Psychology & Psychiatry

Mandarin Chinese could help us understand how infants learn English

Infants may be more sensitive to non-native speech sounds than previously thought, according to a study published in the Journal of Memory and Language. The findings shed light on the way babies begin to understand language.

Neuroscience

Learning a second alphabet for a first language

A part of the brain that maps letters to sounds can acquire a second, visually distinct alphabet for the same language, according to a study of English speakers published in eNeuro. The research challenges theoretical constraints ...

Psychology & Psychiatry

Word order predicts a native speakers' working memory

Several studies have investigated how humans store and retrieve memories under different conditions. Typically, stimuli presented at the beginning and at the end of a list are recalled better than stimuli from the middle. ...

Neuroscience

Learning new vocabulary during deep sleep

Sleeping is sometimes considered unproductive time. Could the time spent asleep could be used more productively—e.g., for learning a new language? To date, sleep research has focused on the stabilization and consolidation ...

Pediatrics

Why are children so good at learning languages?

In 2003, an influential study showed that children from rich families were exposed to around 30 million more words before the age of three than children from poor families—a difference that put children from lower-income ...

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Language

A language is a system for encoding information. In its most common use, the term refers to so-called "natural languages" — the forms of communication considered peculiar to humankind. In linguistics the term is extended to refer to the human cognitive facility of creating and using language. Essential to both meanings is the systematic creation and usage of systems of symbols—each referring to linguistic concepts with semantic or logical or otherwise expressive meanings.

The most obvious manifestations are spoken languages such as English or Spoken Chinese. However, there are also written languages and other systems of visual symbols such as sign languages.

Although some other animals make use of quite sophisticated communicative systems, and these are sometimes casually referred to as animal language, none of these are known to make use of all of the properties that linguists use to define language in the strict sense.

When discussed more technically as a general phenomenon then, "language" always implies a particular type of human thought which can be present even when communication is not the result, and this way of thinking is also sometimes treated as indistinguishable from language itself.

In Western Philosophy for example, language has long been closely associated with reason, which is also a uniquely human way of using symbols. In Ancient Greek philosophical terminology, the same word, logos, was used as a term for both language or speech and reason, and the philosopher Thomas Hobbes used the English word "speech" so that it similarly could refer to reason, as will be discussed below.

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