Hello, I'm Gary Dell from the Psychology
Department at the Beckman Institute of
the University of Illinois.
How do we talk?
How do we understand what others say?
These are functions of the human brain.
Notice that I say the human brain.
No animal can learn to use
language the way that people do.
In this lecture, I'll tell you
a bit about research on language
production that is speaking and
language comprehension with a focus
on what may be happening in
the brain when we use language.
Language is immensely complex.
Nonetheless, it's rapidly produced and
Your active vocabulary has around
40,000 words, and when you speak,
you have to choose from these words
at a clip of about 2 to 3 a second.
And so when you comprehend, you have to
recognize those words at the same rate.
That language production comprehension
aren't just about words,
there are about the ways that words
are put together to represent meaning.
Even when you say something is boring as,
pass the salt,
notice all of the things
you have to get right.
For example, you have to say the salt and
not salt the,
because in English nouns come
at the ends of noun phrases.
These are called the rules of syntax,
even the pronunciations of words can
change when they're put together.
In most dialects of English,
you pronounce T-H-E as the if the next
word begins with a consonant,
such as 'S' in salt.
But you say "thee" if the next word begins
with a vowel, such as pass the apple.
These are called rules of phonology and
every English speaker knows
these things implicitly.
But our ability to say pass the salt
is not as interesting as our ability to
say sentence is that
we've never said before.
When I was preparing this lecture, I said,
I wonder why salt and sugar look the same.
I've certainly never said or
heard that before, so
the creativity of our thoughts has
to be matched by the creativity
of the linguistic system
to express those thoughts.
And that's why using language
is in many ways the crowning
achievement of human cognition.