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Review of  Twenty-First Century Psycholinguistics

Reviewer: Oren Sadeh Leicht
Book Title: Twenty-First Century Psycholinguistics
Book Author: Anne Cutler
Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Linguistic Field(s): Psycholinguistics
Issue Number: 17.597

Discuss this Review
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Date: Mon, 20 Feb 2006 14:26:51 +0100
From: Oren Sadeh-Leicht
Subject: 21st Century Psycholinguistics: Four Cornerstones

EDITOR: Cutler, Anne
TITLE: Twenty-First Century Psycholinguistics
SUBTITLE: Four Cornerstones
PUBLISHER: Lawrence and Erlbaum Associates
YEAR: 2005

Oren Sadeh-Leicht, Utrecht Institute of Linguistics, OTS


The book is a collection of various articles about four major problems
in psycholinguistics: Psychology and Linguistics, Biology and
Behavior, Production and Comprehension, and Model and Experiment.

The book begins with a very brief review (by Cutler, Klein and
Levinson) of what psycholinguistics is and discusses in very general
lines the development of those four problems over the past five
decades of psycholinguistic research.

The following review is organized in the same manner as the book. A
short summary of what is claimed in each article is given, followed by
my assessment, where appropriate.

Psychology and Linguistics
The purpose of ''Cognitive mechanisms and syntactic theory'' by
Boland is to show that there exist psycholinguistic data formal linguists
may consider to be in support of their theories, that is the fundamental
distinction between arguments and adjuncts. A short theoretical
introduction about the relation between formal linguistics and the
parser is provided, where the position of weak transparency between
parsing mechanisms and formal linguistics is advocated. The
authoress proceeds to assume that adjuncts are attached during
parsing with a different attachment rule: there is no lexical head that
specifies attachments of adjuncts. Thus she suggests the Argument
Structure Hypothesis: lexical frequency effects would be predicted for
arguments, but not for adjuncts. This is relevant to formal linguistics:
arguments will be processed differently than adjuncts.

Boland continues to discuss the on-going debate on this issue:
whether lexical frequency or rather plausibility can explain
argument/adjunct effects. She presents three experiments in which
the passive listening paradigm (not explained, but I gather that people
listen to sentences while manipulated pictures are presented, and
their eye movements are monitored) was used. She found that
subjects' visual attention was drawn to likely referents of the verb's
arguments: when a verb is introduced into discourse, its arguments
are implied before they are explicitly mentioned, but not adjuncts. This
suggests that arguments were syntactically analyzed via a lexicalized
mechanism. She concludes that only arguments are represented in
the lexical entries of their heads. Although potentially useful to formal
syntactic theory, the paper ends in a somewhat pessimistic tone:
Psycholinguistic data will always play a secondary role in formal
linguistic theory: 'This is as it should be, under the assumptions of
weak transparency.' (p. 40). Why this should be so? It is unclear in
what cases weak transparency indeed bares on formal theory or not,
which works against the goal of the paper. It would be far more
revealing to assume that the link is strong, as it allows for clearer

In ''Getting sound structures in mind'', Fikkert focuses on showing that
children's production forms support the claim that children: (1) build up
abstract phonological representations of words, and (2) make
generalizations over their own productive lexicon resulting in
phonological constraints which are part of children's developing
phonological system. After a short introduction of basic concepts, the
paper continues to report the study of place of articulation patterns in
early production. Largely, children start from a harmonic stage, where
all sounds of the word share the same place of articulation features
determined by the stressed vowel of the word. Subsequent stages
lead to better segmentation, until it reaches adult level.

It was also found that if a segment has no place of articulation
specification in the lexicon, it will be generalized as coronal, and that
children use the same place of articulation features as required to
produce target words, meaning that only target words that can be
produced correctly are attempted.

It was not mentioned what ''targeted words'' are and what a ''fully
segmentized'' adult representation is, or what was coded exactly. It was
therefore difficult to understand whether the conclusions Fikkert made
follow from the database coding.

