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Cognition and Language Development

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Language Experience and the Recognition of Spoken Words

Understanding speech in our native tongue seems natural and effortless; listening to speech in a nonnative language is a different experience. In this book, Anne Cutler argues that listening to speech is a process of native listening because so much of it is exquisitely tailored to the requirements of the native language. Her cross-linguistic study (drawing on experimental work in languages that range from English and Dutch to Chinese and Japanese) documents what is universal and what is language specific in the way we listen to spoken language.

Cutler describes the formidable range of mental tasks we carry out, all at once, with astonishing speed and accuracy, when we listen. These include evaluating probabilities arising from the structure of the native vocabulary, tracking information to locate the boundaries between words, paying attention to the way the words are pronounced, and assessing not only the sounds of speech but prosodic information that spans sequences of sounds. She describes infant speech perception, the consequences of language-specific specialization for listening to other languages, the flexibility and adaptability of listening (to our native languages), and how language-specificity and universality fit together in our language processing system.

Drawing on her four decades of work as a psycholinguist, Cutler documents the recent growth in our knowledge about how spoken-word recognition works and the role of language structure in this process. Her book is a significant contribution to a vibrant and rapidly developing field.

Edited by Jeff MacSwan

Codeswitching is the alternate use of two or more languages among bilingual interlocutors. It is distinct from borrowing, which involves the phonological and morphological integration of a word from one language into another. Codeswitching involves the mixing of phonologically distinctive elements into a single utterance: Mi hermano bought some ice cream. This volume examines the grammatical properties of languages mixed in this way, focusing on cases of language mixing within a sentence. It considers the grammar of codeswitching from a variety of perspectives, offering a collection of theoretically significant work by the leading researchers in the field.

Each contribution investigates a particular grammatical phenomenon as it relates to bilingual codeswitching data, mostly from a Minimalist perspective. The contributors first offer detailed grammatical accounts of codeswitching, then consider phonological and morphological issues that arise from the question of whether codeswitching is permitted within words. Contributors additionally investigate the semantics and syntax of codeswitching and psycholinguistic issues in bilingual language processing. The data analyzed include codeswitching in Spanish-English, Korean-English, German-Spanish, Hindi-English, and Amerindian languages.

Shoba Bandi-Rao, Rakesh M. Bhatt, Sonia Colina, Marcel den Dikken, Anna Maria Di Sciullo, Daniel L. Finer, Kay E. González-Vilbazo, Sílvia Milian Hita, Jeff MacSwan, Pieter Muysken, Monica Moro Quintanilla, Erin O’Rourke, Ana Teresa Pérez-Leroux, Edward P. Stabler Jr., Gretchen Sunderman, Almeida Jacqueline Toribio

Each edition of this classic reference has proved to be a benchmark in the developing field of cognitive neuroscience. The fifth edition of The Cognitive Neurosciences continues to chart new directions in the study of the biological underpinnings of complex cognitio—the relationship between the structural and physiological mechanisms of the nervous system and the psychological reality of the mind. It offers entirely new material, reflecting recent advances in the field.

Many of the developments in cognitive neuroscience have been shaped by the introduction of novel tools and methodologies, and a new section is devoted to methods that promise to guide the field into the future—from sophisticated models of causality in brain function to the application of network theory to massive data sets. Another new section treats neuroscience and society, considering some of the moral and political quandaries posed by current neuroscientific methods.

Other sections describe, among other things, new research that draws on developmental imaging to study the changing structure and function of the brain over the lifespan; progress in establishing increasingly precise models of memory; research that confirms the study of emotion and social cognition as a core area in cognitive neuroscience; and new findings that cast doubt on the so-called neural correlates of consciousness.

A Symptom or a Stage?

When children are late in hitting developmental milestones, parents worry. And no delay causes more parental anxiety than late talking, which is associated in many parents’ minds with such serious conditions as autism and severe intellectual disability. In fact, as children’s speech expert Stephen Camarata points out in this enlightening book, children are late in beginning to talk for a wide variety of reasons. For some children, late talking may be a symptom of other, more serious, problems; for many others, however, it may simply be a stage with no long-term complications.

Camarata describes in accessible language what science knows about the characteristics and causes of late talking. He explains that today’s greater awareness of autism, as well as the expanded definition of autism as a “spectrum” of symptoms, has increased the chances that a late-talking child will be diagnosed—or misdiagnosed—with autism. But, he reminds us, late talking is only one of a constellation of autism symptoms. Although all autistic children are late talkers, not all late-talking children are autistic.

