October 9, 2014
Language is an important mechanism used in most individual’s everyday life. It helps define their culture, their backgrounds, who they are and where their place in the world is. Most of us don’t put a lot of thought into what mental processes work together to allow an individual to express his thoughts and ideas through language, but it is impossible to analyze the language development process without factoring in the important role that cognition plays in that event. This essay intends to present different hypothesis that try to explain how cognition and language are related, and how deeply connected they must be in order to allow the proper functioning and interaction of individuals in society. As thinkers try to understand if people that come from different backgrounds and speak different languages also think differently, or if there is a point of development that an individual has to reach of development from cognition required to acquire the language skills needed. The debate between psychologist about the relationship between language and cognition is one that is certain to be continues for ages to come (Harris, n.d.) .
Language can be defined as the human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication. This system allows individuals to express and communicate thoughts and feelings by using speech sounds and written symbols. The scientific study of language is linguistics. There are four key features of language, which are phonemes, words, sentences and text. Phonemes-phonetics can be considered the most important key feature of languages, because this aspect is what makes each language different from one another. Phonemes are sounds usually indicated by slash symbols, and these sounds cannot be broken into smaller sounds. Phonetics studies the physical properties of those speech sounds, and what they mean. Words, the second key feature in languages can be defined as a unit of language formed by one of more spoken sounds. When words are put together, sentences are formed. Sentences are grammatical units of one word or more. Text refers to conversations, or a group of sentences put together to relay a message. The four levels of language structure and processing are phonemes, words, sentences, and texts. Phonemes make up words, which make up sentences, which make up texts.
Is language fundamentally different than other cognitive abilities, or does it involve the same mental processes and characteristics? It is still unknown to scientists how exactly language and cognition interact during the thinking process, or how fundamental language is for thinking. “Language accumulates cultural wisdom; cognition develops mental representations modeling surrounding world and adapts cultural knowledge to concrete circumstances of life. Language is acquired from surrounding language “ready-made” and therefore can be acquired early in life. This early acquisition of language in childhood encompasses the entire hierarchy from sounds to words, to phrases, and to highest concepts existing in culture. Cognition is developed from experience. Yet cognition cannot be acquired from experience alone; language is a necessary intermediary, a ‘teacher.’” (Perlovsky, 2011).
Although language development is a process that most individuals take for granted, as many other cognitive functions, it must be learned. Children, for instance, not only have to learn the names for thousands of objects, feelings, situations, colors, animals, and more, but they also have to learn how to put those words together and form cohesive sentences. Chomsky developed in the 1950s an interesting concept of how and which mind mechanisms influenced the language process. “It seemed obvious to Chomsky that surrounding language cultures do not carry enough information for a child to learn language, unless specific language...
References: Carruthers, P. (2012). Language in cognition. Retrieved from http://faculty.philosophy.umd.edu/pcarruthers/Language%20in%20cognition.pdf
Harris, C. L. (n.d.). Language and cognition. Retrieved from http://www.bu.edu/psych/charris/papers/Encyclopedia.pdf
Leonid Perlovsky, “Language and Cognition Interaction Neural Mechanisms,” Computational Intelligence and Neuroscience, vol. 2011, Article ID 454587, 13 pages, 2011.
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