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Language & Speech

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Selected Research

Constraint logic programming, the notion of computing with partial information, is becoming recognized as a way of dramatically improving on the current generation of programming languages. This collection presents the best of current work on all aspects of constraint logic programming languages, from theory through language implementation.

Beginning in the mid-1980s constraint logic programming became a powerful and essential theoretical concept whose first practical application was the development of efficient programming languages based on Prolog. Benhamou and Colmerauer have taken care to illustrate the strong links between current research and existing CLP languages. The first part of the book focuses on significant theoretical studies that propose general models for constraint programming, and the two following parts develop current ideas on themes derived from these languages (numerical constraints, Booleans, and other finite domains). The concluding part on CLP language design gathers work on original constraints and on top-level implementation.

The 2002 Jean Nicod Lectures

Many different things are said to have meaning: people mean to do various things; tools and other artifacts are meant for various things; people mean various things by using words and sentences; natural signs mean things; representations in people's minds also presumably mean things. In Varieties of Meaning, Ruth Garrett Millikan argues that these different kinds of meaning can be understood only in relation to each other.

What does meaning in the sense of purpose (when something is said to be meant for something) have to do with meaning in the sense of representing or signifying? Millikan argues that the explicit human purposes, explicit human intentions, are represented purposes. They do not merely represent purposes; they possess the purposes that they represent. She argues further that things that signify, intentional signs such as sentences, are distinguished from natural signs by having purpose essentially; therefore, unlike natural signs, intentional signs can misrepresent or be false.

Part I discusses "Purposes and Cross-Purposes"—what purposes are, the purposes of people, of their behaviors, of their body parts, of their artifacts, and of the signs they use. Part II then describes a previously unrecognized kind of natural sign, "locally recurrent" natural signs, and several varieties of intentional signs, and discusses the ways in which representations themselves are represented. Part III offers a novel interpretation of the way language is understood and of the relation between semantics and pragmatics. Part IV discusses perception and thought, exploring stages in the development of inner representations, from the simplest organisms whose behavior is governed by perception-action cycles to the perceptions and intentional attitudes of humans.

Data Structures and Applications

In Coherence and Natural Language, Florian Wolf and Edward Gibson specify and evaluate criteria for descriptively adequate data structures for representing discourse coherence. They test the influence of discourse structure on pronoun processing, evaluate different approaches for determining the relative importance of document segments, and propose a new coherence-based algorithm to accomplish this task. Their book offers the first large-scale empirical evaluation of data structures for representing coherence and also includes novel psycholinguistic tests of existing information extraction and text summarization systems.Wolf and Gibson evaluate whether tree structures are descriptively adequate for representing discourse coherence and conclude that more powerful data structure is needed because there are many different kinds of crossed dependencies and nodes with multiple parents in the discourse structures of naturally occurring texts. They propose that connected, labeled chain graphs make a better representation of coherence. They find additionally that causal coherence relations affect people's strategies for pronoun processing, which points to the psychological validity of coherence relations. Finally, they evaluate word-based, layout-based, and coherence-based approaches for estimating the importance of document segments in a document and find that coherence-based methods that operate on chain graphs perform best. With its attention to empirical validation and psycholinguistic processing, the book raises issues that are relevant to cognitive science as well as natural language processing and information extraction.

This introduction to the interdisciplinary study of cognition takes the novel approach of bringing several disciplines to bear on the subject of communication. Using the perspectives of linguistics, logic, AI, philosophy, and psychology—the component fields of cognitive science—to explore topics in human communication in depth, the book shows readers and students from any background how these disciplines developed their distinctive views, and how those views interact.

The book introduces some sample phenomena of human communication that illustrate the approach of cognitive science in understanding the mind, and then considers theoretical issues, including the relation of logic and computation and the concept of representation. It describes the development of a model of natural language and explores the link between an utterance and its meaning and how this can be described in a formal way on the basis of recent advances in AI research. It looks at communication employing graphical messages and the similarities and differences between language and diagrams. Finally, the book considers some general philosophical critiques of computational models of mind.

The book can be used at a number of different levels. A glossary, suggestions for further reading, and a Web site with multiple-choice questions are provided for nonspecialist students; advanced students can supplement the material with readings that take the topics into greater depth.

The cognitive disorders that follow brain damage are an important source of insights into the neural bases of human thought. This second edition of the widely acclaimed Patient-Based Approaches to Cognitive Neuroscience offers state-of-the-art reviews of the patient-based approach to central issues in cognitive neuroscience by leaders in the field.

The second edition has been thoroughly updated, with new coverage of methods from imaging to transcranial magnetic stimulation to genetics and topics from plasticity to executive function to mathematical thought. Part I, on the history and methods of cognitive neuroscience and behavioral neurology, includes two new chapters on imaging, one covering the basics of fMRI in normal humans and the other on the functional imaging of brain-damaged patients, as well as updated chapters on electrophysiological methods and computer modeling. Part II, on perception and attention, includes new chapters on visual perception and spatial cognition as well as attention, visual, tactile, and auditory recognition, music perception, body concept, and delusions. Part III, on language, covers many aspects of language processing in adults and children, including reading. Part IV discusses memory and prefrontal function, including semantic memory and executive functions. Part V covers dementias and developmental disorders, among them Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, mental retardation, ADHD, and autism, and includes a chapter on the molecular genetics of cognitive disorders.

