MODULARITY What s a module? Fodor: hardwired (not assembled from more primitive processes) of fixed neural architecture (specified genetically)

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1 MODULARITY What s a module? Fodor: hardwired (not assembled from more primitive processes) of fixed neural architecture (specified genetically) domain-specific (a module computes a constrained class of specific inputs bottom-up, focusing on entities relevant only to its particular processing capacities) fast, autonomous, mandatory (a module's processing is set in motion whenever relevant data present themselves) automatic, stimulus-driven, and insensitive to central cognitive goals. informationally encapsulated. In other words, other parts of the mind can neither influence nor have access to the internal workings of a module, only to its outputs. 1

2 MODULARITY What would we expect of a person who s lost their language? Or spared their language? 2

3 MODULARITY Selective loss of a specific cognitive function via brain damage is support for the modularity view. But the modularity thesis doesn t necessarily predict that there should be specific brain areas dedicated to specific cognitive functions. So modularity could be true even if there was no selective language impairment via brain damage. Fodor: of fixed neural architecture (specified genetically) the way brains are is determined by genes and so selective loss or sparing of language genes should lead to selective loss or sparing or language. 3

4 DEVELOPMENTAL DISORDERS WITH A GENETIC BASIS Specific Language Impairment (SLI): Language problems without any obvious cause. fifty to seventy percent of children with SLI have at least one other family member with the disorder Williams Syndrome (WS): (more or less) general cognitive retardation except in language Results from the deletion of the long arm of chromosome 7. If the brain is a general purpose problem solver, one s general intelligence should be predictive of abilities such as language. For people affected by WS or SLI that s simply not true. 4

5 Specific Language Impairment (SLI) Developmental language disorder in the absence of neurological, sensori-motor, non-verbal cognitive or social emotional deficits Affects about 7% of the population, males more often than females A delay or deficit in the use of function morphemes. Omission of function morphemes long after age-matched children with typical language development show consistent production of these elements. Diagnosis based on behavioral evaluation but is likely to have a genetic basis. Control group is either age-matched, IQ-matched or languagematched (usually MLU(mean length of utterance))-matched. 5

6 SLI language problems "It's a flying finches, they are." "She remembered when she hurts herself the other day." "The neighbors phone the ambulance because the man fall off the tree." "The boys eat four cookie." "Carol is cry in the church. From: 6

7 SLI a grammar problem or something else? 7

8 Gopnik: problem with functional morphology 8

9 Gopnik: problem with functional morphology 9

10 Rice & Wexler: SLI are stuck in the Optional Infinitives Stage Wexler (1990, 1992, 1994): In language development, kids go through the Optional Infinitive (OI) Stage. lasts in normal children from birth to around 3;0. In the Optional Infinitive Stage: a. Root infinitives (non-finite verbs) are possible grammatical sentences b. These infinitives co-exist with finite forms c. Apart from tense and agreement, the children know relevant grammatical principles 10

11 Rice & Wexler: SLI are stuck in the Optional Infinitives Stage A Dutch kid in the OI Stage: (8) pappa schoenen wassen daddy shoes wash-inf 'Daddy wash (non-finite) shoes Infinitival in final position, as it should be. (9) ik pak t op I pick it up 'I pick (fin) it up' Finite verb in second position, as it should be. 11

12 Rice & Wexler: SLI are stuck in the Optional Infinitives Stage Development of 47 normally developing Dutch children (Wexler, Schaeffer and Bol, in press). 12

13 Rice & Wexler: SLI are stuck in the Optional Infinitives Stage Extended Optional Infinitive Hypothesis: Children with SLI are just like normal children except that they go through the OI period for a much longer time than normal children, perhaps never really emerging from it. 13

14 Rice & Wexler: SLI are stuck in the Optional Infinitives Stage Prediction for children with SLI: Children with SLI: a. Use OI's in languages where younger normal children do b. Show the same patterns of grammatical knowledge as normal children Wexler, Schaeffer and Bo: In the 6;00-8;02 year range, Dutch children with SLI still had 15% OI's (50 of 334). The OI stage persisted much longer in the children with SLI. 14

15 Rice & Wexler: SLI are stuck in the Optional Infinitives Stage Problem: SLI kids don t just problems with tense and agreement morphology 15

16 SLI nonlinguistic hypotheses Tallal: SLI is a non-language specific deficit in the rate of auditory processing 16

17 Evidence for auditory processing difficulty in SLI (Tallal) Children with SLI have difficulty processing brief or rapidly presented auditory stimuli. Normal children are able to discriminate two 75-msec tones separated by an interstimulus interval (ISI) as short as 8 msec, while individuals with SLI required an ISI exceeding 300 msec to perform the same discrimination at the same level of accuracy. 17

18 Evidence for auditory processing difficulty in SLI (Tallal) The degree of auditory processing deficit correlates with the degree of language comprehension deficit. Early deficits in rapid auditory processing abilities both precede and predict subsequent language delays: At 6-9 months, significant differences in auditory perception between infants born to families with a history of SLI and children without history of SLI Threshold for rapid auditory processing at 7.5 months is the single best predictor of language outcome. At age 3, rapid auditory processing threshold and being male, together predict 39/41% of the variance in language outcome. 18

19 Evidence for auditory processing difficulty in SLI (Tallal) Rapid auditory processing difficult for dyslexics as well (recall: e.g., dyslexic rats) 19

20 Evidence for auditory processing difficulty in SLI (Tallal) So what would be the connection between auditory processing difficulty and having trouble with functional morphology? 20

21 Evidence for auditory processing difficulty in SLI (Tallal) Leonard: it s hard to hear little functional morphemes like ed or s! As a consequence, there are difficulties in learning morphological paradigms. Predicts crosslinguistic differences in SLI profiles. In languages where functional morphemes have more percepetual salience, SLI kids should have less trouble with them. Leonard shows that that s actually true in Hebrew and Italian. Does not follow from the Extended Optional Infinitive Hypothesis! 21

22 SLI genetics SLI seems to have a genetic component It runs in families. The proportion of pairs where both twins are is significantly higher for identical (monozygotic single egg) than for non-identical (dizygotic separate eggs) twins. 22

23 KE family Half of the KE family are affected by SLI. Female Male Shading = Language Impaired 23

24 KE family behavior 24

25 KE family behavior 25

26 KE family behavior Not just language problems. 26

27 KE family brains Watkins et al (2002): In motor and speech-related brain regions, significantly different amounts grey matter in affected family members as compared to unaffected and control groups, which did not differ from each other. Volume of caudate nucleus (part of the basal ganglia) reduced in affected members. Involved in regulating voluntary movements Abnormality also implicated for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder 27

28 KE family genes Vargha-Khadem et al (Science, 2001): In the affected members of the KE family there is a mutation in the gene FOXP2. A language gene? 28

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