Further, Fikkert claims that once a child's production lexicon (does this
distinction exist?) may contain for example a certain number of
occurrences of the sequence labial vowel coronal, and that the
child ''will generalize over this productive lexicon and derive a rule or
constraint stating that labial consonants are at the left edge of the
word'' (p. 49). It is not clear, and in fact highly controversial, how
overgeneralization, a matter of frequency, may or may not directly
lead to a formation of a rule or constraint. Fikkert shows that if this
rule is introduced, then words like kip (chicken, in Dutch) would be
produced unfaithfully, as pip, by consonant harmony, as evidenced.
But then, it is not clear why the rule of consonant harmony was not
acquired instead of the suggested rule, if at all. And it is not clear
whether the unfaithful mistakes are not just a matter of pure
coincidence in children production.

Indeed Fikkert discusses alternative explanations that may account for
the data. She writes that frequency accounts, for example, do not fare
well, since harmonic words are of very low frequency and yet are
produced early. But it still doesn't follow that children did study the rule
she suggested, if at all. She adds that optimality theory also does not
explain the patterns found, and argues that only an account that
assumes both initially underspecified and developing representations
and a developing grammar (consisting of emerging constraints)
provides an account of the data. But it is hard for me to see how the
claim is supported due to these conceptual issues, and it is not clear
to me why a child would over generalize, and on what basis this
overgeneralization would follow, this is a matter of observation.

A short discussion of infant perception and early word recognition
shows that vowel contrasts become language specific at about 6
months of age, and in perception and production, acquisition of
vowels precedes the acquisition of consonants. At 9 months, children
are sensitive to phonotactically possible and impossible strings of
segments in their native language. By assuming underspecified lexical
representations, Fikkert can account for the gradual and systematic
changes encountered in child production studies, and for the
difference between discrimination of sounds. On this basis, she
argues that acquisition is important for linguists and psycholinguists,
but in the end states that ''it is still a long but interesting way to test the
psychological reality of linguistic theories'' (p. 54).

The paper by Haverkort, ''Linguistic representation and language use
in Aphasia'', purports the argument that aphasics have the knowledge
of their native language available, but cannot make quick use of it, in
both production and perception. First, it is shown that aphasics
demonstrate equal priming effects as normals on a cross-modal lexical
decision task, where a certain word does not conform to previous
syntactic context. This effect is obtained only when the time between
hearing the last word of the syntactic context and being presented
with the word for which a lexical decision is to be made is stretched to
1100ms. Second, it is shown that simplifications of syntactic structure,
i.e. omission of functional categories, are directed by the grammatical
representation of the language. Patients use simpler representations
because they impose less burden on working memory. Thus
representations are either ''pruned'', as in the ''Tree Pruning
Hypothesis'' (Friedman, 2002) to meet processing limitations or a verb
cannot move up too far. For instance, the distribution of errors of
patients suggests that tense dominates agreement in a
representational tree. Therefore, no pure errors of agreement are
found: Since information always becomes available from the top down,
agreement and tense errors will always occur together, as evidenced.

Based on this, the author claims that ''there is thus interdependence
between linguistic representations and psycholinguistic processes'' (p.
67). But that makes it unclear why the author claimed in the beginning
that: ''This paper argues that a clear distinction should be made
between the representation of linguistic knowledge and the use that is
made of such a knowledge representation in processes of language
comprehension and production'' (p. 57). If linguistic representations
depend on psycholinguistic processes and vice versa, then there
cannot be a ''clear distinction'' between representation and its use.
The author seems to have conflated difficulty of mental processes with
complexity of representation reminding me of the Derivational Theory
of Complexity, an assumption that turned out to be incorrect (although
see Phillips, 1996). If the author does support such equivalence, then
it goes against what is stated in the beginning. Simply put, the
evidence the author supplies go against his initial declaration, but
seems to fit his final conclusion: That linguistic knowledge describes
mental processes, as Chomsky has already pointed out:

''...that the speaker-hearer has internalized a rule system involving the
principles of locality and opacity and that judgment and performance
are guided by mental computation involving these internally-
represented rules and principles'' (Chomsky, 1980, p. 130).

