Educational CyberPlayGround

Learn about the Evolution of Language.


Educational CyberPlayGround: Music, Literacy and Technology

Integrate Literacy, Music and Technology into the Classroom.


In his 1921 book, “Language,” Sapir stated that language is an acquired skill, which “varies as all creative effort varies—not as consciously, perhaps, but nonetheless as truly as do the religions, the beliefs, the customs, and the arts of different peoples.”

Evolutionary Science: We hear and process all language as sound first and THEN we process the sound as meaning.

Ears develope before the eyes. We Hear in the womb first. It's more important. Remember we are animal and we will respond to a growl - hearing it as something dangerous - and that has meaning which will let us survive.


The Mysteries Of Speech

How do we learn to speak?
What is the connection between language and movement?

Source "But we found processing of all three within a very small space in Broca's area," Sahin says. About 200 milliseconds (two-tenths of a second) after seeing the words, there was a spike in activity in the brain cells, suggesting recognition of the words on the screen. At 320 milliseconds, "we saw evidence of grammatical processing," Sahin says. And at 450 milliseconds, researchers saw processing that indicated the brain was "cuing up what to say and getting ready to say it." That timetable fits well with previous experiments showing that it takes about 600 milliseconds for a person to go from thinking something to saying something. "I show connectivity (phase-locking) across a broad network including visual, semantic, and classic higher language areas, in two waves, which bracket a period in which local expertise centers (e.g. Broca's) do their processing and perhaps prepare their results to be bound into the output stream."
"This evidence will clearly help our thinking about the role of Broca's area in speech," says Peter Hagoort, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands. Not only does the experiment show that Broca's area is involved in several different aspects of speech, he says, it shows that the cells performing different speech functions were within a few millimeters of one another. That raises the possibility that a single brain cell may be carrying out different speech functions at different times.

Interdisciplinary connections between Language, Music, Evolution, Reading.

As language develops some cultures pay attention to the pitch of the word and the rhythm of the word. In all cultures, If it doesn't have the right rhythm nobody will understand.

Rhythmic patterns underlie the human language.

Hear: Cab Calloway: Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing.

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Interdisciplinary Social Rhythm Researchers

The sing-song way in which parents speak to their baby, the lullaby, fingerplay, and rhyming games common to nursery rhymes at home and in school, are more important for a child's developing brain than we ever imagined, and they provide an important tool for the young child to discover the grammar and structure of her native language.
SPCH1 is the first gene linked to speech and thought to control other genes responsible for building the brain circuitry that underlies language and speech.There are two acitve areas of the brain involved, one is associated with interpreting sounds of words, the other with processing concepts. This supports the theory that the brain is not like a computer, solving problems, step by step. Rather, there is a feedback loop between different bits doing different things.
A study of three children with profoundly deaf parents found that the babies began to babble silently in sign language.This finding supports the theory that vocal babbling is not just jaw exercises but a critical first step in learning to speak. Other recent language research is more practical, showing that young children learn to speak more quickly when parents use single words in isolation - an instinctive tendency.

Musical roots may lie in human voice.
Points at which sound energy is concentrated in the speech spectrum predict the chromatic scale. Certain pairs of tones sound more harmonious than others because they are physically similar to the patterns of sound energy most familiar to human listeners from their exposure to speech. Acoustic analysis of speech samples reveal 10 frequency peaks that match the most significant intervals used in musical scales worldwide. Speech frequency peaks are caused when a sound wave from the vocal cords is shaped by resonances of the throat and oral cavity. The researchers say that, aside from animal calls, speech emanating from oscillations of the human vocal cords is virtually the only natural sound that we hear as tones. This fact, combined with the finding that preferred musical intervals are better predicted by the acoustic quirks of the human vocal tract, leads the scientists to argue that the structure of music is rooted in our long exposure to the human voice over evolutionary time. Dale Purves

How do babies begin to acquire language?

The only good predictor of children's rate of vocabulary learning is the vocabulary size of their parents, why is unknown.

Infants pick up patterns, they listen to the parts that conform to the sound patterns, which then help them learn words and, ultimately, grammar. Their ability to do this, however, depends on age. Psychologist Jenny Saffran Infant Learning Laboratory UW Madison


A baby's perception of the rhythmic pattern is a key mechanism that launches the process of human language acquisition.

Babbling results from the baby's sensitivity to specific patterns at the heart of language, like the sing-song patterns that bind syllables, the tiny units of language, into words and sentences.

"Much of the information that's transmitted during speech is transmitted by pitch and timing," two of the crucial elements of music, says neurologist Mark Tramo of Harvard University. Think of the little upturn at the end of a sentence that signals a question.

Babies Learn words by 10 month old.

No. 122, 9 February 2002 EARLY LEARNING

[... Babies pick up language astonishingly quickly. By the time they are a year old they can recognise a lot of sounds and even simple words. Marie Cheour at the University of Turku in Finland exposed newborn babies to a tricky Finnish vowel sound. She discovered that infants whose exposure included their night-time sleeping hours were able to recognise this new sound when they were tested in the morning, while the other infants couldn't pick it out at all. Cheour's findings lend weight to her hunch that babies learn language while they sleep as well as when they are awake. She has a theory as to how they accomplish this - but sadly for budding linguists, she believes the skill probably fades in the course of the first year of life...] Subject: Development: Linguistic ability and early language exposure.

