[Humanist] 26.635 collocation, span and theories of memory

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Dec 30 10:39:09 CET 2012


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 635.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                              www.dhhumanist.org/
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org



        Date: Sat, 29 Dec 2012 16:38:57 -0500
        From: Paul Fishwick <fishwick at cise.ufl.edu>
        Subject: Re:  26.631 collocation, span and theories of memory?
        In-Reply-To: <20121229101430.93900311A at digitalhumanities.org>


Willard:
  You ask:

 " There is a larger story to be told from before the digitization of mind
by inspiration from physical computing machines -- the stream flows both
ways -- but meanwhile I would very much appreciate pointers to anything
that shows explicit transfer of ideas from memory studies to literary
and linguistic studies."

 There are at least two paths relating to transfer. One is in the area of the
"arts of memory." About two feet to my left, there is the book "The Memory
Palace of Matteo Ricci" published by Penguin. I just dusted it off and
browsed through the text--it is a reasonably good introduction to the area.
The purpose of the memory palace is to facilitate the transfer from memory
to orality or writing. The other path is in the research of "simulation"
or "embodiment" theories of mind.

-paul

On Sat, Dec 29, 2012 at 5:14 AM, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>
>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 631.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                               www.dhhumanist.org/
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>
>
>
>         Date: Sat, 29 Dec 2012 09:18:03 +0000
>         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>         Subject: collocation, span and theories of memory
>
> I would very much like to understand the historical relation between the
> idea of "span" in psychology, and so the related distinction between
> short-term and working memories, and the ideas of "span" and
> "collocation" in corpus linguistics. I strongly suspect that the former
> inspired the latter but have not yet found an explicit link. Let me
> sketch briefly what I have found so far.
>
> In the OED psychological span is defined as "Mental extent; the amount
> of information that the mind can be conscious of at a given moment, or
> the number of items it can reproduce after one presentation; esp. const.
> of, as span of apprehension, attention span, consciousness span, etc.".
> The first occurrence given is from an article in Mind in 1887, where it
> is clearly used in the spirit of Hermann Ebbinghaus (who began the
> empirical studies of memorization and recall using nonsense syllables).
> In 1956 George A Miller, working by then in the context of digital
> computing, gave a great boost to the idea in his famous paper, "The
> Magic Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on our Capacity for
> Processing Information" (Psychological Review 63.2). According to Alan
> Baddeley in "Working Memory: Looking Back and Looking Forward" (Nature
> Reviews: Neuroscience 4, October 2003), Miller, Galanter and Pribram
> invented the closely related term "working memory" in Plans and the
> Structure of Behavior (1960), in which the influence of computing is
> fundamental. Short-term memory is not the same but closely related, in a
> manner that varies according to theory, though for my purposes the
> distinction does not matter. What does matter is the teasing
> correspondence between ideas of memory, often involving context-free
> words or word-like units, and structures familiar from the architecture
> of digital computers of the time (memory registers, shifting and
> storage). Kurt Danziger notes in Marking the Mind (p. 176) that long-
> and short-term memory are the only two core-concepts having to do with
> memory that number among the 58 in psychology turned up by a
> content-analysis study textbooks of the 1990s. In the latter half of the
> 20th Century there are many publications in the psychology of learning
> and intelligence-testing, some in journals of education, that deal with
> attention- and recall-span measured, again in a Ebbinghausian way, in
> terms of contiguous words remembered.
>
> In the glossary to Corpus Concordance Collocation (1991), John Sinclair
> defines "span" as follows:
>
> > ...the measurement, in words, of the co-text [the words on either
> > side] of a word selected for study. A span of -4, +4 means that four
> > words on either side of the node [selected] word will be taken to be
> > its relevant verbal environment.
>
> In other words, span is the measure within which collocations normally
> occur, +4, -4 for modern English, though Sinclair elsewhere notes that
> it is wise to look more widely. Unfortunately the OED does not record
> "span" in the linguistic sense. In 1957, a year after Miller sprang his
> magic number on the world, J. R. Firth proclaimed in "A Synopsis of
> Linguistic Theory, 1930-1955" , "You shall know a word by the company it
> keeps!" (reapplying the old Latin injunction, "noscitur e sociis"). He
> went on to note that "collocation is first suggested as a technical
> term" in his previously published essay, "Modes of Meaning" (pp. 124-7),
> also published in Papers in Linguistics 1934-1951 (Oxford, 1957).
>
> From the invention of the keyword-in-context concordance (ca 1959,
> three years after Miller's paper, two after Firth's) we have first in
> print-out, then on screen something like a display of a short-term
> memory implying manipulation. From the release of the first truly
> interactive
> concordancer (TACT, in 1989) we have something like an implementation
> of working memory. I know that I am stretching things here, but not beyond
> the breaking point?
>
> There is a larger story to be told from before the digitization of mind
> by inspiration from physical computing machines -- the stream flows both
> ways -- but meanwhile I would very much appreciate pointers to anything
> that shows explicit transfer of ideas from memory studies to literary
> and linguistic studies.
>
> Many thanks in advance. And comments?
>
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty, FRAI / Professor of Humanities Computing & Director of
> the Doctoral Programme, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
> London; Professor, School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics,
> University of Western Sydney; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
> (www.isr-journal.org); Editor, Humanist
> (www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist/); www.mccarty.org.uk/






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