Semantic and episodic memory by reference to the ontological grounding of the old and new meta-informative status
The present paper argues for a model of language production and comprehension in which a MIC-component interacts with working memory, episodic memory, and semantic memory as resources for the meta-informative processing of new and old information. This component is also interconnected with the grammatical encoding system which produces “surface” structures. Focused attention plays a decisive functional role in this system as it directs the processes which transform intentions into messages. Although MIC theory is essentially a linguistic theory it offers itself to direct mapping with notions from cognitive and clinical neuropsychology. Levelt (1989) dedicates pioneering work to the attention resources, the focus of the message and the macro-planning of the information in the early stages of speech production, however, his model remains vague with respect to the formal status of the cognitive systems involved. MIC theory complemented by findings from cognitive neuropsychology can fill these gaps. Despite ample evidence for the relative independence of the different memory systems (e.g. double dissociations between episodic and semantic memory; particular vulnerability of episodic memory in medial temporal lobe impairment and diseases such as Alzheimer’s), recent research accentuates the interaction between these systems in building up generic “semantic” knowledge from autobiographical experience and vice versa facilitating the retrieval of information from episodic memory by contributing generic information from semantic memory. Input of information into the MIC-component from episodic memory is more likely to be attributed “new status” than inputs from semantic memory, although attention processes can redirect the meta-informative status of that information at any time depending on outcomes from ToM (Theory of Mind), which is attributed an active role in this model. ToM is the capacity of humans to understand mental states of others including the ability to judge the contents of their respective memory systems. In verbal interaction estimates of the communication partners’ memory systems’ contents form an input to the MIC component of the speaker who selects CAs. This ability is seen in early childhood and understood as a key factor in Tomasello’s (2000) social-pragmatic theory of word learning and language acquisition. The model proposed here will be further scrutinized by examining cognitive communication disorders caused by lesions of the right hemisphere, which will be explained as disruptions of the interaction of the modules described in the MIC based model.