Newsletter No. 163

How Words Are Represented in the Mind P r o f . W i l l i a m D a v i d M a r s l e n - W i l s o n, director of the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit o f the Medical Research Council at Cambridge, delivered a lecture on 'Words in the Mind: A View Across Languages' at the University on 31st March in his capacity as Wei Lun Visiting Professor to the University. In his lecture, Prof. Marslen-Wilson discussed the question of whether we can indeed find evidence for general principles in the mental lexicon, drawing upon a continuing programme of experimental cross- linguistic research in a range o f t ypo l og i ca l ly contrasting languages. These includ e Chinese, with collaborations in Hong Kong and Beijing, Semitic languages like Hebrew and Arabic, with their unique morphological systems, French and Italian, as examples of the Romance family, Polish, as an example of a morphologically highly complex Slavonic language, and of course English, with its many peculiarities. In reviewing the results of parallel lines of research across these various languages, Prof. Marslen-Wilson pointed out that we w i l l see not only some unde r l y i ng similarities across languages, but also a surprising degree of difference. Prof. Marslen-Wilson has been a leading figure in the cognitive science of language over the last 25 years, studying the mental processes and structures underlying the comprehension of spoken language. Prof. Marslen-Wilson graduated from St. John's College, Oxford, in 1967 with a first in philosophy and psychology, and obtained his Ph.D. in experimental psycholinguistics in 1973 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has worked in universities and research institutes around the world, including the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands, where he was director, the University of Cambridge, the MRC Applied Psychology Unit in Cambridge, and Birkbeck College of the University of London, where he was professor and head of department from 1990 to 1997. FORGING THE FRENCH CONNECTION A de l ega t i on l ed by D r . Ca t he r i ne Brechignac, director-general of the French Na t i onal Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), visited the University on 28th March at the invitation of Prof. Arthur K.C. Li, vice- chancellor of the University. Prof. L i visited France with a CUHK delegation last February, and was received by major research institutions and universities there which showed interest in exploring areas of academic collaboration with CUHK. One of the main foci of the CNRS visit is to follow up on discussion for cooperation in research into biotechnology and natural substances, in particular Chinese medicine. It is expected that the joint programme w i ll enable scientists f r om different regions to wo rk together and open gateways into new domains of scientific investigation as well as long-term academic exchange. In this regard, The Chinese University and CNRS have each appointed a coordinator to continue the dialogue. Prof. Leung Ping-chung, chairman of the Management Committee of the Institute for Chinese Medicine, has been appointed to represent CUHK. While on CUHK campus, the CNRS delegation also visited the Chinese Medicines Museum, the Hong Kong Bioinformatics Centre, and the Faculty of Engineering, and discussed prospects of collaboration with representatives from the Faculties of Social Science and Arts. CNRS's mandate as a public organization is to develop research and bring together researchers from different disciplines to work on a wide range of themes and projects. Many prominent researchers, including several Nobel laureates and Fields medallists, work in CNRS-supported laboratories.The visit by CNRS w i ll kick off a series of return visits from French institutions, including University Louis Pasteur Strasbourg, the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA), and the Institute for Far- East Studies (EFEO). Back row (from left): Prof. Che Chun Tao, CUHK School of Chinese Medicine; Mr. Anthony Chaumuzeau, French Consulate; Dr. Alain Peyraube, CNRS Department of Social Sciences and Humanities; Prof. Moses Chow, CUHK Department of Pharmacy; Prof. Paul But, CUHK Department of Biology; Mr. Thomas Wu, CUHK Office of Academic Links. Front row (from left): Prof. Leung Ping-chung, CUHK Institute of Chinese Medicine; Ms. Claire Gira u d, CNRS Department of International Relations; Dr. Catherine Brechignac; Prof. Arthur K.C. Li; Dr. Daniel L. Cadet, CNRS Department of International Relations. Honours f o r Engineering Students A team o f students f r om the Depa r tment of Computer Science and Engineering won eighth place among 60 finalist teams in the 24th Association for Computing Machinery ( ACM) International Collegiate Programming Contest World Finals held in Orlando from 15th to 19th March. This marks the first time that a team from Hong Kong has ranked among the top 10 at the ACM World Finals, commonly held as the top programming competition for university students of computing. The 60 finalist teams were selected from over 2,400 teams which participated in the preliminaries. This year's contest contained eight difficult problems in graph theory, geometry, combinatorics, constraint satisfaction, and simulations. Each team had five hours to solve as many problems as possible on a single computer using either the C, C++, Java, or Pascal language provided by I BM, the sponsor of the event. The team which solved the most problems with the fewest penalties was declared champion. The members of the CUHK team are Kwok Chi- leong, Wong Ho - y i n, and Lau Lap - ch i. They outperformed teams from such famous universities as M I T , Harvard, and the Ca l i f o r n ia Institute o f Technology. Two other students f r om the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Chris L.C. Wong and Raymond K.W. Chan, were awarded the gold prize in the open category of the Mob i le Mu l t imed ia Communications Design Contest 1999-2000 for their design of Location-based Information Browsing Using Mobile Positioning and WAP Technology. The contest was organized by the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HK I E ), supported by the Information Technology and Broadcast Bureau, I n f o rma t i on Technology Entrepreneurs Association, and sponsored by Nokia and Cable & Wireless HKT. Chris Wong (middle) and Raymond Chan (right) with their supervisor, Prof. Lee Moon-chuen (left)