Mind hacks: inside the mind of an autistic savant
Thread poster: Vito Smolej

Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 14:58
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
Jan 9, 2009

New Scientist has an interesting interview with Daniel Tammet, a young man with with Asperger's syndrome, synaesthesia and amazing savant memory skills.
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126881.800-inside-the-mind-of-an-autistic-savant.html
...

You also excel at learning languages. How do you pick them up so quickly?

I have synaesthesia, which helps. When there is an overlap between how I visualise a word and its meaning, that helps me remember it. For example, if a word that means "fire" in a new language happens to appear orange to me, that will help me remember it. But more significant is my memory and ability to spot patterns and find relationships between words. Fundamentally, languages are clusters of meaning - that is what grammar is about. This is also why languages interest me so much. My mind is interested in breaking things down and understanding complex relationships.
...
Link to documentary "The Boy with the Incredible Brain"

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4913196365903075662

source: http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2009/01/inside_the_mind_of_a.html


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Niraja Nanjundan  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:28
German to English
Thanks! Jan 9, 2009

Thanks for the link to this fascinating topic. The connection made between language and numbers is particularly interesting to me, as I was never any good at maths, but always got good grades in languages at school.

I much prefer this kind of topic to the constant cribbing about rates and CAT tools on ProZ. Please keep posting


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Richard Bartholomew  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:58
Member (2007)
German to English
Amazing! Jan 9, 2009

This kind of thing has always amazed and fascinated me. Thanks for the post!

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 15:58
Turkish to English
+ ...
He learned Icelandic in a week Jan 10, 2009

"He learned Icelandic in a week."

This assertion is meaningless unless we are told the level of competence that he achieved in that time. Did he learn Icelandic such that he was indistinguishable from a native speaker, or did he manage to memorise a dozen stock phrases? I think this makes a lot of difference!


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Livia Formisani  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:58
English to Italian
+ ...
Interesting, but... Jan 10, 2009

Unfortunately there are several aspects of language that autistic subjects can't handle.
Language is not just semantics, I would rather say that meaning is much more related to the context than it is to words.
As you may know, there are three fundamental parts of language: Syntax, Semantics and Pragmatics. The first two are pretty famous, but the third is extremely interesting.

Pragmatics is the part of meaning which is related to the context, and that involves a lot of automatic (and not) mechanisms we use everyday in conversations. So, for instance, when we use a pronoun, we refer to something that the context (linguistic and non linguistic, as the environment or the situation) determines. Or, whether we use a number in a precise rather than in an approximative way, is still the context that is determining it.
Or when we say something implicitly, the hearer can grasp our "hidden" meaning through some consideration about the context. This is also valid for lies, irony, metaphor comprehension, focus, etc...

In my thesis in Philosophy of language (Pragmatics) I wrote about some studies on autistic people and their capability of handling implicit meaning.
The experiments conducted on children showed that autistic subjects can't handle implicit, contexual meaning. This mostly because these subjects can't have a clear idea about other people's state of mind (they could have difficulties in understanding the meaning of a smile, or of a facial expression), since they cannot build a representation of a social behaviour.


This is really sad, after all. This guy says anyway that he has a mild form of autism and he grew up in a very social environment so he had to speak. Really impressive that he learnt, among the others, Finnish and Icelandic.

I think I am going to buy the book anyway.



-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Some references of the studies I was talking about:

Cummings, L. (2005) Pragmatics: a multidisciplinary perspective, Edinburgh University Press.
Mitchell, P. & Isaacs, J.E. (1994) Understanding of verbal representation in children with autism: The case of referential opacity. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 12, 439-453.
Sodian, B. & Frith, U. (1992) Deception and Sabotage in Autistic, Retarded and Normal Children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Volume 33 Issue 3, Pages 591 - 605


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 14:58
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
mz 2c ... Jan 11, 2009

Livia Formisani wrote:
....
Pragmatics is the part of meaning which is related to the context
....

contextual disambiguation of the underlying grammatical rules?

The experiments conducted on children showed that autistic subjects can't handle implicit, contexual meaning. This mostly because these subjects can't have a clear idea about other people's state of mind

Brilliant. Or - Si non e vero, e ben trovato (g)


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Livia Formisani  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:58
English to Italian
+ ...
Not Only...But Also... Jan 13, 2009

Not just contextual disambiguation: pragmatics does much more.
Let's say that contextual disambiguation is the first step, the first process, then there are many others, described differently along with the pragmatic theory we follow. But all pragmatic processes except disambiguation (and even the same disambiguation, when it's not matter of grammatic, but let's say of polysemy) go far beyond grammatic.

