Social Psychology: An Analysis of Social Behavior

Chapter 10: Language and Social Interaction

Kimball Young

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A. Language in Communication and Culture.

Language is the carrier of a vast amount of what we call culture. Knowledge of the past, techniques of science and of food-getting, taboos and social rituals, all are carried in language, or at least have language counterparts, as is particularly clear in the case of material culture. From the point of view of social psychology, language is important, first as it relates to communication, and second as it functions in the socialization of the individual, that is, in the development of his personality. Moreover, it carries for the person the social definitions of situations, the world of discourse, and the whole range of culture content which impinges upon him. It is the medium of interaction without which social life could not develop, without which the individual could not become intelligent. It is now our purpose to trace the evolution of speech and to discuss the psychology of speech development. Language, as it relates to social participation and as it reflects the whole social reality in which we live, will be the subject of a later chapter.

1. Evolution of Language.

a. Theories of Origin.—There are a number of theories of the origin of language, no one of which seems to be adequate. The three classic explanations are the "Bow-wow," the "Pooh-Pooh," and the "Ding-Dong" theories. In the first, the word is said to arise from the sound associated with the object. It is a sort of natural "imitation." Thus, the name "chickadee" arises from the sound made by this bird, or the word "crackle" arises from the sound of a breaking stick. Iii the second, it is sail that words at INC from the affective and emotional vocal responses. Thus, "ah," "oh," cries and shouts, made as ejaculations in the presence of emotionally exciting situations, give the foundation to words with meanings. The third theory attempts to account for the rise of language from an innate, reflex associa-

(204) -tion of vocal response and object. Judd cites the case of a child who referred to the peebles in his hand as "pocos," and Wells mentions a child who called a buggy whipstock a "conger." This theory seems to imply that if society did not already have terms for objects, a child or adult who thus unconsciously invented a name for an object might project this name upon others. Hence, by acceptance of the word, the symbol for the object would be established. The "yo-he-ho" theory, added by Noire, assumes that language arose from common emotional expressions in group occupations, as illustrated in rhythmic action in a group rowing a boat, pulling on a fishing net, or participating in other social enterprises. Jesperson holds a somewhat analogous theory in his emphasis upon emotional vocal interstimulation in prehuman and early human stages of evolution.

It is likely that language arose from a combination of various factors. Yet no one is able definitely to say just how. Our best inferences may be drawn from observations of infra-human species and from studies of child-learning.

b. Rise of Gesture.—It is evident that language has its roots in gestures. Speech is nothing else but a form of vocal gesture or particular sound combination associated with certain meanings; and meanings are part of our anticipatory response system. Thus, language is based on vocalization, which is universal in the entire human race, but it is meaningful only as it occurs in a social-cultural setting. To understand the foundations of language it is necessary to see it in terms of the evolution of the whole gesture system-vocal, manual, and facial.

One of the great turning-points in the evolution of our species was the assumption of an erect posture. This changed the configuration of the environment to which the organism responded. The nature and range of our visual field was altered. Objects, in both vertical and horizontal perspective, took on other forms than had been the case when the animal still ran on all fours. Moreover, the erect posture freed the hands for manipulation of objects—the hands could reach for and tear food instead of playing a part in locomotion. Likewise, the erect posture freed for new purposes the musculature of tile snout that had hitherto been occupied with tearing and rending food. The hands, the face, and especially the vocal organs became significant in new relations both to the physical world and to the world of members of one's own or nearly related species. And this significance lay particularly in the field of the gesture.

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A gesture is defined as "a motion of the body, head, or limbs, especially a movement or action of the hands or face, expressive of some idea or emotion or illustrative of some utterance." For our purposes we include in gesture the vocal responses as well. A grunt, a sigh, a shout constitute gestures just as much as do movements of the facial muscles or the hands. All of these various types of gestures may be thought of as indicating an action to come. In other words, a gesture bespeaks or denotes an oncoming act. In this sense it assumes the characteristic of an attitude. As Mead puts it, a gesture is "a truncated act." In the evolution of social intercourse the gesture has played an enormously important rôle. Thus the cry of warning of the frightened animal or bird gives a clue to others of its species of incipient danger. So, too, the love-calls of the moose or the bird are indicative of mating acts to follow. In this sense one may speak of communication of the lower animals, for certainly their activities are constantly being modified by the gestures of other animals. The matter is nicely illustrated in the rudimentary stages of a dog fight. There is smelling, growling, baring of teeth, movement toward and away; there is thrusting of ears forward or back, a circling round and round each other, before the actual attack takes place. Thus, the forward thrust of the head and the growl of one dog may lead to a sideward movement of the other dog, or a like forward movement of the second dog, to be followed, in turn, by a sideward movement, or retreat, or further forward movement of the first. In the milling about of the two dogs, as in the sparring for an opening of two boxers, the preliminary activities are largely in the nature of gestures, indicative of oncoming, more complete acts.

Fundamental associations seem to be built up in the higher animals in the field of gesture, particularly in reference to such activities as sex and mating, food-getting, escaping from danger, and fighting. Darwin held that the rudimentary acts or gestures of animals were largely survivals of actual activities once engaged in by the earlier forms, but it is just as likely that in the evolution of the various species, with the recession of the snout, with the assumption of erect posture, with the coming of elementary gregarious activities, the gestures developed as parts of the larger activities mentioned above: mating, food-getting, and rudimentary social intercourse. At any rate, these gestures became important for survival of the higher species. Gestures are related to internal changes in the organism and to external changes in the situation to which it responds. These internal

(206) changes, in their elementary form, consist largely, as we have seen, of physiological tensions which may be called drives. For example, at the mating season the male pigeons take to strutting before the females and to calling them with peculiar vocal gestures. These, in turn, are significant for the female in determining her response to the male. Again, in feeding, the calling of the rooster over the newly found seeds serves as a stimulus to other chickens to come running up to the spot. These gestures are not true language in the human sense of the word. Bird or animal calls do not convey definite concepts, such as the kind of food or the sort of danger sensed by the animal. The sounds merely secure attention of other members of the species and arouse in them attitudes or tendencies to action.

Of most interest to us in the matter of human speech, however, are the observations which have been made of the gestures of the higher apes. Here we have some indication of the possible roots to our own language. Köhler has pointed out that the vocal gestures of the apes are "subjective" and can only express emotions, not designate objects. However, their range of expression by facial and vocal gesture is very rich. They show rage, fear, despair, grief, "pleading desire," playful attitudes, and pleasure.

While the apes have not arrived at true language in the sense in which we define objects and have free verbal images or ideas and concepts, they have advanced considerably in their capacity to indicate situations by gestural pointing and by a wide range of emotional expression. It remained for man, however, to develop true language as it is related to the higher forms of thought, that is, to the most discriminatory phases of anticipatory behavior. This capacity to acquire true speech is correlated with the development of the higher association areas of the cerebral cortex.

2. Non-Vocal Gestures in Human Communication.—Even with the development of true vocal language among human beings, there remains a considerable place for manual and facial gesture in communication. In man the expression of feeling and emotion is often carried by these gestures quite as effectively as by vocal speech, if not more so.

