of vocabulary and defective syntax. In infantile schizophrenia, the patient has a tendency to withdraw inwardly from his social contacts. He may understand what is said to him. Yet he may have no desire to reply to what is spoken. These two cases are also considered wrongly as constituting aphasia.
Deficiencies of hearing also lead to communicative disorders. A child may not be able to receive and comprehend what is told to him. He may have also difficulty in monitoring his own speech. There are three kinds of deficiencies of hearing. Technically speaking an individual is considered as a deaf person if he has been unable to hear speech from birth or early infancy. This person has no linguistic memory or impression at all. There is no habit of any oral communication. We consider an individual as a deafened person if he once heard speech in a normal fashion, but is now unable to hear it. We consider an individual as hard of hearing if he can hear speech but his efficiency in hearing is lower than the normal standards.
A deaf child as defined above has severe impairments both in his reception and production of speech. The rate of impairment in the deafened child depends upon the degree of deafening of the child. When a child is hard of hearing, he has difficulty in understanding what he hears. He has no difficulty, however, in monitoring his own speech. There are three kinds of deafness on the basis of etiological factors. These are mechanical or conduction deafness in which the impairment is due to defects in the receiving and transmitting portions in the canal of the outer ear, in the ear drum or middle ear; cochicar deafness in which the impairment is related to the transmission of mechanical sounds into neutral stimuli and for to the sensory end organs of the acoustic nerve, and, nerve deafness in which there is defect in the acoustic nerve or in the efferent nerves that carry signals from the cochlea to the auditory centres of the cerebrum. There can be also some non-organic deafness related to psychogenic factors.
Perception and conduction deafnesses are the forms of reduced acuity. The patient produces his speech in a subdued volume in the conduction deafness whereas he produces shouts in the perception deafness. The patient suffering from conduction deafness hears his own voice louder than it really is. He feels that others are speaking in low voice. Hence he begins to reduce the volume.
3.6.1. Linguists' View of Disorders
We have thus far presented the neurophysiology of speech, three approaches to the description and explanation of the neurophysiology and psychology of speech and have given certain kinds of speech disorders from the speech and hearing experts' point of view. In this section we present the language disorders from the linguists' viewpoint.
Linguists may also consider the neurophysiological bases of speech in order to characterize the speech disorders. However, they can describe speech disorders even without reference to the neurophysiological, psychological and other bases. They consider the speech of a child as delayed if the development of speech in that child is not commensurate with the normal development of the chronological age. When the children are not in a position to follow and produce the patterns of the language while learning the language, their speech may be described as disordered. These disorders of speech can occur in all the language levels a linguist posits for language. Thus one can have disorders at the phonological level, at the morphological and syntactic levels and also at the semantic level. The disorders can be looked at again from the point of view of language skills. Thus the disorders may be related to listening, speaking, reading and writing skills.
At the phonological level the speech is considered defective if a child does not follow the phonological patterns, omitting certain sounds, substituting certain others for the original sounds of a language, and also distorting the sounds of a language. At the morphological and syntactic levels the child may have difficulty in comprehending the discourses. The child may have normal hearing capacity and may understand the single words quite well. But he may not be able to produce the patterns correctly. He may miss the sequence of words; he may omit words and employ incorrect morphological constructions. At the semantic level he may have difficulty in comprehending even the normal vocabulary items. He may not be able to make a proper choice of the lexical items; violate selectional and categorization rules more often than normal children. (See Chomsky 1965 for an explication of these types of rules).
Disorders of reading may be due to lack of proper instruction and opportunity, poor attention, difficulty in perception, reduced vocabulary, and acquisition of non-standard manner of using linguistic items. It may also be due to neurophysiological reasons. Disorders of spelling may result from the disorder of reading. In writing the child transfers the speech into a graphic form. For writing to be an effective medium, it must be developed into a synthesis of movements and concepts. Lack of such synthesis may be considered as a disorder along with the child's improper hand movements, illegible handwriting, failure to produce coherent sentences in writing and so on.
