Volume 10, Issue 4
  • ISSN 1018-2101
  • E-ISSN: 2406-4238


The modular approach to language in its career of 30 years had alternating and rivaling views regarding the place of pragmatics. A first approach basically is the one outlined by Fodor (1983) that would pack pragmatic aspects of language use under the rubric of the mushy General Problem Solver component of the architecture, thus extracting it from considerations of modularity altogether. The rival Massive Modular approaches such as Dan Sperber’s would be willing to treat pragmatic aspects as one crucial module as part of a general architecture with modularity all over the place. The paper after summarizing the theoretical interpretations calls for a less dedicated distributed processing and representation system where modularity rather than a simple starting point might be seen as the result of a process of modularization. Three types of empirical data are surveyed. First, studies that seem to support a specialized pragmatic module are discussed, namely from right hemisphere damaged populations and brain imaging data that imply a strong involvement of right hemisphere in a variety of pragmatic aspects from emotional stress to understanding non-literal language. A second line of data comes from developmental neuroscience considerations. Studies with autistic and other cognitively challenged populations suffering from a presupposed overall architectural deficit indicate the crucial role of a Theory of Mind not only in tasks of second order representation, in attributing a sophisticated Belief-Intention system to others, but in language processing as well. One interpretation of these data is to postulate a module of social and psychological cognition, that would be a driving source of language use. The primacy of language use should be left open as an option. It is possible that language use itself and thus language pragmatics in different intentional contexts is partly responsible for the development of the seemingly encapsulated system of mentalization. This would correspond to the general idea of early prepared systems being modified during an interface buildup process in development that roughly corresponds to an overall use of language for metacognitive purposes. A third line evidence calling for a balanced treatment of the modularity issue comes from theories of Paleobiology. Theories like the ones proposed by Donald, Mithen, Wilkins and Wakefield should also be considered in this regard. According to these theories human language may actually have resulted from a loosening of boundaries between encapsulated modules, rather then from strengthening them. This line of reasoning is especially interesting since it supports the idea that human language emerges by necessity as the result of an interaction between different “intelligences’“, together with elementary societal organization and a social mind.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Baron-Cohen, S. , H. Tager-Flusberg , and D.J. Cohen
    (eds.) (2000) Understanding other minds. Second edition. New York: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Black, J.B. , and G.H. Bower
    (1980) Story understanding as problem solving. Poetics9: 223–250. doi: 10.1016/0304‑422X(80)90021‑2
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0304-422X(80)90021-2 [Google Scholar]
  3. Brown, CM
    ., and P. Haggort (ed.) (1999) The neurocognition of language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Changeux, J.-P. , and P. Ricoeur
    (1998) La nature et la règle. Paris: Odile Jacob.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Chantraine, Y. , Y. Joanette , and D. Carbedat
    (1998) Impairments of discourse-level representation and processes. In B. Stemmer and H.A. Whittaker (eds.), Handbook of neurolinguistics. San Diego: Academic Press, pp.261–274. doi: 10.1016/B978‑012666055‑5/50021‑6
    https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-012666055-5/50021-6 [Google Scholar]
  6. Clark, A.
    (1989) Microcognition. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. (1994) Associative engines. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Clark, H. , and E. Clark
    (1977) Psychology and language: An introduction to psycholinguistics. New York: Harcourt.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Clark, H.H. , and S.E. Haviland
    (1977) Comprehension and the given-new contract. In R.O. Freedle (ed.), Discourse production and comprehension. Norwood, N.J.: Ablex, pp.1–40.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Coltheart, M.
    (1999) Modularity and cognition. Trends in Cognitive Sciences3: 115–120. doi: 10.1016/S1364‑6613(99)01289‑9
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S1364-6613(99)01289-9 [Google Scholar]
  11. Cosmides, L. , and J. Tooby
    (1992) Psychological foundations of culture. In J.H. Barkow , L. Cosmides and J. Tooby (eds.), (1992) The adapted mind. New York: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Crozier, S. , A. Sirigu , S. Lehéricy , P.-F. van de Moortele , B. Pillon , J. Grafman , Y. Agid , B. Dubois , and D. Le Bihan
    (1999) Distinct prefrontal activations in processing sequence at the sentence and script level: An FMRI study. Neuropsychologia37: 1469–1476. doi: 10.1016/S0028‑3932(99)00054‑8
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0028-3932(99)00054-8 [Google Scholar]
  13. Csibra, G. , and Gy. Gergely
    (1998) The ideological origins of mentalistic action explanations: A developmental hypothesis. Developmental Science1: 255–259. doi: 10.1111/1467‑7687.00039
    https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-7687.00039 [Google Scholar]
  14. Csibra, G , Gy. Gergely , S. Biro , S. Koos , and M. Brockbank
    (1999) Goal attribution without agency cues: The perception of’pure reason’ in infancy. Cognition72: 237–267. doi: 10.1016/S0010‑0277(99)00039‑6
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0010-0277(99)00039-6 [Google Scholar]
