Essay, Research Paper: Cognition


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I chose to find the entomology of a word that most people can usually not go
through a day without using at least once, computer. With the explosion of the
personal computer in the last ten years, most households in America own at least
one. However, the meaning of the word "computer" has changed in the
last century. The word itself is found in text as far back as 1646 when Sir T.
Brown said, "The calendars of these computers." The use of
"computer" in this sense, as defined by the OED, is one who computes;
a calculator, reckoner; a person employed to make calculations in an
observatory, in surveying, etc. Then, around 1897, the use of
"computer" began to change. In the January 22 edition of Engineering,
this usage appeared: "This was… a computer made by Mr. W. Cox. He
described it as of the nature of a circular slide rule." This usage began
the change of the definition. In the supplement to the OED, "computer"
is now defined as a calculating machine; an automatic electronic device for
performing mathematical or logical operation. The word "computer"
stems from the verb "compute" which came from the French comput-r and
the Latin computa-re. It was formed by adding com - together and putare - to
clear up, settle, reckon. Together, "compute" means to estimate or
determine by arithmetical or mathematical reckoning; to calculate, reckon,
count. Then from the word "compute", the suffix "er" was
added giving us the definitions we have for computer today. 2) In an effort to
further understand language, the field of psycholinguistics formed to study the
psychological side of language. Language has many different functions such as
communication, expressing emotion, explaining ideas, to create relationships,
and recording ideas. Without the use of language, it would be nearly impossible
to explain the history of anything. Language allows for the communication that
is necessary for survival. It is not only humans who benefit from language
either. Bees use a complex system of a dance and buzz to show the hive where to
find food, and birds use different chirps to communicate. One psycholinguistic,
Hockett, said that all languages have some aspects that are the same at some
level which he called Linguistic Universals. One aspect of Linguistic Universals
is the broadcast transmission, which says that language is public and that
anyone around the message will pick it up. Another aspect of language is that it
is rapid fading, or if you don't get it right away, you won't get it at all.
Hockett also said that language is arbitrary. An object could actually be called
anything anyone wants to call it. In all, Hockett came up with nine aspects that
all languages have in common. In order to understand language, Chomsky believed
that there were four levels needed. The first of his four levels was the
Lexicon. He described the Lexicon as a mental dictionary. It allows for
recognizing words in context, knowing how to pronounce the word in its context,
and how the word is used in different parts of speech. Chomsky's second level
was called the Phonemic level. This described the phonemes or the smallest unit
of sound in the language. For every language there are a countable number of
sounds that make it up. For example, the Chinese language has no sound for the
English L or R. The English language is made up of 40 to 50 distinct sounds
while the Hawaiian language has only eleven. His third level needed for
understanding language is the Morphemic level. This level consists of
morphemenes, which are the smallest unit of meaning of an utterance. This
explains the usage of prefixes and suffixes such as the use of an "s"
to make a word plural. The last level Chomsky used to understand language was
the Syntactic level. This level consisted of the syntax or the structure of the
utterance. This level was used to explain the understanding of how a sentence
was put together. Chomsky said that there were two parts to every sentence, the
surface structure and the deep structure. The surface structure contains the
words that are used to create the utterance and syntax. The deep structure was
the meaning of the utterance. Chomsky said that a sentence can consist of two
different surface structures and still have the same deep structure. The meaning
of the sentence is transcendent of the words used to make it. So, for a sentence
such as, "The horse raced past the barn fell", is still understood as
"The horse that was raced past the barn fell." I think that the levels
of linguistic approach to understanding language does help explain and breakdown
language. It makes sense that all these parts are necessary to understand the
usage of language in general. Chomsky's four levels for understanding language
breakdown and map out language pretty good. Hockett's Linguistic Universals do
show the aspects that language has in general. Together, the two theories do
seem to show an appropriate framework.
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