The first account was given by Grice in the 1957 with "Meaning" and above all with the William James Lectures of 1967 titled "Logic and conversation".
For the first time, he gave an explanation of how and how much does the context determine our meaning. He argued that there is a principle who all the participants in conversation follow, the Principle of Cooperation: "Make your contribution such as it is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged".
Along with this principle there are various maxim, as "Do not say what you believe to be false", or "Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.", etc (they are 10).
So he says all the participants in conversation respect the Principle and the maxims, although they don't know it, and they assume that the other is respecting them as well. From these assumptions and what the speaker says, we are able to draw part of the meaning.

For instance, one of Grice's examples was (more or less):

A: "That old lady is so nasty"
B: "Beautiful weather, isn't it?"

From B's answer, A can deduce that B doesn't want to talk about that topic. So B is openly not respecting the principle (assuming that normally he would), and for this behaviour there is just one explanation: he doesn't want to talk about that.

The same happens in case of irony, metaphor, focus, lies...The speaker/hearer could openly violate one or more of the various maxims or the principle.

After Grice there have been a lot of theories which tried to explain how we retrieve this additional meaning. It can appear all "implicit" meaning, but many philosophers argue that a big part of what we call semantic is after all pragmatic.
For instance, it has been argued from Grice that our use of logical connectives (and, or, if and only if) differs from the use in logic exactly because we, with our deductions about them, add some meaning to their (the use of "or" in logic is inclusive, in everyday conversation is exclusive: this, according to Grice, depends from the maxims).
Or, even more astonishing, that our use of quantifiers as "some, many, most, all" has an additional meaning which comes from the implicit meaning: the use of "some" in a sentence carries the implicit meaning "but not all" which wouldn't exist in the case of the quantifier "∃" in a logical formula (e.g. if it's not just some, but all individuals who have the property in question, the sentence is all the more so true).

This is just a bit of what pragmatic does.
Some famous theories have been developped (and are developed) by Sperber and Wilson, Recanati, Bach, Horn, Levinson and recently Jaszczolt.


P.S.= Dear Vito, I don't think I got the rest you wrote...


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 14:58
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Vito asks for more (g)... Jan 13, 2009

Livia Formisani wrote
P.S.= Dear Vito, I don't think I got the rest you wrote...

well, yes, It was all I have written - it's my Socratic principle: shut up and listen to what the others have to say. You may learn something new.

Before I can start with any reasonable discussion, I have to catch up on the literature. I'll retire for the day with the 2-page H. Paul Grice: Logic and Conversation. [In: Syntax and Semantics, Vol. 3, Speech Acts]. Which you have - by the first look at it- pretty much abstracted in extenso.

Regards

Vito


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Livia Formisani  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:58
English to Italian
+ ...
:) Jan 13, 2009

)) Thanks))

Well it was the subject of my BA and MA thesis...I kind of had to
Will for sure participate with pleasure to any discussion could follow


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Arnaud HERVE  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:58
English to French
+ ...
Arni Jonsson says Jan 13, 2009

Tim Drayton wrote:

"He learned Icelandic in a week."

This assertion is meaningless unless we are told the level of competence that he achieved in that time. Did he learn Icelandic such that he was indistinguishable from a native speaker, or did he manage to memorise a dozen stock phrases? I think this makes a lot of difference!


Yes. Think so too.

I think I can understand Icelandic grammar in a week. And memorize some vocab. Especially the words that sound like other Germanic words I know.

Now applying that skillfully and speaking in a way that would make me "indistinguishable from a native speaker", I would have to spend at least a year with the natives. At the very least.

That is, if the natives don't eat me. You never know with those terrible dark norse polar wild alienated monstruous countries. All sorts of monstruous crimes happening during the polar night.

But understanding, yes, that is feasible. Or if you ask me to explain how Korean writing works, although I don't know now, if you give me a week I'll be able to give you the basic principles.

Speaking Korean? Writing Korean? Maybe in five years...

Liva Fomisani said:

For instance, it has been argued from Grice that our use of logical connectives...


Liva, it is forbidden to be more intelligent than average here.

I will make a request for you being excluded from Proz. Because I can't follow 5 lines of what you say.

Can't you step down a few grades and make useless, casual comments like the rest of us? You make me feel stupid.

[Edited at 2009-01-13 17:28 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Livia Formisani  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:58
English to Italian
+ ...
:D Jan 14, 2009

Sorry, I never find someone to talk about that
I guess I had to take the chance


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Mind hacks: inside the mind of an autistic savant

Advanced search






SDL MultiTerm 2017
Guarantee a unified, consistent and high-quality translation with terminology software by the industry leaders.

SDL MultiTerm 2017 allows translators to create one central location to store and manage multilingual terminology, and with SDL MultiTerm Extract 2017 you can automatically create term lists from your existing documentation to save time.

More info »
PerfectIt consistency checker
Faster Checking, Greater Accuracy

PerfectIt helps deliver error-free documents. It improves consistency, ensures quality and helps to enforce style guides. It’s a powerful tool for pro users, and comes with the assurance of a 30-day money back guarantee.

More info »



All of ProZ.com
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs