LINGUIST List 12.1254

Sat May 5 2001

Review: Landau et al eds. Gleitman festschrift (2nd)

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  1. Zouhair Maalej, Book Reviews: Landau et al's Perception, Cognition and Language (2000)

Message 1: Book Reviews: Landau et al's Perception, Cognition and Language (2000)

Date: Fri, 4 May 2001 20:57:54 +0200
From: Zouhair Maalej <zmaalejgnet.tn>
Subject: Book Reviews: Landau et al's Perception, Cognition and Language (2000)


Landau, Barbara, John Sabini, John Jonides, and Elissa
Newport (eds.) (2000) Perception, Cognition and Language:
Essays in Honor of Henry and Lila Gleitman. Cambridge,
Massachusetts: The MIT Press, hardback, x+360 pp., ISBN:
0-262-12228-6.

Zouhair Maalej, Faculty of Letters at Manouba, University
of Manouba (Tunis)


Book's purpose and contents:
The idea for the book came from the 100th introductory
psychology lecture course that Henry Gleitman taught in
1996. The book is a collection of papers written by
colleagues and students to celebrate Henry and Lila
Gleitman as two prominent contemporary psychologists and
teachers. The collection includes 25 chapters distributed
over three parts. The first part (the introduction) is
written by the editors. The second part (5 chapters) is
written by Henry Gleitman's colleagues while the third (19
chapters) is written by former students of the Gleitmans.
Most of the essays are organised chronologically.

Part I: Introduction
The introduction presents a chronological evolution of the
Gleitmans' career both singly and collaboratively,
highlighting their contribution to research in linguistics
(Lila on compound nouns), psychology (Henry on memory in
goldfish), and psycholinguistics (Lila on children's
acquisition of language and how caregiver speech helps them
acquire language) with friends, students, and colleagues.
The authors of the introduction round it up by mentioning
the awards the Gleitmans were recipients to.

Part II: Colleagues and Teachers
Chapter 1 (Der Urgleit: Jacob Nachmias)
Nachmias recounts briefly personal memories he remembers
about Henry Gleitman as actor, singer, cook, and teacher.

Chapter 2 (The Wordgleits: Paul Rozin)
Rozin invoked his projects on memory in goldfish with Henry
and on learning to read with Lila, and the effect Henry had
not only on the author but also on his children, who under
the influence of Henry's guidance took jobs in theatre and
music. Henry is celebrated as an experimental psychologist
(joint work with Jonides) and a cultured man.

Chapter 3 (Multiple Mentorship: One Example of Henry
Gleitman's Influence: Robert A. Rescorla)
Rescorla stresses the influential nature of Henry's
psychology seminars, which made him an experimental
psychologist investigating delayed response learning in
infant monkeys. The author devotes the second part of the
chapter to talking about experiments he conducted with
Colwill (1985) on instrumental learning among rats and the
role that reward-giving has on learning.

Chapter 4 (Some lessons from Henry and Lila Gleitman: John
Sabini)
Sabini highlights Henry as a teacher, where teaching for
him meant targeting not a student elite (who hardly need a
teacher), but those students who think that they have
learnt all (while in reality they have absolutely learnt
nothing) to make them "psychologically literate."

Chapter 5 (Gleitology: The Birth of a New Science: Donald
S. Lamm)
Lamm dubbed Gleitology the psychology Henry Gleitman
taught. As an editor and publisher, Lamm recounted his
experience with Henry on publishing his lectures for Norton
publishers.

Part III: Perception, Cognition, and Language
Chapter 6 (Children's Categorization of Objects: The
Relevance of Behavior, Surface Appearance, and Insides:
Elisabeth F. Shipley)
Shipley criticises psychological essentialism, whereby a
child is said to inductively infer the essential properties
possessed by all members of a category, which constitute
its very essence. It was found with children that shape is
an important factor in assigning members within a category.
Entrenchment, borrowed from Nelson Goodman, is used as an
alternative in category assignment to psychological
essentialism. Category entrenchment is enhanced by adults
or observation, and children seem to categorise experience
by behaviour rather than appearance.