But that is hardly new. For the ''clear distinction'' to gain more
credibility, it should be shown that for normals with low working
memory, comparable to that of aphasics, the same patterns of errors
will be produced as of aphasics, but that is not provided.

In ''Data mining at the intersection of psychology and linguistics'' by
Baayen, it is shown how the combination of linguistic and
psychological resources can be a rich source of data for studying the
lexicon and lexical processing. New methodological possibilities for
data mining are presented by examination of databases complied by
Balota et al., CELEX, the BNC and WordNet. The predictive potential
of certain variables are studied for three behavioural measures: visual
lexical decision latencies and word naming latencies in ms, and
subjective familiarity ratings on a seven-point scale. From a statistic
analysis of the various databases, it appears that word frequency is a
semantic measure and not a measure of form-related lexical
properties in visual lexical decision latencies and word naming
latencies. Thus there is a tight correlation between word frequency
with measures of word meaning, compared to measures of word form:
Word frequency is primarily a measure of conceptual familiarity.
The distributional observation supports the hypothesis that word
frequency effect is a strong post-access component, and argues
against the idea that frequency effects would arise primarily or
exclusively at the access level.

Subjective familiarity ratings are found to be a dependent variable in
their own right, much like eye fixation duration. This leads to the
conclusion that ratings should not be used as a substitute for a corpus-
based frequency counts.

In its final conclusion, the author suggests to reintroduce word
frequency into psychology being a reliable predictor of behavioral
measures. The author further purports the opinion that a factorial
design should only be used as a last resort, since they require (among
other problems) matching on all other potentially relevant variables:
only use it when no-fine grained numerical information is available.

The paper ''Establishing and using routines during dialogue:
Implications for psychology and linguistics'' by Pickering and Garrod
(P&G) discusses the relation between dialogue processing and the
nature of the mental lexicon.

They describe an experiment where two interlocutors have to explain
to each other where they are in a maze. One of the interlocutors makes
repeated use of an expression and this expression is ultimately
adopted by the other interlocutor. P&G give an example that one of
the interlocutors used the term ''right-indicator'' (right hand protrusion
on a maze) invented by one of the interlocutors to be used as a
reference point. The term was ''routinized'' by storing it in the mental
lexicon for that conversation alone. Therefore, they claim, the lexicon
must be constantly and dynamically updated. Logically then, there is
no strict division between acquisition and adult usage, providing
support to Jackendoff's (2002) conception of the mental lexicon.

This approach to dialogue is called the interactive-alignment account.
It argues that a conversation is successful to the extent that
interlocutors end up with aligned situation models: ''They come to
understand the relevant aspect of the world in the same way'' (p. 87).
Interactive alignment involves the priming of particular levels of
representation and the links between those levels. Producing or
comprehending any utterance leads to activation of those
representations, but their activation gradually decays. However, when
interactive alignment leads to sufficiently strong activation of the links
between the level, routinization occurs. Routinization is tracing new
memory traces associated with a particular expression. For
example, ''right indicator'' is routinized by the activation of right and
indicator, plus the specific meaning that right indicator has in this
particular context. This leads to the activation of phonological
representation and syntactic presentation (as in Jackendoff, 2002),
together with the activation of the specific meaning (right-hand-
protrusion on a maze).The links among phonology, syntax and
semantic are activated, and this increases the likelihood that the
interlocutors are going to use right indicator with that specific meaning.

