Monday, January 23, 2012


Psycholinguistic (Language Comprehension Theories) INTRODUCTION One question in the realm of language comprehension is how people understand sentences as they read (also known as sentence processing). Experimental research has spawned a number of theories about the architecture and mechanisms of sentence comprehension. Typically these theories are concerned with what types of information contained in the sentence the reader can use to build meaning, and at what point in reading does that information become available to the reader. Issues such as "modular" versus "interactive" processing have been theoretical divides in the field. A modular view of sentence processing assumes that the stages involved in reading a sentence function independently in separate modules. These modulates have limited interaction with one another. For example, one influential theory of sentence processing, the garden-path theory, states that syntactic analysis takes place first. Under this theory as the reader is reading a sentence, he or she creates the simplest structure possible in order to minimize effort and cognitive load. This is done without any input from semantic analysis or context-dependent information. Hence, in the sentence "The evidence examined by the lawyer turned out to be unreliable," by the time the reader gets to the word "examined" he or she has committed to a reading of the sentence in which the evidence is examining something because it is the simplest parse. This commitment is made despite the fact that it results in an implausible situation; we know that experience that evidence can rarely if ever examine something. Under this "syntax first" theory, semantic information is processed at a later stage. It is only later that the reader will recognize that her or she needs to revise the initial parse into one in which "the evidence" is being examined. In this example, readers typically recognize their misparse by the time they reach "by the lawyer" and must go back and re-parse the sentence. This reanalysis is costly and contributes to slower reading times. In contrast to a modular account, an interactive theory of sentence processing, such as a constraint-based lexical approach assumes that all available information contained within a sentence can be processed at any time. Under an interactive account, for example, the semantics of a sentence (such as plausibility) can come into play early on in order to help determine the structure of a sentence. Hence, in the sentence above, the reader would be able to make use of plausibility information in order to assume that "the evidence" is being examined instead of doing the examining. There are data to support both modular and interactive accounts; which account is the correct one is still up for debate. ANALYZING Understanding what other people say and write (language comprehension) is more complicated than it might at first appear. Comprehending language involves a variety of capacities, skills, processes, knowledge, and dispositions that are used to derive meaning from spoken, written, and signed language. In this broad sense, language comprehension includes reading comprehension, which has been addressed in a separate tutorial, as well as comprehension of sign language. Deriving meaning from spoken language involves much more than knowing the meaning of words and understanding what is intended when those words are put together in a certain way. The following categories of capacity, knowledge, skill, and dispositions are all brought to bear in fully comprehending what another person says. A. Communication Awareness Communication awareness includes knowing on: 1. spoken language has meaning and purpose, 2. spoken words, the organization of the words, their intonation, loudness, and stress patterns, gestures, facial expression, proximity, and posture all contribute to meaning, 3. context factors need to be taken into consideration in interpreting what people mean to communicate, 4. it is easy to misinterpret another’s communication, 5. and it often requires effort to correctly interpret another person’s intended meaning and that correct interpretation is worth the effort. B. Hearing and Auditory Processing Understanding a spoken utterance assumes that the listener’s hearing is adequate and that the spoken sounds are correctly perceived as phonemes of English (or whatever language is spoken). Phonemes are the smallest units of spoken language that make a difference to meaning – corresponding roughly to the letters in a word (the sounds that ‘t’, ‘a’, and ‘n’ make in the word ‘tan’). Auditory processing of language also includes the ability to integrate the separate sounds of a word into the perception of a meaningful word and of sequences of meaningful words. C. Word Knowledge and World Knowledge Word knowledge includes knowing the meaning of words (understanding them when they are spoken), including multiple meanings of ambiguous words. Knowing the meaning of a word is more than knowing what (if anything) that word refers to. Rather it is possession of a large set of meaning associations that comprise the word’s full meaning. For example knowing the meaning of the word “horse” includes knowing that horses are animals, that they engage in specific types of activities, that they have many uses, that they have specific parts, that they have a certain size, shape, and other attributes, that they are characteristically found in specific places, and the like. Understanding spoken language requires an adequate vocabulary, which is a critical component of the semantics of a language. Word meanings may be concrete (“ball” refers to round objects that bounce) or abstract (“justice” refers to fairness in the pursuit or distribution of various types of goods and services). World knowledge includes understanding the realities in the world – objects and their attributes, actions and their attributes, people, relationships, and the like – that words refer to and describe. For example, if a student has no knowledge of computers, then it is impossible to fully understand the word ‘computer’. 