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Language and Communication in Psychology

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Through detailed consideration of one selected area of investigation evaluate the progress made by researchers in developing explanations of key aspects of the psychology of language and communication. The study of language is frequently debated in different theories of human nature. The importance of language is relevant when it to comes to the work of philosophers, neuroscientist, humanist and psychologist.

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Language has been applicable to Aristotle, Plato, Hume, Locke, Freud and Skinner. This essay seeks in investigating the definition of language and communication.

In doing so traditional language theories will be assessed, this will later be compared to modern progression by researchers in developing explanations of the psychology of language and communication. The development of language and language disorders will be evaluated in order to successfully investigate the modern approaches to language. Firstly, the evaluation of language, its origins, process and the use have been investigated in areas such as computational theory, cognitive neuroscience, evolutional and cultural psychology in contemporary studies of language.

Language is usually seen as systems for example English, French and Italian even seen as systems of language it can be used to describe other things because of its broad definition, In describing music for instance or art. These areas can have its own language that needs to be learnt to understand and interpret music for example. Language in general can be used in any form of communication. Since language is broad it is important to study specific areas of language, instead of its general definition (Bloom, .

P, 2007) . This is so that direct questions can be answered. As a result the narrow questioned being investigated can be generalised to other systems of language. It is known that some form of language is used everyday, linguistics is dedicated field of the scientific study of everyday language and even though the broad term is difficult to define, linguists believe that ‘language is a formal system of agreed rules that have to be followed by a speaker.

In this system there is the addition of morphology also known as the formation of words, syntax the formation of phrases and phonology, sound systems (Fromkin 2000). Secondly, Charles Dawins works have been used as a platform in the belief that’ man has an instinctive tendency to speak, as we see in the babble of our young children; whilst no child has an instinctive tendency to brew, bake, or write’ Darwin (1871). This gives the idea that language comes natural, that humans have been biologically designed to speak.

Neurological studies support the idea that language is part of the human nature through the investigations of dedicated parts of the brain for language. It is believed that this might explain why every human society has language. The idea has therefore raised questions as to whether language is innate or a cultural innovation. Language deficits and aphasia has been investigated in recent studies to prove what happens when these dedicated parts for language are damaged.

The works of cognitive neuropsychologist is to use theoretical frameworks and methods to specific language impairments. During the initial stages of Cognitive neuropsychological (in the second half of the nineteenth century) neurologists such as Lichtheim, Wernicke and Bastian began to make assumption about the design of the brain and its fixed language processing systems (Coltheart, 2006) this brought about the box-and-arrow diagrams in an attempt to demonstrate the brain’s architecture.

In taking this thought further, how these components in the brain were localised was also studied. Even though at the time the cognitive function of language was not proved, by the failed attempt of localising the brain, it was relevant in influencing the work of other psychologist, an example is the later simplified version conducted by Coltheart. The work of Lichtheim, Wernicke and Bastian, received a lot of criticism from neurologist that were not cognitively oriented such as Head (1926) this led to fall in cognitive neuropsychological and the rise of behaviourism.

Shallice, (1988) have suggested that cognitive neuropsychological data are too “noisy” and there difficult in being used further than exploring the brains functional architecture. Others such as McCloskey & Caramazza, (1991) have argued against this point. Stating that there shouldn’t be a restriction on what data produced cognitive theory at ‘any arbitrary level of detail’. Thirdly, It was not until the mid twentieth century that there was a Cognitive revolution” with the work of Broadbent (1956), Chomsky, (1959) Miller, Galanter, & Pribram,(1960), also study from Marshall and Newcombe (1966, 1973) looking into cognitive neuropsychology of reading and from Shallice and Warrington (1970) memory. This also included the work into the development of researching sentence processing in aphasia, where linguistic and psycholinguistic theory were responsible for the analysis of aphasic symptoms (Caramazza & Zurif, 1976 ; Marin, Saffran, & Schwartz, 1976). A substantial amount of evidence afterwards has been produced in showing modularity in the brain.