Several caveats should have been explained. For instance, how does
interlocutor B know to interpret interlocutor's A utterance right
indicator to refer to a right hand protrusion on maze? That is hardly
evident. P&G suggest that it is done by ''normal processes of meaning
decomposition, corresponding to the compositional processes that A
has used in production'' (p. 94). But it is not known whether two
interlocutors use the same compositional or decompositional
processes. What normal processes of meaning decomposition are
should have been clarified. P&G suggest the following account. When
activation is strong enough, a new lexical entry is constructed by
indexing the phonological/syntactic presentation of right indicator not
to the meaning representation of ''pointer to the right'', but to the
intended meaning of ''right hand protrusion on the right''. They note
that ''clearly, we cannot specify exactly what makes activation strong
enough for routinization to occur, but assume that it depends on at
least the frequency of use of the expression with that meaning by both
speakers'' (p. 95).

By parity of argument, one would be able to claim that the
expression ''couch potato'' may refer to ''right protrusion on maze'' if
the phonological/syntactic presentation is sufficiently activated (but
what exactly makes this routinization is unknown) and indexed with
the meaning ''right protrusion on maze''. There can be actually any
infinite number of expressions that may refer to ''right protrusion on
maze'' under this account, which is therefore reduced to an
uninteresting one.

It seems to me that the account P&G have to offer to routinization is a
version of behaviorism, only the terms have been cast anew: Simply
replace activation by positive reinforcement, meaning representation
with stimulus, and routinization by response. The explanatory power
of the model is inadequate suffering from the same known set of
problems of behaviorist models (see Chomsky, 1959).

Poeppel and Embick's paper ''Defining the relation between linguistics
and neuroscience'' is an interesting introspection of the link between
the rapidly developing field of neuroscience and linguistics. They
focus on the questions of whether current brain/language research
provides an example of interdisciplinary cross-fertilization or cross-
sterilizations, i.e. whether either discipline can learn something in an
explanatorily significant way from one another. There are two
problems: 1. Granularity mismatch problem (GMP): linguistic and
neuroscientific studies of language operate with objects of different
granularity. In particular, linguistic computations involve fine grained
distinctions and explicit computational operations. Neuroscientific
approaches to language operate in terms of broader conceptual
distinctions; (2) Ontological incommensurability problem (OIP): the
units of linguistic computation and the units of neurological
computation are incommensurable (there is no solid connection linking
these computations). The authors suggest a solution for both
problems: ''spelling out the ontologies and processes in computational
terms that are at the appropriate level of abstraction (i.e. can be
performed by specific neuronal populations) such that explicit
interdisciplinary linking hypotheses can be formulated.'' (p. 106). The
authors then briefly describe the standard research program in
cognitive neuroscience, and whether progress in this program can be
made, specifically by imaging Broca's area. They point out that
Neurocognitive research of Broca's area is not done at the proper
level of granularity, and that what appear to be results are actually
problems, in the sense that the expectation that syntax should
correspond to a single cortical region is unrealistic (but that is the way
research is being done). Syntax is made of various computations, and
cortical areas involve many (assumingly) differentiated processes.
Thus it is difficult to see on-to-one correspondence. ERP studies are
discussed to be a solution to this problem, but are then discarded on
the same reason of granularity mismatch.

The following point the authors put forward is the idea that that some
notion of grammar must be computed in the brain in real time, in
contrast to current generative syntax that argues that computations
proposed in syntactic analyses need not be performed in real time.
They authors insist that in order for progress to take place in
addressing problems (1) and (2) that we restrict out attention to
(abstract) computations that are actually performed by the human
brain. Several ways to proceed are sketched in general lines. In
syntax for instance, the authors suggest to study how linearization
occurs. They argue though that ''the hierarchical representations
motivated by syntactic theory must have a linear order imposed on
them'' (p. 116). This is controversial: Syntactic representations may be
hierarchical but linearization is perhaps a constraint of articulatory
systems - linearization is thus outside of syntax.

