Communication, Language, and Meaning: Psychological Perspectives

By George A. Miller | Go to book overview

14 LANGUAGE AND PERCEPTION

Thomas G. Bever

Many characteristics of every language are due to political and social accidents. For example, the names in different languages for animals are not systematically related to any particular property of the animals; the words "dog, chien, hund..." all refer to the same animal even though their sounds differ greatly. This variability of languages makes it appear that children come into the world with uncommitted minds about many of the specific aspects of the particular language that their parents speak. Previous chapters have described the kinds of abstract rules that describe biologically arbitrary, but socially important, differences in specific sounds, words, and meanings in different languages. In this chapter, I shall discuss some built-in habits of perception that are common to the mental life of all human beings, and I will show some of the consequences for language structure of these perceptual habits. I want to convince you that man aspects of linguistic structure are not arbituary at all, nor merely due to social and political accidents, but rather that many conventional linguistic rules exist to help the language accommodate to the peculiarities of our habits of perception.

One outstanding characteristics of human perception is that we tend to organize our conscious perception of the world in terms of the highest available level of organization. For example, when you look at your radio you do not identify it as a particular combination of tubes, transistors, and wires in a box, but as a radio. When a truck drives past you don't perceive two tons of brightly colored noisy metal, you perceive a truck. Of course, you can try to perceive the world as a series

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Communication, Language, and Meaning: Psychological Perspectives
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • The Authors v
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xiii
  • 1: Psychology and Communication 3
  • 2: Psychology and the Theory of Language 13
  • 3: The Realm of Syntax 23
  • 4: The Realm of Meaning 36
  • 5: Biological Aspects of Language 49
  • 6: The Brain and Language 61
  • 7: Speech Development and Bird Song: Are There Any Parallels? 73
  • 8: Primate Communication 84
  • 9: Teaching Apes to Communicate 95
  • 10: The Development of Language in Children 107
  • 11 - Learning to Read 117
  • 12: The Speech Code 128
  • 13: Artificial Speech 141
  • 14: Language and Perception 149
  • 15: Language and Memory 159
  • 16: Language and Thought 172
  • 17: Language and Probability 185
  • 18: Communication and Computers 196
  • 19: Communication in Small Groups 208
  • 20: Mass Communication 219
  • 21: Nonverbal Communication 231
  • 22: Persuasion 242
  • 23: Language and Psychopathology 256
  • 24: The Sociology of Language 268
  • 25: Translation and Bilingualism 280
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 291
  • Index 299
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