Universidade de Vigo

How language can be based on general cognitive abilities

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On 3 December Javier Valenzuela Manzanares delivered the talk "How language can be based on general cognitive abilities", following an invitation by the LVTC group. Dr Valenzuela is Associate Professor at the English Department in Murcia, where he completed his PhD on constructional and cognitive schemas in a corpus of technical English, and where he lectures on morphosyntax, contrastive grammar, translation, semantics and cognitive models. Dr Valenzuela has published extensively on the interface language-cognition, from psycholinguistic and brain/mind-based perspectives. He has also participated and coordinated very competitive research projects in this area, together with research groups based in European, US and Latin American Universities. Dr Valenzuela is also very active in PhD supervision, journal and editorial assessment, and has also served in executive committees of several scientific societies.

Abstract: Among the major questions about our language skills lies the origin and nature of the mental mechanisms that enable it. There are two very different proposals in this respect. First, a school of thought favours the existence of specific mechanisms of language. According to this view, language is guided by principles that are not applicable to other areas of cognition and are dedicated exclusively to language processing. The other option holds that language is supported and in fact emerges from general cognitive abilities. In this talk Dr Valenzuela explored the second option and examined the way in which a number of basic cognitive abilities can explain the way in which language operates. He devoted special attention to three issues: (i) our ability to statistical learning, (ii) our ability to embodied and situated simulation, and (iii) abilities derived from our social skills and the so-called "theory of mind".