This shows that even though language is specifically located in the brain it is split into separate stages that may selectively be disrupted. (Berndt, Basili and Caramazza 1987) it is therefore established that specific lesions (in specific parts of the brain dedicated to language) will not affect the entire language process. This might see a patient losing the ability to understand spoken word but retain the ability to repeat words, suggesting that there are separate modules responsible for separate actions in the brain. (Schwartz,Saffran, & Marin, 1980)

Fodor (1983) was also in support of the modularity of the brain after incorporating some of the ideas that were developed in cognitive neuropsychological. Foder describes a module as a domain specific. This is where the brain stores information that is responsible for a specific mental representation. For instance speech perception uses a separate path then that used in different auditory analysis and controls only acoustic signals, perceived as utterances. D. Bishop (1997). Superior cognitive functions can not affect the processes of modules in the brain, known as ‘information encapsulation’. In this processing becomes fixed.

The fact that modular processing can not be influenced by higher cognitive operations describes the term. It is difficult to take no notice of incoming speech—even if attention is not used for receiving speech, a response will take place one will immediately respond on hearing a relevant sound for instance a someone own name (Foder 1983). Fodor with the support of evolutionary arguments states that the brain complex system can be broken down into layers, through case studies of selective impaired patients having a particular effect on the process of language. He believes that language therefore is innate and pre- programmed in humans.

Human studies have relied wholly on researches regarding nature. The main reasons for carrying out functional neuroimaging are to improve peoples take on the variable anatomical functions of language. This then leads on to the argument that’s the much debated Broca’s area which is linked to speech production can be subdivided into three regions, a posterior and superior region that is involved with sounds of language, an interior and ventral region that is involved with meaning of words and a regions between the other two that is involved with meaning conveyed by sentences.

Research carried out during the analysis on the anatomy and physiological aspects of the auditory processing in animals, show specific revelations regarding how the human brain perceives and process speech. Ignoring the concerns of critics, Researchers studying this phenomenon have resorted to using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) (which was introduced as a basic tool for monitoring language and brain activities) with the exception of people affected by induced nervous disorders such as stroke, to produce valuable evaluation, with regards to how language is organised in the human brain.

Critics believe this is another example of wasted effort especially with the exclusion of patients with neurological disorders as study showed that this illness affects mainly the social and professional lives of those affected and sometimes it is not enough to impair their speech recognition abilities. PET has four advantages for the study of language: (i) it does not lose sensitivity and spatial localisation in important anterior and medial temporal lobe structures, a (current) problem with fMRI due to susceptibility artefacts and geometric shifts4,,5; (ii) its lower spatial resolution makes it orders of magnitude less susceptible to movement artefacts time-locked to stimulus and response, as occurs with overt articulation (most fMRI studies of word retrieval use covert responses); (iii) it does not create the din that is a feature of data acquisition in an MR scanner, requiring special techniques when important acoustic features in auditory stimuli may be masked6; and (iv) in the serial study of aphasic patients, it is the author’s anecdotal experience that patients are far more likely to agree to come back for a second PET scan than to go back into a MRI magnet, a much more intimidating environment. ” Coltheart (2005).

Technological development such as the scanning of the brain has been shown to be critical in the work of language processing. Since language is built into the brain PET scans is useful method in watching the brain at work with the use of basic words. The area of the brain that is activated during the process of language can be identified (recognition of words). Further studies on thought processing (especially with regards to language) shows that certain groups of people were not able to process language normally. “a group has to be anatomically normalized into the same stereotactic space. To allow for individual variations of gyral and sulcal anatomy, the image data have to be smoothed. This is because of the problem of lesion distribution.