A Fyssen Foundation Symposium

Biological and cultural processes have evolved together, in a symbiotic spiral; they are now indissolubly linked, with human survival unlikely without such culturally produced aids as clothing, cooked food, and tools. The twelve original essays collected in this volume take an evolutionary perspective on human culture, examining the emergence of culture in evolution and the underlying role of brain and cognition. The essay authors, all internationally prominent researchers in their fields, draw on the cognitive sciences—including linguistics, developmental psychology, and cognition—to develop conceptual and methodological tools for understanding the interaction of culture and genome. They go beyond the "how"—the questions of behavioral mechanisms—to address the "why"—the evolutionary origin of our psychological functioning. What was the "X-factor," the magic ingredient of culture—the element that took humans out of the general run of mammals and other highly social organisms?

Several essays identify specific behavioral and functional factors that could account for human culture, including the capacity for "mind reading" that underlies social and cultural learning and the nature of morality and inhibitions, while others emphasize multiple partially independent factors—planning, technology, learning, and language. The X-factor, these essays suggest, is a set of cognitive adaptations for culture.

Bridging the Language-as-Product and Language-as-Action Traditions

Recent approaches to language processing have focused either on individual cognitive processes in producing and understanding language or on social cognitive factors in interactive conversation. Although the cognitive and social approaches to language processing would seem to have little theoretical or methodological common ground, the goal of this book is to encourage the merging of these two traditions. The contributors to this volume hope to demonstrate that attention to both cognitive and social approaches is important for understanding how language is processed in natural settings.

The book opens with four review/position papers; these are followed by shorter reports of experimental findings—"a snapshot of current work that begins to bridge the product and action traditions." These treat linguistic processing issues in conversational settings, the interactions of language and nonlinguistic information from visual scenes, product approaches to issues traditionally discussed in the action tradition, and Gricean phenomena.

In Phrase Structure Composition and Syntactic Dependencies, Robert Frank explores an approach to syntactic theory that weds the Tree Adjoining Grammar (TAG) formalism with the minimalist framework. TAG has been extensively studied both for its mathematical properties and for its usefulness in computational linguistics applications. Frank shows that incorporating TAG's formally restrictive operations for structure building considerably simplifies the model of grammatical competence, particularly in the components concerned with syntactic movement and locality. The empirical advantages of the resulting model, illustrated with extensive case studies of subject-raising constructions and wh-questions, point toward a conception of grammar that is sharply limited in its computational power.

A Comparative Approach

The search for origins of communication in a wide variety of species including humans is rapidly becoming a thoroughly interdisciplinary enterprise. In this volume, scientists engaged in the fields of evolutionary biology, linguistics, animal behavior, developmental psychology, philosophy, the cognitive sciences, robotics, and neural network modeling come together to explore a comparative approach to the evolution of communication systems. The comparisons range from parrot talk to squid skin displays, from human language to Aibo the robot dog's language learning, and from monkey babbling to the newborn human infant cry. The authors explore the mysterious circumstances surrounding the emergence of human language, which they propose to be intricately connected with drastic changes in human lifestyle. While it is not yet clear what the physical environmental circumstances were that fostered social changes in the hominid line, the volume offers converging evidence and theory from several lines of research suggesting that language depended upon the restructuring of ancient human social groups.

The volume also offers new theoretical treatments of both primitive communication systems and human language, providing new perspectives on how to recognize both their similarities and their differences. Explorations of new technologies in robotics, neural network modeling and pattern recognition offer many opportunities to simulate and evaluate theoretical proposals.

The North American and European scientists who have contributed to this volume represent a vanguard of thinking about how humanity came to have the capacity for language and how nonhumans provide a background of remarkable capabilities that help clarify the foundations of speech.

Concepts embody our knowledge of the kinds of things there are in the world. Tying our past experiences to our present interactions with the environment, they enable us to recognize and understand new objects and events. Concepts are also relevant to understanding domains such as social situations, personality types, and even artistic styles. Yet like other phenomenologically simple cognitive processes such as walking or understanding speech, concept formation and use are maddeningly complex.

Research since the 1970s and the decline of the "classical view" of concepts have greatly illuminated the psychology of concepts. But persistent theoretical disputes have sometimes obscured this progress. The Big Book of Concepts goes beyond those disputes to reveal the advances that have been made, focusing on the major empirical discoveries. By reviewing and evaluating research on diverse topics such as category learning, word meaning, conceptual development in infants and children, and the basic level of categorization, the book develops a much broader range of criteria than is usual for evaluating theories of concepts.

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