The delicate musculature of the human face and neck, as well as the larger muscle groups of the torso and the arms, all serve as stimuli and response organs in social intercourse. There is little doubt that social stimulation by others conditions the forms of these gestures enormously; but the fact remains that the organism is supplied with a set of muscular

( 207) mechanisms for showing rage, fear, surprise, laughter, smiling, and pleasurable feelings which are highly significant in the field of social interstimulation and response. Allport has ably reviewed the literature on non-vocal gestures and has also presented some of his own findings. He has summarized Rudolph's study of five types of facial expression: pain-grief, surprise-fear, anger, disgust, and pleasure. The following table correlates these facial expressions with each of the five types, of which the first four are unpleasant, the last pleasant:

Table 7: A Synopsis of Facial Expressions and Emotional States [1]
Pain and Grief Amazement 
and Fear
Anger Disgust Pleasure
(Smiling and Laughing)
Brows and Forehead Raised. Knitted. Oblique out and down. Wrinkles h. v. Raised. Wrinkled h
(amazement Terror as in Pain)
Lowered. Knitted. Oblique in and down Wrinkles v. Slightly knitted Wrinkles v. Smooth (except in violent laughing)
Eyes Partly or fully closed (Tears) Wide Open Wide Open Varying. Usually narrow, resembling smiling Partly shut. Lower lid raised "Crow's-feet"
Nose Compressed (thinned) Elongated Alae dilated (in terror) Alae dilated
(in rage)
Raised. Shortened. Wrinkled. Alae raised at sides Natural
Mouth Lowered. Open and skewed (in groaning) Opened. Wide and fixed (in strong fear) Rectangular rigid opening
Exposing lower teeth
Slightly elevated Raised. Open, upper teeth shown
(laugh) Closed (smile)
Lips Depressed at corners
Lower lip trembling
Somewhat depressed at corners Depressed at corners
Lower Lip tense
Depressed at corners
Lower lip protruding
Corners drawn back and up
Upper lip raised, tense
Lower Jaw Drooping Immovable Rigid
Raised Dropped and trembling (in laughting)
Head Sunk forward Drawn back or averted Advanced Sometimes averted Thrown back (in laughing)


In addition to these gestures of emotional sort some facial reactions indicate intellectual attitudes such as belief, incredulity, helplessness, certainty, and the like. Allport reviews a few samples of these attitudinal gestures as follows:

Admitting a wide range of individual difference in these mannerisms, we may mention a few which are fairly universal. Doubt, or hesitation, is expressed by raising the brows. The eyes, however, are not widely opened as in attention or fear. Incredulous or critical doubt adds also a protruding or pursing of the lips. Raised brows and a wide direct gaze after speaking serve as a facial interrogation point, and demand an answer. Determination, or command, the facial imperative, is shown in the firm closure of the lips and teeth, tense jaw muscles, and wrinkles beneath the lower lip and upon the chin. It is represented in conjunction with hateful distrust.[2]

It has been shown that among the apes facial grimaces, as well as vocalization, serve as stimuli to other forms of behavior. In human intercourse it is universally accepted that facial gestures are often better clues to a man's attitudes than are his words. Frequently after a person has spoken, the unconscious impression of his facial gestures remains with us as the basis of our like or dislike, our belief or disbelief in what he says. Some persons seem to have a special talent for making judgments of persons largely in terms of their facial gestures. [3] And there seems to be evidence that fortune-tellers and would-be personality experts are often gifted with a capacity to catch the trends of thoughts and wishes of their clients in the changes of eye and in the slight gestures and incipient responses of the whole delicate facial musculature which the ordinary observer would overlook. One usually betrays the answers to one's own questions to these people, who give one back, often enough, the answers secretly wished for and indicated in one's face.

Gesture is an important background to the whole matter. of communication, because, after all, language rests upon vocal gestures, more significant than manual and facial gestures only because of the wider range of meaningful combinations which vocal sounds permit. If our voices had the restricted range of the facial muscles, our vocabularies would be no larger and no more definite than is the present scope of our words to de-

(209) -fine the meaning of facial gestures. Yet, at the outset, manual, facial, and vocal, but non-verbal, gestures are significant in the evolution of human communication and, pari passu, of human intelligence. As Judd remarks:

In human life there is breadth of attention exhibited in gesture. The person who makes a gesture includes in his experience the person with whom he wishes to communicate, plus the idea which is to be communicated . . . . Gesture, or gesture language, as it is called, is thus seen to be not merely a complex form of behavior but one which expresses a new type of relationships between the reactor and his environment. Gesture is a social form of behavior involving attention to persons as well as to objects. Indeed gesture supersedes the more direct forms of attack on objects.[4]

While among animals the expression of feelings and emotions in the presence of situations, material or social, may and does serve as a stimulus for other forms of like species, in man these incipient, truncated, oncoming responses come to have relationships to concepts, and to carry with them definite intention to alter the behavior of the other person who sees or hears the gesture. Doubtless the rudiments of this sort of anticipatory response of one form to another are seen in the apes, but, after all, their gestures are limited to immediate situations and are distinctly restricted in their power to do more than to call the attention of other members of the species to the situation. It remains for man with his gestures and true speech to discriminate and to anticipate overt response by means of language. The following illustration from Dewey reveals the essential function of true language in communication:

A requests B to bring him something, to which A points, say a flower. There is an original mechanism by which B may react to A's movement in pointing. But natively such a reaction is to the movement, not to the pointing, not to the object pointed out. But B learns that the movement is a pointing; he responds to it not in itself, but as an index of something else. His response is transferred from A's direct movement to the object to which A points. Thus he does not merely execute the natural acts of looking or grasping which the movement might instigate on its own account. The motion of A attracts his gaze to the thing pointed to; then, instead of jest transferring his response from A's movement to the native reaction he might make to the thing as stimulus, he responds in a way which is a function of A's relationship, actual and potential, to the thing. The characteristic thing about B's understanding of A's movement and sounds is that he responds to the thing from ,the standpoint of A. He per-

( 210) -ceives the thing as it may function in A's experience, instead of just egocentrically. Similarly, A in making the request conceives the thing not only in its direct relationship to himself, but as a thing capable of being grasped and handled by B. He sees the thing as it may function in B's experience. Such is the essence and import of communication, signs and meaning. Something is literally made common in at least two different centers of behavior. To understand is to anticipate together, it is to make a cross-reference which, when acted upon, brings about a partaking in a common, inclusive, undertaking.

Stated in greater detail; B upon hearing A, makes a preparatory reaction of his eyes, hands and legs in view of the consummatory act of A's possession; he engages in the act of grasping, carrying and tendering the flower to A. At the same time, A makes a preparatory response to B's consummatory act, that of carrying and proffering the flower. Thus neither the sounds uttered by A, his gesture of pointing, nor the sight of the thing pointed to, is the occasion and stimulus of B's act; the stimulus is B's anticipatory share in the consummation of a transaction in which both participate. The heart of language is not "expression" of something antecedent, much less expression of antecedent thought. It is communication; the establishment of coöperation in an activity in which there are partners, and in which the activity of each is modified and regulated by partnership. To fail to understand is to fail to come into agreement in action; to misunderstand is to set up action at cross purposes . . . .

