AP Psychology : Language

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP Psychology

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Example Questions

Example Question #41 : Language

Which of the following best describes a prosody?

Possible Answers:

The meaning of a sentence

The intonation, rythm, and stress of a sentence

The musical potential a sentence has

None of these 

The grammatical structure of a sentence 

Correct answer:

The intonation, rythm, and stress of a sentence

Explanation:

Prosody is a linguistic term in phonology. After the speaker subconsciously works out which sounds are involved in their utterance, prosody brings all of these sounds together. The prosodic rules of English will determine the stress of each word, the stress of the sentence, the intonation, and rhythm of the sentence as a whole. Although these rules may be "musical" in a certain respect, the technical linguistic term is prosody.

Example Question #41 : Language

Which of the following is an example of a "whimperative"?

Possible Answers:

Pass the salt, please.

None of these

Why don't you pass the salt when I ask you to?

Pass the salt.

Would you pass the salt?

Correct answer:

Would you pass the salt?

Explanation:

A "whimperative" is a linguistic term which is made from "wh" to signify question words and "imperative" to mean commands. A whimperative is a command in the form of a question. The command is thus not fully meant as a question but as a strong request that a person may chose to accept or deny. This is seen almost everywhere such as the following:

"Could you pass the salt?"

"Would you give me a hand with this?"

"Can you please keep it down?"

Note that the construction is primarily made up of conditionals such as "will/could/can/would" as opposed to questions words "who/what/when/why.” Question words signify a request for information. The constructions are such that the answer can only be a yes or no. 

Example Question #691 : Individual Psychology And Behavior

Which of the following most accurately represents the relationship between age and language learning ability?

Possible Answers:

Learners of a second language aged 7 and younger learn as proficiently as their first; this proficiency sharply decreases for learners older than 7.

Learners of a second language aged 14 and younger learn as proficiently as their first; this proficiency sharply decreases for learners older than 14.

Learners of a second language aged 14 and younger learn as proficiently as their first; this proficiency gradually decreases for learners older than 14.

Learners of a second language aged 7 and younger learn as proficiently as their first; this proficiency gradually decreases for learners older than 7.

Correct answer:

Learners of a second language aged 7 and younger learn as proficiently as their first; this proficiency gradually decreases for learners older than 7.

Explanation:

Early research from the mid-twentieth century seemingly identified a critical period of language learning ability that cuts off after puberty; however, Johnson and Newport challenged this finding in 1989. They studied data from second-language learners and found that, while second-language acquisition prior to age 7 is identical in proficiency to first-language acquisition, learning ability decreases gradually into adulthood—not suddenly with the onset of puberty. This relationship has led researchers to interpret developmental changes in language learning ability as corresponding with lifelong changes in neuroplasticity, rather than puberty specifically.

Example Question #41 : Language

Dr. Andrews recruited a group of 50 American, 30-month-old children from English-speaking homes. After acquiring parental permission, he tracked their acquisition of language using various tasks and observational methods. He saw each child every 6 months for three years after the initial session: 3 years (36 months), 3.5 years, 4 years, 4.5 years, 5 years, 5.5 years, and 6 years. Based on the data he collected, he hopes to determine the universal sequence in which all children acquire certain phonemes.

Which of the following best represents a phoneme?

Possible Answers:

A speech sound that cannot be divided into smaller units

The smallest unit of language that conveys meaning

An incorrect usage of language

A rule for constructing meaningful speech

Correct answer:

A speech sound that cannot be divided into smaller units

Explanation:

A phoneme is a single speech sound that cannot be broken down any further. For example, the word mom can be broken down into the sounds “mm,” “ah,” and “mm,” but those three individual sounds cannot be broken down any further and are considered phonemes. A morpheme could be defined as one of “the smallest units of language that conveys meaning.” Syntax is a language’s set of “rules for constructing meaningful speech.” In linguistics, “an incorrect usage of language” that does not abide by a language’s syntactical and semantic rules, which govern sentence construction and word meaning respectively, is termed ungrammatical.

Example Question #42 : Language

According to the nativist theory, language is acquired through which of the following processes?

