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Organisation of information

  • Introduction


My intention is to tell

Of bodies changed

To different forms.


The heavens and all below them,

Earth and her creatures,

All change,

And we, part of creation,

Also must suffer change.


 ~ OVID


Like most people, we probably take our ability to sense things for granted. We wake up in the morning, open our eyes and, voila, it’s all out there in front of us. The holistic aspects of vision such as seeing the forest, witnessing the sunrise, and sunset, reading facial expressions and responding with the appropriate emotion to the evocative situation, listening, and reciprocating all seem so effortless, so automatic, that we simply fail to recognize that sensory modality, what is perceived after the stimulus is an incredibly complex and still deeply mysterious process.


Consider for a moment, what happens each time you glance at even the simplest scene?

All you’re given are two tiny upside-down two- dimensional images inside your eyeballs, but what you perceive is a single, comprehensive panoramic three-dimensional world holding a lot of information. How does this miraculous transformation come about? What do you think happens in the brain when you look at an object? Your perception involves much more than replicating an image in your brain.


The first, step in understanding perception and its relationship with events, actions, and language is to get rid of the idea of images in the brain and to begin thinking about symbolic descriptions of objects and events in the external world.


For example; if you have to convey to a friend in the US what the new apartment that you recently bought looks like, you’ve wouldn’t have to teletransport it to the US. All you’d have to do would be to write to him/her describing your apartment. The words and paragraphs in the letter bear no physical resemblance to your bedroom yet the letter is a symbolic representation of your apartment.


But, what actually is this symbolic description? It’s actually a language of nerve impulses. Any object evokes a pattern of activity that is unique for each object. For example “when you look at your favorite pen, or your recently bought book, an unfamiliar or familiar face, a different pattern of nerve activity is elicited in each case, ‘informing’ your three systems of information processing model in the brain about what you’re looking at.” This intricate network of neurons is specialized for extracting certain types of information from the perceived image.


Our goal is to decipher the code used by the brain to create these symbolic representations and descriptions. Our every act of perception involves an act of judgment by the brain.


The human sensory system has an astonishing ability to make educated guesses based on the fragmentary and transitory images dancing in the eyeballs. It involves a great deal more than simply transmitting an image to a screen in the brain which is an active and constructive process. We know that even so basic a skill as attention requires the participation of many far-flung regions of the brain like visual, auditory, and somatosensory systems, But ‘attention’ is a loaded word, and we know even less about it than we do about neglect. So the statement that neglect arises from a ‘failure to pay attention doesn’t really tell us very much unless we have a clear notion of what the underlying neural mechanisms might be.


It’s like how you and I are able to attend selectively to a single sensory input, whether you’re trying to listen to a single voice amid the background din of voices at a party or just trying to spot a familiar face in a group of people. Why do we have this vivid sense of having an internal searchlight, one that we can direct at different objects and events around us?


At any given moment in our waking lives, our brains are flooded with bewildering arrays of sensory inputs, all of which must be incorporated into a coherent perspective that’s based on what stored memories already tell us is true about ourselves and the world. In order to generate coherent actions, the brain must have some way of sifting through this superabundance of detail and ordering it into a stable and internally consistent ‘belief system’ a story that makes sense of the available evidence present around. Each time a new item of information comes in we fold it seamlessly into our preexisting worldview.


  • Cognitive Architecture

How do our minds conserve or store what has been previously experienced or acquired newly?

The answer is quite simple yet captivating. For making use of information learned it must remain in our brain, stored up somehow, to be used when the need arises. In the world of psychology, this ability or power of our mind to store the past experience of learning and utilizing them at a later stage is known as ‘Memory’. This is done by information processing model of memory. The information processing approach characterizes thinking as the environment providing input of data, which is then transformed by our senses. The information can be stored, retrieved and transformed using “mental programs”, with the results being behavioral responses.

COGNITIVE ARCHITECTURE

But how do we form memory?

Let's see an example here, suppose you go to the grocery store one day and a friend introduces you to a new person named Sheldon. You form a memory of that episode and tuck it away in your brain. Three weeks go by and you run into Sheldon in the coffee shop. There you chit-chat over coffee, he tells you a story about your mutual friend, you share a laugh and your brain files a memory about this second episode. Another few weeks pass and you meet Sheldon in hospital, he is a neurosurgeon and he’s wearing a white lab coat but you recognize him instantly from earlier encounters. More memories of Sheldon are created during this time so that now you’ve in your mind a ‘category’ called Sheldon. This mental picture becomes progressively refined and enriched each time you meet Sheldon, aided by an increasing sense of familiarity that creates an incentive to link the images and the episodes. Eventually, you develop a robust concept of Sheldon that he tells great stories, is a neurosurgeon, makes you laugh, you both like coffee, and so forth.


This is how our brain created a file for Sheldon and associated experiences and events you had with Sheldon. Our brain links successive episodes to create a new concept and links to preexisting information if the category is the same.



Types of Memory

Memory is classified into certain types according to its nature and purpose served.


  1. Immediate memory: It is also called sensory memory which helps an individual to recall something a split second after having perceived it. Older sensory information disappears as they’re erased by new information. For example: when we enter the cinema hall, see the seat number given on our ticket and after occupying the seat, we forget as the action is completed. In immediate memory, remembering is for a short time and forgetting is rapidly after use.


Another example of this is, imagine you’re driving down the street, looking at the people and other cars on either side of your vehicle. All of a sudden you think, “What? Was that man wearing any pants?” and you look back to check. How did you know to look back? Your eyes had already moved past the possibly pantless person, but some part of your brain must have just processed what you saw.


Two kinds of immediate memory studied extensively are:


  • Iconic (visual) sensory memory: The example of seeing the possibly pantless person is an example of how the visual sensory system works. The visual sensory system is often called iconic memory and it only lasts for fraction of a second.


An example from daily life can be; when you glance over at a friend's phone as she is scrolling through her Instagram feed. You spot something as she quickly thumbs past it, but you can close your eyes and visualize an image of the item very briefly.

