From Molecule to Metaphor

From Molecule to Metaphor

A Neural Theory of Language

By Jerome Feldman

A Bradford Book





In From Molecule to Metaphor, Jerome Feldman proposes a theory of language and thought that treats language not as an abstract symbol system but as a human biological ability that can be studied as a function of the brain, as vision and motor control are studied. This theory, he writes, is a "bridging theory" that works from extensive knowledge at two ends of a causal chain to explicate the links between. Although the cognitive sciences are revealing much about how our brains produce language and thought, we do not yet know exactly how words are understood or have any methodology for finding out. Feldman develops his theory in computer simulations—formal models that suggest ways that language and thought may be realized in the brain. Combining key findings and theories from biology, computer science, linguistics, and psychology, Feldman synthesizes a theory by exhibiting programs that demonstrate the required behavior while remaining consistent with the findings from all disciplines.

After presenting the essential results on language, learning, neural computation, the biology of neurons and neural circuits, and the mind/brain, Feldman introduces specific demonstrations and formal models of such topics as how children learn their first words, words for abstract and metaphorical concepts, understanding stories, and grammar (including "hot-button" issues surrounding the innateness of human grammar). With this accessible, comprehensive book Feldman offers readers who want to understand how our brains create thought and language a theory of language that is intuitively plausible and also consistent with existing scientific data at all levels.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262062534 384 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 37 illus.


$25.00 X ISBN: 9780262562355 384 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 37 illus.


  • An outstanding and exciting book on the relationship between purpose and reference, and essential reading for cognitive scientists interested in the naturalization of intentionality.

    Vittorio Gallese

    Department of Neuroscience, University of Parma

  • Feldman has a unique perspective on human computation at all levels, drawn from his dual lifelong experiences helping to create modern computer science and bringing deep computational ideas to the study of cognitive science. In this exciting new book, he shows why understanding the most complex computations of the human brain depends on taking account of the ontogeny and phylogeny of our species; and, by doing so, how it might be possible to build a truly embodied cognitive science.

    Steven L. Small

    Professor of Neurology and Psychology, The University of Chicago

  • How can the brain, a highly structured biological and chemical mechanism, made up of neurons with axons, dendrites, and synapses and that functions via flowing ions and neurotransmitters—how can the physical brain give rise to thought and language? Jerome Feldman, my close colleague in unlocking this puzzle, has given us the first serious theory linking neurobiology to neural computation to cognitive linguistics. From Molecule to Metaphor is an indispensable book for anyone interested in how human beings think, act, and communicate.

    George Lakoff

    Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley

  • In From Molecule to Metaphor, Jerome Feldman takes us on a fascinating tour through the mysteries of the human brain, revealing new and unexpected vistas. The ideas are deep, as should be expected from one of the pioneers in the field, but also lucidly presented for the nonspecialist reader.

    V.S. Ramachandran

    Professor and Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, University of California, San Diego

  • In his new book From Molecule to Metaphor: A Neural Theory of Language (MIT Press, 2006), cognitive scientist Jerome Feldman constructs an objective, coherent account of language and thought in the broad context of cognitive science research and data in the 21st century. The book is a must read for those interested in interdisciplinary approaches to language and thought.

    Teenie Matlock, PhD

    Founding Faculty & Assistant Professor of Cognitive Science, University of California, Merced