The Mind of a Savant: Language, Learning and Modularity
Savants are people who are mentally and often physically impaired
but who have one dazzling talent. Cases of savants, like
Christopher who is described here, are not unheard of, but have
never been reported before. Despite being unable to look after
himself because he has difficulty with everyday tasks, Christopher
can read, write, translate and communicate in fifteen to twenty
different languages.In this original, detailed and wide-ranging
study, Neil Smith and Ianthi-Maria Tsimpli not only provide insight
into the mind of one unique individual, but simultaneously cast
light on the nature of language and thought in general. By
exploiting recent developments in both linguistics and psychology
the authors have made an essential contribution to the whole field
of cognitive science.
"This is a very interesting book that any linguist, cognitive scientist or philosopher of mind will love to read." Luca Bonatti, University of Paris VIII at St Denis "Even for those who dona t share the authorsa nativist inclinations, Smith and Tsimplia s in--depth case study raises some fascinating issues about the relation between cognition and language. Essential reading for all cognitive scientists." Annette Karmiloff--Smith, Medical Research Council "In their fine and careful study of an individual with remarkable linguistic abilities but otherwise limited capabilities, Smith and Tsimpli provide new and important evidence concerning the modularity of mind, invariant principles of language, and their role in first and second language acquisition, the interaction of pragmatic and conceptual factors in language use, and much else. It is a very valuable and illuminating study." Chomsky, MIT "This book, with its focus on understanding the architecture of the mind, makes an important contribution to psycholinguistics and the broader field of cognitive science...Like other great case studies, their attempts to elucidate the architecture of the mind by studying a single, unique individual are noteworthy."Victoria Garlock and Elaina Frieda, University of Alabama
Neil Smith and Ianthi--Maria Tsimpli teach linguistics at University College, London, and the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, repectively. Neil Smith is author of The Twitter Machine: Reflections on Language, also published by Blackwell Publishers.
List of Figures. Foreward. Preface. 1. Language and Intelligence: Introducing Christopher. Theoretical Background. Hypotheses. 2. The First Language: Introduction. Syntax. Semantics. Pragmatics. Conclusion. 3. 'Second' Languages: Introduction. Background Information. The lexicon. Syntax. Conclusion. 4. New Languages: Rationale. Controlled input: Berber. Learning an Impossible Language: Epun. Conclusions. 5. Language and Mind: Christopher's Translation. A model of the mind. Theory of mind and meta-representation. Summary and conclusions. Epilogue. Appendices. Notes. References. Index.