Manual Figurative Language and Thought (Counterpoints: Cognition, Memory, and Language)

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  1. Figurative Language and Thought
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  4. Bibliography (A - M)
  5. دانلود کتاب فیگوراتیو زبان و اندیشه (Counterpoints: شناخت، حافظه و زبان) | کتاب

If this hypothesis had been examined just a few years ago, most theorists would have argued that its emphasis on speech per se is misguided and the whole enterprise flawed. In recent years there has been, in the words of one psycholinguist, ' 'a remarkable revival of the Whorfian hypothesis" Denny, in press.

Figurative Language and Thought

I argue that an alternative version deserves serious consideration. In this variant the suggestion is that language, rather than merely serving a communication role, is a form of representation of the world Bickerton, The emphasis here is on language principles shared by all and not on the specific languages used by different communities.

According to Vygotsky, a child's earliest attempts at problem solving reflect thinking without language, and the earliest speech babbling reflects language without thought. The two activities join and change when the child reaches about two years of age, when as Vygotsky puts it, thought becomes verbal and speech rational.

Unlike Vygotsky, who conceptualizes the independence of language and thought only for the very young, Chomsky and Fodor describe independence in adult language use. From his earliest work onward, Chomsky has stressed the independence of specific language functions such as between syntax and semantics and language as an autonomous function separate from other cognitive processes. The independence proposal was explicitly Fodor's focus. Fodor proposed that the mind contains a central cognitive system, as well as a set of specialized, autonomous modules.

Within a module, when processing commences, it proceeds uninfluenced by information that arises elsewhere in the cognitive system, a property of modules called informational encapsulation. Encapsulation presumably allows the system to operate rapidly, somewhat like a reflex, without having to consider and hence be hindered by potentially relevant information arising from elsewhere in the cognitive system. Fodor's argument that language input acts as one such module has attracted many supporters in recent years see for reviews Damasio and Damasio, ; Pinker, As applied to the relation between language and thought, the modularity hypothesis implies that the processing of language proceeds somewhat independently of thought, and that, only after some preliminary analysis of language is completed in the language module , are the results of the analysis made available to the central system.

Accordingly, some aspects of language are not influenced by knowledge of the world or by pragmatic considerations. The modular approach would hold for both nonliteral and literal language, and, if applied to the issue of figurative language, any processing or conceptual differences with literal language would have to reside in the general cognitive system. The modularity hypothesis has been very influential. I present only selected aspects here. Language is functionally dissociated from thought. Some see Pinker, argue that such a dissociation is evident in the contrast of various clinical syndromes.

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For example, one can contrast Down's and Williams syndromes, both of which lead to severe cognitive impairments. In Down's syndrome, language performance lags behind cognitive development. If language depended on overall cognition, one would expect that the language of people with Down's syndrome would parallel their cognitive abilities: they should but do not produce and understand speech appropriate for a person of the same mental age.

Thus, some have taken this as an example of the single dissociation: thinking abilities without comparable language abilities. In contrast, those with Williams syndrome have been described as having the opposite single dissociation: linguistic abilities in the absence of comparable cognitive abilities. For instance, Williams Syndrome children develop extensive vocabularies, expressive and comprehension proficiency with some grammatical constructions e.

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Yet, at the same time, they tend to fail Piagetian tasks traditionally taken to reflect transitive reasoning, class relational thinking, and other basic cognitive tasks solved by the normal nine-year-old child. The dissociation between language and thought described in these two syndromes has been controversial, not surprisingly, especially because Williams syndrome, in contrast to Down's syndrome, is a relatively unstudied pathology. Maratsos and Matheny point out some problems with assuming that Williams syndrome children indicate language independent of cognition. First, they note that the major evidence in favor of a language-thought dissociation employs Piagetian tasks as the measure of cognitive abilities and that failure to perform these tasks does not necessarily indicate a failure to develop basic cognitive skills but can reflect attention or memory problems.

Second, they argue that the children in question do not really exhibit a dissociation between language and thought inasmuch as their speech is not only syntactically but always semantically correct i. Finally, they argue that some of the other grammatical features of these children's speech that has been posited as evidence of language independent of cognition e.

Clearly more work is required before the hypothesized double dissociation can be accepted unconditionally.


Language is hardwired. A second source of support has been the claim that modules might be biologically hardwired. Language-specific functions might be evident in the brain, whereas no such specialization might be present for thinking processes in general.

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For instance, numerous books include chapters on language and the brain but few on a topic such as deductive reasoning and A REVIEW 9 the brain, presumably reflecting the belief that language, but not reasoning, is somewhat independent of general intellectual abilities. A long history in psychology has demonstrated "areas" of the brain dedicated to language.

The evidence gathered from both clinical populations e. This specialization can be shown for those who communicate via sign language Poizner, Klima, and Bellugi, , suggesting to some that the LH is specialized for language per se, not just for sound-based speech. Two areas in the LH have been specifically implicated, namely Broca's and Wernicke's areas.

Damage to the latter a central, more posterior area produces an aphasia, which, on surface, seems to indicate a disruption of semantic processing but sparing syntactic processing.

