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Paperback | $38.00 Short | £26.95 | ISBN: 9780262580434 | March 1981

Linguistic Theory and Psychological Reality


"Any adequate psychology of man must provide some way to understand the human capacity for language," the editors of this volume write. "It was a belief shared by quite a few among us that developments in linguistics and psychology were leading to similar conclusions by separate routes and that this was an appropriate time to explore the implications of these apparently parallel developments for future, perhaps joint, work. This volume represents a few initial steps in the direction of that goal."

The nine chapters of this book were written by linguists and psychologists, after extended collaboration and exchange of ideas. In the first chapter, "A Realistic Transformational Grammar," Joan Bresnan (MIT) explores some of the consequences of her proposal that the role of many transformations in generative grammar should be subsumed by the lexical component. The character of lexical entries is the central topic of "Semantic Relations Among Words," by George A. Miller (Rockefeller University); he reports views and suggestions that he has developed since the publication of his and Johnson-Laird's monumental Language and Perception (1976). The chapter by Eric Wanner (Rockefeller University) and Michael Maratsos (University of Minnesota), "An ATN Approach to Comprehension," presents a nontransformational model of language processing that uses concepts developed in automatic parsing systems. The relations between their psychological model and Bresnan's lexical-transformational model is outlined in Chapter 1.

"Anaphora as an Approach to Pragmatics" by Keith Stenning (University of Liverpool) explores the central problem of pragmatics: a sentence can express different meanings in different contexts. He proposes that a successful account of antecedent-anaphor relations must recognize the relation between a linguistic entity and its context, linguistic or nonlinguistic.

Ray Jackendoff (Brandeis), in "Grammar as Evidence for Conceptual Structure," attempts to use the information about semantic structure that is provided by the interpretation of various syntactic configurations in order to gain insights into basic attributes of human cognition.

The remaining chapters deal with ways knowledge of a language is acquired and lost. In "Language and the Brain," Edgar B. Zurif (Boston University Medical School) and Sheila E. Blumstein (Brown University and Boston University Medical School) survey some recent work on aphasia in the light of different theoretical models of language. Michael Maratsos, in "New Models in Linguistics and Language Acquisition," inquires into the implications that a language model with restricted transformational component has for understanding of the way children acquire syntax. In "The Child as Word Learner" Susan Carey (MIT) examines the rapidity with which children learn words; she proposes that the process involves two stages: an almost instantaneous assignment of a new world to a field of related words, followed by a slow working out of its place in that field. Finally, Morris Halle (MIT), in "Knowledge Unlearned and Untaught: What speakers know about the sounds of their language," cites facts that normal speakers of English demonstrably know but could never have been explicitly taught, nor in some cases even learned. Halle suggests this is a manifestation of innate knowledge that is genetically programmed into organisms.

About the Editors

Morris Halle is Institute Professor and Professor of Linguistics Emeritus at MIT.

George Miller was James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Psychology at Princeton Univeristy and a pioneer in cognitive science. Miller was an innovator in the study of language and cognition, helping to establish psycholinguistics as an independent field of research in psychology. 


"A fine collection, containing important new proposals nicely blended with background information to form a lively and informative survey of recent research on a variety of topics centering around the question of how linguistic information is acquired, represented, and used."
Contemporary Psychology
"Central to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's 'TheOak and the Calf'... is his critical, controversial portrait of the late Aleksandr Tvardovsky, editor of the liberal Soviet journalNovy Mir which launched Solzhenitsyn as awriter. Now we have a powerful rebuttal,written originally in samizdat by Novy Mir'sdeputy editor-literary critic who witnessedthe tense events Solzhenitsyn relates in hismemoir.... Point by point he takes onSolzhenitsyn's charges against Tvardovsky.... Lakshin's bill of particulars is notmere internecine squabble but rather an authentic attempt to right the record, a telling, important document."
- Publishers Weekly
"This collection of nine papers, all appearing for the first time... represents a reevaluation of some of the basic tenets of transformational grammar theory in response to the issue of psychological reality, and it offers some observations about real language behavior that relate to this problem."
The Linguistic Reporter
"This superb collection of nine important papers by some of the most interesting thinkers in linguistics and psychology covers a wide variety of topics, from syntactic theory, to process models, to neurolinguistics, to language acquisition. However, even within this diversity, there are several common threads woven through many of the papers that suggest where much of the future research on the psychology of language will take place. Three topics repeatedly discussed are the lexicon, task specificity, and the relation between linguistic and conceptual knowledge."
American Scientist
"Vladimir Lakshin, a man of great stature,has defended Tvardovsky... providingenough information about Solzhenitsyn'smethods in the process to end many mysteries about him. And with his reputation forliterary excellence and personal honesty,Lakshin can be neither dismissed norexplained away..."
-George Feifer, Harpers