1. Knowledge of Word Organization Syntax (or grammar) refers to the rules that govern the organization of words in a sentence or utterance. Comprehending an utterance requires an ability to decipher the meaning implicit in the organization of words. For example, “Tom fed the dog” and “The dog fed Tom” have different meanings despite containing exactly the same words. Morphology (a component of grammar) refers to rules that govern meaning contained in the structure of the words themselves. Changes within words (adding an ‘s’ to ‘dog’ to get ‘dogs’, or adding an ‘ed’ to ‘kick’ to get ‘kicked’) affects meaning. Comprehending an utterance requires an ability to decipher the meaning associated with such modifications of the words. Discourse Just as there are rules that govern how speakers put words together in a sentence to communicate their intended meaning, there are also rules that govern how sentences (or thoughts) are organized to effectively tell stories, describe objects and people, give directions, explain complex concepts or events, influence people’s beliefs and actions, and the like. These are called rules of discourse. Effective comprehension of extended language (e.g., listening to a story or a lecture) assumes that the listener has some idea of what to listen for and in what order that information might come. 2. Social Knowledge and Pragmatics Pragmatics refers to the rules governing the use of language in context (including social context) for purposes of sending and receiving varied types of messages, maintaining a flow of conversation, and adhering to social rules that apply to specific contexts of interaction. On the comprehension side of communication, the first of these three types of rules is most critical. For example, comprehending the sentence, “I will do it” requires deciding whether the speaker intends to make a promise, a prediction, or a threat. Similarly “We’d love to have you over for dinner” could be an invitation, a statement of an abstract desire, or an empty social nicety. Or “Johnny, I see you’ve been working hard at cleaning your room” could be a description of hard work or a mother’s ironic criticism of Johnny for not working on his room. In each case, correct interpretation of the utterance requires consideration of context information, knowledge of the speaker, understanding of events that preceded the interaction, and general social knowledge. Indirect Meanings include metaphor (“He’s a real spitfire”), sarcasm and irony (“You look terrific” said to a person who appears to be very sick), idioms or other figures of speech (“People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”), hyperbole (“The story I wrote is about a million pages long!”), and personification (“Careful! Not studying for a test can jump up and bite you!”). Comprehending indirect meanings often requires abstract thinking and consideration of context cues. Students with brain injury often have significant difficulty deciphering the meaning of such indirect communication unless the specific use of words was familiar before the injury. Understanding new metaphors, figures of speech and the like makes significant demands on cognitive processing (working memory, reasoning), discussed next. D. Cognitive Functions that Support Language Comprehension There are some explanations which are the supporting in language comprehension, such as: • Attention It is a comprehending spoken language requires the ability to focus attention simultaneously on the speaker’s words and nonverbal behavior (gesture, facial expression, body posture), to maintain that focus over time, to focus simultaneously on ones own response, and to flexibly shift attentional focus as topics change. • Working Memory It is a comprehending spoken language requires the ability to hold several pieces of information in mind at the same time, possibly including the words that the speaker just uttered, previous turns in the conversation, other information about the speaker, the topic, and the context, and the like. • Speed of Processing Because the units of spoken language arrive in rapid succession, comprehension requires the ability to process information quickly. • Organization It is a Comprehending spoken language requires that the listener put together (organize) the various comments that the speaker makes, together with the listener’s own comments, background information, and the like. This assumes considerable organizational skill. • Reasoning It is a Comprehending a speaker’s intended meaning is often a reasoning process. For example, if a speaker says, “I’m really busy today” and later in the conversation says, “I can’t come over to your house after school today,” the listener should be able to reason that the speaker is not being rude in rejecting an invitation, but rather is unable to come over because of his busy schedule. • Abstract thinking ability It is a Comprehending abstract language, metaphors, figures of speech, and the like often requires a reasonable level of abstract thinking ability. (See Indirect Meanings, above.) • Perspective Taking It is a Comprehending the intent underlying a speaker’s message critically relies on the ability to take that person’s perspective. For example, when a speaker says, “Don’t worry; it’s not a problem,” he just might intend to communicate that it is a huge problem! Correctly interpreting this message requires “mind reading” – getting inside the speaker’s frame of reference and understanding the issues and the words from that person’s perspective. • Comprehension Monitoring and Strategic Behavior It is a Effective comprehension of spoken language requires routine monitoring of comprehension, detection of possible comprehension failures, a desire to fix breakdowns, and a strategic ability to repair the breakdown, for example by saying things like, “I’m not sure I understand what you mean; could you explain?” CONTRADICTLY In light of the wide variety of skills, knowledge, and dispositions that come together to support language comprehension, it is not surprising that language comprehension is a communication difficulty for many students, including many students with TBI. Depending on age and location and severity of the brain injury, students have varied profiles of strengths and weaknesses with components of language comprehension and language expression. Often, basic language knowledge and skills acquired before the injury, including word meanings, are recovered after the injury. However, children are