Some people do have eidetic imagery, the ability to access a visual sensory memory over a long period of time. This is called information persistence, the persistence of visual information. Another popular term is called photographic memory, some people claim to have photographic memory meaning that they have an extremely good memory. But having a good memory and having eidetic imagery are two different things. Photographic memory is much like capturing a photograph that preserves the information in great detail lasting for a longer period of time.


  • Echoic sensory memory: It is a brief memory of something a person has heard. A good example of echoic memory is the ‘What?’ phenomenon.

For example, You might be working concentrating on something important, or watching television and suddenly your friend walks up and says something to you. You sit there for a second or two and then say “What? Oh yes! Let’s go out to shop” or whatever comment is appropriate.

You heard it but your brain didn’t really process it immediately. It took several seconds for you to realize that: 

1) something was said,

2) it may have been significant, and

3) You’ll try to remember what it was maybe by relating it to previous information (we discussed our ability to make educated guesses at times).


Echoic memory’s capacity is limited to what can be heard at any one moment and is smaller than the capacity of iconic memory, although it lasts longer. Echoic memory is very useful when a person wants to have a meaningful conversation.


  1. Short-term memory: Short-term memory is put into action in our every day to day activities. When someone says a phone number, your short-term memory is working from the time you hear it to when you write it down. When you try to learn a lesson from a book, memorize a password, or remember a few lines of a poem, you're using your short-term memory until that information is required for a longer period it doesn’t go into the long term.


Short-term memory plays a large role in the majority of daily activities. Our ability to appropriately interact with our environment and the people that surround us depends directly on short-term memory.


Short-term memory works on the principle of selective attention—the ability to focus on the only stimulus that is of use to us from among all sensory input. Dr. Donald E. Broadbent explained this in his filter theory stating, that a ‘bottleneck’ occurs between the process of sensory memory and short-term memory. The stimulus that is ‘important’ enough will make it past the bottleneck to be consciously analyzed for meaning in short-term memory.


Short-term memory works on perception and attention. If you’ve ever been to a party where there’s a lot of noise and several conversations going on in the background but you’re still able to notice when someone says your name.


A dancer planning out moves in her head will not only visualize the moves but also be very likely to verbally describe the moves in her head as she plans. An artist planning a painting certainly has visual information in STM but may also keep up an internal dialogue that is primarily auditory.


How long is the ‘short’ of short-term memory? Research has shown that STM lasts from about 12-30 seconds without rehearsal. After that, the memory seems to rapidly decay or disappear.


Imagine a fashion store you enter, if you see too many things happening, what will be your response? Don’t you get confused and get a tendency to repel? Attention starts with our ability to retain our observation in human memory. George Miller, a cognitive psychologist conducted an experiment to know how much information humans can hold in STM at any one time.


The Magical Number Seven experiment purports that the number of objects an average human can hold in working memory is 7 ± 2. What this means is that the human memory capacity typically includes strings of words or concepts ranging from 5–9. A person is presented with a number of stimuli that vary on one dimension (such as 10 different tones varying only in pitch) and responds to each stimulus with a corresponding response (learned before). Performance is almost perfect up to five or six different stimuli but declines as the number of different stimuli increases.


There is a way to ‘fool’ STM into holding more information than is usual. If the bits of information are combined into meaningful units or chunks, more information can be held in STM. Example: If you want to memorize a phone number, instead of learning it as 10 separate bits of information, there would be three ‘chunks’ that read like a phone number like, ‘696-798-0017’. This process of recoding or reorganizing information is called ‘chunking’.


Some memory theorists use the term working memory as another way of referring to short-term memory. Working memory is an active system that processes the information present within the STM. You can call working memory the ‘Big Boss’ as it controls and coordinates the working of memory.


For example, when a person is reading a book, the STM will contain images of the people and events of the particulate passage being read while the recorder ‘plays’ the dialogue in the person’s head. The Big Boss helps interpret the information from both systems and pulls it together.


  1. Long-term memory: Long-term memory refers to the memory process in the brain that takes information from the short-term memory store and creates long-lasting memories. These memories can be from an hour ago or several decades ago. That does not mean that people can always retrieve those memories. The memories may be available but not accessible, meaning that they are still there, but for various reasons, people cannot ‘get to them. ‘Long-term’ also does not mean that all memories are stored forever, our personal memories are too numerous to be permanently retained. We only store long-lasting memories of the events and concepts that are meaningful and important to us. Information that is rehearsed long enough may actually find its way into long-term memory. To get the information back out, one has to remember it almost exactly as it went in. Try this: What is the 13th letter of the alphabet? Did you have to recite or sing through the alphabet song to that letter?


LTM is a mental storehouse of the meanings of words, concepts, and all the events that people want to keep in mind. Even the images, sounds, smells, and tastes involved in these events have some sort of meaning attached to them that gives them enough importance to be stored long term. STM can be thought of as a working ‘surface’ or ‘desk’ and LTM can be thought of as a huge series of filing cabinets behind the desk, in which files are stored in an organized fashion, according to meaning. The best way to encode information into LTM in an organized fashion is to make it meaningful through elaborative rehearsal. 

LONG TERM MEMORY

There are two types of long-term memory: Declarative or explicit memory and Non-declarative or implicit memory. Explicit memory refers to information that can be consciously evoked. There are two types of declarative memory: episodic memory and semantic memory. For its part, implicit memory encompasses all unconscious memories, such as certain abilities or skills. There are four types of implicit memory; procedural, associative, non-associative, and priming.




Nondeclarative memory also includes emotional associations, habits, and simple conditioned reflexes that may or may not be in conscious awareness, which are often very strong memories.


  • Procedural memory is the part of memory that participates in recalling motor and executive skills that are necessary to perform a task.

  • Associative memory refers to the storage and retrieval of information through association with other information. The acquisition of associative memory is carried out with two types of conditioning: classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning is associative learning between stimuli and behavior. Meanwhile, operant conditioning is a form of learning in which new behaviors develop in terms of their consequences.

