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Linguistics and Language

Linguistics and Language

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Willard Van Orman Quine begins this influential work by declaring, "Language is a social art. In acquiring it we have to depend entirely on intersubjectively available cues as to what to say and when." As Patricia Smith Churchland notes in her foreword to this new edition, with Word and Object Quine challenged the tradition of conceptual analysis as a way of advancing knowledge. The book signaled twentieth-century philosophy's turn away from metaphysics and what Churchland calls the "phony precision" of conceptual analysis.

In No Medium, Craig Dworkin looks at works that are blank, erased, clear, or silent, writing critically and substantively about works for which there would seem to be not only nothing to see but nothing to say. Examined closely, these ostensibly contentless works of art, literature, and music point to a new understanding of media and the limits of the artistic object.
    

These fifteen original essays address the core semantic concepts of reference and referring from both philosophical and linguistic perspectives. After an introductory essay that casts current trends in reference and referring in terms of an ongoing dialogue between Fregean and Russellian approaches, the book addresses specific topics, balanc
ing breadth of coverage with thematic unity.

How is the information we gather from the world through our sensory and motor apparatus converted into language? It is obvious that there is an interface between language and sensorimotor cognition because we can talk about what we see and do. In this book, Alistair Knott argues that this interface is more direct than commonly assumed. He proposes that the syntax of a concrete sentence--a sentence that reports a direct sensorimotor experience--closely reflects the sensorimotor processes involved in the experience.

Language Experience and the Recognition of Spoken Words

Understanding speech in our native tongue seems natural and effortless; listening to speech in a nonnative language is a different experience. In this book, Anne Cutler argues that listening to speech is a process of native listening because so much of it is exquisitely tailored to the requirements of the native language. Her cross-linguistic study (drawing on experimental work in languages that range from English and Dutch to Chinese and Japanese) documents what is universal and what is language specific in the way we listen to spoken language.

Scrambling, Choice Functions, and Differential Marking

In Indefinite Objects, Luis López presents a novel approach to the syntax-semantics interface using indefinite noun phrases as a database. Traditional approaches map structural configurations to semantic interpretations directly; López links configuration to a mode of semantic composition, with the latter yielding the interpretation.

Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf

The pioneering linguist Benjamin Whorf (1897–1941) grasped the relationship between human language and human thinking: how language can shape our innermost thoughts. His basic thesis is that our perception of the world and our ways of thinking about it are deeply influenced by the structure of the languages we speak. The writings collected in this volume include important papers on the Maya, Hopi, and Shawnee languages, as well as more general reflections on language and meaning.

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.

Since it was introduced to the English-speaking world in 1962, Lev Vygotsky’s Thought and Language has become recognized as a classic foundational work of cognitive science. Its 1962 English translation must certainly be considered one of the most important and influential books ever published by the MIT Press. In this highly original exploration of human mental development, Vygotsky analyzes the relationship between words and consciousness, arguing that speech is social in its origins and that only as children develop does it become internalized verbal thought.

Building Computers That Understand Speech

Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey famously featured HAL, a computer with the ability to hold lengthy conversations with his fellow space travelers. More than forty years later, we have advanced computer technology that Kubrick never imagined, but we do not have computers that talk and understand speech as HAL did. Is it a failure of our technology that we have not gotten much further than an automated voice that tells us to “say or press 1”?

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