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Cogn Sci. 2006 Sep 10;30(5):779-801. doi: 10.1207/s15516709cog0000_78.

Harmony in linguistic cognition.

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Cognitive Science Department, Johns Hopkins University.


In this article, I survey the integrated connectionist/symbolic (ICS) cognitive architecture in which higher cognition must be formally characterized on two levels of description. At the microlevel, parallel distributed processing (PDP) characterizes mental processing; this PDP system has special organization in virtue of which it can be characterized at the macrolevel as a kind of symbolic computational system. The symbolic system inherits certain properties from its PDP substrate; the symbolic functions computed constitute optimization of a well-formedness measure called Harmony. The most important outgrowth of the ICS research program is optimality theory (Prince & Smolensky, 1993/2004), an optimization-based grammatical theory that provides a formal theory of cross-linguistic typology. Linguistically, Harmony maximization corresponds to minimization of markedness or structural ill-formedness. Cognitive explanation in ICS requires the collaboration of symbolic and connectionist principles. ICS is developed in detail in Smolensky and Legendre (2006a); this article is a précis of and guide to those volumes.

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