Development: Linguistic ability and early language exposure Nature 417, 38 (2002) RACHEL I. MAYBERRY *, ELIZABETH LOCK+ & HENA KAZMI
For more than 100 years, the scientific and educational communities have thought that age is critical to the outcome of language learning, but whether the onset and type of language experienced during early life affects the ability to learn language is unknown. Here we show that deaf and hearing individuals exposed to language in infancy perform comparably well in learning a new language later in life, whereas deaf individuals with little language experience in early life perform poorly, regardless of whether the early language was signed or spoken and whether the later language was spoken or signed. These findings show that language-learning ability is determined by the onset of language experience during early brain development, independent of the specific form of the experience.

Paul Bloom Department of Psychology Yale University

Physicality - Gestures

READING AND RHYMING GAMES are good. The better infants are at distinguishing the different parts of words, the better they will be later using more complex language, researchers say.

Language evolves and changes with children, and gesture is an integral part of language. Some researchers have speculated that language evolved first in the form of a system of gestures, with sound taking over only later as the preferred channel of communication.

“We should never read before we play,” Gee said. James Paul Gee, a linguist who is the Tashia Morgridge Professor of Reading at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the author of Why Video Games Are Good for Your Soul, argued that librarians need to adapt their techniques to digital natives. A digital native would never read an instruction manual with a new game before simply trying the game out, Gee said. Similarly, students shouldn't be expected to read long explanations of tools they may use before they start experimenting with them.

Language Is Used To Tell Stories.
Children's first reading experience are with parent's reading them stories. Then children play on the playground reciting their indigenous playground poetry hours a day day after day and what are they? Stories.
Children learn how stories work through their own poetry, which is a the basic building block of reading and necessary for formal instructional success and some children can come to school having a vocabulary that is four times bigger than other children by first grade. Oral language - what rhymes promotes phonological sensitivity but is not phonics. Written language corresponds to speech sounds at the level of phonemes.

Why Are Letters And Other Human Visual Signs Shaped The Way That They Are?
University of Chicago Press Journals March 30, 2006
[...Human visual signs have been cross-culturally selected to reflect common contours in natural scenes that humans have evolved to be good at seeing.
"[We] analyzed one hundred writing systems, Chinese characters, and non-linguistic visual signs, and found that these very different types of human visual signs possess a similar shape structure," explain the researchers.
Comparing human visual signs to natural scenes, the researchers demonstrate a high correlation between the most common contour combinations found in nature and the most common contours found in letters and symbols across cultures.]
The researchers also examined motor and visual skills and the shapes that are easiest to see and form. They make a strong case that the shape signature for human visual signs is primarily selected for reading, at the expense of writing.


Origin of English

When you hear someone pronouncing "ask" as "aks" or "pretty" as "purty", do you find yourself looking down your nose? Not so fast! What you're witnessing is the English language busy at work, mutating, evolving, and refurbishing its wordstock, making things easier to pronounce. Known as metathesis, it is the same process that gave us dirt (from drit) and curd (from crud!). If you ever used the word flimsy, you did it: the word is the metathesized form of the word filmsy. It is somewhat like our friend spoonerism, except that here the letters or sounds get transposed within the same word. Many everyday words appear in a form created by such interchange of letters: the word bird came from Old English brid, third from thridda. Going back to "ask," here is an interesting twist. The word "ask" itself came from Old English forms acsian and ascian that co-existed. Eventually the former won over and became standard. So what we are seeing here is history repeating itself. A few hundred years and who knows, we may be exhorting, "Aks not what your country can do for you ..."

Change of ch and th, to f.
The guttural sound of c aspirated (ch) does not exist in English, and in anglicised names it is occasionally changed to f; for example, Knocktopher in Kilkenny, is from the Irish Cnoc-a'-tochair, the hill of the togher or causeway. F is also sometimes substituted for th; thus, Tiscoffin in Kilkenny took its name from an old church called Tigh-scoithin [Tee-Scoheen], the house of St. Scoithin, who erected his primitive church here towards the close of the sixth century.

From Wordsmith:
Here are a few more words that are metathetic forms of former words. Here is an example:

scart (skart) verb tr., intr.
To scratch, scrape or scar.
[Metathetic variation of scrat, to scratch.]

"But despite extensive renovation, traces of barbed wire still scart its walls."
Lisa Nipp, Little Sisters, World & I, Jan 1996.

Language Rights - What Governments Give Dialect Official Recognition?

Home page of James Crawford,
I am an independent writer and lecturer - formerly the Washington editor of Education Week - who specializes in the politics of language. Since 1985, I have been reporting on the English Only movement, English Plus, bilingual education, efforts to save endangered languages, and language rights in the U.S.A.


You will find a discussion on Metathesis with Expert Linguists on the CreoleTALK - MAILING LIST

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