Well, the preference expressed in the most recent TB poll is clear: you like scientific debate sessions! 75% of our random sample (yeah right) indicated that they would like to hear two debate sessions at the 2010 Neurobiology of Language Conference. So here's the next question: What topics would you like to hear debated? Please post comments with your suggestions! We are planning the program now...
Perhaps we could have a debate on two of the main theories of linguistic (lexical) representation: abstractionist vs. exemplar.
To add a little moxie we could start with the quote:
"Assuming that the representation of lexical items is a discrete series of segments composed of distinctive features — a view that is also uncontroversial insofar as one accepts the last few decades of phonological research [...] (P, I & vW, 29008, p. 1072-3)"
I believe that this is actually one of the *most* controversial topics in phonology right now. Someone like Sarah Hawkins (who I think has the most explicit neural theory, though maybe someone like Goldinger has something neural as well) could take the exemplar mantle.
I second Marc's suggestion!
I second Marc's suggestion...this is a debate that's ripe for the having, and I'd *love* to see an abstractionist advocate forced to actually defend their position.
Of course, I think the controversy is only raging in the departments and labs of those who think the exemplar approach is right-headed...others blithely carry on dismissing exemplar/analogical models while (i) underestimating their capabilities, and/or (ii) just mischaracterizing them altogether (I'm looking at you, Hayes et al 2010).
Abstraction vs Exemplarism is a great topic. However, I wonder who would stand in for a neural take on the latter one.
How about a debate on the role of the putative Visual Word Form Area? It could pit the Cohen and Dehaene view that it is specifically involved in sub-lexical orthographic processing against either the view that it instead does lots of things (as argued, e.g., by Devlin and Price), or that it does specifically whole-word (lexical) processing (as argued, e.g., by Kronbichler et al.).
To give credit where it's due, Jeff Binder suggested a version of this to me.
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