A in making the request of B, at the same time makes the incipient and preparatory response of receiving the thing at the hands of B; he performs in readiness the consummatory act. B's understanding of the meaning of what A says, instead of being a mere reaction to sound, is an anticipation of a consequence, while it is also an immediate activity of eyes, legs and hands in getting and giving the flower to A. The flower is the thing which it immediately is, and it also is means of a conclusion. All of this is directly involved in the existence of intelligible speech.[5]

3. The Language of Primitive Peoples.—Language is found among all human groups—even those possessing the .simplest culture traits. Language, in truth, is bound up with every phase of culture, simple or complex. It has been a common notion that the language of primitives is peculiarly inefficient, that these peoples reveal their mental inferiority in their language. It is held that agglutinative types of language are less capable of expressing abstract thought than our own; and it is further thought that there is some parallel between the language of primitive peoples and that of small children. The speech of the latter runs to gesture, to concrete forms, to simpler grammatical forms than that of adults. This

( 211) thesis, however, is merely the outcome of an ethnocentric notion of the white race. Particularly it is a cultural hangover from the fact that early students of modern philology tended to assume that the Indo-European languages were superior to all others, and that complex ideas could not be expressed except in terms of our inflecting or isolating types of language. Certainly modern languages of civilized peoples are more complex than those of simpler peoples, in the sense in which the entire culture of the former is richer and more complex than that of the latter. Increases in size of vocabulary do not mean any essential changes in form. As Kroeber puts it:

No clear correspondence has yet been traceable between type or degree of civilization and type of language. Neither the presence nor the absence of particular features of tense, number, case, reduplication, or the like, seems ever to have been of demonstrable advantage toward the attainment of higher culture . . . .

So, from the point of view of civilization, language does not matter. Language will always keep up with whatever pace culture sets it . . . . In general, every language is capable of indefinite modification and expansion and thereby is enabled to meet cultural demands almost at once.[6]

Many modern writers naïvely imagine that language form rather than language content is the significant matter. It is frequently said that native peoples can not express abstract ideas, the implication being that they are incapable of doing so, on the side both of mentality and of language form, but the evidences of careful anthropological research do not bear this out. The terms of relationship alone in many cultures are extremely complex. It is only because we are so prepossessed by our own culture that we ignore the validity and complexity of both mind and language of other peoples. Thus we must not assume that the language of the white race has anything inherently superior in it, except insofar as the culture which is carried through the language is superior. As we shall see, there is a vast amount of our language, as of our culture, that is infantile and autistic, just as is much of the language and culture of primitives. This is not because of language form, but because of the persistence in our own day of culture forms and ideas which bespeak man's emotional, affective, illogical thinking and acting.


4. Language as Means of Communication and as Carrier of Culture. The social nature of language is obvious at once. Language arises in social situations. Even the rude emotional calls of the lower animals are directed to members of their own species. In the case of the human being he learns his language in reference to others around him. The refinement of language follows, or rather accompanies, the refinement of ideas and thinking. As our thought becomes more precise and exact, our language does also. Hence in more complex culture groups, people are able to communicate the most abstract conceptions of science, art, and philosophy. By rudimentary emotional vocalization the apes are able, in a crude manner, to designate general situations to others. With human beings language permits the recall of past experiences in the form of images and ideas. It is able to refer to the future condition. It permits reference to time and space, to possible or conditional situations, and to a world of relationships in detail, of which the lower animal is incapable.

So long as the language of the race persisted only through the spoken word the transmission of culture from generation to generation was rather limited. With the evolution of written language further advances in complexity of culture were possible. Clodd remarks in his Story o f the Alphabet that "the invention of writing alone made possible the passage from barbarism to civilization, and secured the continuous progress of the human race." Written language apparently began with the notching of sticks, such as are used by the Australian natives for messages, or with the knotting of rope to number objects, as with the ancient Peruvians. Also early pictographs of objects came to have symbolic meaning. So, in the case of Egypt, the crude sketches on walls or paper gave way to abbreviated picture writing, and thence to hieroglyphics. Finally the Phoenicians, or some other Near Eastern group, invented true phonetic writing, in which man could associate directly his spoken with his written language. With written language at hand, the cultural accumulations of the past could, be made more secure for the future. These written symbols, in turn, affected the rate of change in civilization, because written records themselves became a part of the social environment to which the new individual was exposed in the course of his development. Thus, with us, reading, spelling, writing, and arithmetic, which is a related form of written language, become the key school subjects. Through these "tool subjects" the storehouses of the world's literature, science, and philosophy are made available. So much of

(213) modern culture is bound up in books that it would be hard to imagine it:; continuance if the capacity to write and to read were suddenly to disappear.

Language becomes a most important tool of personal-social communication, on the one hand, and a most important carrier of culture, on the other. We shall later discuss the relation of language to culture and social reality. Let us here examine the acquirement of language in the child, as this will expose the methods by which the medium of human interaction and the transmission of culture operate.

B. Psychology of Language Development.

1. Stages in Speech Development.—One of the universal and prepotent tendencies or reflex patterns of the new-born infant is vocalization. From birth the infant possesses the capacity to use his vocal organs, but, at the outset, with no more social significance than the movement of his legs and arms or the use of his excretory organs. As Jesperson puts it: "A child's scream is not uttered primarily as a means of conveying anything to others." It is not true speech, but at best an emotional-instinctive expression of pain or other sensory situation, or an expression of physiological tensions, such as hunger pangs. The mother, the nurse, or some other person may interpret the baby's scream and attend him; but so far as the original stimulus-response of the infant is concerned, the other person has nothing to do with it. Yet, from birth on, the impress of others is apparent. Other persons furnish a conditioned stimulus to the child's cries and screams. If the child remarks, as he soon will, that his cries or screams bring pleasant situations or actions, such as stroking, feeding, or carrying, it will not be long until he will employ these means of securing whatever he wants. We shall review the effects of these influences later. Here we, are concerned with the mechanism of speech learning.

The various stages in the evolution of the child's speech are dependent, first of all, on changes in his physical make-up. The development of the jaw-length is itself of some consequence. Jesperson states that at three months the jaw-length of his own child was 60 mm., while that of an adult females is 93 mm. These differences, plus differences in tongue, vocal orifice, and cords make for divergences in speech ability. With maturation additional capacity to utter various sounds arises.

The development of human speech falls into several natural stages dependent on physical maturity and personal-social stimulation.


a. The Screaming or Pre-linguistic Stage.—The birth cry is a purely reflex action, concerned, apparently, with supplying the lungs with oxygen. The cry itself is incidental. It arises as the result of the air being drawn rapidly over the vocal cords and setting up a vibration in them. During the first few weeks the vocal sounds are largely in the nature of screams or cries which are connected with purely physiological conditions of hunger, pain, cold, etc. These differ in intensity and extent. Furthermore, children vary among themselves in the intensity and quantity of their cries. Doubtless these variations depend upon differences in vocal and muscular strength and in variety of internal and external stimulation. Allport in his observations of his own son distinguished five different kinds of cries: quick, rapid crying in annoying situations; whining or entreating cries; drawn-out, detached sleepy cry; spasmodic sobbing after hard crying; and harsh crescendo cries of rage. Even in the first month certain definite speech sounds are discernible. Here we get the earliest consonants, principally nasals and gutturals, such as m, n, ng, h, g, r, y, the nasal at, and the glottal stop; also certain vowel sounds, such as long ee in see, short a as in pat, long a as in father, short i as in bird. This period covers, as a rule, the first three or four months of infancy. All of this vocalization is of a random sort, except where it is connected with bodily needs. These vocal responses are no different from his other random movements of hands, legs, torso, head, and face.

b. The Babble Stage.—This, as the Blantons remark, is neither "crying nor speech," but rather a kind of "babble-singing." Often the babble is shrill, loud, and somewhat unpleasant, later giving way to more pleasant sounds which approach true speech. This is the period of cooing or crowing—seemingly a delightful exercise to the child. The following quotation is from a careful observation of one case:

In the girl baby studied, the first sound occurred on the one hundred and fiftieth day—a soft, volumeless, uninflected a (as in father) which she said after feeding.

