Symbol Grounding and the Symbolic Theft Hypothesis

Cangelosi, Angelo and Greco, Alberto and Harnad, Stevan (2002) Symbol Grounding and the Symbolic Theft Hypothesis. [Book Chapter]

Full text available as:

[img] PDF


Computational simulations are used to model the following: (1) category learning through sensorimotor trial and error ("sensorimotor toil") and how it generates categorical perception (decreased between-category similarity and increased within-category similarity); (2) symbol grounding (the connection between symbols and the sensorimotor categories that they name); (3) the origins of language as the capacity to acquire categories indirectly, by definition alone ("symbolic theft"); and (4) the evolutionary advantage of acquiring categories by this symbolic theft instead of sensorimotor toil.

Item Type:Book Chapter
Keywords:perceptual learning, symbol grounding, categorical perception, categorization, evolution of language, neural nets
Subjects:Psychology > Perceptual Cognitive Psychology
ID Code:2132
Deposited By: Harnad, Stevan
Deposited On:12 Mar 2002
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:54

References in Article

Select the SEEK icon to attempt to find the referenced article. If it does not appear to be in cogprints you will be forwarded to the paracite service. Poorly formated references will probably not work.

Andrews J, Livingston K, Harnad S (1998) Categorical perception effects induced by

category learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and

Cognition, 24: 732-753

Berlin B, Kay P (1969) Basic color terms: Their universality and evolution. University of

California Press, Berkley

Cangelosi A, Greco A, Harnad S (2000) From robotic toil to symbolic theft: Grounding

transfer from entry-level to higher-level categories. Connection Science, 12: 143-162

Cangelosi A, Harnad S (in press) The adaptive advantage of symbolic theft over

sensorimotor toil: Grounding language in perceptual categories. Evolution of


Christiansen MH, Chater N (1999) Connectionist natural language processing: The state of

the art. Cognitive Science, 23: 417-437

Deacon TW (1997) The Symbolic Species: The coevolution of language and human brain

London: Penguin

Elman JL (1990) Finding structure in time. Cognitive Science, 14: 179-211

Fodor JA (1976) The Language of thought, Thomas Y Crowell, New York

Goldberg DE (1989) Genetic algorithms in search, optimization, and machine learning.

Addison-Wesley, Reading MA

Goldstone R (1994) Influences of categorization of perceptual discrimination. Journal of

Experimental Psychology: General, 123: 178-200

Greco A, Cangelosi A (1999) Language and the acquisition of implicit and explicit

knowledge: A pilot study using neural networks. Cognitive Systems, 5: 148-165

Harnad S (ed) (1987) Categorical perception: The groundwork of cognition. Cambridge

University Press, New York

Harnad S (1990) The symbol grounding problem. Physica D, 42: 335-346

Harnad S (1996) The origin of words: A psychophysical hypothesis. In: Velichkovsky BM,

Rumbaugh DM (eds) Communicating meaning: The evolution and development of

language. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah NJ

Harnad S, Hanson SJ, Lubin J (1991) Categorical perception and the evolution of supervised

learning in neural nets. In: Powers DW, Reeker L. (eds) Proceedings of the AAAI Spring

Symposium on Machine Learning of Natural Language and Ontology

Harnad S, Hanson SJ, Lubin, J (1995) Learned categorical perception in neural nets:

Implications for symbol grounding. In: Honavar V, Uhr L (eds) Symbol processors and

connectionist network models in artificial intelligence and cognitive modelling: Steps

toward principled integration. Academic Press, pp 191-206

Hurford J (1998) Review of Terrence Deacon, 1997 The Symbolic Species: The co-evolution

of language and the human brain. The Times Literary Supplement, October 23rd,

1998, 34

Jacobs RA, Kosslyn SM (1994) Encoding shape and spatial relations: The role of receptive

field size in coordinating complementary representations. Cognitive Science, 18: 361-386

Kaplan F (2000) Talking AIBO: First experimentation of verbal interactions with an

autonomous four-legged robot. In: Nijholt A, Heylen D, Jokinen K (eds) Learning to

behave: Interacting agents. CELE-TWENTE Workshop on Language Technology, pp 57-63

Kirby S (2000) Syntax without natural selection: How compositionality emerges from

vocabulary in a population of learners. In: Knight C, Studdert-Kennedy M, Hurford J (eds)

The evolutionary emergence of language: Social function and the origins of linguistic

form. Cambridge University Press, pp 303-323

Nakisa RC, Plunkett K (1998) Evolution of a rapidly learned representation for speech.

Language and Cognitive Processes, 13: 105-127

Oliphant M, Batali J (1997) Learning and the emergence of coordinated communication

Centre for Research in Language Newsletter, 11(1)

Parisi D (1997) An Artificial Life approach to language. Mind and Language, 59, 121-146

Peirce CS (1978) Collected Papers (Vol II: Element of Logic). In: Hartshorne C, Weiss P

(eds), Belknap Cambridge, MA

Pevtzow R, Harnad S (1997) Warping similarity space in category learning by human

subjects: The role of task difficulty. In: Ramscar M, Hahn U, Cambouropolos E, Pain H

(eds) Proceedings of SimCat 1997: Interdisciplinary Workshop on Similarity and

Categorization. Department of Artificial Intelligence, Edinburgh University, pp 189-195

Plunkett K, Sinha C, Møller MF, Strandsby O (1992) Symbol grounding or the emergence

of symbols? Vocabulary growth in children and a connectionist net. Connection Science,

4: 293-312

Pylyshyn ZW (1984) Computation and cognition. MIT Press, Bradford Books, Cambridge


Rumelhart DE, McClelland JL, the PDP Research Group (eds) (1986) Parallel distributed

processing: Explorations in the microstructure of cognition (Vol 1: Foundations). MIT

Press, Cambridge MA

Savage-Rumbaugh S, Rumbaugh DM (1978) Symbolization, language, and Chimpanzees: A

theoretical reevaluation on Initial language acquisition processes in four Young Pan

troglodytes. Brain and Language, 6: 265-300

Schafer G, Mareschal D (2001) Modeling infant speech sound discrimination using simple

associative networks. Infancy, 2(1)

Searle JR (1982) The Chinese room revisited. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 5: 345-348

Steels L (1996) Self-organising vocabularies. In: Langton CG, Shimohara K (eds)

Proceedings of the ALIFE V. MIT Press, Cambridge MA, pp 179-184

Steels L, Kaplan F (1999) Collective learning and semiotic dynamics. In: Floreano D,

Nicoud JD, Mondada F (eds) Proceedings of ECAL99 the Fifth European Conference on

Artificial Life (Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence). Springer-Verlag, Berlin, pp 679-688

Steels L, Vogt P (1997) Grounding adaptive language games in robotic agents. In: Husband

P, Harvey I (eds) Proceedings of the Fourth European Conference on Artificial Life. MIT

Press, Cambridge MA, pp 474-482

Tijsseling A, Harnad S (1997) Warping similarity space in category learning by backprop

nets. In: Ramscar M, Hahn U, Cambouropolos E, Pain H (eds) Proceedings of SimCat

1997: Interdisciplinary Workshop on Similarity and Categorization. Department of

Artificial Intelligence, Edinburgh University, pp 263-269


Repository Staff Only: item control page