  • Non-associative memory refers to newly learned behavior through repeated exposure to an isolated stimulus. The new behavior can be classified into two processes: sensitization and habituation. Habituation, in this context, is linked to repetition. Repeated exposure to a stimulus serves to stop responding to potentially important, but situationally irrelevant stimuli. Unlike habituation, sensitization consists of an increase in response to a stimulus due to the repeated introduction thereof.

  • Priming, is an effect whereby exposure to certain stimuli influences the response given to stimuli presented later.


Declarative memory refers to information that can be evoked consciously. episodic memory stores personal experiences and semantic memory stores information about facts.


  • Episodic memory involves the ability to learn, store, and retrieve information about unique personal experiences that occur in daily life. These memories typically include information about the time and place of an event, as well as detailed information about the event itself.


  • Activities such as reasoning, planning for the future or reminiscing about the past depend on the activation of concepts stored in semantic memory.


  • Constructive processing of memories

Many people have the idea that when they recall a memory, they are recalling it as if it were an ‘instant replay’. As new memories are created in LTM, old memories can get ‘lost’, but they are more likely to be changed or altered in some way. In reality, memories are never quite accurate, and the more time that passes, the more inaccuracies creep in. Each time a memory is retrieved, it may be altered or revised in some way to include new information or to exclude details that may be left out of the new reconstruction.

So here is a thing you see,

Your memory is directly proportional to the impact (good/bad/ positive /negative) you have had in that event. You can recall an event only because you have saved it.

But the question is how do you save it?

You save it to linguistic model through language.


  • Language

Language provides a medium for describing the contents of our conscious experience. We use it to share our perceptual experiences, thoughts, and intentions with other individuals.


For example; If you’re asked “ Did you see the car bump into the truck?’ may prompt a slightly different memory than “ Did you see the car smash into the truck?” 


Let’s discuss how language can possibly affect our memory? We will also examine language and how cognition can be affected by language.


The idea that language guides our cognition was clearly articulated by Whorf (1956) who proposed that an individual’s conceptual knowledge was shaped by his or her language. There is clear evidence demonstrating that language directs thought (Ervin-Tripp, 1967), influences concepts of time and space (e.g., Boroditsky, 2001), and affects memory. The science of language is known as linguistics.


Human beings have the ability to represent concepts in language. This ability allows us not only to disseminate conceptual knowledge to others, but also to manipulate, associate, and combine these concepts.


Henry Sweet, an English phonetician and language scholar, stated: “Language is the expression of ideas by means of speech-sounds combined into words. Words are combined into sentences, this combination answering to that of ideas into thoughts.”


A language has the following characteristics:

1. Language is a human attribute.

2. It is partly acquired, but largely instinctive.

3. It is verbal, symbolic and primarily oral in nature.

4. Language is a systematic and patterned behaviour having definite structure and form. The speaker cannot indiscriminately change the sequence of words.

5. Language has individual and social significance since it is a primary tool of communication.

6. Language is a system actualized as sounds or phonemes.

7. Language has melody, rhythm, pitch, stress and junctare.

8. The relationship between symbol and meaning is conventional arbitrary, learned and traditional.

9. Language is a open system allowing the speaker to say new utterances that may never have been said before.

  • Structure of Language

Language is organized hierarchically, from phonemes to morphemes to phrases and sentences that communicate meaning. Language can be divided into three basic parts, each with its own structure and rules: phonology, syntax (grammar), and semantics. Five major components of the structure of language are phonemes, morphemes, lexemes, syntax, and context. These pieces all work together to create meaningful communication among individuals.

The first of these, phonology, concerns the rules for pronunciation of speech sounds. The second aspect of language, syntax, deals with the way words combine to form sentences. And semantics focuses on the meaning of words and sentences.

BOTTOM UP APPROACH


  • Phonemes: Phonemes are the smallest distinguishable units in a language. It is the basic unit of phonology. It is the smallest unit of sound that may cause a change of meaning within a language, but that doesn't have meaning by itself. The English language has approximately 45 different phonemes, which correspond to letters or combinations of letters. Through the process of segmentation, a phoneme can have a particular pronunciation in one word and a slightly different pronunciation in another.


For example, the word “dog” has three phonemes: /d/, /o/, and / g /. However, the word "shape," despite having five letters, has only three phonemes: /sh/, /long-a/, and /p/.

‘o’ corresponds to different phonemes depending on whether it is pronounced as in bone or woman. Some phonemes correspond to combinations of consonants, such as ch, sh, and th.


  • Morphemes: Morphemes are the smallest meaningful units in a language. It is the basic unit of morphology. A morpheme is a series of phonemes that has a special meaning. If a morpheme is altered in any way, the entire meaning of the word can be changed. Morphemes are usually whole words or meaningful parts of words, such as prefixes, suffixes, and word stems.


Some morphemes are individual words (such as "eat" or "water"). These are known as free morphemes because they can exist on their own. Other morphemes are prefixes, suffixes, or other linguistic pieces that aren’t full words on their own but do affect meaning (such as the "-s" at the end of “cats” or the "re-" at the beginning of “redo.”) Because these morphemes must be attached to another word to have meaning, they are called bound morphemes.


Bound morphemes are of two types: Derivational and Inflectional

Derivational morphemes change the meaning or part of speech of a word when they are used together.

For example, the word "happy" changes from an adjective to a noun when "-ness" (happiness) is added to it. "Action" changes in meaning when the morpheme "re-" is added to it, creating the word "reaction."



Inflectional morphemes modify either the tense of a verb or the number value of a noun.

For example, when you add an "-s" to "cat," the number of cats changes from one to more than one.


  • Lexemes: Lexemes are the set of inflected forms taken by a single word. For example, members of the lexeme RUN include "run" (the uninflected form), "running" (inflected form), and "ran." This lexeme excludes "runner (a derived term—it has a derivational morpheme attached).

