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Theoretical Linguistics

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.

Optimal and Costly Computations

In this monograph Tanya Reinhart discusses strategies enabling the interface of different cognitive systems, which she identifies as the systems of concepts, inference, context, and sound. Her point of departure is Noam Chomsky's hypothesis that language is optimally designed—namely, that in many cases, the bare minimum needed for constructing syntactic derivations is sufficient for the full needs of the interface. Deviations from this principle are viewed as imperfections.

From Neural Computation to Optimality-Theoretic Grammar Volume I: Cognitive Architecture
From Neural Computation to Optimality-Theoretic Grammar Volume II: Linguistic and Philosophical Implications

Despite their apparently divergent accounts of higher cognition, cognitive theories based on neural computation and those employing symbolic computation can in fact strengthen one another. To substantiate this controversial claim, this landmark work develops in depth a cognitive architecture based in neural computation but supporting formally explicit higher-level symbolic descriptions, including new grammar formalisms.

The Syntax of Predication, Predicate Inversion, and Copulas

In Relators and Linkers, Marcel den Dikken presents a syntax of predication and the inversion of the predicate around its subject, emphasizing meaningless elements (elements with no semantic load) that play an essential role in the establishment and syntactic manipulation of predication relationships. One such element, the RELATOR, mediates the relationship between a predicate and its subject in the base representation of predication structures. A second, the LINKER, connects the predicate to its subject in Predicate Inversion constructions.

"If you turn left at the next corner, you will see a blue house at the end of the street." That sentence—a conditional—might be true even though it is possible that you will not see a blue house at the end of the street when you turn left at the next corner. A moving van may block your view; the house may have been painted pink; a crow might swoop down and peck out your eyes. Still, in some contexts, we might ignore these possibilities and correctly assert the conditional.

A Theory of the Morphology-Syntax Interface

This important monograph offers a resolution to the debate in theoretical linguistics over the role of syntactic head movement in word formation. It does so by synthesizing the syntactic and lexicalist approaches on the basis of the empirical data that support each side.

Bridging the Language-as-Product and Language-as-Action Traditions

Recent approaches to language processing have focused either on individual cognitive processes in producing and understanding language or on social cognitive factors in interactive conversation. Although the cognitive and social approaches to language processing would seem to have little theoretical or methodological common ground, the goal of this book is to encourage the merging of these two traditions.

In Ontological Semantics, Sergei Nirenburg and Victor Raskin introduce a comprehensive approach to the treatment of text meaning by computer. Arguing that being able to use meaning is crucial to the success of natural language processing (NLP) applications, they depart from the ad hoc approach to meaning taken by much of the NLP community and propose theory-based semantic methods.

A Comparative Approach

The search for origins of communication in a wide variety of species including humans is rapidly becoming a thoroughly interdisciplinary enterprise. In this volume, scientists engaged in the fields of evolutionary biology, linguistics, animal behavior, developmental psychology, philosophy, the cognitive sciences, robotics, and neural network modeling come together to explore a comparative approach to the evolution of communication systems.