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Paperback | $49.00 Short | £33.95 | 640 pp. | 7 x 9 in | January 2011 | ISBN: 9780262514545
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The Harmonic Mind, Volume 2

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.

Detailed studies in both phonology and syntax provide arguments that these grammatical theories and their neural network realizations enable deeper explanations of early acquisition, processing difficulty, cross-linguistic typology, and the possibility of genomically encoding universal principles of grammar. Foundational questions concerning the explanatory status of symbols for central problems such as the unbounded productivity of higher cognition are also given proper treatment.

The work is made accessible to scholars in different fields of cognitive science through tutorial chapters and numerous expository boxes providing background material from several disciplines. Examples common to different chapters facilitate the transition from more basic to more sophisticated treatments. Details of method, formalism, and foundation are presented in later chapters, offering a wealth of new results to specialists in psycholinguistics, language acquisition, theoretical linguistics, computational linguistics, computational neuroscience, connectionist modeling, and philosophy of mind.

About the Authors

Paul Smolensky is Professor of Cognitive Science at Johns Hopkins University. He was a leading member of the PDP connectionist research group, and is the recipient of the 2005 David E. Rumelhart Prize in Cognitive Science, which is awarded annually to an individual or collaborative team making a significant contribution to the formal analysis of human cognition.

Geraldine Legendre is Professor of Cognitive Science at Johns Hopkins University and a preeminent syntactician of French.


"This book is highly recommendable for anyone who is interested in cognitive science, connectionism, the theory of neural networks, optimality theory and their relation to a wide range of applications, above all, in linguistics, and especially to philosophers, computer scientists, linguists, cognitive neuroscientists and psychologists.", Harald Maurer, Journal for General Philosophy of Science


"The Harmonic Mind is a work of remarkable scope. Smolensky, Legendre, and their coauthors elaborate the connectionist foundations of optimality theory and explore the multifaceted consequences of the cognitive architecture they posit. Their investigations touch on an extraordinary range of linguistic, computational, psychological, mathematical, and philosophical issues of central importance to the scientific study of language."
—Tom Wasow, Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy, Stanford University

"Smolensky and Legendre have written a marvelous book of sweeping scope. It contains state-of-the-art research on topics ranging from neural networks to phonology and syntax, including language acquisition, psycholinguistics, and computational linguistics. But its major contribution is its integration of this diverse research under the single unifying theme of optimization, instantiated as harmony maximization in neural networks and optimality theory in symbolic grammars. Its grand vision and sense of wonder and excitement about the phenomena it describes is reminiscent of early work in cognitive science and a welcome antidote to much specialized contemporary research. It serves as a model for, and hopefully will stimulate, integrative research that pays careful attention to empirical phenomena."
—Mark Johnson, Professor of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences, Brown University

"The Harmonic Mind presents a unique synthetic vision of cognitive science, one that everyone interested in cognition, language, mind, and brain will want to know and understand. Over 23 chapters in two volumes, Smolensky, Legendre, and their collaborators lay out a thorough testament to their view that the symbolic and subsymbolic paradigms must be brought together to understand the nature of the human mind. The resulting work is impressive in its scope, encompassing fundamental principles of mental processing and representation and their application to linguistic theory, language processing, and universal grammar. Students just entering the field will find all the background they need to understand the content of the book, while seasoned scholars will find substantial food for thought and discussion."
—James L. McClelland, Carnegie Mellon University

"The Harmonic Mind is a very comprehensive and ambitious effort to integrate connectionist and symbolic processing, and Smolensky, Legendre, and their associates present this integration in the domain of language. Researchers of different persuasions in cognitive science and linguistics will find these volumes very rewarding. I believe that the research presented here will raise very substantially the level of discourse concerning the relationship of connectionism and symbolic processing."
—Aravind K. Joshi, Henry Salvatori Professor of Computer and Cognitive Science, University of Pennsylvania