Another way to think about lexemes is that they are the set of words that would be included under one entry in the dictionary—"running" and "ran" would be found under "run," but "runner" would not.


  • Syntax: Syntax is a system of rules that governs how words can be meaningfully arranged to form phrases and sentences.

For example, the English sentences "The baby ate the carrot" and "The carrot ate the baby" do not mean the same thing, even though they contain the exact same words.

Another example can be: “Sam kidnapped the boy” has a different meaning from “Sam, the kidnapped boy”.


  • Semantics: Semantics are rules for determining the meaning of words and sentences. Sentences, for example, can have the same semantic meaning while having different syntax: ‘Sam hit the ball’ and ‘the ball was hit by Sam”.


  • Pragmatics: The pragmatics of language has to do with the practical aspects of communication with others, or the social ‘niceties’ of language. Pragmatics involves knowing things like how to take turns in a conversation, the use of gestures to emphasize a point or indicate a need for more information, and the different ways in which one speaks to different people.


For example: when speaking to infants, adults and children are changing the inflection when they use the higher pitch and stress certain words differently than others. Some language, such as Japanese are highly sensitive to intonations (knowing just what rhythm and emphasis to use when communicating with others), meaning that changing the stress or pitch of certain words or syllables of a particular word can change its meaning entirely.

Like, the Japanese name Yoshiko should be pronounced with the accent and stress on the first syllable: YO-she-koh. This pronunciation of name means “woman-child.” But if stress is placed on the second syllable (yo-SHE-ko), it means “woman who urinates”.


  • Development of Language

The development of language is a very important milestone in the cognitive development of a child because language allows one to think in words rather than just images, to ask questions, to communicate their needs and wants to others, and to form concepts.


Language development in infancy is influenced by the language they hear, a style of speaking (the way adults and children talk to infants), with higher pitched, repetitious, sing-song speech patterns. There are several stages of language development that all children experience, no matter what culture they live in or what language they will learn to speak.


Stages of language development:


  1. Cooing: At around 2 months of age, babies began to make vowel like sounds. Ex: ‘oooh’ ‘aaah’, distinct crying to indicate hunger, discomfort or anger etc.

  2. Babbling: At about 6 months, infants ass consonant sounds to the vowels to make a babbling sound, which at times can almost sound like real speech. Single syllables like ‘ba’ ‘ga’ ‘ma’ emerges and also canonical babbling like “bababa’ ‘dadada’. They attempt to imitate sounds.

Deaf children actually decrease their babbling after 6 months while increasing their use of primitive hand signs and gestures.


  1. One-word speech: Somewhere just before or around age 1, most children begin to say actual words. These words are typically nouns and may seem to represent an entire phrase of meaning. They are called holophrases (whole phrases in one word) for that reason.

For example: a child might say “Milk!’ and mean “I want some milk!” or “ I drank my milk!”.


  1. Telegraphic speech: At around a year and a half, toddlers begin to string words together to form short, simple sentences using nouns, verbs, and adjectives.

“Baby eat”, “Mommy go”, “Doggie go bye-bye”, “My doll”, “Where ball?’ are examples of telegraphic speech. Only the words that carry the meaning of the sentence are used.


  1. Whole sentences: As children move through the preschool years, they learn to use grammatical terms and increase the number of words in their sentences, until by age 6 or so they are nearly as fluent as adult, although the number of words they know is still limited when compared to adult vocabulary.

LANGUAGE ACQUISITION

  • Language Acquisition

Language acquisition is the process by which language capability develops in a human. First language acquisition concerns the development of language in children, while second language acquisition focuses on language development in adults as well. Historically, theories and theorists may have emphasized either nature or nurture (see Nature versus nurture) as the most important explanatory factor for acquisition.


Most researchers, however, acknowledge the importance of both biology and environment. One hotly debated issue is whether the biological contribution includes language-specific capacities, often described as Universal Grammar. For fifty years linguists Noam Chomsky and the late Eric Lenneberg argued for the hypothesis that children have innate, language-specific abilities that facilitate and constrain language learning.


Chomsky (1965) argued for the existence of a language acquisition device (LAD). The language acquisition device was later replaced by the concept of universal grammar (A linguistic theory that postulates that a certain number of structural rules are innate to human beings). This is hypothesized to be an innate structure separate from intellectual ability or cognition. If the poverty of the stimulus is true, then children need something in additional to language exposure to arrive at language competency. Chomsky hypothesized that, languages cannot vary in any way possible with infinite variety. There are basic parameters that influence each other.

For example, if a language has subject-verb-object (SVO) word order, then question words (what, where, who, how) would come at the beginning of the sentence while a language that is subject-object-verb (SOV) would put them at the end.

  • English (SVO): “What is your name?”

  • Tamil (SOV): “உங்கள் பெயர் என்ன?” Your name what?

There is not obvious rationale for having all SVO languages putting question words at the beginning of their sentences. It is also possible that the external environment in which we evolved may play a role in the development of universals.

Imitation

The simplest form of language acquisition would be simple imitation of adult language. While children do imitate adult behaviour to some extent, this alone cannot account for language development. The sentences produced by children acquiring language do not show imitation of adults. Children often make errors that adults don’t make. However, imitation may play a role in the acquisition of accents, speech mannerisms and specialized vocabulary.


Conditioning

B.F. Skinner' believed that language was learned after birth as a result of making sounds and imitating those around us. As individuals hear words, they will attempt to repeat them, and with positive reinforcement the infant will eventually develop the correct pronunciation, which will therefore again receive positive reinforcement. Sounds and words that are not part of the accepted language will not be reinforced and will be lost. this is a part of the process referred to as 'Operant Conditioning.

On the contrary, adults often imitate the childish speech of children when speaking to them. If any correction is made, it is regarding the accuracy of the statements rather than their syntax.