The discussion of the problems is illuminating and interesting, but I
found the solutions to be sketchy. The authors point out that the link
between linguistics and neuroscience is computations, which should
be executed by assemblies of neurons. But it is still unclear to me
what type of computations can or cannot be executed by neurons. It is
a plain truism that language is computed by neurons. And although
theories of grammar suggest computations that need not be executed
by the brain as formulated, it is unclear how the study of neuronal
activity may lead to their abandonment. There is nothing on neuronal
activity that labels it as a computation a neuron can perform or not,
indeed there is nothing yet that labels it as this or that cognitive

Biology and behavior

In ''Genetic specificity of linguistic heritability'', Stromswold reports
linguistics studies of twins, in an effort to understand better heritability:
the proportion of the phenotype variance that is due to genetic
variance. She compared concordance rates for developmental
language disorders in twins (SLI, dyslexia). The logic is the
concordance rate for language disorder is significantly higher for
monozygote twins than for dizygotic twins. This suggests that genes
play a role in language disorders. She found that normal monozygotic
twins more similarly to own another than dizygote twins do. This
suggests that heritable factors play a substantial role in linguistic
abilities of normal people. She contends that the analyses reported
were univariate, and not multivariate, yielding certain limitations: It
doesn't allow knowing whether the heritable factors that affect
language are specific to language.

The paper mostly points out to future research. The impression of a
field in its beginning, and the repetitive use of speculative or of a
pessimistic note was all over the paper: '' must
have data from a very large number of twins'' (p. 125), ''can be
estimated''(p. 129), ''one could investigate'' (p. 129), ''we can perform''
(p. 135), ''the ... hypothesis could explain'' (p. 136).

The paper continues to briefly discuss the role of environment,
prenatal environment and how to tease these apart. The paper
continues to discuss the molecular studies of genes of language
(FOXP2), the DNA loci of written language impairments, and spoken
language impairments. This is essentially a list of correlation between
language impairments and the loci of genes that correspond to them.
It is pointed out that there are at least 9 distinct loci linked to dyslexia,
and a dozen loci linked to spoken language impairments. This
indicates that different genotypes can cause broadly defined
phenotypes such as written and spoken language impairments.

Scott aims to delineate the neural systems underlying speech
perception in ''the neurology of speech perception''. She makes a
comparison between the organization of primate auditory cortex and
human auditory cortex. It is argued that like in visual system of
primates, there is hierarchically organized processing of auditory
information. And that there are two distinct pathways: a pathway
responsible for what is being heard, and a pathway for the location of
sound in space. In humans, there are also two pathways: a pathway
from sound to meaning, and another from sound to articulation. These
pathways appear to share anatomical and functional similarities.

Hagoort's paper ''Broca's complex as the unification space for
language'' outlines how a neurobiological account of language
contributes to the understanding of the workings of Broca's area. It is
argued that Broca's area is not limited only to BA 44 and 45, but also
to adjacent areas, too, such as BA 46 and BA 47 - therefore Broca's
area is a complex in the prefrontal cortex. Several other points are
made about Broca's area: that it is not language specific, that it
subserves only a very specific function in language and that within
Broca's area there are functionally defined sub-regions. Hagoort
further pursues an account of how Broca's area unifies lexical
information with overall sentential representations, perhaps in attempt
to solve the Binding Problem in linguistic Neurocognition. He mostly
relies on Vosse and Kempen's (2000) model.

In ''Dissecting the language organ: A new look at the role of Broca's
area in language processing'' by Thompson-Schill, there is a brief
review of hypothesized roles of Broca's area as the area for
articulation, syntax, selection or verbal working memory. The
discussion focuses on data from brain lesions. This paper shows that
the actual function of Broca's area is undecided, although the
authoress suggests that Broca's area is involved in selecting
information among competing sources of information.

