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A Role for Inner Speech in Abstract Thought: Results from People with Aphasia

Peter Langland-Hassan (& Aimee Dietz, Michael J. Richardson, Frank R. Faries, and Maxwell Gatyas)

Apr 08, 2019 3:30-5, Arjona 307 (The Language and Cognition Brown Bag)

What cognitive roles are played by inner speech (or “the little voice in the head”)?  Were we to lose inner speech altogether, are there non-linguistic cognitive tasks that would become more difficult, or even impossible?  I begin with some theoretical background on the relations among inner speech, thought, and language more generally.  Next, our team’s efforts at developing objective measures for assessing inner speech abilities in a population with outer speech deficits are described.  Some of this evidence suggests that inner speech can be more severely affected by stroke than outer speech.  Results from a proprietary semantic memory task, developed for the experiment, are then described.  Each trial of this task was initially normed for a level of “abstractness.”  As would be expected, people with aphasia, on average, scored lower than matched controls across all semantic memory trials.  Interestingly, however, the aphasic population showed proportionately more pronounced difficulties as the trials grew more abstract in nature.  This suggests an especially strong role for language (and inner speech) in specific kinds of categorization tasks that are not overtly language-involving.

Upcoming Paris Workshop, 6/17/19: “Animal Linguistics: Take the Leap!”

The study of non-human communication took off in the 1980’s following the foundational work of Seyfarth and Cheney. Since then, by comparing human language to non-human systems, biologists have explored what makes human language unique, when human language evolved from animal communicative systems, and whether the origin of language is gestural or vocal. However, after 40 years of intense research on many taxa, the communication capacities of non-human animals remain little understood, and so does the origin of human language. One of the main obstacles appears to be a lack of consensus on analytic methods. To address this issue, a field of animal linguistics is emerging, with the aim of studying animal communicative systems as formal systems, using general methods borrowed from linguistics.

This workshop aims to bring together leading linguists and biologists, all pioneers in the field of animal linguistics, in order to provide insights on how to combine linguistic and biological approaches to the study of animal communication. We will cover several fields of linguistics, from formal to quantitative approaches, and to apply their methods to a diversity of taxa, such as birds and primates. In addition, the workshop will consider both gestural and vocal communication.

The panel of speakers will consist of Stuart Semple (University of Roehampton), Marion Laporte (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle), Sabrina Engesser (University of Zurich), Kirsty Graham (University of York) and Thom Scott-Phillips (Central European University).

Attendees will have the opportunity to present their research during a poster session that will be held after the lunch break.

Submission deadline for poster: June 1st 2019 (250-word abstract to be sent to melissa.berthet.ac@gmail.com)