Another observation that learning theories cannot predict is the pattern of acquisition of irregular verb and noun forms. Saying *gived instead of gave or *gooses instead of geese are some examples of this. Children generally show a pattern of correct imitation of the stem but then incorrect production. These incorrect productions are usually because of over-regularization of the past tense or plural forms of the stems. Finally, children produce the correct forms. This is an example of U-shaped development: performance starting off well, then deteriorating before improving. In essence, language acquisition appears to be based on learning rules rather than learning associations.


  • Language Variants

The word language contains a multiplicity of different designations. Two senses have already been distinguished: language as a universal species-specific capability of the human race and languages as the various manifestations of that capability.

Dialects

No two people speak exactly alike; hence, one is able to recognize the voices of friends over the telephone and to keep a distinct number of unseen speakers in a radio broadcast. Dialect is a variety of language that signals where a person comes from. The notion is usually interpreted geographically (regional dialect), but it also has some application in relation to a person’s social background (class dialect) or occupation (occupational dialect).

Different systems of communication that may impede but do not prevent mutual comprehension are called dialects of a language.


An idiolect is the dialect of an individual person at one time. This term implies an awareness that no two persons speak in exactly the same way and that each person’s dialect is constantly undergoing change. The basic cause of dialectal differentiation is linguistic change.


For example: One speaks of different dialects of English (Southern British English, Northern British English, Scottish English, American English, Australian English, and so on, with, of course, many more delicately distinguished subdialects within these very general categories), but no one would speak of Welsh and English or of Irish and English as dialects of a single language, although they are spoken within the same areas and often by people living in the same villages as each other.


Complete mastery of two languages is designated as bilingualism; in many cases—such as upbringing by parents using different languages at home or being raised within a multilingual community—children grow up as bilinguals.


Jargons

According to APA, “Jargons are specialized words, much like slang, and forms of language used within a particular profession or field of activity. Although jargon is often unavoidable when dealing with technical or specialist subjects, inappropriate or unnecessary use can alienate outsiders, who find it unintelligible.”


The cultivation and maintenance of specialized types of language by certain professions should not be regarded as trivially or superficially motivated. In general usage, languages are necessarily imprecise, or they would lack the flexibility and infinite extensibility demanded of them. This is why legal texts, when read out of their context, seem so absurdly pedantic and are an easy target for ridicule. Similar provision for detail and clarity characterizes the specialist jargons of medicine and of the sciences in general and also of philosophy. The use of specialized types of language in fostering unity is also evidenced in the stereotyped forms of vocabulary employed in almost all sports and games.

For example, tennis scores use the sequence love, 15, 30, 40, and game; cricketers verbally appeal to the umpire when a batsman may be out by calling “How’s that?” and the ways of being out are designated by stereotypes, “run out,” “leg before wicket,” “stumped,” and so forth.



Nonverbal language

  • Sign Language

Signed languages and gesture languages have the same linguistic components as spoken languages. Although they do not involve speech sounds, they have their own grammar, syntax, and morphology. Most often used in deaf communities, although it is also sometimes used by hearing people when they are unable to communicate verbally.

SIGN LANGUAGE

  • Paralinguistics

When individuals speak, they do not normally confine themselves to the mere emission of speech sounds. Because speaking usually involves at least two parties in sight of each other, a great deal of meaning is conveyed by facial expression and movements and postures of the whole body but especially of the hands; these are collectively known as gestures. Just how important these visual symbols are may be seen when one considers how much less effective phone conversation is as compared with conversation face to face. The part played in emotional contact and in the expression of feelings by facial expressions and tone of voice elicits the main emotional response.


Just as there are paralinguistic activities such as facial expressions and bodily gestures integrated communicative function of language, there are vocally produced noises as well that cannot be regarded as part of any language, though they help in communication and in the expression of feeling. These include laughter, shouts and screams of joy, fear, pain, and so forth, and conventional expressions of disgust, triumph, and so on, traditionally spelled ugh!, ha ha!, and so on. They are also far less arbitrary than most of the lexical components of language.


  • Symbolic language

A language is a symbol system. It may be regarded, because of its infinite flexibility and productivity, as the symbol system par excellence. Symbol systems are musical notation and dance notation, wherein graphic symbols designate musical pitches and other features of musical performance and the movements of formalized dances. More loosely, because music itself can convey and arouse emotions and certain musical forms and structures are often associated with certain types of feeling, one frequently reads of the “language of music” or even of “the grammar of music.” The terms language and grammar are here being used metaphorically, however, if only because no symbol system other than language has the same potential of infinite productivity, extension, and precision.


  • Are language and thoughts connected?

A theory states that archaic humans created language by imitating the sounds around them. But that doesn’t sound promising, does it? Maybe they were experimenting with different sounds. A few words may have panic responses or emerged out of fear, to warn their fellow humans about an imminent threat. The truth is, we don’t know how the first language originated and evolved. We never will, perhaps. Communication was the tool that set human species apart from everything else, enabling them to communicate, warn and create stories that shaped their world and consequentially, ours.

That aside, how do you communicate with your fellow humans in the absence of a language? 

Forget others, how do understand what’s going on with you?

What are thoughts like without words and sentences that attribute meaning to things?

Without language, is your bed still a bed? 

Does it even exist as one if you didn’t conceive the idea of a resting place? 

Let’s just say we breathed life into the idea and you want others to know what it is; how are we going to tell them what it is? The first language may not have come out of your larynx, but from your body movements – gestures. It’s all speculation.

Wittgenstein said our world may limited by language as we think that way. Articulation not only shapes the thoughts but also diversifies them. That doesn’t mean humanity hadn’t had a thought before invention of a language. It’s just hard or nigh impossible to decipher how they used gestures to communicate. It is safe to say that thoughts precede language but the advent of language gave rise to sophisticated thought. 

Language, they say is the manifestation of thoughts. It consists of symbols (words, sentences, gestures) which can be rearranged to give each thought a distinct interpretation. Language has a system, a pattern, a set of rules to be followed for effective communication while thoughts, though having a system, just occur based on activity and experience. A century ago, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis proposed that language influences the way one thinks about reality. As much as we’d love to argue that language affects thoughts, it doesn’t. It merely interprets them.