Morgan's ''Biology and Behavior: Insights from the acquisition of sign
language'' discusses insights from acquisition on language in a
different modality than speech: sign language. After a sketchy
introduction to British sign language, several interesting questions that
have arisen in relation to spoken language acquisition are brought
about. The first is how are children's attempts of producing language
altered when the input is not sound? It is argued that limitations of
hearing systems are the same as limitations of hearing: ''There are
underlying similarities between what children so with signs and words
in the beginning of language acquisition'' (p. 197). This forces a strong
biological component active in these processes. The second topic is
the development of grammar. Again, developmental parity between
deaf and hearing language acquisition is found. The third topic is
specific language impairment. The interest is to find out how specific
language impairment is manifested, if at all, in sign language: Is it the
same or different from SLI in spoken language? Problems of this type
of research are discussed and results of preliminary tests. The claim is
that the studies of developmental sign language impairment will show
that the general role of auditory processing in SLI is overstated.

Production and comprehension

In ''Maximal input and feedback in production and comprehension'',
Vigliocco and Hartsuiker argue for a maximalist view of sentence
production. They claim to present evidence favoring maximal input
and bidirectional flow of information between assumed levels of
integration, just like in comprehension. The different levels of
integration are described, such as message, functional and positional
levels. Then the directionality of information flow between these levels
is discussed, relying mostly on studies of spontaneous errors. The
ensuing topic is concerned with benefit of feedback between different

This paper is extremely unclear to me, perhaps because of lack of
background knowledge. Nonetheless, there should have been a
clearer discussion of the debate and its premises in the beginning of
this paper. I found it difficult to understand the theory or the motivation
behind the various ''illustrative examples'' (p. 211). For instance, I did
not understand how ''maximal'' and ''minimal'' input is measured or

In ''Spoken-word recognition and production: regular but not
inseparable bedfellows'', McQueen argues that speech production
and comprehension should not be studied in isolation. He examines
two specific properties of speech decoding and encoding. The paper
discusses questions such as whether speech decoding/encoding is
serial or cascaded. It is argued that from work on prevoicing in Dutch,
for instance, there are limits on the kind of segmental information that
is passed to the lexical level in decoding: Only information useful for
lexical distinctions influences lexical processing. It is argued that
phonological encoding is distinct yet tightly linked to phonological

Schiller discusses whether there is cross talk between the production
and the comprehension systems in ''Verbal self-monitoring''. Internal
monitoring is brought as an example for this cross-talk.
Levelt's ''perceptual loop theory of self-monitoring'' is presented.
Various predictions of the model were tested, and the results of four
experiments are provided. It is shown that onset complexity and
morphological complexity do not play a role in monitoring.
Phonological representation (syllable boundaries or metrical stress)
show strong effects in monitoring. These results favour a sequential,
multi-tiered, phonological assignment process.

In ''The production and comprehension of resumptive pronouns in
relative clause 'island' contexts'', Ferreira and Swets argue that
people appear to relax the grammatical rules governing long-distance
dependencies in production. It appears that sentences that violate the
Subjacency constraint on wh-movement are produced in English in
high frequency. To compensate this violation, so it appears, a
resumptive pronoun is inserted in the gap position of the moved
element to ameliorate the violation. This in turn may answer the
question of incrementality of the human sentence parser, which seems
to interest the authors more than the link between comprehension and
production. If the parser is incremental, it should ''know'' about the
island/gap resumptive pronoun close to the point of the gap. If the
parser is clause-based, then an effect of gap/resumptive pronoun
would be seen later than the gap. Two experiments for island
elicitation plus resumptive pronouns are described, and a
grammaticality judgment task (where comprehenders found island
violations ungrammatical).

In one of the elicitation experiments, it is shown that the earliest words
were longer in the island+resumptive pronoun condition than a
grammatical control (although the control is plausibly odd ''this is a
donkey that doesn't know where it lives'' - is it to be expected that
donkeys know where they live at all?), suggesting that the production
system uses a great deal of look-ahead. On this basis, it is argued
that ''the production system appears to be unaware of a grammatical
constraint to which the comprehension system is quite clearly
sensitive, suggesting a production - comprehension asymmetry'' (p.
268). Furthermore, it seems that the difficulty of producing island
violations shows up early, suggesting incrementality in production.