Camarata draws on more than twenty-five years of professional experience diagnosing and treating late talkers—and on his personal experience of being a late talker himself and having a late-talking son. Camarata offers parents valuable guidance on seeking treatment, advising them to get second and third opinions if necessary, and warning them against false diagnoses, unqualified practitioners, and ineffective therapies. He provides information that will help parents navigate the maze of doctors, speech therapists, early childhood services, and special education; and he describes the effect that late talking may have on children’s post-talking learning styles.

Children with specific language impairment (SLI) show a significant deficit in spoken language that cannot be attributed to neurological damage, hearing impairment, or intellectual disability. More prevalent than autism and at least as prevalent as dyslexia, SLI affects approximately seven percent of all children; it is longstanding, with adverse effects on academic, social, and (eventually) economic standing. The first edition of this work established Children with Specific Language Impairment as the landmark reference on this condition, considering not only the disorder’s history, possible origins, and treatment but also what SLI might tell us about language organization and development in general. This second edition offers a complete update of the earlier volume.

Much of the second edition is completely new, reflecting findings and interpretations based on the hundreds of studies that have appeared since the publication of the first edition in 1997. Topics include linguistic details (descriptive and theoretical), word and sentence processing findings, genetics, neurobiology, treatment, and comparisons to such conditions as autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, and dyslexia. The book covers SLI in children who speak a wide range of languages, and, although the emphasis is on children, it also includes studies of adults who were diagnosed with SLI as children or are the parents of children with SLI.

Written by a leading scholar in the field, Children with Specific Language Impairment offers the most comprehensive, balanced, and unified treatment of SLI available.

A Mysterious Relationship

This book explores the relationships between language, music, and the brain by pursuing four key themes and the crosstalk among them: song and dance as a bridge between music and language; multiple levels of structure from brain to behavior to culture; the semantics of internal and external worlds and the role of emotion; and the evolution and development of language. The book offers specially commissioned expositions of current research accessible both to experts across disciplines and to non-experts. These chapters provide the background for reports by groups of specialists that chart current controversies and future directions of research on each theme.

The book looks beyond mere auditory experience, probing the embodiment that links speech to gesture and music to dance. The study of the brains of monkeys and songbirds illuminates hypotheses on the evolution of brain mechanisms that support music and language, while the study of infants calibrates the developmental timetable of their capacities. The result is a unique book that will interest any reader seeking to learn more about language or music and will appeal especially to readers intrigued by the relationships of language and music with each other and with the brain.

Contributors: Francisco Aboitiz, Michael A. Arbib, Annabel J. Cohen, Ian Cross, Peter Ford Dominey, W. Tecumseh Fitch, Leonardo Fogassi, Jonathan Fritz, Thomas Fritz, Peter Hagoort, John Halle, Henkjan Honing, Atsushi Iriki, Petr Janata, Erich Jarvis, Stefan Koelsch, Gina Kuperberg, D. Robert Ladd, Fred Lerdahl, Stephen C. Levinson, Jerome Lewis, Katja Liebal, Jônatas Manzolli, Bjorn Merker, Lawrence M. Parsons, Aniruddh D. Patel, Isabelle Peretz, David Poeppel, Josef P. Rauschecker, Nikki Rickard, Klaus Scherer, Gottfried Schlaug, Uwe Seifert, Mark Steedman, Dietrich Stout, Francesca Stregapede, Sharon Thompson-Schill, Laurel Trainor, Sandra E. Trehub, Paul Verschure

The Acquisition of Argument Structure

Before Steven Pinker wrote bestsellers on language and human nature, he wrote several technical monographs on language acquisition that have become classics in cognitive science. Learnability and Cognition, first published in 1989, brought together two big topics: how do children learn their mother tongue, and how does the mind represent basic categories of meaning such as space, time, causality, agency, and goals? The stage for this synthesis was set by the fact that when children learn a language, they come to make surprisingly subtle distinctions: pour water into the glass and fill the glass with water sound natural, but pour the glass with water and fill water into the glass sound odd. How can this happen, given that children are not reliably corrected for uttering odd sentences, and they don't just parrot back the correct ones they hear from their parents? Pinker resolves this paradox with a theory of how children acquire the meaning and uses of verbs, and explores that theory’s implications for language, thought, and the relationship between them.

