Modularity and Constraints in Language and Cognition

By Megan R. Gunnar; Michael Maratsos | Go to book overview

Preface

Megan R. Gunnar University of Minnesota

This volume contains chapters based on the papers and discussant comments presented at the 25th Minnesota Symposium on Child Psychology, held October 25-27, 1990, at the University of Minnesota. As has been the tradition for this annual series, the faculty of the Institute of Child Development invited internationally eminent researchers to present their work and to consider problems of mutual concern.

The theme of this volume is modularity and constraints in language and cognition. The major goal of the symposium was to bring together researchers from differing perspectives to present data and to discuss the values and limitations of the concepts of modularity and constraint to our understanding of language and cognitive development. Students of language and cognition are increasingly adopting the notion that developmental processes in these domains are governed by intraorganism constraints. That is, the human organism is seen as biologically predisposed to abstract information in particular, highly determined ways relative to a wide array of options available in the input. These constraints are seen as governing the form that knowledge takes and therefore the outcomes of the developmental process. Furthermore, it is increasingly being argued that the constraints on the way information is abstracted are modularized. Modularity variously refers to aspects of brain organization that are seen as highly canalized for the processing of input (e.g., perceptual mechanism underlying the parsing of phonemes), or in Fodor's analyses, the discrete packaging of input within functional domains. Although modularity and constraint perspectives have been gaining influence, these perspectives are not universally accepted as useful or accurate. Indeed, the conjunction of these perspectives defines an area of intense controversy driving many

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