In ''On the relationship between perception and production in L2
categories'', Sebastián-Gallés and Baus add evidence to the
coherence of phonetic representations in natives and the lack of
robustness of these representations in non-native speakers. A group
of L1 Catalan, Catalan-Spanish bilinguals and another group of L1
Spanish, Spanish-Catalan bilinguals were tested in three perceptual
tasks, such as categorical perception, gating task, lexical decision;
and in a production task (picture naming). The comparison focused on
vowels found in Catalan but not in Spanish thus differing in phonetic
representation across languages. It was found that ''the relationship
between perception and production is a complex one'' (p. 291), and
that the percentage of Spanish dominant participants who scored
within the range of Catalan native speakers for all perception tasks
was low (except for categorization).

Other than that, it was difficult for me to glean the insight of this paper
regarding the purpose that was set in the beginning. A clear
conclusion as to the relationship between production and perception
should have been stated.

Emmorey's paper, titled ''Signing for viewing: Some relations between
production and comprehension of Sign Language'' is a very insightful
and interesting paper in the emerging research field of sign language.
The paper sets out to discuss how visual perception and manual
production interact at the level of phonology (expressed by signing
contrasts, such as ''whispering'' and normal signing), elaborating
mainly on monitoring of manual articulation.

An interesting discussion deals with the pairing of visual perception
with manual articulation in the brain by mirror neurons - a necessary
link for studying the link between production-perception. Evidence are
brought to show that visual feedback from one's own signing occurs in
peripheral vision, and that signers do not look at their hands while
signing, and they also do not track the hands of their interlocutors.
Therefore, signers monitor their own internal representations of signs.
It is claimed that also speakers perhaps do the same. Further
research is indeed a promising avenue for studying the link between
perception and production and how these processes are monitored.

Model and Experiment

In ''From Popper to Lakatos: A case for cumulative computation
modelling'', Roelofs discusses the common problem that modelling in
psycholinguistics is not cumulative in the sense that one does not
build on earlier modelling results. Two approaches are
described: ''The toothbrush approach'', where a model is built for the
given data only, and the ''skeet shooting'' approach, where the aim of
the experimenter is to collect data that disconfirm models. The article
further discusses when it is appropriate to reject a model. It seems
that the article was a response to a certain criticism of the author's
own programme ''Weaver++'' designed to simulate lemma retrieval in
various perceptual tasks. The criticism argued for the rejection of
WEAVER++, but the author replies that it can be saved by adding a
new assumption. The rest of the paper seems like a complaint that
rejection should not be brought up before new assumption(s) can be
added to modify the model. The paper goes on to describe the
successful ''academic career'' of the programme in modelling lemma
perception in the human brain, arguing for cumulativeness as its

In the humorously written paper ''How do computational models help
us develop better theories'', Norris discusses the benefit of building
computational models in developing better theories. The difference
between a computational model and a theory is discussed. It is argued
that computational models are required to be constructed even if one
does not deem to do so because computational models help in
establishing whether something is missing in the theory or whether a
certain mechanism in the theory does not work. However, it was not
made clear how failure can be attributed to limitations of the
computational model, the programmer, the particular programming
language used, or indeed the theory. It is simply taken as self
understood that in principle a failure in a computational model equals
failure of the theory. Given that the two are different, how can a
failure in the model be so influential on the theory?

