LING 1010 Lecture 18 Notes
LING 1010 Lecture 18 Notes LING 1010
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This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by Sarah Skinger on Wednesday April 6, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to LING 1010 at University of Connecticut taught by Hendrikus Van Der Hulst in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 40 views. For similar materials see Introduction to Languages and Linguistics in Linguistics and Speech Pathology at University of Connecticut.
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Date Created: 04/06/16
Lecture 18: Argument from Genetics: Language Genes? Initial Comments Only humans have a universal grammar and can use human language. However, other species have ways of communicating that we don’t understand, just like they can’t understand us when we speak. o There is a speciesspecific innate system There must be something in our genes that determines that we will have innate grammar If something is innate, there must be a genetic ability for it Some communication systems are completely innate, such as bees, who can do their particular dance without ever having seen it or been exposed to other bees. Language Evolution How did language as we know it come about over time, how did it evolve with our ancestors. o Artifacts found by archaeologists reflect the mental capacities of the people who created them. They show that the people has a “symbolic capacity”, which means that they could manipulate signs to create an even greater, more complex meaning. Genes Chromosomes contain 2 strands of DNA twisted together and then wound up tightly. The DNA molecules contain genes, which tell your body what to make, how much of it to make, and when not to make it, etc. Genes created all of your physical features, including your hair color, intestines, and brain matter, as well as many many many other things. “Junk DNA” Only small portions on the strands of DNA are used by the body to encode for things like proteins, which make up every single thing inside your body. The pieces that are not used (not encoded to make proteins) are called “Junk DNA” However, there sections of “Junk DNA” interact with the environment, and are able to turn on or of certain genes. o The environment could include the foods you eat, chemicals you come in contact with, the temperature outside, etc. o This can be thought of as a system of switches, and is collectively called the Epigenome Epigenome Turns your genes on or off, tells your genes what to do, including what proteins to make, what proteins not to make, etc. It is the way your nurture impacts your nature. The nurture we receive, including our environment, experiences, diet, etc, influences how our nature works. o In other words, our epigenome (influenced by our nurture, to an extent) effects our genes (what is there by default). Genetic Determinism The belief that genes are the only thing that impacts/ influences/ determines who we are. Everything about you comes from your genes Environmental Determinism The belief that everything about you is determined only by the environment you are exposed to If this were true, the concept of “species” would be confusing, because it means that if you were to treat a mouse like a human, that it would begin to act like a human. Of course we know this is not the case. What We Know Much of our body is determined by our genetics. However, we are able to influence that based on our environment. Ex: Laying in the sun, exercising regularly, living with hunger, etc. In this way, our genotype is influenced by our environment to produce our phenotype o Genotype What our genes say. Everything that we have the capacity to do, such as building muscles or learning any language. o Phenotype What we end up expressing. For example, having either very large or very small muscles depending on how often we go to the gym. Or, learning how to speak Hungarian instead of English or Japanese, or Dutch o In this way, our genotype (our capacity to express traits, or all the traits we could express) is influenced by our environment (like going to the gym or growing up in Hungary) to produce our phenotype (speaking Hungarian and having large muscles). o This can also be thought of as the genes determining all the possible principles, and experience strengthening the neural connections for one parameter (explained in next section). The mind is a product of how the brain works, and the bring is formed based on genetic information. But we know the mind is not a blank slate, so we can’t say it’s all genes (nature) or all environment (nurture). It is a combination. Connectome Your brain is made up of an enormous network of nerve cells, called neurons, which are all interconnected in a web. Those neurons talk to each other, and everything that you know is represented (and reliant on) the connections they have with each other. That network/ web of neural connections is called the connectome. We are born with lots and lot of connections more than we need. And as we learn things as we age, many of those connections disappear. This is because as we learn one thing (for example, that our language goes SOV instead of SVO), we strengthen the connection between those neurons. But at the same time, our brain realizes that since we need to know this one thing (our language is spoken SOV), it realizes that we must not need the other thing (innately being able to speak in a SVO order), so it gets rid of those connections. o Another example of this is that if your language does not use the voiced and voiceless vocal distinctions, then the connections for that will go away. You will then not be able to hear the difference between voiced and voiceless consonants, because you no longer have the neural connections for it, as you did when you were a baby. o In this way, experience reduces our number of neural connections. Also, new connections are formed simply from learning new things. When studying for an exam, we are automatically making new neural connections in our connectome. Language and Personality are Genetic The human capacity for language relies on specific genes. We know this because our genes create regions in the brain that house the mental grammar. And without those regions, we would not be able to create, use, or maybe even have the mental grammar. There are many different brain regions that are important for mental grammar We know that genes are very important and influential because of what we have learned from separated identical twins and adoption studies. o Identical Twin Studies Identical twins who were separated at birth and adopted by different families have the exact same genetic makeup, but have lived in very different environments. However, they tend to have similar personalities. Conclusion: personality is dependent on genetics o Adoption Studies Two children of similar ages are raised together by one family, although one or both of those children has been adopted. The children are very different genetically, but have had a very similar environment, and tend to have very different personalities. Conclusion: personality is not dependent on environment. Specific Language Impairment If a language disorder is NOT due to a physical defect, psychological problems, or the person is not mentally challenged, then the language disorder is a SLI and the impairment is genetic. An example of this is seen in the KE family. They have a genetic mutation on the FOXP2 gene, which has been passed down for three generations. The mutated gene causes the affected individuals to have difficulty articulating words, as well as difficulty with grammatical rules. They have difficulty developing and using language.
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