Chapter 7 (Mechanisms of Verbal Working Memory Revealed by
Neuroimaging Studies: John Jonides)
Jonides reports on how neuroimaging helps understand
cognition by investigating working memory (WM), which
manipulates stored information. WM is crucial in cognitive
capacities such as problem solving, reasoning,
categorisation, and language processing. A decline in
working memory owing to ageing and brain pathologies has an
important impact on such cognitive capacities. Jonides and
colleagues have concerned themselves with two issues: (i)
the architecture of verbal WM, and (ii) whether WM is a
unitary or modular system. Adopting Baddeley (1986-1992)
influential model for the architecture of verbal WM,
Jonides reports that WM consists of three components: (i) a
buffer (responsible for storage of verbal codes), (ii) a
rehearsal mechanism (responsible for preventing decay or
interference of information in the buffer by re-
circulation), and (iii) a set of processing mechanism or
central executive (responsible for manipulating information
in the buffer). Neuroimaging has been used to ascertain the
sub-components of WM. Work in neuropsychology and
behavioural studies adduced to evidence the
compartmentalisation of WM having been criticised,
experiments in neuroimaging by Jonides and co-workers
confirmed the thesis that WM works by subsystems
specialised in different cognitive tasks. Differently
located brain activation patterns relative to verbal and
spatial information were observed.

Chapter 8 (A Nativist's View of Learning: How to Combine
the Gleitmans in a Theory of Language Acquisition: Elissa
L. Newport)
Newport integrates two claims made by two different schools
of language acquisition by investigating respectively
language learning and critical periods and creolization in
natural sign language acquisition. To address the
distributional view, Newport reports on an experiment on
word segmentation, which innate knowledge cannot not
explain. The results showed that both children and adults
performed significantly well by segmenting strings of
syllables relying on the distributional features of the
corpus. Even infants were reported to have been more
sensitive to words than non-words. Distributional features
have been found to persist across modalities.

Chapter 9 (Learning with or without a Helping Hand: Susan
Goldin-Meadow)
Bringing in evidence from the area of gestures to bear on
language learning, Goldin-Meadow shows how one can learn a
language without outside help, or indeed even invent a
language to communicate with. In spite of some cross-
linguistic data from Chinese pointing to the importance of
mother-child interaction for learning, Goldin-Meadow
proposes resilience of language both in the face of
external and organic variation. Contrasting gesturing by
speaking parents to their deaf children, Goldin-Meadow
concludes that the difference lies in the fact that
"gesture and speech in hearing individuals form a single
integrated system -- the two modalities work together to
convey the speaker's intended message" (p. 130). Speech-
gesture mismatches are explained as an index to "readiness-
to-learn" strategy.

Chapter 10 (The Detachment Gain: The Advantage of Thinking
Out Loud: Daniel Reisberg)
Reisberg discusses the relation between thinking and
speaking/signing, and whether this relation is mediated by
any form of subvocalisation or what he prefers to term
"externalization benefit" (140). Evidence pointing to the
existence of such a phenomenon consists in loss of
subvocalisation, which was demonstrated to be responsible
for interference effects in producing words or phrases out
of strings. However, as Reisberg himself points out, "we
can sometimes create auditory representations without
subvocalized support" (p. 142). Further down in the paper,
Reisberg argues that "if a task is disrupted by concurrent
articulation, this is not, in itself, to allow the
conclusion that the task relies on subvocalisation" (p.
148). However, subvocalisation allows a "detachment gain"
(p. 155) from one's mental products, which explains why we
gain by writing down our ideas (before we forget them) or
why we write our ideas and leave them for a while and come
back to them.

Chapter 11 (An Update on Gestalt Psychology: Philip J. Kellman)
Kellman shows the relevance of Gestalt psychology to
perceptual computations, in particular visual segmentation
and grouping. Borrowing the idea of good continuation from
Wertheimer, Kellman argues that object perception involves
edge detection, edge classification, occluding edge, and
boundary assignment (p. 165). Relatability ensures good
continuation by stipulating the conditions required to
connect two edges.

