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What's New in Musical / Linguistic Cognition

Presentation by John F. Bailyn (Stony Brook University) "Is Modularity in Danger? What's New in Musical / Linguistic Cognition" in the framework of the St.Petersburg Cognitive Research Seminar (58-60 Galernaya Street).

The theory of modularity of mind (Fodor 1983, Jackendoff 1987, 1992, a.o.) proposes that such factors as universality, predisposition, neural specificity and domain specificity, among others, serve as diagnostics for the uniqueness of the various cognitive modules, such as Language, Music, Vision, Concepts and others. From a theoretical standpoint, this view has been dominant in the cognitive sciences since Fodor, and has been reinforced by the existence of specific modular impairments beyond linguistic aphasia (Peretz 1986 a.o. for musical impairments).

Recently, Patel (2008), following Koelsch et al (2005) and others, has proposed a more anti-modular model, under the Shared Syntactic Integration Resource Hypothesis (SSIRH), whereby neural resources are shared across modules, (in particular Language and Music), based on experimental ERP results showing non-additive effects of simultaneously presented stimuli from language and music violations. At the same time, Katz & Pesetsky (2011) have proposed the Identity Hypothesis for Language and Music, claiming that the two systems have nearly identical syntactic structure (broadly construed) and differ only in the basic lexical building blocks (words vs tones, roughly speaking). Thus both theoretically and experimentally, one can identify a growing anti-modular movement.

In  this talk, I review the theoretical and experimental arguments for and against modularity, especially with regard to Language and Music.  I then present new experimental evidence from the Stony Brook Experimental Linguistics Lab, pointing to a more familiar, modular view of the Language / Music relation, and allowing a new interpretation of Koelsch /  Patel's non-additive ERP findings, under Drury's (2014) "Minimal Cognitive Model" of electrophysical activity.  The consequences for the theory of modularity are presented in conclusion.