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Theoretical Linguistics

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Exploring Language with Game Theory

In Meaningful Games, Robin Clark explains in an accessible manner the usefulness of game theory in thinking about a wide range of issues in linguistics. Clark argues that we use grammar strategically to signal our intended meanings: our choices as speaker are conditioned by what choices the hearer will make interpreting what we say. Game theory--according to which the outcome of a decision depends on the choices of others--provides a formal system that allows us to develop theories about the kind of decision making that is crucial to understanding linguistic behavior.
Clark argues the only way to understand meaning is to grapple with its social nature--that it is the social that gives content to our mental lives. Game theory gives us a framework for working out these ideas. The resulting theory of use will allow us to account for many aspects of linguistic meaning, and the grammar itself can be simplified. The results are nevertheless precise and subject to empirical testing.
Meaningful Games offers an engaging and accessible introduction to game theory and the study of linguistic meaning. No knowledge of mathematics beyond simple algebra is required; formal definitions appear in special boxes outside the main text. The book includes an extended argument in favor of the social basis of meaning; a brief introduction to game theory, with a focus on coordination games and cooperation; discussions of common knowledge and games of partial information; models of games for pronouns and politeness; and the development of a system of social coordination of reference.

This introductory text takes a novel approach to the study of syntax. Grammar as Science offers an introduction to syntax as an exercise in scientific theory construction. Syntax provides an excellent instrument for introducing students from a wide variety of backgrounds to the principles of scientific theorizing and scientific thought; it engages general intellectual themes present in all scientific theorizing as well as those arising specifically within the modern cognitive sciences. The book is intended for students majoring in linguistics as well as non-linguistics majors who are taking the course to fulfill undergraduate requirements. Grammar as Science covers such core topics in syntax as phrase structure, constituency, the lexicon, inaudible elements, movement rules, and transformational constraints, while emphasizing scientific reasoning skills. The individual units are organized thematically into sections that highlight important components of this enterprise, including choosing between theories, constructing explicit arguments for hypotheses, and the conflicting demands that push us toward expanding our technical toolkit on the one hand and constraining it on the other. Grammar as Science is constructed as a “laboratory science” course in which students actively experiment with linguistic data. Syntactica, a software application tool that allows students to create and explore simple grammars in a graphical, interactive way, is available online in conjunction with the book. Students are encouraged to “try the rules out,” and build grammars rule-by-rule, checking the consequences at each stage.

Downloadable instructor resources available for this title: instuctor's manual and file of figures in the book

An Introduction to Minimalist Syntax

This unusual book takes the form of a dialogue between a linguist and another scientist. The dialogue takes place over six days, with each day devoted to a particular topic—and the ensuing digressions. The role of the linguist is to present the fundamentals of the minimalist program of contemporary generative grammar. Although the linguist serves essentially as a voice for Noam Chomsky's ideas, he is not intended to be a portrait of Chomsky himself. The other scientist functions as a kind of devil's advocate, making the arguments that linguists tend to face from those in the "harder" sciences.

The author does far more than simply present the minimalist program. He conducts a running argument over the status of theoretical linguistics as a natural science. He raises the general issues of how we conceive words, phrases, and transformations, and what these processes tell us about the human mind. He also attempts to reconcile generative grammar with the punctuated equilibrium version of evolutionary theory.

In his foreword, Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini says, "The vast number of readers who have been enthralled by Goedel, Escher, Bach may well like also this syntactic companion, a sort of 'Chomsky, Fibonacci, Bach.'".

An Introduction to Semantics

This self-contained introduction to natural language semantics addresses the major theoretical questions in the field. The authors introduce the systematic study of linguistic meaning through a sequence of formal tools and their linguistic applications. Starting with propositional connectives and truth conditions, the book moves to quantification and binding, intensionality and tense, and so on. To set their approach in a broader perspective, the authors also explore the interaction of meaning with context and use (the semantics-pragmatics interface) and address some of the foundational questions, especially in connection with cognition in general. They also introduce a few of the most accessible and interesting ideas from recent research to give the reader a bit of the flavor of current work in semantics. The organization of this new edition is modular; after the introductory chapters, the remaining material can be covered in flexible order. The book presupposes no background in formal logic (an appendix introduces the basic notions of set theory) and only a minimal acquaintance with linguistics. This edition includes a substantial amount of completely new material and has been not only updated but redesigned throughout to enhance its user-friendliness.

Contemporary Lectures on Classic Transformational Theory

with Marcela Depiante and Arthur Stepanov

This book provides an introduction to some classic ideas and analyses of transformational generative grammar, viewed both on their own terms and from a more modern, or minimalist perspective. The major focus is on the set of analyses treating English verbal morphology. The book shows how the analyses in Chomsky's classic Syntactic Structures actually work, filling in underlying assumptions and often unstated formal particulars. From there the book moves to successive theoretical developments and revisions—both in general and in particular as they pertain to inflectional verbal morphology. After comparing Chomsky's economy-based account with his later minimalist approach, the book concludes with a hybrid theory of English verbal morphology that includes elements of both Syntactic Structures and A Minimalist Program for Linguistic Theory.