The paper further gives examples of models without theories and
theories without models. A case study is provided (Shortlist: a model
of word recognition in continuous speech). It is shown that the
assumptions behind the original Shortlist model and the computational
model of it were different and that none of those assumptions belong
to the underlying theory. Thus it is argued that one should inquire how
the model relates to the theory. If the model does what it was
designed to do, one needs ask why is it so: ''Simulations from the
model will convince you (and maybe even your critics) that the theory
makes the right predictions, but it is only by thinking about the model
that you will be able to explain why things work the way they do''. Note
though that ''being able to explain why things work'' is a theory by
itself, and its relation to the theory implemented may not be
necessarily obvious.

In ''Tools for learning about computational models'', Pitt and Navarro
discuss problems of comparison between models. Two qualitative
tools are introduced: (1) Minimum description length and (2)
Landscaping. The former is basically testing the success of
generalizing a model designed for a certain set of data to another set
of data instead of goodness of fit (the model that best fits the data).
The latter is method which allows assessing sources of complexity in
given models, gaining insight into the inner workings of the models -
that is, how to distinguish between models. Further, it is briefly
explained how complex relationships between models and data can
be described. The paper is meant for people with high proficiency in
statistics, at least in its second part.

In ''Rational models of comprehension: Addressing the performance
paradox'', Crocker points to the problem that models account only for
their own experimental findings, and not to more general performance.
Limitations of models are identified (limited scope, model equivalence,
measure specificity, weak linking hypothesis). A rational model is
suggested, where the most plausible hypothesis is selected first. The
advantages of such a model are discussed.

The last paper ''Computation and cognition: Four distinctions and their
implications'' by Fitch, discusses the very difficult question how the
brain computes the mind. Key computational distinctions are given, the
most important one seems to be analog vs. digital. This distinction is
compared to the electric/chemical activity of neurons, which receive
analog information but emit digital information. How neurons compute
hierarchical structure is also illustrated in general lines. Implications for
cognition and language are discussed.


The book provides reasonable information about the state-of-the-art
in psycholinguistics in general lines. Although it tackles the four
cornerstones of psycholinguistics, I think a more elaborate review of
these four cornerstones was warranted to elucidate the problems
being faced. The problem is intensified in the first section, Psychology
and Linguistics: Most writers advocate a weak link between
psychology and linguistics. No discussion was offered as to other
approaches, which advocate a strong link. Most papers emphasize
the estrangement between psychology and linguistics, and not how
the two can be reconciled.

Each paper has given its own interpretation of the specific
cornerstone, resulting in the same problem that the book is trying to
focus on: A comparison and reconciliation between various
approaches is extremely difficult. A certain researcher may take his or
her view to be the working hypothesis, creating sub-approaches in
sub-approaches built for solving a certain problem and only it.


Chomsky, N. 1959. Review of B. F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior.
Language 35:26-58.

Chomsky, N. 1980. Rules and Representations. New York: Columbia
University Press.

Friedman, N. 2002. Question Production in Agrammatism: The Tree
Pruning Hypothesis. Brain and Language 80:160-187.

Jackendoff, R. 2002. Foundations of Language: Brain, Meaning,
Grammar, Evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Phillips, C. 1996. Order and Structure. PhD dissertation,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge.

Sadeh Leicht, O. 2003. Sporadic Occurrence of the Garden Path
Effect. In Yearbook 2003, eds. W. Heeren, D. Papangeli and E.
Vlachou, 59-68: Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS.

Vosse, T. and Kempen, G. A. M. (2000). Syntactic structure assembly
in human parsing: A computational model based on competitive
inhibition and lexicalist grammar. Cognition 75:105-143.

Oren Sadeh-Leicht is a Ph.D. student in Psycholinguistics at the
Utrecht Linguistics Institute, OTS, The Netherlands. He is studying the
relation between parsing performance and grammatical competence.
His M.A. thesis was entitled "Parsing Optional Garden Path Sentences
in Hebrew" (cf. a summary of this work in Sadeh Leicht, 2003). He is
more generally interested in parsers, evolution of language, and

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 0805852085
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 424
Prices: U.S. $ 125.00