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  5. Wernicke aphasics speak fluently but often meaninglessly, substituting, for example, one word for another or using pronouns without clear reference. Broca aphasics, on the other hand, use semantically appropriate speech connected to context but have difficulty in producing output and, some claim, they are deficient in using syntax see Hellige, Because one can find evidence for Broca's area from the early hominid fossil record, a common assumption by paleontologists until recently was that language was present well before the emergence of our species, H.

    Some at least now believe that true language emerged only with our species e. This evidence is all consistent with a modular concept of language hardwired in the LH of humans. However, in recent years the picture has become more complicated and less obviously indicative of the type of specializations I described.

    First, there is ever-growing evidence that the right hemisphere RH also plays an important role in the processing of language: for instance, priming studies indicate that one can get semantic priming in the RH Chiarello, Burgess, Richards, and Pollock, Moreover, there is also ever-growing evidence that the RH is especially important to the processing of nonliteral language: damage to RH is related to impairments in understanding various forms of nonliteral language, such as indirect requests, idioms, and metaphor see Burgess and Chiarello, One could argue that nonliteral language depends more on context and knowledge of the world than more "standard" literal language and that damage to the RH is affecting the contribution of these functions to comprehension.

    Gardner makes a similar point, claiming that evidence for LH-based modularity is strongest "when one focuses on phonological, syntactic, and certain semantic properties" but that "once one encompasses broader aspects, such as pragmatic functions, the picture of linguistic autonomy becomes less convincing'' p.

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    Wernicke aphasics are not as asemantic see Heeschen, and have more syntactic Kolk, Van Grunsven, and Keyser, problems than originally thought. Moreover, Linbarger, Schwartz, and Saffran find that so-called agrammatic aphasics are quite good at making sophisticated judgments about the syntax of sentences. That is, Broca aphasia might be better characterized as a disruption of performance and not of language competence.

    A third problem, related to the second, follows from Kimura She argues that the LH is specialized for motor selection of both oral and manual musculature. Kimura, as had others before her, noted that aphasia is often associated with difficulties in performing motor movements apraxia.

    Moreover, she claims that differences in apraxia underlie the deficits seen in language. Unlike previous studies, Kimura's classified patients by the locus of the brain damage, and not a priori, on the basis of disrupted functioning. When given a set of tasks, patients with damage to Broca's and Wernicke's areas performed similarly on tasks of production and comprehension but differently on tasks of oral and other motor movements.

    Thus, as in the conclusion above, evidence for so-called modular effects may reflect differences in performance, not in linguistic competence. Modules are informationally encapsulated: experimental tests. Recall that, according to Fodor, a defining characteristic of a module is that it is informationally encapsulated; that is, processing within the modular proceeds independent of information outside the module. This aspect of the modularity hypothesis has been extensively tested in two language domains: lexical access and syntactic analysis.

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    5. Lexical modularity. Research has examined the access of meaning for lexically ambiguous items, such as homographs in which a given word e. If lexical access is modular, then access of meaning would proceed independent of other information available to the cognitive system. One implication from the modular perspective is that both meanings of a homograph would be accessed, regardless of sentential context.

      Early data favored a modular explanation e.

      دانلود کتاب فیگوراتیو زبان و اندیشه (Counterpoints: شناخت، حافظه و زبان) | کتاب

      Moreover, recent constraint-satisfaction computational models can produce results that appear to support encapsulation, even though they are interactive, taking into account context, strength of major meaning, and the like A REVIEW 11 Kawamoto, Thus, in general, there is little support for a strong modular explanation of lexical access based on the access of multiple meanings, either empirically or logically. Syntactic modularity. The issue here is analogous to that observed with access to a lexicon. Namely, is the original syntactic analysis of a sentence dependent on a set of rules that work independent of semantic and contextual information?

      Naturally any empirical test of this proposition depends on the nature of any proposed syntactic parser. As an example consider an early and influential model by Frazier She argued that two basic strategies underlie syntactic analysis: late closure and minimal attachment.

      Late closure refers to the tendency to attach on-line each term to the clause or phrase being processed, and minimal attachment refers to the tendency to add that term in a way that will build the simplest syntactic structure. Note that these rales act independent of pragmatic or semantic influences. One testable implication of this model is that when one processes a sentence on-line, the parser might at some juncture prefer a syntactic structure that later information proves to be incorrect: so-called garden pathing. Parsing might be led down the garden path by application of either principle.

      For instance, consider a sentence such as "Since Jay always jogs a mile and a half seems like a short distance" 1. According to the late closure principle, initially one treats as a unit the phrase "a mile and a half. Some early studies in which eye movements were tracked during reading indicated that garden pathing occurs. For instance, Frazier and Rayner found that fixation durations increased in the part of the sentence where the inconsistency occurs i.

      From a modular perspective, one would also predict that garden pathing should not be influenced by semantic or by contextual information. The evidence here is more controversial. Rayner, Carlson, and Frazier studied sentences in which garden pathing is induced by the minimal attachment principle. For instance, in the sentence "The lady sent the flowers was very pleased" 2 , minimal attachment would have "sent the flowers" as the verb phrase attached to the noun phrase, "the lady.

      Rayner et al. However, they found that garden pathing was equally strong for both types of sentences, suggesting that parsing occurs without regard to pragmatic plausibility. A similar conclusion can be found in Ferreira and Clifton They studied sentences that are ambiguous because the verb form is used for both the past tense and past participle.