By the one hundred and sixty-fifth day, she had developed a wave-like movement of the tongue which resulted in a sort of grouping of undifferentiated vowel sounds—a sort of "variations" of the theme a (as in father). In addition, she had the shrill pleasure-scream mentioned previously.

By the two hundred and forty-ninth day (approximately eight months), the babble had reached its peak. It did not at this time, or ever, contain all the sounds of English speech, but it did contain sounds not occurring in English.


Spanish, French, Anglo-Saxon, German, and African were represented, and doubtless many others not recognized by the observer. The commonest vowel sounds were a (as in about) and the vowel diphthong represented by y in my. The commonest consonant sounds were m, ng (sing), and the French nasal (Montaigne), the sounds b, d, and g, and the .Spanish y, plus the sound represented by y in the English word you which was very common. The glottal stop was common h was fairly so, and a bird trill sort of an r. Ordinary r (as in red) and 1, also f, k, and t, were very rare; and the sounds of th in thin and than, the sounds of s in sit and is, and the sounds of sh in shoe and pleasure, and the sounds of tsh in chair and jam did not occur at all.

At the seventh month she gave positive evidence of knowledge of the meaning of the word milk, although she did not use it.

By the two hundred and eighty-fourth day (a little over nine months) the babble had changed in character. It was softer, less distinct, and more like speech. She had developed a form of mimicry that often passes for speech. It is called echolalia. To illustrate, if "bye-bye" was said to her, she responded with something similar. But this was true whether suitable things were being said or not, or whether remarks were, addressed to her or not.[7]

Not only is the acquirement of new sound combinations, a kind of rudimentary vocabulary, important in this period, but equally significant are the psychological mechanisms involved. It is a period of practice essential to the control through the ear of the muscles of speech. It is in this period that circular responses are established between the sounds uttered and the response itself. The child in babbling first of all receives certain kinesthetic sensations from the muscles of speech. Furthermore, and perhaps more important, he gets auditory sensations from the sounds uttered. Allport advances the following interesting hypothesis as to the learning involved here:

Returning to the brain centers, these afferent impulses are, or tend to be, redischarged through the same motor pathways as those used in speaking the syllable itself. There are two possible methods of explaining this. We may suppose that the synapses connecting the afferent impulse with the motor outlet of speaking da, having been recently used, are in a state of relatively lowered resistance, and are therefore readily put into operation again. Or we may infer that, in some cases at least, the return stimulations arc received while the speaking response is still going on (as in a prolonged vowel sound), and the motor synaptic resistances for da are completely overcome because discharge through those synapses is actually taking place. We have here the exact situation for the

(216) formation of a conditioned response. The response da becomes circularly conditioned by the sound da; and this sound when later heard will tend of itself to evoke the response of speaking it. This latter explanation is probably the true one. While the babe is practicing the syllabic elements of his future vocabulary he is therefore also fixating ear-vocal reflexes through which a spoken sound may directly evoke its enunciation. Articulation has now advanced to a stage where it is capable of being controlled through the auditory receptor.[8]

Throughout this period, aside from increase in jaw-length and development of speech organs, there is a distinctly important maturation of brain centers, making these sound associations more and more permanent and significant for future use. This period shifts gradually over to the next, in which the babbling gives way to fixation of circular sound-ear association by social stimulation of others.

c. The so-called Imitation Stage of Speech.—Along toward the end of the first year the effects of social stimulation on vocalization become more evident. If the child has built up the association of sound and vocal response, it is very easy for the shift to be made to some other person who utters the sound combination. The effect on the child will be the same as if he himself utters the sound. One of the interesting results of Pavlov's studies has been to show that the sound discrimination of the child is not so efficient as that of the lower animals. Thus, when a mother says "doll" to the child, this may be sufficiently closely associated with his own response of "da" so that he confuses the two. So, too, such expressions as "papa," "mama," "bye-bye," or others fit easily into speech combinations already at hand. What may easily be termed imitation is nothing else but a duplication of the child's own speech stimulation by another person. Certain associations, fixed at the outset by random vocalization in the babble stage, become the basis for specific associations later. This period is sometimes called the parrot stage or the period of echolalia. There is here no mystical instinct of imitation at work, or any conscious following of a pattern. Only sounds already acquired by chance association of ear and vocalization can be used. Allport relates an observation on his own son at about the "last half of the second year."

The spoken word "pencil" was repeated . . . as punka (c and l sounds not yet acquired. The phrase "What is that?" involving difficult consonants, was reproduced as uh i a. The words "down," "doll," and "clock" when spoken to

(217) him, were all repeated as da. Ba, similarly, was his reproduction of "box," "bath," "bottle," "block," and "bye."[9]

This parrot stage gives way, in turn, to one in which true speech begins to appear. Here there is the association of sound with object, person, and situation.

d. Acquirement of True Speech by Association of Sound and Situation.—This stage usually begins in the second year. With girls it occurs usually in the period from nine to eighteen months; with boys, from a year to a year and a half. For instance, saying "bye-bye" may be associated with going out of the house in the mother's arms, or the world "doll" spoken by an adult is supplemented by producing the doll itself as a visual stimulus, which, in turn, is associated with the spoken word of the adult and the somewhat similar spoken sound of the child. So, too, "Up, Baby" is associated with picking up the baby, and "ball" with that object. Simultaneously with this conditioning goes the conditioning of the object itself and the child's own response without the intervention of the adult's spoken word. Thus the child says ba when he sees the ball before him.

From this point the acquirement of a vocabulary goes on rapidly. The child learns the names of hundreds of objects and situations. Not only are nouns learned, but movements are associated with words such as "come," "go," and finally qualifying words of all sorts are acquired. At the outset there is not the discrimination in the use of words which comes later. A few words may serve a very wide range of purposes. Carl Sandburg has put this fact neatly in the following stanzas:

Seventeen Months [10]

This girl child speaks five words.
No for no and no for yes, "no" for either no or yes.
"Teewee" for wheat or oats or corn or barley or any food taken with a spoon.
"Go way" as an edict to keep your distance and let her determinations operate.
"Spoon" for spoon or cup or anything to be handled, all instruments, tools, paraphernalia of utility and convenience are spoons.
Mama is her only epithet and synonym for God and


the Government and the one force of majesty and intelligence obeying the call of pity, hunger, pain, cold, dark—MAMA, MAMA, MAMA.

2. Stages in Acquirement of Vocabulary.—Numerous studies have been made of the development of the vocabulary of children. These investigations give a clue to the child's growing acquaintance with the world around him. Naturally he acquires from those around him the word—symbols for objects, persons, and situations. Vocabulary reflects the personal-social and cultural situations to which the child is exposed. Unfortunately the published observations are almost entirely from families of high cultural and professional status. There seem to be no adequate reports on the growth of vocabulary in the early years of children from the lower social-economic levels. Only in the school are the differences in opportunity exposed. It is further evident that not only vocabulary but inflection, enunciation, and timbre of voice will be acquired from the parents and others close to the child.