Here we will not present any of the techniques we have for proper therapy or for simple training. Elucidation of such techniques and applications is beyond the scope of the present work. In fact applications of linguistics have not been developed, elucidated and explained with reference to their potential and rationale for use in speech therapy by linguists. Linguistic applications are assumed generally to be beyond the domains of linguistics. We shall, however, point out how theories of linguistics can influence work on speech disorders. Before taking it up, it will not be out of place to report on Roman Jakobson's contributions to the analysis of speech impairments.
3. 6. 2. Roman Jakobson and Aphasia
Of all the linguists Roman Jakobson is the one and perhaps the only one who, during his six decades of chequered linguistics career, has been consistently showing interest in the studies of language disorders. He links these disorders with the process of language acquisition and shows that there is a very intimate relationship between problems of normal language in operation and the disintegration of language as revealed by the different types of aphasic impairments. Because of this intimate relationship Jakobson asserts that linguists have more than a marginal role to play in the studies of language disorders, particularly in the study of aphasia. He finds that aphasic impairments have their own order, a hierarchy of disorders. It is the science of language that will be of immediate assistance in-providing tentative answers to the kinds of aphasia encountered in a particular case, as the verbal disturbances do not present a unitary type but differ widely in quantitative and qualitative scales among themselves.
There are two factors, namely selection and combination, which characterize a normal language in operation. The selection of linguistic entities in normal language is based upon the internal relationships that exist between the entities. These relationships may be in terms of likeness, similitude, equivalence, resemblance, analogy, diverse grades of specification and contrast. The combination is the external relation of contiguity that exists between forms, relatable in terms of neighbourhood, proximity and remoteness, subordination and coordination. The aphasic disturbances also may be profitably looked at from the point of view of these two factors.
Jakobson, in fact, identifies three dichotomies as underlying the cardinal types of aphasia characterized by Luria and others.
We shall see the implication of these dichotomies when we present below the cardinal types of aphasic impairments.
Drawing illustrations from the works and publications of Luria and others, Jakobson builds his own linguistic interpretations of aphasic impairments. He suggests that Luria's basic classification of aphasic into six types of impairments holds good even from the linguistic angle. Of these, two basic types clearly exemplify the combination and selection dichotomy. The combination and selection dichotomy is viewed also from the point of differences between encoding and decoding or motor and sensory as done by other scholars. The six types of aphasic impairments are:
In efferent aphasia which is a basic type of encoding disorder words are preserved but the patient has a lot of difficulty in the construction of sentences. These words are generally independent of contexts and are mainly substantive concrete nouns. Purely grammatical words disappear. These purely grammatical words include connectives (conjunctions and pre-positions) as well as pronouns. The preservation and retention of a word in this disorder is related directly to its independent status-whether such a word can occur independently without purely grammatical props. Hence nouns are preserved better than verbs. Only the nominative case survives the impairment. Verbs are preserved in their most nominalized form. If a language has both an infinitive form and a finite form of verb, it is the infinite form which shows higher resistance in efferent aphasia.
The speech of the aphasic is now more like the telegraphic style. His utterances tend to be reduced to one-word sentences. In the phonological level, the phonemes are preserved, but the aphasic exhibits difficulty in making the combinations of phonemes. He shows difficulty in the transition from one phoneme to another. He makes an intensive use of phonemic assimilation and dissimilation. "The more independent a phoneme or distinctive feature is in respect to the context, the greater the probability of its survival." The prosodic features are more affected than the inherent distinctive features of phonemes, as the former involve interphonemic relations.
The efferent aphnsia thus involves impairment of contiguity, and is a typical contiguity disorder. This contiguity disorder is noticed on all levels of language. The root is better preserved than the suffixes. The main deficiency relates to the loss of ability, to construct proposition through a construction of sentences.
