How do we recognize objects? How do we reason about objects when they are absent and only in memory? How do we conceptualize the three dimensions of space? Do different people do these things in different ways? And where are these abilities located in the brain? During the past decade cognitive scientists have devised new experimental techniques; researchers in artificial intelligence have devised new ways of modeling cognitive processes on computers; neuropsychologists are testing new models of brain organization.. Many of these developments are represented in this collection of essays. The papers, though reporting work at the cutting edge of their fields, do not assume a highly technical background on the part of readers, and the volume begins with a tutorial introduction by the editor, making the book suitable for specialists and non-specialists alike.
Research is reviewed that addresses itself to human language learning by developing precise, mechanistic models that are capable in principle of acquiring languages on the basis of exposure to linguistic data. Such research includes theorems on language learnability from mathematical linguistics, computer models of language acquisition from cognitive simulation and artificial intelligence, and models of transformational grammar acquisition from theoretical linguistics. It is argued that such research bears strongly on major issues in developmental psycholinguistics, in particular, nativism and empiricism, the role of semantics and pragmatics in language learning, cognitive development, and the importance of the simplified speech addressed to children.