The child learns to respond to words and sentences spoken by others before he learns to use words himself. One child observed by the writer at thirteen months knew but a few nouns, but responded to such expressions: "Go get music" by going to the phonograph; "Come to papa" by running to the father, and so on. Here we have a sound combination as a total stimulation, without awareness, necessarily, of the specific meaning of the words. Children have been known to use a few words as early as the ninth month. The child observed by Boyd uttered his first words—"dog" and "dada"—in the first week of the eleventh month. In the first few months of true speech the expressions are largely individual words designating objects or action. Bohn reports, for the child he observed, the first sentence "Beatrice all gone" in the middle of the fifteenth month. In the child reported by Boyd the first true sentence, "Bell rings," was noted in the middle of the seventeenth month, and about the same time a three-word sentence, "I'sa do it." Bohn remarks that inflection appeared in the seventeenth month in the sentence, "Daddie shoes wet." In the eighteenth month the same child gave the first clearly correct sentence as to form and implication, "Daddie gave R new shoes." He says that the idea of the possessive appeared early but not in correct form until the twentieth month. In this same month the infinitive and the participle were correctly used. Abstract ideas came much later, but just when is not stated. This child's

(219) parents are highly educated persons who deliberately set out to give their daughter only the best of learning opportunities. Baby-talk was avoided, corrections of pronunciation were stimulated, and altogether the child had an excellent social environment in which to develop language habits.

Table 8: Showing Vocabulary of One Child from 18 Months to 4th Year [11]
Number of Words Per cent Percent
Age in Years 1 1/2 3 4 1 1/2 3 4 3-4
Nouns  114 691 1,080 78.6 57.2 57.6 56 .3
Verbs 10 246 380 6.8 20.5 20.4 54.4
Pronouns 0 3 3 0 2.5 2.5 6.7
Adjectives 10 139 232 6.8 11.6 12.9 66.9
Adverbs 6 62 102 5.4 5.1 5.4 64.5
Prepositions 0 21 23 0 1.7 1.3 9.5
Conjunctions  0 7 8 0 0.6 0.4 14.3
Interjections 5 9 3 _ 3.4 0.8 0.7 44.4
Total 145 1,205 1,870 100.0 100.0 100.0 55.2

Table 9: Showing Vocabulary of One Child in 3rd and 4th Years l [12]
Number Percentage
Nouns 918 1,441 55.4 55.5
Pronouns 30 38 1.8 1.5
Qualitative 165 294 10.0 11.3
Others 35 70 2.1 2.7
Verbs 344 541 20.8 20.8
Adverbs 109 140 6.6 5.4
Conjunctions 21 31 1.3 1.2
Prepositions 20 33 1.8 1.3
Interjections 6 10 .3 .4
Total 1,657 1,598 l00.1 100.1


As to extent of vocabulary, nouns early outnumber all other parts of speech. Boyd reports for his case, for the first fortnight of the seventeenth month: 109 nouns, 30 verbs, 1 pronoun, 8 adjectives, and 8 adverbs. As to growth of vocabulary, the tables on page 219, one from Nice, the other from Boyd, give an idea of the various parts of speech employed in the early years.

The Brandenburgs report a comparative study of vocabulary development between forty months and fifty-two months. Some of their most interesting observations are as follows: [13]

At forty months the sentences averaged 6.6 words per sentence. The total vocabulary was 2500 words, and in a sample day the child used 859 words or 34 per cent of the total vocabulary. In contrast, at fifty-two months the sentences averaged 7.5 words, the total vocabulary was 4200 words, of which 1000 or 24 per cent of total vocabulary were used on a sample day. The following table gives the percentage of the various parts of speech in use by this child at fifty-two months:

Table 10: Showing Number and Percentage Distribution of Parts of Speech Used in One Day at 52 Months.

Table 8: Showing Vocabulary of One Child from 18 Months to 4th Year [11]
Parts of Speech Number Per cent
Nouns 402 42.3
Verbs 292 30.7
Adjectives 113 11.9
Adverbs 72 7.6
Pronouns 31 3.3
Prepositions 20 2.1
Interjections 11 1.1
Conjunctions 9 1.0
Total 950 100.0

If one compares these figures for the fourth year with those given by Nice in Table 8, one discovers some variability in the two cases in the percentages of parts of speech. The principal differences are in the proportion of nouns and verbs.

In her study of the development of a child's vocabulary Nice calculated the rate of learning new words from the beginning of speech to the sixth year.


Table 11 : Showing Rate of Learning Words"
14th month 3 words
15th " 1 word
16th " I word each 3 days
17th " 1 1/2 words a day
18th " 3 " " "
From 18 months to 3rd year 2.1 " " "
3-4 years 1.7 " " "
4-5  " 2 " " "
5-6  " 1.6 " " "

An interesting feature of the relation of language to the rise of personality is shown in the development of the use of "I" and "Me." Many children—but apparently not all—do not learn the correct use of the first pronoun singular until quite late. At the outset they employ the form "Me" or else refer to themselves by their given names, as "Helen wants spoon," or some such remark. It seems logical to suppose that the child comes to refer to himself at the outset in the forms in which others refer to him. Not until later does the conception of himself in the first person arise. This is not to imply that the child does not react in a self-assertive or egoistic way. It seems to mean only that he does not, in the early stages of his language communication to others, employ the form which we have developed in our more adult experience.

The acquiring of vocabulary goes hand in hand with increased facility in handling symbolic processes. As discriminatory habits are built up, the variation in word symbols to correspond with this increases. Indicative of this is the striking difference between the vocabulary of the second year and the succeeding years in the preponderance of nouns and in a deficiency in relational and qualifying words. In later life this process of increased use of relational, qualifying, and attributive words reaches into all dimensions of verbal behavior. As abstract words and meanings arise, these relational, qualifying, and attributive words come to be a mark of advanced, mature thinking.

It is evident, too, that the type of environment to which the child is exposed will make much difference in his vocabulary. Miss Stoner's mother taught her the scientific names for plants and animals from the outset. An-

( 222) other child, not given any opportunity to learn about natural phenomena, might never acquire adequate symbols in regard to such material. A child reared with adults, away from other children, is not likely to learn many terms which children playing together may. A city child, without special opportunities, can not be expected to learn about objects and situations familiar to a child on the farm. Vice versa, the rural child is at a loss to name and thus to identify objects and situations perfectly familiar to an urban youngster. Nice's study of her own daughter showed definitely how effective varying environments were in the growth. of the vocabulary. The child was brought up first in the country, then for some time she lived in Boston and later in Norman, Oklahoma. In each of these places she developed her knowledge and vocabulary in terms of her environment.

3. Language and Social Stimulation.—Along with this process of learning the names of objects goes the increased conditioning to other persons. Thus when the object is in sight but not obtainable, as a ball or doll, the child substitutes finally, perhaps at first inadvertently, the verbal sound for his useless efforts in trying to reach the object. Some other person, hearing him, may then procure the ball or doll for the child. In this way the child is quickly conditioned to the process of using his verbal sounds as substitutes for securing the ball himself or the more unpleasant state of going without it. The child soon learns to employ real language in the control of others, just as earlier he used cries to get parents to pick him up, feed him, rock him, or otherwise make him the object of pleasant attention. This substitutive use of language indicates one of the most remarkable and highly important steps in the development of personality. So, too, all sorts of movements of the child playing with his toys, ball, or doll-dressing it, putting it to bed, and so on, become associated with verbal reactions. From this it is an easy step, with the now matured fore-brain, to recall the object when not seen or heard. Therefore, with the rise of imagery—visual, proprioceptive, and verbal—the child comes to a further stage in the control of his environment. He sees the doll in his mind, we say, and asks for it. For example, the child has been allowed to go to sleep with his baby doll in his arms. On one occasion the doll is not at hand. There is a gap in the total situation of going to bed and to sleep; hence the child demands his usual doll. The habitual configuration of bed and sleeping is not complete without this object, and his speech reactions bring about the restora-

( 223) -tion of the habitual situation. The whole problem of child training in reference to dressing, feeding, playing, sleeping, and hundreds of other situations is soon encased in verbal definitions of the total situation made up of objects and relationships.