Chapter 12 (Beyong Shipley, Smith, and Gleitman: Young
Children's Comprehension of Bound Morphemes: Katherine
Hirsh-Pasek)
Hirsh-Pasek set up to study the role of bound morphemes in
language comprehension. Building on Shipley, Smith, and
Gleitman (1969), Hirsh-Pasek argues that "children may be
sensitive to grammatical morphemes even when they are not
yet producing them in their own speech" (p. 195) as
evidenced in empirical research with toddlers. Working with
bound morphemes, Hirsh-Pasek confirmed that toddlers (males
and females) performed positively with -ing by looking at
the right screen, whereas with non-grammatical and nonsense
morphemes children were unanimous in paying little or no
attention to the screen. What this study of the
comprehension of bound morphemes among children is that
children comprehend before they can produce.

Chapter 13 (Language and Space: Barbara Landau)
Landau investigates object recognition and naming by the
child. Drawing on Quine, she argues that, like the sighted
child, the blind child acquires the same names for objects
with little or no tutoring at all thanks to similarities
between objects (intuitive and theoretical). As an
intuitive similarity, object shape as part of spatial
representation features among the most important criterion
in the early acquisition of names not just in experimental
contexts but also in naturalistic ones.

Chapter 14 (The Psychologist of Avon: Emotion in
Elizabethan Psychology and the Plays of Shakespeare: W.
Gerrod Parrott)
As a way of paying tribute to Henry Gleitman the artist,
Parrott surveys the psychology of emotions in Elizabethan
drama and their perceptual correlates. To conclude, Parrott
shows where modern psychology meets Renaissance folk
psychology, and where it veers off the everyday track
altogether.

Chapter 15 (Manipulating the Input: Studies in Mental Verb
Acquisition: Letitia R. Naigles)
Naigles investigates the acquisition of mental state verbs
(MSVs). MSVs are not ostensively perceivable, are
polysemous, have a longer developmental trajectory (they
function perceptually and conversationally among three-year
olds before they start functioning modally), and provide
clues to a theory of mind (i.e. when children can
distinguish opinion from fact). The meanings of these MSVs
are, thus, to be found in the syntax and context of use.
Naigles proposes the age of four as the time when children
make a transition in mental verb acquisition. Empirical
evidence suggests that four-year olds did perform better on
the factive-evaluative dimensions of MSVs after exposure to
input material.

Chapter 16 (Partial Sentence Structure as an Early
Constraint on Language Acquisition: Cynthia Fisher)
Fisher reviews the role of certain primitives of language
in acquiring verb semantics. Some of these include
sentence structure, syntactic bootstrapping (the fact of
using "precursors of the same links between sentence
structure and meaning, in concert with observations of
world events to understand sentences," p. 277),
presyntactic structural cues (nouns), conceptual
structures. Noun identification is an important
prerequisite for understanding verbs (p. 282).

Chapter 17 (Perception of Persistence: Stability and
Change: Thomas F. Shipley)
Shipley is interested in identity and perception. Identity
problems involve recognition and perceptual stability (as a
function of change or motion), which might be inconsistent
with internal representations in memory. Shipley concludes
the paper by offering a motion-based model of stability he
developed with Philip Kellman.

Chapter 18 (Putting some Oberon into Cognitive Science:
Michael Kelly)
Extrapolating from Henry Gleitman's life as a mixture of
science and art, Kelly investigates how cognitive
principles impinge on creative language use, with special
reference to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Chapter 19 (The Organization and Use of the Lexicon for
Language Comprehension: John C. Trueswell)
Trueswell investigates garden-path structures as a paradigm
case of the lexicogrammatical approach to language
processing. The author reviews two approaches to the
elucidation of garden-path structures: (i) using "lexically
specific syntactic information" (Trueswell, Tanenhaus and
Kello, 1993), and (ii) using "lexically specific semantic
information" (Trueswell, Tanenhaus and Garnsey, 1994).
Then, Trueswell set out to talk about an integrative
"lexicalist" theory of sentence processing. The gist of
this theory is that "word recognition includes the
activation of rich lexical structures, including the
parallel activation of lexically specific syntactic and
semantic information" (p. 330).