  15. Dennett, D.
    (1987) The intentional stance. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. (1990) The interpretation of texts, people and other artifacts. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 1, Supplementpp.177–194. doi: 10.2307/2108038
    https://doi.org/10.2307/2108038 [Google Scholar]
  17. (1991) Consciousness explained. Boston: Little Brown ss: MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Dennett, D. , and M. Kinsbourne
    (1992) Time and the observer. The where and when of consciousness in the brain. Behavioral and Brain Sciences15: 183–247. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X00068229
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X00068229 [Google Scholar]
  19. De Villiers, J.
    (2000) Language and theory of mind. In S. Baron-Cohen , H. Tager-Flusberg , and D.J. Cohen (eds.), Understanding other minds. Second edition. New York: Oxford University Press, pp.83–123.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Dressler, W.U. , and Cs. Pléh
    (1988) On text disturbances in aphasia. In W.U. Dressier and J.A. Stark (eds.), Linguistic analyses of aphasie language. New York: Springer, pp.151–178. doi: 10.1007/978‑1‑4612‑3848‑5_7
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4612-3848-5_7 [Google Scholar]
  21. Dressier, W.U. , and H. Stark
    (2000) Clinical impairments of text pragmatics: Linguistic or cognitive? Paper presented at the 7th International Pragmatics Conference, Budapest, July 10th, 2000.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Dressler, W.U. , R. Wodak , and Cs. Pléh
    (1990) Gender-specific discourse differences in aphasia. In Y. Joanette and H.H. Brownell (eds.), Discourse ability and brain damage. New York: Springer, pp.236–245. doi: 10.1007/978‑1‑4612‑3262‑9_11
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4612-3262-9_11 [Google Scholar]
  23. Dressier. W.U. , and Cs. Pléh
    (1984) Zur narrative textkompetenz von Aphatikern. In W.U. Dressier , and R. Wodak (eds.), Patholinguistische Studien. Hamburg: Buschke, 1984.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Elman, J.L. , E.A. Bates , M.H. Johnson , A. Karmiloff-Srnith , D. Parisi , and K. Plunkett
    (1996) Rethinking innateness: A connectionistperspective on development. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Fodor, J.A.
    (1983) The modularity of mind. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Fodor, J.
    (2000) The mind doesn ‘t work that way. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Forster, K.I. , and I. Olbrei
    (1973) Semantic heuristics and syntactic analysis. Cognition2: 319–347. doi: 10.1016/0010‑0277(72)90038‑8
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0010-0277(72)90038-8 [Google Scholar]
  28. Frith, U.
    (1989) Autism: Explaining the enigma. Oxford: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. Gergely, Gy
    ., and Cs. Pléh (1994) Lexical processing in an agglutinative language and the organization of the lexicon. Folia Linguistica28: 175–204. doi: 10.1515/flin.1994.28.1‑2.175
    https://doi.org/10.1515/flin.1994.28.1-2.175 [Google Scholar]
  30. Gergely Gyórgy, Z. Nâdasdy, G. Csibra , and S. Biró
    (1995) Taking the intentional stance at 12 months of age. Cognition56: 165–193. doi: 10.1016/0010‑0277(95)00661‑H
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0010-0277(95)00661-H [Google Scholar]
  31. Graesser, A.C.
    (1992) Questions and Information Systems. Hillsdale, N.J.: L. Erlbaum.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. (1996) Models of Understanding Text. Mahlah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Graesser, A.C. , and L.F. Clark
    (1986) Structure and procedures of implicit knowledge. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Grice, P.
