. Volume 1: Evolution, function, nature. Volume 2: Language and cognitive structure. Ed. by Andrea C. Schalley
and Drew Khlentzos
. (Studies in language companion series 92–93.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2007. Pp. xii, 304; x, 362. ISBN 9789027231055
. $338 (Hb).
Reviewed by Wolfgang Schulze, University of Munich
The two volumes represent a collection of twenty-nine articles that address the question of mental or cognitive states, or more generally, the conceptual design and functioning of the mind. The overall orientation of these articles concerns communication and language, but the contents transgress this basic target by including questions of human behavior. The volumes do not aim at presenting a common framework applied to different scientific perspectives (e.g. cognitive sciences, archeology, anthropology, artificial intelligence, neurosciences, psychology, philosophy, linguistics). Rather, the editors favor a multitheoretical presentation that addresses the evolution of cognitive states, their functioning, and organization. The first volume offers multiple proposals to approach possible answers to these questions, whereas the second volume concentrates on what is the nature of conceptual classifications of mental states. The general perspective of the individual articles goes from external to internal. That is, from the products of cognition into cognition. The descriptive goal is cognition; human behavioral patterns (including language use) are part of the empirical background, but not goals themselves. This means that the reader will learn, for instance, what language may tell about the mind, but how the mind produces language is not emphasized.
Both volumes commence with an introductory article by the editors that informs about the general layout of the volume and the central claims of the individual articles. The first volume starts with a brief introductory chapter, ‘Mental states: Evolution, function, nature’ (1–10), by the editors. Ch. 2, ‘Lithic design space modeling and cognition in Homo floresiensis’ (11–33) by Mark W. Moore, investigates to what extent lithic technology of Homo floreseinsis indicates high levels of cognitive ability. In Ch. 3, ‘As large as you need and as small as you can: Implications of the brain size of Homo floresiensis’ (35–42), Iain Davidson relates brain size to the role of cognition in evolution. Michael J. Morwood and Dorothea Cogill-Koez continue this line of investigation by analyzing the island of Flores findings with respect to models of human patterns of communication and cognition in Ch. 4, ‘Homo on Flores: Some early implications for the evolution of language and cognition’ (43–73). Pete Mandik, Mike Collins, and Alex Vereschagin use computer simulation to underpin the isomorphy hypothesis in Ch. 5, ‘Evolving artificial minds and brains’ (75–94). According to this hypothesis, evolved representations must carry information about the environment of the animate being that produces these representations. This aspect is further elaborated by Peter Gärdenfors and Mary-Anne Williams in Ch. 6, ‘Multi-agent communication, planning, and collaboration based on perceptions, conceptions, and simulations’ (95–121).
Hiroyuki Nishina’s article, Ch. 7 ‘The modal-logical interpretation of the causation of bodily actions’ (123–52), uses linguistic data to relate the mental construction of bodily actions to types of skeleton motion. Ch. 8, ‘Do we access object manipulability while we categorize? Evidence from reaction time studies’ (153–70) by Anna M. Borghi, Claudia Bonfiglioli, Paola Ricciardelli, Sandro Rubichi, and Roberto Nicoletti is an experiment-based study of the relation between word related categorization and the activation of haptic motor information. Ch. 9, ‘Speaking without the cerebellum: Language skills in a young adult with near total cerebellar agenesis’ (171–89) written by Alessandro Tavano, Franco Fabbro, and Renato Borgatti, positively answers the question as to whether language learning is possible with near total cerebellar agenesis. Ch. 10, ‘Ontologies as a cue for the metaphorical meaning of technical concepts’ (191–212) by Helmar Gust, Kai-Uwe Kühnberger, and Ute Schmid is followed by a highly illuminating discussion of ‘Anti-realist assumptions and challenges in philosophy of mind’ (213–32) by Drew Khlentzos . The first volume ends with an article by Arcady Blinov, ‘Vagueness, supertranslatability, and conceptual schemes’ (233–46), a consideration of signed language in ‘Visual representation in a natural communication system: What can signed languages reveal about categorization across different modes of representation?’ (247–74) by Dorothea Cogill-Koez, and finally, Stephen Crain, Takuya Goro, and Utako Minai’s article, ‘Hidden units in child language’ (275–94).
The second volume turns to the problem of language and cognitive structure. As mentioned above, the main concern of the individual articles is to refer to the empirics of language to reveal cognitive structures and categories. The volume contains fifteen articles, starting with the editors’ contribution, ‘Mental categories in natural languages’ (1–10). Cliff Goddard then presents a ‘Culture-neutral metalanguage for mental state concepts’ in Ch. 2 (11–35), followed by a congenial article on ‘Shape and colour in language and thought’ (37–69) by Anna Wierzbicka. Both authors refer to the natural semantics metalanguage program to develop their hypotheses. The same holds for Chs. 4–5, written respectively by Anna Gladkova (‘Universal and language-specific aspects of “propositional attitudes”: Russian vs. English’ (61–83)) and Kyung-Joo Yoon (‘Mental states reflected in cognitive lexemes related to memory: A case in Korean’ (85–107)). Zhengdao Ye stresses the role of the gustative-sensory domain in the routinization of experience in Chinese in Ch. 6, ‘Taste as a gateway to Chinese cognition’ (109–32).
Ch. 7, ‘“Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff or I’ll go on the roff!” thinks the wolf: Spontaneous written narratives by a child with autism’ (133–71) by Lesley Stirling and Graham Barrington is followed by Heather Winskel‘s article, ‘Interaction between language and cognition in language development’ (173–90). Developmental aspects are also addressed by Herbert L. Colston in Ch. 9, ‘What figurative language development reveals about the mind’ (191–212). Joanne Arciuli and Linda Cupples present a study that concerns the question ‘Would you rather “embert a cudsert” or “cudsert an embert”? How spelling patterns at the beginning of English disyllables can cue grammatical category’ (213–37). Brett Baker turns to taxonomic systems in the indigenous Australian languages in Ch. 11, ‘Ethnobiological classification and the environment in Northern Australia’ (239–65). Ruth Singer presents an interesting confrontation of Maung (Australia) and French with respect to pseudorelative perception verbs in Ch. 12, ‘Events masquerading as entities: Pseudorelative perception verb complements in Mawng (Australian) and Romance languages’ (267–88). In Ch. 13, ‘Word and construction as units of categorization: The case of change predicates in Estonian’ (289–310), Renate Pajusalu and Ilona Tragel describe techniques of disambiguating the polysemic semantics of change predicates. Helen Fraser then presents a thoughtful discussion of the relation of words and concepts, focusing on phonology as a diagnostic tool in Ch. 14, ‘Categories and concepts in phonology: Theory and practice’ 311–30. This volume concludes with Roger Wales’ chapter, ‘You can run, but: Another look at linguistic relativity’ (331–50), where he describes the results of a very interesting experiment concerning the linguistic interpretation of perceived motion events in English and Spanish.
Both volumes are accompanied by a name and a subject index. All of the articles included in this set are high-quality contributions to the study of cognition. The two nearly programmatic perspectives taken (i.e. the relation of the brain and cognition and the relation of cognition and language) guarantee that the volumes can be read as companion pieces to the actual debate about cognition. As such, these works represent a nice introduction to studies guided towards the century of cognition.