Critical evaluation:
The five chapters included in Part II vary in length and
quality. Only Rescorla's is academically classifiable.
Quite understandably, since the occasion is the celebration
of the Gleitmans by students, friends, and colleagues, the
quality of the chapters was bound to be of the non-academic
nature.

Shipley's category entrenchment runs into problems. For
one, the essential properties possessed by all members of a
category may mean excluding members from being part of the
category. Although flying is an essential property of being
a bird, not all the members of the bird category possess
it; an example in point is an ostrich. A better view of
category membership is prototypicality as offered by Rosch
(1973) and Lakoff (1987).

Goldin-Meadow's assumption that "gesture and speech in
hearing individuals form a single integrated system" is not
unanimously accepted. In terms of the relation between
speech and gesture, and whether both function as a unity or
a duality, two different positions exist in the literature:
(i) Unity of speech and gesture. Holders of this view are
McNeill, Krauss & Hadar, Goldin-Meadow, Ekman, Stokoe &
Marschark, Messing, and Cassell. McNeill calls the
partnership of the two modalities "speech-gesture
synchrony;" and duality of speech and gesture, which is
defended by Feyereisen, Corina, and Emmorey (Maalej,
forthcoming).

Landau's argument that the blind child acquires the same
names for objects with little or no tutoring at all has not
been substantiated. If the sighted child does so more on
the basis of the perception of object shape than on
pragmatic function, it has not been made clear in the study
how the blind child goes about recognising object shape in
space. This is crucial, as Landau herself demonstrates (p.
225), in the case of adults' supplementing shape with other
pragmatic criteria to name objects. In another paper, Landu
reported on a series of experiments she did with Stecker
(Landau & Stecker, 1990), where three-year old children (i)
were capable of representing the figure object in a coarse
way, ignoring shape completely, (ii) tended to ignore
detailed shape, and concentrated on its principal axis, and
(iii) adopted a richer perspective, where shape, objects
parts, their spatial relationships, and their motion
combine into a fine-grained account. Focus on shape in the
present paper seems to be at odds with what she reported in
Landau (1999).

The closing word of this review has to py tribute to the
wide-ranging quality of the papers in part III, which could
have been thought as incoherent at first glance, but which
at closer scrutiny shows the wide-ranging scholarship that
the Gleitmans inculcated in their students and colleagues.

References:
Lakoff, George (1987). Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things.
What Categories Reveal about the Mind.
Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press.

Landau, Barbara & D. Stecker (1990). "Objects and Places:
Syntactic and Geometric Representations in Early
Lexical Learning. Cognitive Development 5, 287-312.

Landau, Barbara (1999). "Multiple Geometric Representations
of Objects in Languages and Language Learners." In:
Paul Bloom, Mary A. Peterson, Lynn Nadel & Merrill F.
Garrett (eds.), _Language and Space_. Cambridge,
Massachusetts/London, England: The MIT Press, 317-363.

Maalej, Zouhair (forthcoming, Fall 2001). "Review of
Messing, Lynn & Ruth Campbell (eds.) (1999). Gesture,
Speech and Sign. Journal of Sign Language Studies.

Messing, Lynn & Ruth Campbell (eds.) (1999). Gesture,
Speech and Sign. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Biographical sketch
Zouhair Maalej, Assistant professor of Linguistics,
currently chair of the Department of English Language and
Literature, Manouba (University of Manouba, Tunis).
Research interests include cognitive linguistics,
cognition-culture interface, pragmatics, (cognitive)
stylistics, critical discourse analysis, systemic
linguistics, translation studies. Publications include
(machine) translation, voice, perception, and metaphor.
Courses taught: (comparative) stylistics, pragmatics,
advanced writing, translation studies (undergraduate) and
pragmatics (postgraduate). I have written quite a few book
reviews for LinguistList. I have recently (April 5-7, 2001)
organised in Tunis the Fourth International Conference on
Researching And Applying Metaphor under the theme of
"Metaphor, Cognition, and Culture."
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