    (1975) Logic and conversation. In P. Cole and J.L. Morgan (eds.), Syntax and semantics. Vol. 3. Speech Acts. New York: Academic Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Györi Miklós
    (2000) Domain specificity and autism. Unpublished manuscript, Eötvös Lorând University, Budapest.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Györi, M. , I. Kanizsai-Nagy , and Gy. K. Stefanik
    (2000) Mentalization and linguistic pragmatics in well functioning autistic subjects. Talk presented at theVlllth Hungarian Cognitive Science Meeting, Szeged, February 4–6, 2000.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Halâsz, L. , J. Laszló , and Cs. Pléh
    (1988) Cross-cultural studies in reading short stories. Poetics17: 287–303. doi: 10.1016/0304‑422X(88)90037‑X
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0304-422X(88)90037-X [Google Scholar]
  38. Harnish, R.M.
    (1994) The architectures involved in language. In M.R. Harnish (ed.), Philosophical issues in linguistics. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Hirshfeld, L.A. , and S.A. Gelman
    (eds.) (1994.) Mapping the Mind. Domain Specificity in Cognition and Culture. Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511752902
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511752902 [Google Scholar]
  40. Ivaskó, L.
    (2000) On the causes of aphasie disturbances. Talk presented at theVlllth Hungarian Cognitive Science Meeting, Szeged, February 4–6, 2000.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Jolliffe, T. , and S. Baron-Cohen
    (1999) A test of the central coherence theory in autism. Cognition71: 149-185. doi: 10.1016/S0010‑0277(99)00022‑0
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0010-0277(99)00022-0 [Google Scholar]
  42. Karmiloff-Smith, A.
    (1992) Beyond Modularity: A Developmental perspective on Cognitive Science. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  43. Lange, F. A.
    (1881) History of Materialism. I-III. London: Trübner.
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Laszló, J.
    (1986) Scripts for interpersonal situations. Studia Psychologica28: 125–135.
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Leslie, A.
    (1987) Pretense and representation: The origins of the “theory of mind”. Psychological Review94: 412–426. doi: 10.1037/0033‑295X.94.4.412
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.94.4.412 [Google Scholar]
  46. Luria, A.R.
    (1961) The Role of Speech in the Regulation of Normal and Abnormal Behavior. New York: Pergamon Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  47. (1966) Higher Cortical Function in Man. New York : Basic Books.
    [Google Scholar]
  48. (1969) Visshije korkovije funkcii cheloveka. 2nd edition. Moscow: Moscow University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  49. (1973) Osnovi nejropsihologii. Moscow: Moscow University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  50. (1974) Nejropsihologija pamjati. Vol. 1Moscow: Pedagogika.
    [Google Scholar]
  51. (1981) Language and cognition. New York: Wiley.
    [Google Scholar]
  52. McDonald, S.
    (1998) Communication and language disturbances following traumatic brain injury. In B. Stemmer and H.A. Whittaker (eds.), Handbook ofneurolinguistics. SanDiego: Academic Press, pp.485–494. doi: 10.1016/B978‑012666055‑5/50038‑1
    https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-012666055-5/50038-1 [Google Scholar]
  53. Mithen, S.
    (1996) The prehistory of the mind. London: Thames and Hudson.
    [Google Scholar]
  54. Müller, RA.
    (1996) Innateness, autonomy, universality? Neurological approaches to language. Behavior and Brain Sciences19: 611–675. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X00043296
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X00043296 [Google Scholar]
  55. Pinker, S.
    (1991) Rules of language. Science253: 530–535. doi: 10.1126/science.1857983
    https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1857983 [Google Scholar]
  56. Pinker, S. , and A. Prince
    (1994) Regular and irregular morphology and the psychological status of rules of grammar. In S.D. Lima , R.L. Corrigan , and G.K. Iverson (eds.), The reality of linguistic rules. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp.321–350. doi: 10.1075/slcs.26.21pin
    https://doi.org/10.1075/slcs.26.21pin [Google Scholar]
  57. Pléh, Cs.
    (1985) Brain language. On a book by Jerry A. Fodor . Folia Linguistica1985.19: 539–548.
    [Google Scholar]
  58. Phylyshyn, Z.W.
    (1984) Computation and cognition. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  59. Reboul, A. , and J. Moeschler
    (1998a) Pragmatique du discours. Paris: Armand Colin.
    [Google Scholar]
  60. (1998b) La pragmatuque aujourd’hui. Paris: Seuil.