Out of this matrix of experience the child comes to talk about his objects, toys, food, and social activities. This verbal rehearsing of the day's experiences further fixes the language mechanisms and, in turn, may give rise to pleasures when the objects and situations themselves are not at hand. We shall discuss this point more fully in another section.

While at the outset the language of the child rests upon the motor-perceptual level, it gradually moves over to that of abstraction and concept. The child gradually learns the relations and attributes of objects. This begins, in fact, early in the process of conditioning. As we saw in Chapter V, Watson demonstrated that the conditioning to fear of a furry object, whether a rabbit or some other animal, carries over to other furry objects, such as a muff or a teddy bear. The conditioning is not to the specific object so much as it is to the furriness—the sensory stimulations to the hands or face. So, too, fear reactions to loud sounds appear to be independent of the objective source of the sound. To take another instance, although a large dog and a shaggy shetland pony might be confused, the child comes to discriminate between them in terms of movements of the two animals and the more minute examination of their contours. With each of these discriminative responses society, in the form of parents, siblings, relatives, teachers, and friends, furnishes a name as a symbol or substitute verbal response. From this beginning the abstract attributes of objects are learned. The process is not a mysterious or sudden one, but like other learning rests upon conditioning and integration. A part of this is the conditioning to the internal reactions, which we call images and concepts. Thus a recalled face of a mother associated with some unpleasant act on one's own part or that of another may be the basis of an association never to be shaken off. So, too, one image may condition another, as when two names appear successively, or when a name and an object appear together in a new context.

In the matter of social participation and language Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, has shown that the early language of the child is largely egocentric and self-assertive, rather than "socialized," that is, socially oriented in the sense of ejective awareness of the other person. In his early years the

( 224) child has not developed very successfully the capacity to imagine himself in the other person's behavior system. Although we may criticize Piaget for his narrow use of the term "socialized," because he would doubtless be one of the first to admit that children learn language from social interaction with others, still his evidence points rather conclusively to the fact that in the first seven years or so, language is directed by self-expressive, egoistic interests and not by desire to place oneself in the position of the other person to whom one is talking. He observed the language of two boys over a considerable period of time. In one case 47 per cent of the child's spontaneous conversation was distinctly egocentric; of the other, 43 per cent. It is only after the age of seven that genuine social collaboration in thought, through "true" conversation, begins to appear. This applies to conversation among children under this age, as well as between children and adults. Words spoken are not used from the point of view of the person addressed, but from the speaker's angle only. In the growth toward Piaget's "socialized" or what the writer calls ejective communication—that is, conversation which takes the point of view of the other into account—conversation bearing on mechanical, non-personal items of interest runs ahead of talk concerned with human behavior. For example, in telling stories, it was found that narratives about mechanical matters were more ejective than those about persons. The egocentrism of conversation breaks down in material, mechanical situations before it does in situations involving persons and their conduct. This fact may have some bearing on the development of thought in relation to social experience. Certainly it is evident that even among adults there is a great deal of conversation which is not ejective, not built out of an interest in understanding the addressee, but largely concerned with expression of egocentric beliefs and attitudes.

In his early years, and certainly after the age of six or seven, the child is brought more and more into contact with moral concepts in the form of words. Perhaps these concepts mean little to the child in the sense of sympathetic understanding and ejective anticipatory response, or consciousness, but nevertheless the family. the play and school groups, are preparing the child for future social contacts by giving him these verbal forms. Schwesinger has made a study of the socio-ethical vocabulary of children which furnishes a sort of measure of the growth in children of these moral ideas, and perhaps indirectly of moral attitudes—although this is not so certain. The following is a summary of her investigation:

( 225)

The Knowledge Test.—The Social Ethical Vocabulary, was compiled from Thorndike's General Word Test and from other sources. The subject is given a key word with five multiple choices among which is one word synonymous with the key word, another which has a plausible sound-sense relationship and the three other unrelated words. The subject is asked to underline the word which approaches the key word in meaning. The type of word used is thus explained: "The designation `social ethical' is sufficiently vague to require, if not a definition, at least a statement as to what sort of terms are included in this category. Such a specialized field would comprise words which are commonly used to describe situations involving human relations (as joke, company), terms used in deciding moral issues (illegal, villain), adjectives which denote modifications of character (bashful, recalcitrant), abstract nouns indicative of states of mind and character traits (uncertainty, snobbishness), verbs indicating behavior of human beings toward each other (scoffing, pitying). An attempt was made to include a few `shady' words, consisting of slang and professional crook terms."

By statistical treatment various forms were constructed and some eliminations were made on the basis of symptomatic validity. Correlations were made with intelligence tests, with Hartshorne and May's moral knowledge test, with a good manners test and with home background ratings. The following table gives the principal correlations:

Table 12: Showing Correlations of Social Ethical Vocabulary (S.E.V.) with Various Other Measures of Personality
S.E.V. Test with Intelligence .880
S.E.V. Test with Moral Knowledge .626
S.E.V. Test with Good Manners .720
Moral Knowledge with Intelligence .623
Moral Knowledge with Good Manners .560
Good Manners with Intelligence .583
S.E.V. Test with Home Background Ratings .540
S.E.V. Test with General Word Knowledge .858
S.E.V. with Good Manners (Intelligence Partialled Out) .540
Moral Knowledge with Good Manners (Intelligence Partialed Out) .300

It would appear from this that both S. E. V. and Moral Knowledge tests measure something which is not intelligence. Whatever this is, the Social Ethical Vocabulary appears to measure it better than the Moral Knowledge test. Doubtless this quality is closely related to home training. Since language is the better indicator of both home background and intelligence, failure on a test question from lack of language facility shows a deficiency in both intelligence and background. Although social experience is largely incorporated in general experience, increased ability in verbal expression of such experience may be regarded

(226) as a function of training apart from intelligence. The S. E. V. score correlated neither with school conduct rating nor with honesty, but the median S. E. V. scores of groups rated A in conduct, that is, groups rated honest, are higher than those for groups rated below A or dishonest in conduct. If, however, the groups are matched for grade the S. E. V. differentiation between honest and dishonest is wiped out, but not intelligence differences. The median intelligence score for the honest group was found to be 117; for the dishonest group, 107. The Social Ethical Vocabulary was found to increase from grade to grade.[15]

This study of Schwesinger's, like similar studies, reveals a growing interest in statistical analyses of moral knowledge and moral conduct. Certainly language usage has some bearing on the subject. While these moral concepts, as we noted, are given to the child from the outset, it is not until during and after adolescence that the moralization of the person is complete. Yet with all this, one may raise some doubt as to just what relationship exists between word knowledge, moral attitudes, and actual moral conduct. This is a problem, on the side of practical improvement, for social ethics. For social psychology it is interesting to observe how social pressures from home and school furnish the child with the symbols or word-counters for his getting about in those dimensions of conduct which his society terms moral or ethical.