Imagine you’re running up a steep ascent. Halfway through, you’re exhausted and can’t go any further. Is your mind devoid of thoughts? Do you think the feeling of exhaustion and you thinking about resting needs a language? You just know.

Needless to say, thoughts do not depend on language.

BUFFALO GETTING ATTACKED

Take a look at the image above and observe your thoughts. Do you really need language to assume or predict what’s going to happen to that buffalo? So, we can say that thinking is a process and language is a system of expression.


  • Language and culture

Language and culture, though separated in time have evolved together. Edward Sapir said,

“The real world is, to a large extent, unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group. No two languages are ever so similar that they represent the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct, not merely the same with a different label attached”.

Therefore, we can assume that speaking a language is almost like following a culture and to fully appreciate a language, you need to understand the culture of the people who speak it.

Researchers David Luna from Baruch College and Torsten Ringberg and Laura A. Peracchio from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee studied groups of Hispanic women, all of whom were bilingual, but with varying degrees of cultural identification. They found significant changes in self-perception or “frame-shifting” in bicultural participants -- women who participate in both Latino and Anglo culture.

“Language can be a cue that activates different culture-specific frames,” the researchers said in a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

This research found that people who are bicultural switched frames more quickly and easily than people who are bilingual but living in one culture. The researchers said the women classified themselves as more assertive when they spoke Spanish than when they spoke English. Usually, a particular language is associated with a group of people. Within that group, people share common beliefs and actions which form a culture.

How you communicate depends on where one grows up, the culture of people around or what he sees growing up, creating his own personalised beliefs which influence his actions, thereby creating a culture though identical to the culture of masses but unique to himself. When you grow up in a specific society, it is inevitable to learn the glances, gestures and little changes in voice or tone and other communication tools to emphasize or alter what you want to do or say. These specific communication techniques of one culture are learned mostly by imitating and observing people, initially from parents and immediate relatives and later from friends and people outside the close family circle.

Body language, which is also known as kinesics, is the most obvious type of paralanguage. These are the postures, expressions and gestures used as non-verbal language. However, it is likewise possible to alter the meaning of various words by changing the character or tone of the voice.

Culture is the result of random and deliberate interactions between humans, driven by exchange of ideas, beliefs, favours, threats, and stories. When a group of people share common beliefs and ideas, they share a culture. Through language, culture manifests and evolves. Alfred L. Krober, a cultural anthropologist from the United States said that culture started when speech was available, and from that beginning, the enrichment of either one led the other to develop further.

Let’s take an example:

The Arabic language, which is the mother tongue of over 250 million people across the Middle East and North Africa, serves not only as a powerful symbol of Arab national identity, but is also the sacrosanct language of the scripture of Islam. Its fortunes have been decisively influenced by its close association with the faith. Indeed, the attempts to explicate and preserve scripture ultimately engendered the sciences of learning that became synonymous with the tradition of Arabic linguistic thought; and, for many centuries, Arabic served as the linguistic vehicle through which many of Islamic civilization’s religious, cultural, and intellectual achievements were articulated and refined.

Culture is also influenced by individual perception of the world. That’s how we form our convictions and act in accordance. With change in culture comes change in language; like how some dialects are faster, some borrow words from another language and use them as their own. To learn the culture, start with it’s language and to understand the language faster, pay attention to the culture.

  • Efficacy of language in religious prayers

We are already aware of languages and their significance in religion and culture. Languages and religion are closely linked to the geographical location where the religion/culture have originated. The efficacy of religious worship and of prayers is frequently associated with the strict maintenance of correct forms of language, taught by priests to their successors, lest the ritual becomes invalid. In ancient India, the preservation of the language used in the performance of certain religious rituals (Sanskrit) gave rise to one of the world’s most important schools of linguistics and phonetics.

For example, Hindu prayers/hymns/epics were written and Sanskrit and almost all of them are recited in Sanskrit, and a few are translated into regional languages. Muslims offer namaz in Arabic. Some people pray in their language, in their own way and others stick to the language associated with their religion because they’re either instructed to or are familiar to that way of praying. Emotional attachment, communal identity, relevance, and a feeling of sacredness (emboldened by beliefs learned through observing and imitating) also play a major role in a language’s role in prayers. Silence to some is a way of praying. But the use of a particular language is always culturally enforced and passed down through generations of practice.

  • Development of humans’ rationality

The medieval and rationalist views implied that humans, as rational, thinking creatures, invented language to express their thoughts, fitting words to an already developed structure of intellectual competence. It became more plausible to say that language emerged not as the means of expressing already formulated judgments, questions, and the like but as the means of thought itself, and that humans’ rationality developed together with the development of their capacity for communicating.


Being rational means conforming one's beliefs with one's reasons to believe, and one's actions with one's reasons for action or being in accordance with logic. It’s as tricky – it’s simple and complex at the same time. As much as we’d like to label ourselves rational, psychologists in the 1970s proved that humans are born irrational and there are clear cognitive biases, leading to humans making decisions that defy logic.


How many times have you chosen something that feels good instead of choosing what’s actually good for you? We’ve all been there. All those drug addicts, and alcoholics out there, do you think they don’t know what they’re doing?


It’s a cognitive bias. An irrational choice by rational human beings.

Philosophers believe that rationality must be independent of emotions, feelings and instincts. Rationality must be objective, logical and also, mechanical. But humans do not fit the criteria due to dominance of emotions and instincts. The only ones that do are psychopaths and the brain-damaged. Rationality is linked to how we think, and language is a system of arbitrary, habitual, rules-based, conventional symbolic abstractions within which some terms and expressions are entirely metaphysical while others are exclusively physical. Every language we speak has been created by people in short or long periods of time, which is a product of continuous thought process. We live in an era where feelings trump facts. Emotions have substantial influence on our cognitive processes; so, just as thoughts affect emotions, emotions affect thoughts. We know what we say and do under influence.

