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[xmca] Meltzoff and Gogol

Mike, what do you think Meltzoff and company would make of this? In a 2002 issue of the Korean Journal of Applied Linguistics there is an article by Hansen and Shewell about language attrition. 
The authors cite the old Paradis (1985) findings that logographic scripts (e.g. Chinese and Japanese kanji) are processed in a rather different part of the brain than alphabetic ones (e.g. Japanese kana and Korean). No, it's not that old left-right brain claptrap; Paradis et al argued that WITHIN the left hemisphere, kanji is processed in the occipito-parietal area and kana in the temporal lobe. 
Japanese researchers (Uchida et al. 1999) showed that the interior occipital gyrus was central to the processing of both, and then Paradis et al. suggested that although the actual areas of processing were distinct they were so linked as to make the distinction meaningless. 
Now, Hansen and Shewell are really much more functional in their orientation. They are working for some branch of Brigham Young university in Oahu (I think I've been there; they run a resort where underpaid Samoans show you how to crack coconuts with your hand). The Mormons send a lot of missionaries over here. The Church of Latter-day Saints apparently think you can convert people after they are dead as long as you know their names, and they have figured out that most Koreans know at least four generations of their ancestors, since they are supposed to offer regular chesa (ritual meals) on the death-dates of great-great-grandparents and sometimes beyond. So I guess Hansen and Shewell want to know how fast the missionaries forget the language they picked up out east; and how often they need to be packed off for another tour of duty in search of dead souls.
Now, you'd think in this situation, where your main contact with the language is written, that whether a script is logographic or alphabetic would matter. It sure does when you learn, after all, and we often think of language attrition as being something like acquisition only backwards.
Well, here's what they found. The predictors for attrition are absolutely the same whether the script is logographic or phonetic. Time since mission, vocabulary size, level of speaking abiilty at the end of their mission, and post-mission literacy study. The only real difference was that because Korean Hangeul is so easy to learn there is really a much closer fit between speaking and reading. But overall the main predictors for attrition are not to be found anywhere within the brain, but outside in the cultural environment. Just where you and I would look for a "soul", living or dead.
David Kellog
Seoul National University of Education 
So they want 

--- On Tue, 8/18/09, Mike Cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>
Subject: [xmca] Fwd: Meltzoff Science paper
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Tuesday, August 18, 2009, 7:03 PM

David-- Is this the piece that upset you?


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