4. Speech and Non-Verbal Stimulation.—Not only is the development of vocabulary significant as a measure of social participation, but in another way speech remains a revealer of personality. We all know that domestic animals, especially pets, react to commands and other verbal statements; that is, they become conditioned to human vocal sounds as well as to other forms of human gesture. No sensible person assumes that the animals comprehend, in the sense of human meaning, what the words symbolize. Rather, it is to pitch, intensity, and quality of voice in certain standardized, habitual contexts that they respond. In other words, these vocal differences are to be considered as non-language gestures, as are incipient movements of face, arm, or leg. But in human communication these strictly non-language vocal features are often as significant as are the stereotyped words which are employed, if not more so. That is to say, attitudes and ideas are communicated, not alone in words, but in what may

(227) be called vocal postures or vocal tensions. Just as facial, manual, and bodily postures or tensions are significant in communication, so likewise, are these subtler features of voice. Sapir has made some suggestive comments on this rather undeveloped phase of social communication

:If we were to make a critical survey of how people react to voice and what the voice carries, we should find them relatively naive about the different elements involved in speech. A man talks and makes certain impressions, but we are not clear as to whether it is his voice which most powerfully contributes to the impression, or the ideas which are conveyed. There are several distinct levels in speech behavior which to linguists and psychologists are, each of them, sets of real phenomena, and we must now look at these in order to obtain some idea of the complexity of normal human speech.

The basic or most fundamental speech level is the voice. It is closest to the heredity endowment of the individual, considered out of relation to society. The voice is a complicated bundle of reactions and, so far as the writer knows, no one has succeeded in giving a comprehensive account of what the voice is and what changes it may undergo . . . . And yet it is by delicate nuances of voice quality that we are so often confirmed in our judgment of .people. From a more general point of view, voice may be considered a form of gesture. If we are swayed by a certain thought or emotion, we may express ourselves with our hands or some other type of gesturing, and the voice takes part in the total play of gesture. From our present point of view, however, it is possible to isolate the voice as a functional unit.

Voice is generally thought of as a purely individual matter, yet is it quite correct to say that the voice is given us at birth and maintained unmodified throughout life? Or has the voice a social [cultural] quality as well as art individual one? I think we all feel, as a matter of fact, that we imitate each other's voices to a not inconsiderable extent. We know very well that if, for some reason or other, the timbre of the voice that we are heir to has been criticized, we try to modify it, so that it may not be a socially unpleasant instrument of speech. There is always something about the voice that must be ascribed to the social [cultural] background, precisely as in the case of gesture. Gestures are not the simple, individual things they seem to be. They are largely peculiar to this or that society. In the same way, in spite of the personal and relatively fixed character of the voice, we make involuntary adjustments in the larynx that bring about significant modifications in the voice. Therefore, in deducing fundamental traits of Personality from the voice we must try to disentangle the social [cultural] element from the purely personal one. If we are not careful to do this, we may make a serious error of judgment. A man has a strained or raucous voice, let us say, and we might infer that he is basically "coarse-grained." Such a judgment might be entirely wide of the mark if the particular society in which he lives is an out-of-doors society that indulges in a good deal of swearing and

( 228) rather rough handling of the voice. He may have had a very soft voice to begin with, symptomatic of a delicate psychic organization, which gradually toughened under the influence of social suggestion.

The essential quality of the voice is an amazingly interesting thing to puzzle over. Unfortunately we have no adequate vocabulary for its endless varieties. We speak of a high-pitched voice. We say a voice is "thick," or it is "thin"; we say it is "nasal" if there is something wrong with the nasal part of the breathing apparatus. If we were to make an inventory of voices, we should find that no two of them are quite alike. And all the time we feel that there is something about the individual's voice that is indicative of his personality . . . . We do not know what it is precisely that makes the voice sound "thick," or "vibrant," or "flat," or what not. What is it that arouses us in one man's voice, when another's stirs us not at all? I remember listening many years ago to an address by a college president and deciding on the spur of the moment that what he said could be of no interest to me. What I meant was that no matter how interesting or pertinent his remarks were in themselves, his personality could not touch mine because there was something about his voice that did not appeal to me, something revealing as to personality. There was indicated—so one gathered intuitively—a certain quality of personality, a certain force, that I knew could not easily integrate with my own apprehension of things. I did not listen to what he said; I listened only to the quality of his voice.

We have seen that the voice is a social [cultural] as well as an individual phenomenon. One finds people, for example, who have very pleasant voices, but it is society that has made them pleasant. One may then try to go back to what the voice would have been without its specific social development. This nuclear or primary quality of voice has in many, perhaps in all, cases a symbolic value. The unconscious symbolisms are of course not limited to the voice. If you wrinkle your brow, that is a symbol of a certain attitude. If you act expansively by stretching out your arms, that is a symbol of a changed attitude of your immediate environment. In the same manner the voice is to a large extent an unconscious symbolization of one's general attitude.

What is the next level of speech? What we ordinarily call voice is voice proper plus a great many variations of behavior that are intertwined with voice and give it its dynamic quality. This is the level of voice dynamics. Two speakers may have very much the same basic quality of voice, yet their "voices," as that term is ordinarily understood, may be very different. In ordinary usage we are not always careful to distinguish the voice proper from voice dynamics. One of the most important aspects of voice dynamics is intonation . . . . Intonation is a much more complicated matter than is generally believed. It may be divided into three distinct levels, which intertwine into the unit pattern of behavior which we may call "individual intonation." In the first place, there is a very important social [cultural] element in intonation which has to be kept apart from the individual variation; in the second place, this social [cultural] element of intonation has a twofold determination. We have certain intonations

( 229) which are a necessary part of our speech. If I may say, for example, "Is he coming?" I raise the pitch of the voice on the last word. There is no sufficient reason in nature why I should have an upward inflection of the voice in sentences of this type. We are apt to assume that this habit is natural, even self-evident, but a comparative study of the dynamic habits of many diverse Languages convinces one that this assumption is on the whole unwarranted. The interrogative attitude may be expressed in other ways, such as the use of particular interrogative words or specific grammatical forms. It is one of the significant patterns of our English language to elevate the voice in interrogative sentences of a certain type, hence such elevation is not expressive in the properly individual sense of the word, though we sometimes feel it to be so.

But more than that, there is a second level of socially [culturally] determined variation in intonation, the musical handling of the voice generally, quite aside from the properly linguistic patterns of intonation. It is understood in a given society that we are not to have too great an individual range of intonation. We are not to raise it to too great a height in our cadences; we are to pitch the voice at such and such an average height. In other words, society tells us to limit ourselves to a certain range of intonation and to certain characteristic cadences, that is, to adopt certain melody patterns peculiar to itself . . . . The southerner, the New Englander, the middle-westerner—each has a characteristic intonation. But we are interested in the individual as an individual when he is merged in, and is a representative of, our own group. If we are dealing with people who have the same social [cultural] habits, we are interested in the slight intonational differences which the individuals exhibit, for we know enough of their common social [cultural] background to evaluate these slight differences. We are wrong to make any inferences about personality on the basis of intonation without considering the intonational habit of one's speech community or that carried over from foreign language. We do not really know what a man's speech is until we have evaluated his social [cultural l background. If a Japanese talks in a monotonous voice, we have not the right to assume that he is illustrating the same type of personality that one of us would be if we talked with his sentence melody. Furthermore, if we hear an Italian running through his whole possible gamut of tone we are apt to say that he is temperamental or that he has an interesting personality. Yet we do not know whether he is in the least temperamental until we know what are the normal Italian habits of speech, what Italian society allows its members in the way of melodic play. Hence a major intonation curve, objectively considered, may be of but minor importance from the standpoint of individual expressiveness.

