chapter  1
19 Pages

Overview: Richard Shillcock and Gerry Altmann

INTRODUCTION The chapters in this volume reflect many of the general theoretical concerns that have motivated research on speech and language processing over the past decade-modularity in language processing, interaction between bottom-up and top-down processing, the significance of connectionist modelling, the processing of languages other than English-as well as more specific concerns such as the nature of the lexical representations onto which the speech input is mapped, the mapping process itself, and the processes that operate over the lexical representations to yield ultimately the meaning of the spoken sentence. These issues of representation and process can be studied with reference to acquisition of language processing in infancy, its deployment by normal adults, and its breakdown in language-disordered individuals. Moreover, each can be studied with reference to production or perception, and to processing across different languages. A further perspective is provided by models of language behaviour, in terms either of implemented computational models or of formal theories of language. In recent years, we have seen that attempts to address these concerns have led to increasing interaction across different disciplines. One of the aims of this series on Cognitive Models of Speech Processing, has been to bring together examples of such interactions. Thus, in this second volume,1 Marslen-Wilson draws on current phonological


theory to inform the study of processing issues in lexical access; Nicol employs formal syntactic theory to develop and test hypotheses about parsing and sentence processing; Fodor, Barss, and Sag have as their main concern the relationship between formal syntax and the human sentence processor. And so on. In virtually every chapter we see the important distinction between representation and process. It is scarcely possible to proceed at all in modelling speech processes without critical assumptions concerning the most appropriate representations to use-syllables, phonemes, phonetic features, graphemes, morphemes, words ... Nor is it possible to proceed very far without confronting implications for the more global aspects of cognition and the functional architecture that underpins it.