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Current Studies in Linguistics

Suppletion, Superlatives, and the Structure of Words

This groundbreaking study of the morphology of comparison yields a surprising result: that even in suppletion (the wholesale replacement of one stem by a phonologically unrelated stem, as in good-better-best) there emerge strikingly robust patterns, virtually exceptionless generalizations across languages. Jonathan David Bobaljik describes the systematicity in suppletion, and argues that at least five generalizations are solid contenders for the status of linguistic universals.

Linguistic Explorations in Honor of David M. Perlmutter

Anyone who has studied linguistics in the last half-century has been affected by the work of David Perlmutter. One of the era's most versatile linguists, he is perhaps best known as the founder (with Paul Postal) of Relational Grammar, but he has also made contributions to areas ranging from theoretical morphology to sign language phonology. Hypothesis A/Hypothesis B (the title evokes Perlmutter's characteristic style of linguistic argumentation) offers twenty-three essays by Perlmutter’s colleagues and former students.

The essays in this volume address foundational questions in phonology that cut across different schools of thought within the discipline. The theme of modularity runs through them all, however, and these essays demonstrate the benefits of the modular approach to phonology, either investigating interactions among distinct modules or developing specific aspects of representation within a particular module. Although the contributors take divergent views on a range of issues, they agree on the importance of representations and questions of modularity in phonology.

Studies in Honor of Paul Kiparsky

Paul Kiparsky's work in linguistics has been wide-ranging and fundamental. His contributions as a scholar and teacher have transformed virtually every subfield of contemporary linguistics, from generative phonology to poetic theory. This collection of essays on the word—the fundamental entity of language—by Kiparsky's colleagues, students, and teachers reflects the distinctive focus of his own attention and his influence in the field.

Essays in Honor of Jean-Roger Vergnaud

Jean-Roger Vergnaud's work on the foundational issues in linguistics has proved influential over the past three decades. At MIT in 1974, Vergnaud (now holder of the Andrew W. Mellon Professorship in Humanities at the University of Southern California) made a proposal in his Ph.D. thesis that has since become, in somewhat modified form, the standard analysis for the derivation of relative clauses. Vergnaud later integrated the proposal within a broader theory of movement and abstract case. These topics have remained central to theoretical linguistics.

The Brain and the Enigma of Impossible Languages

"Andrea Moro has gained a unique position in formulating and implementing constructive approaches to...difficult and demanding tasks. He is able to address them with a deep understanding of modern linguistics, a field to which he has made a major contribution of his own, and mastery of the relevant technology and its potential. His new book is a lucid introduction to these exciting areas, superbly informed and imaginatively presented, with intriguing implications well beyond biolinguistics.... A rare achievement...."
—Noam Chomsky, from the foreword

A Progressive Grammar

A pre-Indo-European language with no known relatives, the Basque language survives in the Basque region of Spain and France, with about half a million native or near-native speakers. The local diversity of the language, with no fewer than eight different dialects, has hindered the development of a supradialectical written tradition.

Moving On

Wh-movement—the phenomenon by which interrogative words appear at the beginning of interrogative sentences—is one of the central displacement operations of human language. Noam Chomsky's 1977 paper "On Wh-Movement," a landmark in the study of wh-movement (and movement in general), showed that this computational operation is the basis of a variety of syntactic constructions that had previously been described in terms of construction-specific rules.

The nature of the interplay between language learning and the evolution of a language over generational time is subtle. We can observe the learning of language by children and marvel at the phenomenon of language acquisition; the evolution of a language, however, is not so directly experienced. Language learning by children is robust and reliable, but it cannot be perfect or languages would never change—and English, for example, would not have evolved from the language of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.

The Transformational Cycle

Carried out within the framework of the theory of generative grammar originated with Noam Chomsky in the 1950s, this book should be of particular interest to those either active in or conversant with the field of generative grammar and also to those just beginning the study of generative grammar.

In Situations and Individuals, Paul Elbourne argues that the natural language expressions that have been taken to refer to individuals—pronouns, proper names, and definite descriptions—have a common syntax and semantics, roughly that of definite descriptions as construed in the tradition of Frege. In the course of his argument, Elbourne shows that proper names have previously undetected donkey anaphoric readings.

Any analysis of the syntax of time is based on a paradox: it must include a syntax-based theory of both tense construal and event construal. Yet while time is undimensional, events have a complex spatiotemporal structure that reflects their human participants. How can an event be flattened to fit into the linear time axis? Chomsky's The Minimalist Program, published in 1995, offers a way to address this problem.

