Neural level influencing functional descriptions

F. Frank LeFever flefever at
Sun Sep 6 10:39:27 EST 1998

This is not very formal in terms of theory,  but in previouss responses
to queries in this newsgroup I have cited some findings from (1)
cortical stimulation studies and (2) bilingual aphasia cases, together
with (3) a broad extrapolation from "lateral inhibition" (originating
in color vision studies but widely applicable in other neural systems) 
to suggest rivalry between language systems which would argue for
teaching a new language in isolation from the old language.

i.e, arguing AGAINST the typical language-learning tapes in which a
phrase in one language is repeated in the other language; in favor of
saturation in the language to be learned, meaning inferred from
gestures, context, pointing to objects, demonstrations, etc.

The stimulation studies: in presurgical explorations with epileptic
patients, George Ojemann inferred that different languages were in
roughly the same areas (NOT as some would say in different
hemispheres!) but in different circuits within these areas.

The bilingual aphasia studies: examples of alternating aphasias, in
which deficits were worse in one language, then better in that language
but worse in the other (rather thn better recovery in one or different
rates of recovery)--Michel Paradis (Montreal, I believe) helped devise
a collection of balanced two-language pairs of tests to enable
comparisons between languages in assessing bilingual aphasics and
reported such cases.

I'll also add the personal observation that bilingual friends returning
from a visit in their native country  (and/or in phone calls during the
visit) seemed to show a transient deterioration in their English

Lateral inhibition: instead of a fuzzy image due to a gradation of
light from a central retinal focus through adjacent areas, the more
strongly stimulated cell inhibits cells adjacent to it, sharpening the
contrast between stimulated and unstimulated areas.  (Ideas from
apponent processes theory, originating in color vision studies probably
relevant also).

In other words, I suggest that these nearby but different language
circuits might be mutually inhibitory, making rapid sucession
alternation difficult.  (How simultaneous translaters manage it, I
don't know!)

Consider also the commonsense implications of "interference" theory
(old-fashioned non-neural psychology of learning) and more recent
"priming" ideas: Use of English likely to prime further English word
production; sight of an object just named in English likely to prime
production of that English word or associated words which may be,
howsoever weak, strong enough to compete with (interfere with)
production of the as-yet fragile and weak new language word.

F. LeFever
New York Neuropsychology Grpup

In <6sn4qb$953 at> garyjaz at (Gary
Jasdzewski) writes: 
>Some people in the cognitive sciences, such as linguistics, argue that
>should pay attention to research from the neurosciences so that our
>level descriptions of some behavior will be neurally plausible.  I
>this is a good idea, and I'm searching for some good examples of it at
>work from any field.  I am trying to persuade people who are
interested in
>second language acquisition (SLA) that they might be better able to
>between the many different theories available by weeding out those
>are not neurally plausible.
>So, do you know of some theory that is bolstered by support from the 
>  neurosciences?
>gary jasdzewski	
>dept. of english (linguistics)
>purdue university

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