Modularity and Constraints in Language and Cognition

By Megan R. Gunnar; Michael Maratsos | Go to book overview
Subsystems of personality, like individual members within a larger social network, have unique properties and characteristics, but become coordinated to achieve adaptation to the demands of the social world. Affect and linguistic systems are coordinated in the production of social events and are at the same time constrained by such social productions. We argued that, to the extent that affect and language are primordially social activities, one should be able to document their co-assembly during social interaction by directly examining the construction of social events. In this study, we provided support for this contention by analyzing the conversation of a family on an occasion that was notable for its very ordinariness. There were no particular stressors involved in the task, the conversation took place in the comfort of the family's own home, and they were given total freedom to talk about whatever they liked.Even under such benign, relatively stress-free, and neutral conditions, this family produced a speech event that was linguistically well-structured and also remarkable for the sheer density of affective communication. The affect analysis revealed that individual members of the family had their own personal emotional biases and each dyad within the larger unit had differential interpersonal dynamics. We found, also, that the family's talk and affective postures are mutually constructed and co-extensive, which illustrates our claim that affect and language are primordial social activities and, thus, are coordinated to achieve superordinate principles of social organization.In the current study we did not undertake examination of the grammaticality of the individual family members' speech. However productive that approach might have been, it would have obscured the essentially social nature of communication and we would not have had the opportunity to examine and come to some understanding of the socially driven co-assembly of language and affect, nor of this particular family's culture and dynamic. This is not to devalue the important work that is being done in the Chomskian tradition, but to suggest that a more social conception of language is necessary to understand the coordination of language and affect as communication systems.
APPENDIX

Coding Procedures
1. Locating displays. This coding scheme is designed to locate display of shame, contempt, and affiliation in ongoing conversation. Because they are conceived as discrete behaviors, it is appropriate that the coder locate the onset of each display. In attempting to determine whether doubtful cases should be coded, look for concurrent signs

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Modularity and Constraints in Language and Cognition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - Constraints, Modules, and Domain Specificity: An Introduction 1
  • References 23
  • 2 - Modularity and Constraints in Early Lexical Acquisition: Evidence from Children's Early Language and Gesture 25
  • References 55
  • 3 - Constraints on Word Learning: Speculations About Their Nature, Origins, and Domain Specificity 59
  • Acknowledgments 95
  • References 96
  • 4 - The Origins of an Autonomous Biology 103
  • Acknowledgments 135
  • Acknowledgments 135
  • 5 - Language, Affect, and Social Order 139
  • Appendix 172
  • Acknowledgments 176
  • References 176
  • 6 - The Logical and Extrinsic Sources of Modularity 179
  • References 209
  • 7 - Beyond Modules 213
  • 8 - What Do Developmental Psychologists Really Want? 221
  • References 231
  • Author Index 233
  • Subject Index 239
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