  • Stimulus Modalities

We humans experience external world through our five senses named as Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, Olfactory, and Gustatory to create our map of the world i.e, how we represent external world internally in our brains.

For example, If I say Lemon, you bring it's image to your awareness, feel it's texture on your fingers, remember it's taste and smell.

When I say the word “coffee”, pay attetion in which mode your processing happens!

A picture of coffee might comes up in your mind or a feeling of coffee or a sound of coffee getting poured in your cup. You might picture your favourite coffee shop where you sit and have your favourite cup of coffee after work.

These further has more details to it in form of sub-modalities like size of the image, colors it has, how does it sound, volume, tone, pitch and all that comes under sound quality, it's feeling, where exactly one feels in body, does it have any color, size, direction of flow or spin if it has and so on.

These preferences in your unconscious reveal your habitual patterns and provides hidden clues about how you go through life inside your personality.

Modalities in NLP (Neuro linguistics Programming) refer to what sensory system is being used.

  • Visual — what is being seen or the pictures being imagined

  • Auditory — sounds being heard or imagined

  • Kinesthetic — physical sensations of touch or internal feelings of temperature, weight, movement, etc (not to be confused with emotions/feelings that are labels we apply to those sorts of sensations)

  • Olfactory — smells, real or imagined/remembered

  • Gustatory — tastes (which are often tied closely to the sense of smell)

Since olfactory and gustatory are so closely related (and substantially more difficult to produce on demand than the other modalities), they typically get grouped together. Assuming we can only interact with the world through our five senses, we can talk about what modality we are working in by using a “4-tuple” of V(isual)-A(uditory)-K(inesthetic)-O/G (olfactory and gustatory).

The combinations of V-A-K-O/G modalities plus knowing whether it is internal or external and (if internal) remembered or constructed gives us a rich vocabulary to talk about a stimulus in a given situation by its classification.

For example, Imagining a sound we have heard before would be auditory remembered and imagining something you have never seen before (like a pink polka dotted leopard) would be visual constructed while a touch on the wrist would be kinesthetic external. This is handy for the strategies that rely more on the modality used to experience or represent a situation than on the actual content within that modality.

Language can be realized in different modalities: amongst others through writing or in speech. Depending on whether the sensory input modality is visual or auditory, different dedicated networks of brain areas are activated in order to derive meaning from the physical stimulus.

Integration of all sensory modalities occurs when multimodal neurons receive sensory information which overlaps with different modalities. Multimodal perception is the ability of the mammalian nervous system to combine all of the different inputs of the sensory nervous system to result in an enhanced detection or identification of a particular stimulus. Multimodal perception is not limited to one area of the brain: many brain regions are activated when sensory information is perceived from the environment. Location of visual, auditory and somatosensory perception in the superior colliculus of the brain. Overlapping of these systems creates multisensory space. Lip reading is a multimodal process for humans. By watching movements of lips and face, humans get conditioned and practice lip reading.

MULTISENSORY

A sensory modality is a way of sensing, like vision or hearing. Modality in someone’s voice gives a sense of the person’s mood. In logic, modality has to do with whether a proposition is necessary, possible, or impossible. In general, modality is a particular way in which something exists.

  • Somatic Orientation The Buddha once said, “The whole universe, oh monks, lies in this fathom-long body and mind.” (Ayya Khema, 1991 p.54). Somatic work or somatic psychology embodies the essence of this. The root of the word ‘somatics’ is ‘soma’, a Greek word used to refer to the body. All stressors of our lives are stored in and affect the body, which creates imbalances and distress. These are reflected in our emotional and mental states. Our bodies contain our life stories just as they contain bones, muscles, organs, nerves and blood.

The reinstatement of the body in the psychological process of thinking and understanding theories of personalities was instigated by Wilhelm Reich (1960), founder of somatic psychology. Somatic psychology focuses on somatic experience, including therapeutic and holistic approaches to the body. Reich made an inquiry into the body which goes beyond its mechanistic functions and saw it as a powerful reflection of psychic processes and cosmic energy. Further developments in the field of somatic work challenged the concept of the mind-body split. Somatic-oriented practitioners viewed psychological changes in individuals as intrinsically related to life of the body. Somatic psychology is a framework that seeks to bridge the mind-body dichotomy.

The use of imperatives such as “Mind your tongue!”, “Mind your language!” and “Mind your business!” emphasize the importance of the mind in the task at hand. ‘Mindful’, ‘mindless’ ‘mind-blowing’, and ‘mindset’ are terms which yet again focus all attention to the supremacy of the mind- the control centre of our existence.

What if we replace these terms and phrases with the body? ‘Bodyful, ‘bodyless’, ‘bodyset’ , “Mind your body!”– the scholars of the English language would quite obviously be alarmed at the twitching of grammar and the essence of its subject.

Somatic work acknowledges this very holistic and wholesome view of the body. The mind is not the epicentre of our being but rather only an integral part of our existence. The body encompasses not just its anatomical structure and physiological functions, but the overall psychological state of the mind under any circumstance. The brain-body or the mind-body split is in fact a fallacy, one that ignores the body in its totality.

In Bessel Van Der Kolk’s compelling narrative on trauma studies ‘The Body Keep the Score’ he writes about his experience with one of his clients. “Sherry grew up with an abusive mother, lived a lonely adult life with her cats and was once kidnapped, held captive, and raped repeatedly by a man. The only way she felt her pain could be numbed, and thereby experience relief was when she picked at her skin. She was suicidal and quite obviously was shamed for her choices and decisions.” People who exhibit mental health symptoms often experience a complete de-alienation or disconnect from their bodies. Destructive ways of coping often are a result of neglect and abuse.