Current Studies in Linguistics No. 33

In this introductory-level linguistics text, Steven E. Weisler and Slavko Milekic develop a theoretically motivated analysis of language with an emphasis on grammar construction and argumentation. They introduce the theory of language, sounds, words, sentences, and meaning, as well as language and the brain.The text is available either in hard-copy form or as a CD-ROM. The CD-ROM presents the text in a dynamic digital learning environment, engaging the user in simulations, demonstrations, hypothesis testing, and theory construction while providing a systematic introduction to linguistic theory. The electronic edition also incorporates the Tree Builder tool for construction and evaluation of phonological, metrical, and syntactic analysis of trees, as well as a word processor, various annotation mechanisms (for example, the ability to create and exchange voice and text memos), import/export capabilities that allow the exchange of different types of information, and an extensive series of interviews with such prominent figures as David Caplan, Noam Chomsky, Lyn Frazier, John Rickford, Tom Roeper, Ivan Sag, and Tom Wasow.

Statistical approaches to processing natural language text have become dominant in recent years. This foundational text is the first comprehensive introduction to statistical natural language processing (NLP) to appear. The book contains all the theory and algorithms needed for building NLP tools. It provides broad but rigorous coverage of mathematical and linguistic foundations, as well as detailed discussion of statistical methods, allowing students and researchers to construct their own implementations. The book covers collocation finding, word sense disambiguation, probabilistic parsing, information retrieval, and other applications.

Edited by Peter Ludlow

Throughout the history of ideas, various branches of philosophy have spun off into the natural sciences, including physics, biology, and perhaps most recently, cognitive psychology. A central theme of this collection is that the philosophy of language, at least a core portion of it, has matured to the point where it is now being spun off into linguistic theory. Each section of the book contains historical (twentieth-century) readings and, where available, recent attempts to apply the resources of contemporary linguistic theory to the problems under discussion. This approach helps to root the naturalization project in the leading questions of analytic philosophy. Although the older readings predate the current naturalization project, they help to lay its conceptual foundations. The main sections of the book, each of which is preceded by an introduction, are Language and Meaning, Logical Form and Grammatical Form, Descriptions, Names, Demonstratives, and Attitude Reports.

The collection is not intended as a final report on a mature line of philosophical inquiry. Rather, its purpose is to show students what doing real philosophy is all about and to let them share in the excitement as philosophers enter a period in which how philosophy of language is conducted could change in fundamental ways.

Core Readings
Edited by Paul Bloom

Language Acquisition offers, in one convenient reader, work by the most outstanding researchers in each field and is intended as a snapshot of the sort of theory and research taking place in language acquisition in the 1990s. All of the articles and chapters were chosen to reflect topics and debates of current interest, and all take an interdisciplinary approach to language development, relating the study of how a child comes to possess a language to issues within linguistics, computational theory, biology, social cognition, and comparative psychology.

While there are several introductory texts on language development, and countless collections of articles, thisscientists are asking about language acquisition, the important experimental findings, and the key theoretical debates, suitable for students at advanced levels and scholars with a range of different perspectives and interests.

The readings are organized into six sections:

- the onset of language development,

- word learning,

- syntax and semantics,

- morphology,

- acquisition in special circumstances, and

- alternative perspectives.

Each section serves as an introduction to a specific area and provides sufficient background for further reading.

Contributors: Dare A. Baldwin. Paul Bloom. Melissa Bowerman. Kathie L. Carpenter. Eve V. Clark. Stephen Crain. Richard F. Cromer. Anne Fernald. Lila Gleitman. Richard Goldberg. Susan Goldin-Meadow. Peter Gordon. Jess Gropen. Michelle Hollander. Janellen Huttenlocher. Annette Karmiloff-Smith. Ellen M.Markman. Peter Marler. Jay L. McClelland. Carolyn Mylander. Elissa L. Newport. Laura Ann Petitto. Steven Pinker. David E. Rumelhart. Patricia Smiley.

A Bradford Book

The Managua Lectures

Language and Problems of Knowledge is Noam Chomsky's most accessible statement on the nature, origins, and current concerns of the field of linguistics. He frames the lectures with four fundamental questions: What do we know when we are able to speak and understand a language? How is this knowledge acquired? How do we use this knowledge? What are the physical mechanisms involved in the representation, acquisition, and use of this knowledge?

Starting from basic concepts, Chomsky sketches the present state of our answers to these questions and offers prospects for future research. Much of the discussion revolves around our understanding of basic human nature (that we are unique in being able to produce a rich, highly articulated, and complex language on the basis of quite rudimentary data), and it is here that Chomsky's ideas on language relate to his ideas on politics.

The initial versions of these lectures were given at the Universidad Centroamericana in Managua, Nicaragua, in March 1986. A parallel set of lectures on contemporary political issues given at the same time has been published by South End Press under the title On Power and Ideology: The Managua Lectures.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT. Language and Problems of Knowledge is sixteenth in the series Current Studies in Linguistics, edited by Jay Keyser.

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