Ablation studies in non-human animals are placed with great care, and often post mortem examinations are performed after the behavioural experiments to confirm the boundaries of the lesion. The unsubtle lesions occurring as the consequence of cerebrovascular disease, necrotising viral infections, etc. may destroy cortex, local white matter connections, major white matter tracts connecting remote cortical regions, sub-cortical nuclei, and their reciprocal connections with cortical areas. No lesion experiment in a non-human animal, relating structure to function, would be accepted for publication if clipping of a major arterial branch produced the focal injury. ” Coltheart (2005)

It is clear that studies on the human brain have been dependant on nature experiments with the application of liberal scientific standard. This has therefore allowed certain syndromes to be associated to lesions. ‘This sometimes have been related to marked inter-subject distinction in the cortical organisation of function, which, would mean that studies of structure–function relationships in the human, other than early perceptual and motor processes, are meaningless. It would seem much more plausible that broadly similar clinical syndromes may result from very differently sited cortical, sub-cortical or tract lesions within distributed neural systems that are essentially similar between subjects with the same handedness and uneventful development. Coltheart (2005) The data from useful neuroimaging is a vital contribution to the perspective of language and its structure. It is therefore useful when used on normal subjects in pinpointing where modular language processors are. The traditional Broca’s area in the left frontal gyrus can be divided further into three parts it has been argued: ‘one that is posterior and superior and is involved in the sound structure (phonology) of language; a second, anterior and ventral that is concerned with the meaning of words (semantics); and a third, lying in-between the first two regions, that is involved in meaning conveyed by sentence structure (syntax).

Of particular clinical relevance is the ability to determine shifts of function after focal brain lesions and how these may be potentially modified or even induced by behavioural or drug therapy’. Caplan (2006) The recent cognitive studies have been useful in producing architecture and process of the brain but there are few studies that evaluate the technique of neuroimaging in a negative manner. Poeppel, (1996) states that neuroimaging so far has told us nothing about the mind so far. In support of this notion Orden and Paap (1997) agree that nothing has been learnt from neuroimaging and never will. It is believed that complexity of cognition can not produces evidence through this technique.

Henson (2005) has provided a vital framework for considering the role of brainimaging data in cognitive psychology. He writes: “My main argument is that, provided one makes the assumption that there is some ‘systematic’mapping from psychological function to brain structure, then functional neuroimaging data simply comprise another dependent variable, along with behavioural data, that can be used to distinguish between competing psychological theories” (p. 194). This idea recognises that there is some systematic mapping from psychological function to the structure of the brain. To conclude, Cognitive neuropsychology can be easily seen as a branch of cognitive psychology which has been vital to study of language and how it is processed in the brain.

It has been useful in creating theories through the study of subjects performance in which normal cognition are identified. There have been several studies in support of how the language is processed in the brain to further prove or disprove these theories. The studies of these damaged sections have been able to be looked at through the advancement of technology. These scans have been able to explain a range of questions about the processing of language in the brain for instance, the lateralized view of the human brain. This has also been observed in animals that also use sound for communication e. g. monkeys birds and dolphins. In this the control of sound production is usually in the left hemisphere also seen in humans.

The two major areas of the human brain that are responsible for language are the Broca’s area ,this is partially responsible for putting sentences together and using correct syntax secondly the Wernicke’s area, which is partially responsible for language processing (untangling others’ sentences and analyzing them for syntax, inflection, etc. ). Broca aphasia is used to describe if the Broca areas is damaged. side effects show slow, hesitant speech that lack grammer. Typical Broca’s aphasics can not words not essential to the significance of the sentence, such as the and and. When the Wernicke area is damaged then it is known as Wernicke’s aphasia. It can be seen as opposite to Broca’s aphasia.

Wernicke’s aphasics are able to make general sentences but they are often senseless and include made-up words. Wernicke’s aphasics show signs of understanding others’ speech, but have difficulty naming objects Other types of aphasia noted in brain-damaged patients can show even worse effects. If Wernicke’s and Broca’s area are disconnected, patients struggle to repeat sentence said out to them. This shows that there is the possibility Wernicke’s area, which has processed the sentence heard, is unable to communicate it to Broca’s area for repetition. In another type, Wernicke’s and Broca’s areas remain connected but cannot communicate with the rest of the brain. Patients can only repeat sentences but fail to speak on impulse speech (Pinker 1994).

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