    [Google Scholar]
  61. Rumelhart, D.E.
    (1975) Notes on a schema for stories. In D.G. Bobrow and A.N. Collins (eds.), Representation and Understanding. New York: Academic Press, pp.211–236. doi: 10.1016/B978‑0‑12‑108550‑6.50013‑6
    https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-108550-6.50013-6 [Google Scholar]
  62. Saffran, E.M. , and A. Sholl
    (1999) Clues to the functional and neural architecture of word meaning. In CM. Brown and P. Haggort (eds.), The neurocognition of language. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.241–272.
    [Google Scholar]
  63. Schank, R. , and R.P. Abelson
    (1977) Scripts, plans, goals, and understanding. Hillsdale: Erlbaum.
    [Google Scholar]
  64. School, B.J. , and P.D. Tremoulet
    (2000) Perceptual causality and animacy. Trends in Cognitive Sciences4: 299–309. doi: 10.1016/S1364‑6613(00)01506‑0
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S1364-6613(00)01506-0 [Google Scholar]
  65. Sirigu, A. , T. Cohen , T. Zalla , P. Pradat-Diehl , P. van Eeckhout , and J. Grafman
    (1998) Distinct frontal regions for processing sentence syntax and story grammar. Cortex34: 771–778. doi: 10.1016/S0010‑9452(08)70780‑9
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0010-9452(08)70780-9 [Google Scholar]
  66. Sirigu, A. , T. Zalla, B. Pillon, J. Grafman, Y. Agid , and B. Dubois
    (1996) Encoding of Sequence and bundaries of scripts following prefrontal lesions. Cortex32: 297–310. doi: 10.1016/S0010‑9452(96)80052‑9
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0010-9452(96)80052-9 [Google Scholar]
  67. Sperber, D.
    (1996) Explaining culture: A naturalistic approach. Oxford: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  68. (2000) Metarepresentations in an evolutionary perspective. In D. Sperber (ed.), Metarepresentations. New York: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  69. Tager-Flusberg, H.
    (2000) Language and understanding minds: Connections in autism. In S. Baron-Cohen , H. Tager-Flusberg and D.J. Cohen (eds.), Understanding other minds. Second edition. New York: Oxford University Press, pp.124–149.
    [Google Scholar]
  70. Tanenhaus, M.K. , G. Carlson , and J.C. Trueswell
    (1989) The role of thematic structures in interpretation and parsing. Language and Cognitive Processes4: 211–234. doi: 10.1080/01690968908406368
    https://doi.org/10.1080/01690968908406368 [Google Scholar]
  71. Thuma, O. , and Cs. Pléh
    (1995) Kétértelmuségek feldolgozâsa két nyelv között. (Ambiguity resolution between two languages) Magyar Pszichológiai Szemle51:28-40.
    [Google Scholar]
  72. (1999) Ambiguous data on Hungarian ambiguity resolution. In M. Prinzhorn and J. Rennison (eds.), Dressier Festschrift.
    [Google Scholar]
  73. Tomasello, M.
    (1999) The cultural origins of human cognition. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  74. Van Lancker, D. , and N.A. Pachana
    (1998) The influence of emotions on language and communication disorders. In B. Stemmer and H.A. Whittaker (eds.), Handbook ofneurolinguistics. San Diego: Academic Press, pp.301–311. doi: 10.1016/B978‑012666055‑5/50024‑1
    https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-012666055-5/50024-1 [Google Scholar]
  75. Wodak, R. , W.U. Dressier , and Cs. Pléh
    (1984) Geschlechtsspezifisches Sprachverhalten von Aphatikern auf der Textebene. In W.U. Dressler and R. Wodak (eds.), Patholinguistische Studien. Hamburg: Buschke.
    [Google Scholar]
  76. Zalla , T, A. Sirigu, B. Pillon, B. Dubois, J. Grafman , and Y. Agid
    (1998) Deficit in evaluating pre-determinated sequences of script events in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Cortex34: 621–628. doi: 10.1016/S0010‑9452(08)70519‑7
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0010-9452(08)70519-7 [Google Scholar]
  77. Zalla, T. , A. Sirigu , B. Pillon , B. Dubois , Y. Agid , and J. Grafman
    (in press)How patients with Parkinson’s disease retrieve and manage action knowledge?Cortex.
    [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Autism; Dissociation; Modularity; Prefrontal lobes; Theory of Mind
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error