This is a representative collection of the work of one of the world's leading scholars in the area of speech acoustics. It follows the development over the past 15 years of research presented in the author's previous publications on speech analysis, feature theory, and applications to language descriptions. Most of the articles have had very restricted distribution—many appearing only in the Quarterly Progress Reports issued by Dr. Fant's laboratory.

Jakobson, Mathesius, Trubetzkoy, and the Prague Linguistic Circle

Driven by a desire to create a new basis for the study of language, a heterogeneous group of Czech, Russian, Ukrainian, and German scholars who found themselves in Prague in the mid-1920s launched the profoundly influential Prague Linguistic Circle. This book examines the historical factors that produced the Circle, the basic tenets that it promulgated, and, most important, the social and cultural environment in which the Circle flourished.

The achievements of Pānini and the Indian grammarians, beginning nearly 2500 years ago, have never been fully appreciated by Western scholars—partly because of the great technical difficulties presented by such an inquiry, and partly because relevant tutorial articles have been confined to obscure and inaccessible publications.

In this theoretical monograph, Edwin Williams demonstrates that when syntax is economical, it economizes on shape distortion rather than on distance. According to Williams, this new notion of economy calls for a new architecture for the grammatical system—in fact, for a new notion of derivation. The new architecture offers a style of clausal embedding—the Level Embedding Scheme—that predictively ties together the locality, reconstructive behavior, and "target" type of any syntactic process in a way that is unique to the model.

In Phrase Structure Composition and Syntactic Dependencies, Robert Frank explores an approach to syntactic theory that weds the Tree Adjoining Grammar (TAG) formalism with the minimalist framework. TAG has been extensively studied both for its mathematical properties and for its usefulness in computational linguistics applications. Frank shows that incorporating TAG's formally restrictive operations for structure building considerably simplifies the model of grammatical competence, particularly in the components concerned with syntactic movement and locality.

The Interpretation of Coordination, Plurality, and Scope in Natural Language

Since the early work of Montague, Boolean semantics and its subfield of generalized quantifier theory have become the model-theoretic foundation for the study of meaning in natural languages. This book uses this framework to develop a new semantic theory of central linguistic phenomena involving coordination, plurality, and scope. The proposed theory makes use of the standard Boolean interpretation of conjunction, a choice-function account of indefinites, and a novel semantics of plurals that is not based on the distributive/collective distinction.

A Life in Language

The essays in this collection celebrate Ken Hale's lifelong study of underdocumented languages and their implications for universal grammar. The authors report their latest research in syntax, morphology, semantics, phonology, and phonetics.

Contributors:
Elena Anagnostopoulou, Noam Chomsky, Michel DeGraff, Kai von Fintel, Morris Halle, James Harris, Sabine Iatridou, Roumyana Izvorski, Michael Kenstowicz, Samuel Jay Keyser, Shigeru Miyagawa, Wayne O'Neil, David Pesetsky, Hyang-Sook Sohn, Kenneth N. Stevens, Ester Torrego, Cheryl Zoll.

This book offers a comprehensive survey of research on parasitic gaps, an intriguing syntactic phenomenon. The first section of the book contains a history of work on the topic and three fundamental previously published papers. The remaining three sections present new perspectives on the theory of parasitic gaps based on data taken from diverse languages.

Contemporary Lectures on Classic Transformational Theory

with Marcela Depiante and Arthur Stepanov

The essays in this book present explicit syntactic analyses that adhere to programmatic minimalist guidelines. Thus they show how the guiding ideas of minimalism can shape the construction of a new, more explanatory theory of the syntactic component of the human language faculty.

Contributors: Zeljko Boskovic, Samuel David Epstein, Robert Freidin, Erich M. Groat, Norbert Hornstein, Hisatsugu Kitahara, Howard Lasnik, Roger Martin, Jairo Nunes, Norvin Richards, Juan Uriagereka, Amy Weinberg

Current Studies in Linguistics No. 32

This book presents a theory of speech-sound generation in the human vocal system. The comprehensive acoustic theory serves as one basis for defining categories of speech sounds used to form distinctions between words in languages. The author begins with a review of the anatomy and physiology of speech production, then covers source mechanisms, the vocal tract as an acoustic filter, relevant aspects of auditory psychophysics and physiology, and phonological representations.