commonly impaired in areas that are developing rapidly at the time of injury. For example, at ages 6, 7, and 8, children are learning vocabulary related to success in the classroom (the words that teachers use in giving instructions) and success in social life (the language of peer interaction, compliments, teasing, and the like). The transition into adolescence is similarly a time when new and abstract vocabulary and a new and complex social code are being learned. Therefore, an injury at those times may disrupt the process of learning and cause persisting problems with language comprehension in school and social life. More generally, students with TBI often have problems with memory and new learning, related to damage to the vulnerable hippocampus and also to the frontal lobes. Therefore, students injured at a relatively young age may have difficulty learning new words, rules of grammar, rules for organizing discourse, and pragmatic/social rules typically learned at older ages. The student may appear increasingly delayed in these areas over time. This gap between language knowledge and developmental expectations may become increasingly obvious in adolescence. Adolescents are expected to comprehend increasingly abstract and academic language, and also to comprehend increasingly subtle social language and nonverbal cues. A student injured before adolescence or in the early adolescent years may have difficulty in these domains and may therefore require intensive teaching and considerable support to meet these later developmental expectations as effectively as possible. Because procedural learning tends to be better preserved after TBI than declarative memory, learning rules of grammar is often less problematic than learning new and abstract word meanings, and considerably less problematic than succeeding in the discourse and social pragmatic domains. Both discourse and social pragmatic competence presuppose effective organization, reasoning, social perception and cognition, and working memory. Each of these cognitive domains is vulnerable following TBI. Students with TBI also frequently have difficulties with other components of cognition and self-regulation that influence language comprehension. These include problems in the areas of attention, organization, reasoning, abstract thinking, perspective taking, and comprehension monitoring. Each of these areas of difficulty is associated with damage to the vulnerable frontal lobes. It is also extremely common for students with TBI to process information slowly. Slow processing can be caused by damage to the structure that connects the two halves of the brain (i.e., the corpus callosum), to the long axons that connect nerve cells (neurons) and networks of neurons throughout the brain, or to the frontal lobes themselves. Comprehending spoken language might not seem to be an organizational task, but consider what needs to be done to understand the following little story: “I went to a game yesterday with my dad. I caught a foul ball. I’m really happy to have the ball, but my hands still sting!” Understanding this story requires bringing to bear some background understanding of baseball. It also requires perceiving the relations among the sentences. For example the happiness and pain referred to in the third sentence relate to catching the ball referred to in the second sentence. Language comprehension is an ongoing process of “making connections” of this sort, connecting ideas to one another as the speaker expresses them and also to background knowledge of the world. Making these connections is difficult for students with organizational, memory, and reasoning impairments, common after TBI. Difficulty with the social aspects of language and language pragmatics, for effective expression and comprehension alike, is also common after TBI. In some cases this is due to the fact that the child was injured at a young age and may not have matured sufficiently to engage in effective social interaction with peers later in development. In other cases, difficulty with the social and pragmatic aspects of language is a direct result of damage to parts of the brain that facilitate processing of social information. Damage to vulnerable prefrontal areas, in association with the amygdala, parietal lobes, insula, anterior cingulate gyrus, and basal ganglia (possibly right hemisphere more than left) results in difficulty interpreting the emotional states of others and “reading” the non-literal aspects of their communication. CLOSING A. Conclusion After I explained about the Language Comprehension, now I will make a conclusion of them. Language Comprehension is more complicated than it might at first appear which is involves a variety of capacities, skills, processes, knowledge, and dispositions that are used to derive meaning from spoken, written, and signed language. In this broad sense, language comprehension includes reading comprehension, which has been addressed in a separate tutorial, as well as comprehension of sign language. Deriving meaning from spoken language involves much more than knowing the meaning of words and understanding what is intended when those words are put together in a certain way. Language Comprehension is very difficult for any student who have a special need in study. It can called the TBI children. More generally, students with TBI often have problems with memory and new learning, related to damage to the vulnerable hippocampus and also to the frontal lobes. So to fix this problem we need to be focus on how we must to understan of any procedure how to teach the TBI students. Beside that, we also must to give them an environmental compensations. And we also teach them with an Instructional Procedures and Teaching Rules of Grammar SOURCH Townsend, David J; Thomas G. Bever (2001). Sentence Comprehension: The Integration of Habits and Rules. MIT Press. p. 382. ISBN 0262700808. Goldstein, H. (2002). Communication intervention for children with autism: A review of treatment efficacy. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32(5), 373-396. Jitendra, A., Edwards, L., Sacks, G., & Jacobson, L. (2004). What research says about vocabulary instruction for students with learning disabilities. Exceptional Children, 70(3), 299-322.

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