Friday, May 23, 2008

Goswami & Ziegler (2006) in TICS

In their TICS Letter, Goswami and Ziegler rightly argue that the sub-lexical, phonological route must also be considered in proposals for how letter-order is encoded. They point out that open-bigrams are not suitable for sub-lexical processing, as they are not phonologically relevant units.

However, in the extended SERIOL model (Whitney & Cornelissen, 2005), the serial encoding of individual letters provides input to both the ventral (lexical) and dorsal (sub-lexical) routes. On the ventral route, the letters activate open-bigrams, which activate visual word forms. On the dorsal route, the letter sequence is parsed into a grapho-phonological representation. Thus the serial encoding provides a location-invariant encoding of individual letters, which of course provides suitable input for either route.

Despite the suitability of SERIOL’s representations for the demands of phonological processing, Goswami and Ziegler (2006) argued that “This solution ignores data showing that phonology affects the lexical route, such as body-neighborhood effects in lexical decision (Ziegler & Perry, 1998)”. It is unclear what they could mean by this statement.

  • First, Whitney (2004) specifically discussed the data presented by Ziegler and Perry (1998), showing in detail how the SERIOL model explains their findings.
  • Second, the general issue of interaction between the lexical and sub-lexical routes is orthogonal to the question of how letter order is encoded. Presumably, the lexical and sub-lexical routes converge onto the same lexical representations. Feedback from the lexical representations to letters and phonemes would then cause interaction between the routes. This connectivity pattern is independent of how letter position is encoded.
And now for a rant. Despite the fact that Goswami and Ziegler's Letter and Dehaene's article on the LCD model both focus on the open-bigram representation and I was the first to propose such a representation (Whitney & Berndt, 1998), I was not asked by TICS to review either article. I do know that a co-author was asked to review Goswami and Ziegler. To ask this person and not me is ludicrous, as their Letter focused on my idea. It is just one example of how status trumps accomplishment in science. Apparently, having a research position (as does my co-author) is more important to TICS than ownership of ideas. (Due to geographic constraints and lack of connections in the U.S., I have been unable to obtain a research position; I work independently and collaborate on experiments.)

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