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Abstraction in time: Finding hierarchical linguistic structure in a model of relational processing

Doumas, L. A., & Martin, A. E. (2016). Abstraction in time: Finding hierarchical linguistic structure in a model of relational processing. In A. Papafragou, D. Grodner, D. Mirman, & J. Trueswell (Eds.), Proceedings of the 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2016) (pp. 2279-2284). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
Abstract mental representation is fundamental for human cognition. Forming such representations in time, especially from dynamic and noisy perceptual input, is a challenge for any processing modality, but perhaps none so acutely as for language processing. We show that LISA (Hummel & Holyaok, 1997) and DORA (Doumas, Hummel, & Sandhofer, 2008), models built to process and to learn structured (i.e., symbolic) rep resentations of conceptual properties and relations from unstructured inputs, show oscillatory activation during processing that is highly similar to the cortical activity elicited by the linguistic stimuli from Ding et al.(2016). We argue, as Ding et al.(2016), that this activation reflects formation of hierarchical linguistic representation, and furthermore, that the kind of computational mechanisms in LISA/DORA (e.g., temporal binding by systematic asynchrony of firing) may underlie formation of abstract linguistic representations in the human brain. It may be this repurposing that allowed for the generation or mergence of hierarchical linguistic structure, and therefore, human language, from extant cognitive and neural systems. We conclude that models of thinking and reasoning and models of language processing must be integrated —not only for increased plausiblity, but in order to advance both fields towards a larger integrative model of human cognition
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

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