If sentence construction is the major deficiency in the efferent aphasic, it is the preservation of independent words that becomes the major deficiency in the sensory aphasic. The sentence wholes are preserved, that is, the sentence pattern is in tact. This is made possible because the grammatical words such as connectives, and pronouns are preserved and such preservation provides the patterns easily. Adjectives and adverbs are retained longer than verbs and nouns. To a sensory aphasic it is the initial substance that poses the greatest difficulty. Hence in languages where the subject appears at the beginning of a sentence, the predicate is more easily retained. The abolition of subject is more prominent and more certain when the subject is a pure lexical items in its primary form occurring with a minimum of dependence on the context. The aphasic will have greatest difficulty in constructing an equational type of sentence. He will have difficulty in naming objects.
In the phonological level, the sensory aphasic preserves the combinations of phonemes. However, he simplifies some phonemes within the combinations. Such simplification involves mainly those phonemes which cannot be predicted from their environment. The major loss in the phonological level is the total loss of certain phonemic distinctions. It is the phonemic perception and not the physical production that characterizes the sensory aphasic. The phonologic defects of the sensory aphasic are related to the hierarchical structure of the phonemic patterns. One can certainly identify the order of deficits, their hierarchical order.
The two basic types of aphasia, namely, the combination and selection are closely related to encoding and decoding impairments. The combination disturbances hamper the construction of a context, the encoding activity, as sentence construction is seriously impaired. The selection disturbances hamper the analysis of a context into its constituents, as sentence wholes are retained but a further breakdown into constituent elements is not achieved.
Jakobson believes that the constituents are intact in the encoding activity because the speaker makes the selection of the elements before combining them into a whole. In the decoding activity the decoder has to grasp the whole first and then proceeds with the constituent analysis. "The decoder is a probabilist to a much greater extent than the encoder." For the encoder the selection of items is the first stage which is followed by his efforts at combining the items into a whole. For the decoder, the grasping of the whole is the first stage which is followed by an analysis of the constituents. Hence Jakobson finds that in both the basic types of aphasia the first and primary stage is more viable and stable than the second and secondary stage. Yet there is no pure encoding or decoding impairment.
The impairment is generally predominantly encoding or predominantly decoding. Between decoding and encoding it is decoding that seems to occur more independently. Decoding depends less upon encoding than vice versa. The recorded cases clearly demonstrate the wider occurrence of decoding action than the encoding activity. Agrammatism is the pivotal sign of efferent syndrome. As internal speech is the usual context in which the external speech, external utterances are produced. Impairment of internal speech is noticed in the efferent aphasia. The sensory aphasia leads to an incapacity for metalingual operations which include paraphrasing, use of synonyms and intralingual translation.
The third type of aphasia is called dynamic aphasia. The dynamic aphasic resembles the efferent aphasic in many respects, because dynamic aphasia is also a combination disorder. But the aphasic's difficulty is not with regard to combination of phonemes or with regard to the combination of words in a sentence. His difficulty now lies in his inability to combine sentences. The dynamic aphasic fails to combine sentences which have no hierarchical grammatical rules within a set of utterances. Thus the dynamic aphasic has a lot of difficulty in constructing discourses and to build a monologue, "a context which is incumbent on the speaker alone." He is unable to switch from one system of signs to another such as answering a verbal order by a prescribed gesture.
Just as dynamic aphasia reflects a more intricate efferent aphasia, the semantic aphasia reflects a higher order sensory aphasia. The semantic aphasic cannot grasp the difference between phrases such as wife's brother and brother's wife. The semantic aphasia reflects a highly attenuated form of sensory aphasia. The word order is uniform and inflexible. The organization of a sentence pattern is easy for the semantic aphasia. However, comprehension of a word is in direct proportion to its syntactic environment. Morphology, in the words of Jakobson, yields to syntax. Morphology of lexical items is completely lost on the semantic aphasia.