Intonation is only one of the many phases of voice dynamics. Rhythm, too, has to be considered. Here again there are several layers that are to be distinguished. First of all, the primary rhythms of speech are furnished by the language one is brought up in, and are not due to our individual personality. We have certain very definite peculiarities of rhythm in English. Thus, we tend

( 230) to accent certain syllables strongly and to minimize others. That is not due to the fact that we wish to be emphatic. It is merely that our language is so constructed that we must follow its characteristic rhythm, accenting one syllable in a word or phrase at the expense of the others. There are languages that do not follow this habit.

There are still other dynamic factors than intonation and rhythm. There is the relative continuity of speech. A great many people speak brokenly, in uneasy splashes of word groups; others speak continuously, whether they have anything to say or not. With the latter type it is not a question of having the necessary words at one's disposal; it is a question of mere continuity of linguistic expression. There are social [cultural] speeds and continuities. We can be said to be slow or rapid in our utterances only in the sense that we speak above or below certain socialized [culturized] speeds. Here again, in the matter of speed, the individual habit and its diagnostic value for the study of personality can be measured only against accepted social cultural] norms . . . .

The third level of speech analysis is pronunciation. Here again one often speaks of the "voice" when what is really meant is an individually nuanced pronunciation. A man pronounces certain consonants or vowels, say, with a distinctive timbre or in an otherwise peculiar manner, and we tend to ascribe such variations of pronunciation to his voice; yet they may have nothing at all to do with the quality of his voice. In pronunciation we again have to distinguish the social [cultural] from the individual patterns. Society decrees that we pronounce certain selected consonants and vowels, which have been set aside as the bricks and mortar, as it were, for the construction of a given language. We cannot depart very widely from this decree.

The fourth speech level, that of vocabulary, is a very important one. We do not all speak alike. There are certain words which some of us never use. There are other, favorite words which we are always using. Personality is largely reflected in the choice of words; but here too we must distinguish carefully the social [cultural] vocabulary norm from the more significantly personal choice of words. Certain words and locutions are not used in certain circles; others are the hall-mark of locale, status, or occupation . . . . Individual variation exists, but it can properly be appraised only with reference to the social [cultural] norm. Sometimes we choose words because we like them; sometimes we slight words because they bore or annoy or terrify us. We are not going to be caught by them.

Finally, we have style as a fifth speech level. Many people have an illusion that style is something that belongs to literature. Style is an everyday facet of speech that characterizes both the social group and the individual. We all have our individual styles in both conversation and considered address, and they are never the arbitrary and casual things we think them to be. There is always an individual method, however poorly developed, of arranging words into groups and of working these up into larger units. It would be a very complicated prob-

( 231) -lem to disentangle the social [cultural] and individual determinants of style, but it is a theoretically possible one . . . [16]

Speech, in short, comprises spoken words, and the voice, in its various features, organized into a response. Through this complex of response, communication between persons who have a common universe of discourse or a common set of meanings may take place. Speech, moreover, is addressed to ourselves as well as to others. It is also both a stimulus and a response. Its significance for ourselves and for others depends upon a common conditioning, and this, in turn, reflects the social reality of which we are a part.


A. Further Reading: Source Book for Social Psychology, Chapters XIII, pp. 328-46; II, no. z, pp. 10-17, and re-read no. 5, pp. 25-27.

B. Questions and Exercises.

1. Discuss questions and exercises in assignment, Source Book, Chapter XIII, p. 347, nos. 20-25.

2. Why is it that any one of the various theories of the origin of language is inadequate?

3. What does Mead mean by saying that a gesture is a "truncated act"? Illustrate.

4. What was the significance of erect posture, free hands and higher brain development in the evolution of man's higher mental functions, including language?

5. Make observations on infants to verify the so-called "stages" of speech development.

6. Count the words used by a child during one day (at various ages) to discover the percentage of the total made up of nouns, verbs, and other parts of speech. Also what does the vocabulary show as to the child's social-cultural experience?

7. How important is it to condition a child with the moral-ethical words before he has to meet the situations which they define? Is it sound psychology to do so?

8. What other factors than the expression of words themselves come into play in human communication ?


C. Topics for Class Reports and Longer Written Papers.

I. See in assignments for reports and longer papers in Source Book, Chapter XIII, p. 347.

2. Report on Allport, Social Psychology, Chapters VIII and IX on language and gesture.

3. Report on Piaget, The Language and Thought of the Child, on language development.

4. Report on Faris, "The Mental Capacity of Savages," American Journal of Sociology, 1918, vol. XXIII, pp. 603-I9 for discussion of language and thought of primitives.

5. Report on Hocart, "The Psychological Interpretation of Language," British Journal of Psychology, 1912, vol. V, pp. 272-77 on language among primitives.

6. Review of recent analyses of psychology of language. (Cf. W. B. Pillsbury and C. L. Meader, The Psychology of Language, 1928,, Chapters V-X; G. de Laguna, Speech; Its Function and Development, 1927; Frank Lorimer, The Growth of Reason, 1929; J. F. Markey, The Symbolic Process, 1928. The last two contain excellent bibliographies.)



  1. From F. H. Allport, Social Psychology, 1924, p. 209. The abbreviations h. and v. denote horizontal and vertical. Used by permission of, and by arrangement with Houghton, Mifflin Company.
  2. F. H. Allport, Social Psychology, 1924, p. 208. Used by permission of, and by arrangement with, Houghton Mifflin Company.
  3. Tone and intensity of voice also play a part. These factors will be mentioned below.
  4. C. H. Judd, Psychology, 1917, 2nd. ed., pp. 216, 217. Courtesy of Chas. Scribner's Sons.
  5. Dewey, Experience and Nature, 1925, pp. 178-79, 181. Courtesy of the Open Court Publishing Company.
  6. From Anthropology by A. L. Kroeber, 1923, pp. 113, 114. By permission of Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc.
  7. S. and M. G. Blanton, Child Guidance, 1927, pp. 95-96. Courtesy of the Century Company.
  8. F. L. Allport, Social Psychology, 1924, pp. 182-8;. Used by permission of, and by arrangement with, Houghton Mifflin Company.
  9. Ibid., p. 185.
  10.  From Good Morning America, 1928, p. 198. By permission of Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc.
  11. M. M. Nice, "Development of a Child's Vocabulary in Relation to Environment," Pedagogical Seminary, 1915, vol. XXII, p. 54.
  12. W. Boyd, "Development of a Child's Vocabulary," Pedagogical Seminary, 1914, vol. XXI, p. 124.
  13. G. C. & J. Brandenburg, "Language Development in the Fourth Year," Pedagogical Seminary, 1919, vol. XXVI, p. 34.
  14. Summarized from M. M. Nice, "The Speech Development of a Child from Eighteen Months to Six Years," Pedagogical Seminary, 1917, vol. XXIV, p. 227.
  15. Summarized from G. C. Schwesinger, "Social-Ethical Significance of Vocabulary," Columbia University, Contributions to Education, Teachers College Series, no. 211, 1926. Quotation from p. 18. The intelligence test used was the one devised by the Institute of Educational Research and includes arithmetic, word knowledge, information, and language completion. Courtesy of Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University.
  16. E. Sapir, "Speech as a Personalitv Trait," American Journal of Sociology, 1927, vol. XXXII, pp. 894-901, 903-904. Sapir uses "social" as this writer has used "cultural." The word "cultural" is inserted in brackets to conform to the usage in this volume. What Sapir refers to as personal or individual in speech may be the outcome either of biological differences or what are here termed "personal-social" influences.

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