As Pinker writes in a new preface, "The Secret Life of Verbs," the phenomena and ideas he explored in this book inspired his 2007 bestseller The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature. These technical discussions, he notes, provide insight not just into language acquisition but into literary metaphor, scientific understanding, political discourse, and even the conceptions of sexuality that go into obscenity.

Exploring the Evolution of Mind and Brain

Scholars have long been captivated by the parallels between birdsong and human speech and language. In this book, leading scholars draw on the latest research to explore what birdsong can tell us about the biology of human speech and language and the consequences for evolutionary biology. They examine the cognitive and neural similarities between birdsong learning and speech and language acquisition, considering vocal imitation, auditory learning, an early vocalization phase ("babbling"), the structural properties of birdsong and human language, and the striking similarities between the neural organization of learning and vocal production in birdsong and human speech.

After outlining the basic issues involved in the study of both language and evolution, the contributors compare birdsong and language in terms of acquisition, recursion, and core structural properties, and then examine the neurobiology of song and speech, genomic factors, and the emergence and evolution of language.

Contributors: Hermann Ackermann, Gabriël J.L. Beckers, Robert C. Berwick, Johan J. Bolhuis, Noam Chomsky, Frank Eisner, Martin Everaert, Michale S. Fee, Olga Fehér, Simon E. Fisher, W. Tecumseh Fitch, Jonathan B. Fritz, Sharon M.H. Gobes, Riny Huijbregts, Eric Jarvis, Robert Lachlan, Ann Law, Michael A. Long, Gary F. Marcus, Carolyn McGettigan, Daniel Mietchen, Richard Mooney, Sanne Moorman, Kazuo Okanoya, Christophe Pallier, Irene M. Pepperberg, Jonathan F. Prather, Franck Ramus, Eric Reuland, Constance Scharff, Sophie K. Scott, Neil Smith, Ofer Tchernichovski, Carel ten Cate, Christopher K. Thompson, Frank Wijnen, Moira Yip, Wolfram Ziegler, Willem Zuidema

How is the information we gather from the world through our sensory and motor apparatus converted into language? It is obvious that there is an interface between language and sensorimotor cognition because we can talk about what we see and do. In this book, Alistair Knott argues that this interface is more direct than commonly assumed. He proposes that the syntax of a concrete sentence—a sentence that reports a direct sensorimotor experience—closely reflects the sensorimotor processes involved in the experience. In fact, he argues, the syntax of the sentence can be interpreted as a description of these sensorimotor processes.

Knott focuses on a simple concrete episode: a man grabbing a cup. He presents detailed models of the sensorimotor processes involved in experiencing this episode (drawing on research in psychology and neuroscience) and of the syntactic structure of the transitive sentence reporting the episode (drawing on Chomskyan Minimalist syntactic theory). He proposes that these two independently motivated models are closely linked—that the logical form of the sentence can be given a detailed sensorimotor characterization and that, more generally, many of the syntactic principles understood in Minimalism as encoding innate linguistic knowledge are actually sensorimotor in origin.

Knott's sensorimotor reinterpretation of Chomsky opens the way for a psychological account of sentence processing that is compatible with a Chomskyan account of syntactic universals, suggesting a way to reconcile Chomsky's theory of syntax with the empiricist models of language often viewed as Mimimalism's competitors.

When two or more languages are part of a child's world, we are presented with a rich opportunity to learn something about language in general and about how the mind works. In this book, Norbert Francis examines the development of bilingual proficiency and the different kinds of competence that come together in making up its component parts. In particular, he explores problems of language ability when children use two languages for tasks related to schooling, especially in learning how to read and write. He considers both broader research issues and findings from an ongoing investigation of child bilingualism in an indigenous language–speaking community in Mexico. This special sociolinguistic context allows for a unique perspective on some of the central themes of bilingualism research today, including the distinction between competence and proficiency, modularity, and the Poverty of Stimulus problem.

Francis proposes that competence (knowledge) should be considered as an integral component of proficiency (ability) rather than something separate and apart, arguing that this approach allows for a more inclusive assessment of research findings from diverse fields of study. The bilingual indigenous language project illustrates how the concepts of modularity and the competence-proficiency distinction in particular might be applied to problems of language learning and literacy.

Few investigations of indigenous language and culture approach bilingual research problems from a cognitive science perspective. By suggesting connections to broader cognitive and linguistic issues, Francis points the way to further research along these lines.

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