To understand trauma, abuse, or any kind of emotional distress one cannot negate the role of the body. The brain which is considered the ruling organ is only a part of our entire being. Modern neuroscience has established that there is in fact no differentiation between the body and mind. The body is the carrier of all memories and the seat of our intelligence, which is undermined. When the intelligence of the body is recognized and given due credit then only can an individual’s unlimited potential be unlocked. For people who lose sensations in parts of their body it becomes increasingly difficult to bridge the gap between depersonalisation and healing.

A wide variety of techniques are used in somatic psychotherapy including sound, touch, mirroring, movement and breath. An individual records life experience during a nonverbal period differently than during a verbalized and personal narrative period. This understanding of consciousness, communication, emotional awreness, and mind-body language challenges some traditional applications of the talking therapies.

An important aspect of psychoanalytic theory by Freud is the “cognitive unconscious,” or the “unconscious mind.” He argued that behavior is driven by unconscious motivations and drives, rather than rational choice. Therapeutic strategies of psychoanalysis include free association (expressing any thoughts which come to mind during therapy), therapeutic listening and responding (examining the content and emotion of thought), and interpretation (drawing inferences about unconscious underpinnings of conscious experience). The body also figures strongly in psychoanalytic theory. For Freud, structures of the mind (e.g., id, ego, superego) arise out of tensions between the organism’s bodily drives and societal structures.

  • Physical Location Have you ever wondered, how you hold so much emotional attachment to some places? Let’s take an example to understand this. We all have gone through different phases of life. Starting from schooling, college, job, etc. What was the most memorable event of that phase? Or if I say, you enjoyed what the most? Was it your school life? College? Job? For most of us, the answer might be school or for some, it may be college or a job, depending upon the memories we have of that place. Why is it so? When we go to school after so many years, the feeling of nostalgia hits, we are taken back to those days, we literally feel those emotions back, the essence of that place is itself enough to take you on a trip back to those days, your classroom, benches, your favorite hangout spots, playgrounds, canteen, etc. A specific part of the brain seems to be responsible for learning and remembering the precise locations of places that are special to us.

Psychologists hypothesize that we lock in that memory by linking it to a where that integrating many stimuli together helps us remember something particularly important. They call this process episodic memory formation: the locking of ideas and objects to a single place and time, to form associations between different stimuli.

When you walk into someone’s office, your brain records the location of the pieces of furniture, screens, bookshelves, and windows inside. Your brain may not remember the arrangement of that office if nothing important happens inside—in fact, you’ll probably forget it—but if something memorable does happen, you will commit the setup of that room to your memory. That room will be forever linked to what you learned inside it.

Language provides a medium for describing the contents of our conscious experience. We use it to share our perceptual experiences, thoughts, and intentions with other individuals. As we move the communication of the event from one language to another, the experience changes. How we store the information depends on how we perceive it and it should be stored where. So next time when you receive a piece of information you know what will happen next? Like now, you’re reading this, grasping the information, it’s your call how you want to remember and store it.

References

  1. Chomsky, N. (1975). Reflections of Language, New York: Pantheon Books.

  2. Chomsky, N. (1959). A Review of B. F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior. Language 35 (1): 26 – 58.

  3. Evans, V., & Green, M. (2006). Cognitive linguistics: An introduction. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

  4. Ezra, Y., Hammerman, O., & Shahar, G. (2019). The Four-Cluster Spectrum of Mind-Body Interrelationships: An Integrative Model. Frontiers in psychiatry, 10, 39. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00039

  5. Gallese, V., and Lakoff, G. (2005). The brain’s concepts: the role of the sensory-motor system in conceptual knowledge. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 22, 455–479. doi: 10.1080/02643290442000310

  6. Geeraerts, Dirk & Cuyckens, Hubert. (2012). Introducing Cognitive Linguistics. The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics. 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199738632.013.0001.

  7. Ivry, Richard (2009). Cognitive Neuroscience: The biology of the mind. New York: W.W. Norton and Company. p. 199.

  8.  Leitan ND and Murray G (2014) The mind–body relationship in psychotherapy: grounded cognition as an explanatory framework. Front. Psychol. 5:472. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00472

  9. Lovelace, Christopher Terry (October 2000). Feature binding across sense modalities: Visual and tactual interactions (Thesis). ProQuest 619577012

  10. Marques, J.. (2006). Specialization and semantic organization: Evidence for multiple semantics linked to sensory modalities. Memory & cognition. 34. 60-7. 10.3758/BF03193386.

  11. Preis, M.A., Golm, D., Kröner-Herwig, B. et al. Examining differences in cognitive and affective theory of mind between persons with high and low extent of somatic symptoms: an experimental study. BMC Psychiatry 17, 200 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-017-1360-9

  12. Robins, Robert Henry and Crystal, David. "language". Encyclopedia Britannica, 17 Dec. 2021, https://www.britannica.com/topic/language. Accessed 2 August 2022.

  13. Thomas, N. (2013). Responding to mental health’s mind-body problem. Aust. N. Z. J. Psychiatry 47, 973. doi: 10.1177/0004867413487232

  14. Tickner, C., (2010). Somatic Psychology: Brain Development Informs Therapeutic Approach. Good Therapy. https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/somatic-psychology-brain-development

  15. Wolfe, J., Kluender, K., & Levi, D. (2009). Sensation and perception. (2 ed.). Sunderland: Sinauer Associates.

 

This article on ' Organisation of Information' has been contributed by Anushka Sahu who is currently third year Bachelor's student in clinical psychology from Amity University Haryana


Anushka is a part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP), which is mentored by Anil Thomas.


Anushka  is a research enthusiast with willingness to learn to build up her knowledge beyond academics.


GIRP is an initiative by (International Journal of Neurolinguistics & Gestalt Psychology) IJNGP and Umang Foundation Trust to encourage young adults across our globe to showcase their research skills in psychology and to present it in creative content expression.


Anil is an internationally certified NLP Master Practitioner and Gestalt Therapist. He has conducted NLP Training in Mumbai, and across 6 other countries. The NLP practitioner course is conducted twice every year. To get your NLP certification



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