The afferent or kinesthetic aphasia is based on a disruption of the capacity for combination and hence should be considered as an encoding disturbance. The afferent aphasic however makes a merger of phonemes - not a mere assimilation. His failure to combine appropriate features into a phoneme results in overlapping and merger. He has difficulty in the combination of distinctive features into a phoneme. The aphasic finds it difficult to use the bundle of all the concurrent features essential for a phoneme and utilizes only one or a few features of the given phoneme which by now shows a merger with one or more phonemes. There is no constancy however in the repertory of preserved features and the terms of any binary opposition are mutually interchangeable. The afferent aphasia thus does not exhibit the correspondence between the dichotomy of combination and selection, or between encoding and decoding.
In the amnesic aphasia the patient is unable to make an appropriate selection. But this inability is more particularly affecting iterative selection. The patient points correctly to his eye when asked to do so. When asked to point out his eye and ear, he points correctly to the first item and either omits the second or shows a wrong organ. When asked to point out eye, ear and nose in a sequence he is simply perplexed. In the grammatical level the coordinative constructions are the only ones which suffer in the amnesic aphasia.
Jakobson's main contribution is the clarity with which he classified the aphasic impairments purely on linguistic levels. The linguistic level envisaged by Jakobson is an all comprehensive approach, not a mere structuralist position. The level included phonological, morphological, syntactic, semantic and inter and intralingual communication with their attendant discourse and paraphrasing capabilities. Jakobson's contribution does not stop with a mere linguistic characterization of aphasic impairments on purely linguistic levels, but to take it to a higher inter-disciplinary interpretation.
Jakobson suggests two stages of analysis and pursuit for every scientific endeavour. Autonomy of approach is an essential first step for a proper perspective and scientific analysis of any phenomenon. At the same time autonomy is rewarding but isolation is harmful. After an autonomous analysis of a phenomenon from the point of view of a single discipline, it is useful and even necessary to look for correlation of facts identified by different disciplines for the same phenomenon. The need for such a correlation is much more urgent and fruitful for an investigation of language disorders as these disorders have a definite but difficult to localize bases in the neurophysiological make up of man.
Jakobson suggests a tentative topographic analogue to all the three linguistic dichotomies identified by him:
|Combination Disorder||More anterior lesions of the cortex|
|Selection Disorder||More posterior lesions of the cortex|
|Efferent Disorder||Anterotemporal lesions|
|Sensory Disorder||Posterotemporal lesions|
|Dynamic impairment||The frontal intrinsic area of the forebrain|
|Semantic impairment||The posterior intrinsic area|
(the posteroparietal and parieto-occipital sections)
3. 6. 3. The Behaviourist-Linguist and Language Disorders
The behaviourist approach to language characterizes language as consisting of a set of complex verbal responses. These responses are conditioned by environmental reinforcement. There are two types of conditioning-classical and operant. In ameliorating the conditions of speech disorders, the clinical procedure following the behaviourist school insists upon repeated imitative tasks in which the rewards are awarded for the correct responses. The pattern of responses is progressively shaped and led to form more complex and more differentiating patterns. Sequencing of the events for the imitative tasks, and the elicitations are carefully planned in such a way that there is a slow but steady withdrawal of rewards with commensurate increase in the non-imitative responses. Each step is considered a programme by itself and the clinician proceeds from one step to the other only when the patient has mastered the first step. The behaviourist may also use the developmental schedules available for language in their clinical work.
In the behaviourist approach the emphasis is on the child's imitative learning. If the child produces an utterance, comprehension is assumed to have been achieved. Gradation of linguistic structures, in this approach, encourages the identification of nouns as the first step, followed by naming of objects and pictures, the locative pre or post positions and so on. The aim is to enable the child to acquire the basic elements of a language in all its levels, with the assumption that with such an acquisition of basic elements the child will be in a position to develop his language on his own initiative.
