Rethinking innateness is a timely volume which forcefully
importance of modelling in understanding development, ‘innateness’,
the nature of change. It provides an inspiring vision of what developmental
psychology could one day be like, linking behaviour and biology via
connectionist models. However, Rispoli's worry about the book's
for detrimental polarization does not seem unfounded. One aspect of the
book that deserves comment in this respect is the focus on connectionism
the exclusion of other types of model. It is unclear from Rethinking
innateness itself whether this exclusion of other approaches merely
from the legitimate desire to write a focused book, or whether it possibly
reflects an actively held view that connectionism is the one true approach
modelling development. Regardless of the authors' intentions, the
connectionism in relation to other computational approaches is an issue
which is particularly pertinent to the study of language acquisition.
To clarify straightaway, I not only concur with Elman et al.
on the central
role of modelling, but also strongly believe that the task of the cognitive
scientist is not complete until one has an account of how a particular
is realised in a neural architecture. These two commitments give connectionist
models a central role. But they do not make connectionism the
exclusive modelling tool for the study of language acquisition, nor necessarily
the best path to currently pursue. The reasons for this are twofold.
The first is a matter of research strategy. It is possible that more
progress and greater success might be made if one starts with high-level
models which give less immediate regard to matters of implementation.