The Mirrorball Man wrote:
No matter what explanation you chose to believe, this contraction thing still sounds ridiculous.
And that's a very insensitive thing to say, considering that it's something that really does happen with people in real life. You might as well say it's ridiculous that some people can't walk or can't hear, or that someone with brain damage is unable to perceive the left side of their body.
I definitely see the connection between people with Aspergers, especially if you look at the episode Data's Day. But Data is not a human with Aspergers even if some of the language issues are the same. There's a whole lot bigger difference in complexity between being able to use slang and being able to use contractions. Slang requires an emotionally intuitive grasp of metaphors. It doesn't sound as aesthetically clean and discrete as saying 'can not', but contractions are literally a search and replace. There's no aesthetic comfort issue with Data, and he has shown a full grasp of far more complicated grammatical rules than contractions.
But like I said, it really happens. So there must be a reason why it does. Contractions are not concrete or literal. They're essentially a form of substitution, one word taking the place of two words. That puts them in the same category as metaphors or slang, which also use one word or concept as a substitute for another. It's not about the rules
of grammar or how complicated they are. That's beside the point. It's about meaning
, and the ability to understand how a meaning can be expressed in a non-literal way.
When we're talking about different types of cognition and neurology, you just can't assume that something that's easy for you will be easy for everyone. Your mind works a certain way, and other people's minds can work in unexpectedly different ways. Take someone with perfect pitch, for example. Most of us, if we hear a musical phrase transposed into a different key, will recognize it as the same phrase. But people with perfect pitch are unable
to perceive that equivalence, because to them, a given note is exactly that given note, and a different note is always going to be different. Transposing the melody is analogous to using a contraction or an idiom -- it's substituting one thing with something else that conveys the equivalent meaning. Most people's brains can make the leap, recognize the analogy, and understand that they're the same thing. But people with perfect pitch are too exact, too literal in how they hear music, so they're deaf to the equivalence. They can't hear them as the same thing. So it's not unbelievable that a mind that processes language in a very precise and literal way might have a similar trouble with the idea of "can't" representing the same concept as "can not," or "fired up" representing the same concept as "angry."
I would guess the only reason Data does not use contractions is that the producers thought it would make him sound less robotic.
Mainly it's because the writers of "Datalore" needed a gimmick to clue Wesley in to the fact that Lore was impersonating Data. In previous episodes -- and even earlier in the same episode -- Data used contractions routinely. It was just one bit of the sloppy writing that characterized the first season, a conseqeunce of the turbulence in the writing staff. But later writers decided to stick with it for whatever reason.
Also, even though Data has trouble understanding or predicting emotions, I've seen no indication that he has trouble looking at somebody's face and guessing which emotion they're displaying.
Now, that is implausible. In reality, people who are emotionally impaired aren't even able to perceive other people's emotions, to understand what their changes of expression mean. Empathy is a function of the mirror neurons of the brain, the part that lets us experience other people's reactions and perceptions as though they were our own. So if we don't have the capacity to experience an emotion for ourselves, we can't recognize it in other people.
But it's something that can be learned to a degree, the deficiency compensated for with practice. I assume that Data gradually learned how to recognize emotional expressions in others and wrote subroutines into his program telling him what they meant. Of course, he could do the same with contractions, but as I said, it's an affectation -- I choose to believe he can
do it, but only if he makes the effort, and he generally doesn't. (Which fits the evidence, because he routinely uses contractions when quoting other people, delivering play dialogue, and the like.)
I'm starting to dislike the whole "Asperger's Syndrome" classification.
Well, it might not exist much longer. Under the proposed revisions to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
scheduled for publication this May, Asperger syndrome would no longer be defined as a distinct disorder, but would be folded in under autistic spectrum disorders. There have been protests to this from the Asperger community, though.