Language acquisition is viewed as the learning of responses. These responses are reinforced by rewards; the rewards are given by a listener through comprehension, environmental control, social approval and other actions. They reinforce the responses and the responses become generalized linguistic rules. The reinforcement schedule includes reinforcement of many items that are not, properly speaking, linguistic; but these are highly essential non-linguistic props for the acquisition of language. These include rewards for sitting still, contacting the eyes of the clinician and imitating simple motor acts. Vocal imitation of vowels and consonants and repetition of words and phrases immediately follow the above. On the receptive side, pointing to objects, body parts and environmental conditions form the responses. Such responses are also carefully graded. They are followed by the development of receptive responses to simple commands. In the production side labeling plays an important role and in the receptive side recognition has a prominent place. A useful and very crucial linkage is presented to the child through games such as naming missing objects. Storage and retrieval part of language capacity is aimed at in these exercises. The when, where, bow and why of things and events come later on, which aim at making discourses in real language use situations.
The problem a clinician faces in a speech clinic is similar in many respects to the one a second language teacher faces in his classroom. The patient is trained in the clinic so that he will freely use this training outside. The problems of performance outside the clinic thus must be reflected in the training programme pursued in the clinic. Many a programme does not, however, recognize this fact. Some however incorporate conversational and/or playgroup activities. Questions and answers are presented as language tasks. The role of imitation is reduced to some extent. In India programmes are few in number, publications of literature are still a rarity, communication between scholars still carried out in terms of work on languages of the west, and works based on Indian languages are yet to be firmly established. Emphasis is on expression system rather than comprehension. Yet language performance outside the clinic continues to receive only scant attention.
3. 6. 4. The Mentalist Linguist and Language Disorders
The mentalist linguist's approach to language disorders and their clinical amelioration emphasizes the developmental schedule of language acquisition. The sequential amelioration steps closely parallel the normal language acquisition developmental schedule. Comprehension is considered basic and a prerequisite to speech production. Normal children have more receptive than productive power. Furthermore acquisition capacity for comprehension is accomplished much earlier and is more elaborate than capacity for production. As a corollary the relevance and importance of imitation should be considered marginal. The performance of the patient outside the clinic has a direct bearing on the ameliorative training administered in the clinic.
The mentalist records not only what the patients says, but also what the normal users of the language say as well as the activity the patient is engaged in. Unlike the behaviourist linguist-inspired clinician who concentrates more on the phonological aspects of the language of the patient, the mentalist linguist-inspired clinician concentrates on syntactic and semantic aspects along with phonological factors. The mentalist linguist-inspired clinician assumes that grammatical analysis of early speech will help early diagnosis which is distinct from language delay. This has resulted in the construction of several developmental tests such as Berry-Talbott Exploratory test of Grammar, North Western Syntax Screening Test and others. The mentalist clinician's major problem is the interpretation and use of diverse and at times disparaging developments within the mentalist school to his own advantage. The rapid changes that take place in theory are a challenge to his nerve and skill. For some models and assumptions of linguistics and learning theories, see Thirumalai (1977).
To conclude, the aspects of language acquisition by normal children form a relevant and very useful backdrop for the ameliorative steps. The various models of linguistics, neurophysiology and learning theories should be carefully understood, properly integrated and/or differentiated to achieve the best possible results.
The study of language disorders and of the neurophysiological mechanisms of language production, use and comprehension is yet to find its due place in the discipline of linguistics. The students of linguistics and psycholinguistics will benefit a lot from an understanding of the neurophysiological mechanisms and language disorders. Linguists can contribute to scientific appraisal and evolution of ameliorative steps badly needed to alleviate the suffering of speech patients. Brain (1961) and Perkins (1971) give a good introduction to the types of speech disorders. Luchsinger and Arnold (1965) may be also referred to. Penfield and Roberts (1959) is another important volume. Jakobson (1971) gives aspects of aphasia. Berry (1969) gives language disorders of children and suggests several ameliorative steps also. Luria (1932, 1973) and Lashley (1960) are recommended for an in depth study of the positions of Luria and Lashley. Hebb's Organization of Behavior. (Hebb 1949) is a classic that must be read. For an understanding of speech disorders and the practices of therapy, Berry and Eisenson (1970) is recommended. Reuck, and O'Connor (1964) is an excellent collection on disorders of language. Cherry (1957) and Miller (1970) give aspects of the psychology of communication. For auditory perception and acoustic perception of speech and communicative competence we have already cited some references.
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