I decided to just collect and curate these two appendices on one page, rather than splitting them up.

The first goes over some cognitive functions involved in categorization.

The second evaluates some of ASHA’s iffy stances.

Appendix 1: Details about Categorization

If you find yourself to be interested in the functions associated with categorization, you might well want to look at a couple of effects that are detailed in the research. It will help you to understand how existing categories are extended to incorporate new information.

Atypicality and the Suspicious Coincidence Effect

When people experience one example of a new noun, they interpret it in a basic, generic sense, such as when they see one more instance of another “dog.” But if they observe at least three examples of subtypes, then statistics intervenes and they will interpret them together more specifically, such as “Labrador.”

This suspicious coincidence effect has recently been modified to take an atypicality effect into account, which supports the contention that an example won’t be adopted as a (sub)member of an existing category if it is not a typical enough instance of that type.

Which makes sense.

If a person were not segmenting their environment in a typical way, and they were not experiencing a dog (and other stuff) as a conventionally-bounded entity distinct from its environment, then these effects would not be able to apply in this way. That would affect conceptual structuring, with a cascade of consequences on into meaning.

Blowfish Effect

When an entity is experienced, part of its sensory qualities include the coincident auditory time-stream; that is to say, you might not just see or touch a dog, but also hear someone say “dog,” “Labrador,” “Spot,” “Jourdain Kennels’ Champion Winston Churchill of Cheddar out of Charmain,” or whatever. That will affect your categorization.

It used to be assumed that children (in particular) would interpret new words as if they represented generic conceptions; instead, if a new word is associated with an atypical example, then that word is assigned a more specific sense. Furthermore, the sense will be treated as generic (i.e., more schematic) if the example is more typical, unless an increasing number of those typical examples start to imply a conception cluster:

A “zak” was likely to be interpreted as “fish” if it labeled a single salmon – a fairly typical-looking fish – but it was interpreted as "salmon" if illustrated by three salmon. But if “zak” labeled even a single odd-looking fish – like a blowfish – the children were more likely to decide that the word meant “blowfish” than “"fish.”

Note that the environment in this experiment is set up to do the unitizing for the participant.

The participants might fare differently if the intended word form were buried in a variety of longer strings, like, “This is a fep,” and, “Now what you see is a zak,” or in the background, “Who ate the damn donut that I left sitting right here? (‘fep’) I mean, it already had bites taken out of it. (‘zak’) Sometimes I absolutely despair for humanity.”

Appendix 2: ASHA’s Stances are Sometimes Wrong

As much as ASHA is generally a valuable resource, it is still a flawed authority (suffering in places from the DKE). That’s not unusual.

For example…

ASHA does not question “delayed echolalia,” and it accepts the likes of “gestalt language processing” at face value (i.e., despite the nonexistence of valid research support); however, ASHA is sometimes just plain wrong when operating in the margins (or outside) of its scope of practice (e.g., in linguistics instead of communication disorders).

ASHA also identifies ASL as “unaided” AAC, even though they wouldn’t treat any spoken language that way. Suppose that someone in the Aosta Valley were born without a uvula. If they relied on their Italian to help avoid the uvular trill in their French, that would not suddenly demote the French language into being unaided AAC for them; instead, they would be bilingual.

I suspect that if ASHA thought it through, it would realize that it is not referring to someone signing ASL, but rather to someone who has learned a subset of individual, borrowed visuomanual gestures (e.g., “more,” “help,” and so on); otherwise, that person would also be bilingual.

Should ASHA know better? Well, by and large, they aren’t linguists, so maybe not. ASHA seems to be fine with declaring that all ASL users are actually just engaging in unaided AAC (i.e., to replace their voice). I’m not anywhere near as fine with that as ASHA is.

How about you?

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