Possible Answers:

Using an inborn ability to learn language at a certain developmental stage 

Through parents reinforcing correct language use 

All of these

Using formal language instruction in the child's native language 

Correct answer:

Using an inborn ability to learn language at a certain developmental stage 

Explanation:

According to the nativist theory, we are born with a language acquisition device that allows us to learn language as children. We are all born with this mechanism, regardless of what language we speak or what methods of instruction are used to teach us how to speak. 

Example Question #692 : Individual Psychology And Behavior

According to Noam Chomsky, non-human primates cannot produce language because of which of the following?

Possible Answers:

They are too aggressive

They do not have speech facilitators 

They lack complex social systems

They understand syntax but not grammar 

They lack a language acquisition device

Correct answer:

They lack a language acquisition device

Explanation:

The language acquisition device is a hypothetical construct crafted by Chomsky that indicates that humans are unique in their ability to understand language from a young age. Young infants can acquire and produce language and begin to understand both its syntax and grammar. In this way, only humans can understand language, as humans are the only species that have such a disposition from birth (as opposed to developing such a disposition from exposure to language).

Example Question #43 : Language

What is the "onset/no coda" principle as it relates to phonology?

Possible Answers:

That languages tend to have onsets but no codas in their prosodic structures

That languages tend to have onsets but no codas in their trochees

None of these

That languages tend to have no onsets but codas in their syllables

That languages tend to have onsets but no codas in their syllables

Correct answer:

That languages tend to have onsets but no codas in their syllables

Explanation:

Onsets are consonants that begin a syllable. The onset of the syllable [bat] is [b]. Codas are consonants that end a syllable. The coda of the syllable [bat] is [t].

Generally speaking, languages tend to prefer to have syllable structures that have an onset but no coda. For instance, there are theoretically two different ways to syllabify the word "kitten". It could be [kit]-[ten] where the [t] is a coda of [kit]. Or, the way we actually say it, [ki][tten] where the first syllable has no coda at all.

There are of course exceptions that can't be discussed at length here, but this is a general phonological rule that guides sound structure. 

Example Question #43 : Language

Which of the following is an example of a semantic ambiguity?

Possible Answers:

All of these

John looked at the detective with a magnifying glass

The words "fat" and "cat"

My mom saw a woman with a telescope

I touched the bat

Correct answer:

I touched the bat

Explanation:

Semantic ambiguity is the opposite of structural ambiguity. Semantic ambiguity is when the structure of a sentence is restricted to one particular structure but a word in the sentence makes it ambiguous. For instance, the word "bat" in the sentence "I touched the bat" can mean the animal or a baseball bat.

Example Question #692 : Individual Psychology And Behavior

Which of the following is an example of the linguistic phenomena of ellipsis?

Possible Answers:

None of these

John ran to the store and talked to the clerk.

John ran to the store and John talked to the clerk.

The cat ran to the store.

My mom is my mom is my mom...

Correct answer:

John ran to the store and talked to the clerk.

Explanation:

Ellipsis is when a word is omitted in a sentence since it is likely that the word will be filled in by the audience. Ellipsis makes our sentences more efficient to produce and less repetitive. For instance, instead of saying "John ran to the store and John talked to the clerk" we can "ellide" (use ellipsis) "John" and say "John ran to the store and talked to the clerk". In fact, we use ellipsis so much that if we were to use "John" twice in that sentence it may sound like we were talking about two different Johns!

Example Question #43 : Language

Can language be analyzed to reveal mental states or conditions? 

Possible Answers:

None of these

No

Not at all, that can only be determined by behavior

Yes, but only in terms of the meaning of what is being conveyed

Yes

Correct answer:

Yes

Explanation:

Language can reveal many things about a person's beliefs, state of being, and even underlying mental conditions. This is not restricted to what the person is trying to convey in meaning but the actual structure of their sentences or word choices. For instance, a linguist could look at two passages written by different people about the same event and conclude many things about each person's personality. One person may have used "I" many times in telling the story, which reflects valuing their subjective experience over objective fact. The other may have used a combination of writing conventions that indicate value in both both subjectivity and objectivity related to the retelling of the event. Psychologists can even analyze speech to see if a person has a serious mental condition such as schizophrenia or psychopathy.

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