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Linguistics and Language

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Beginning with the early works of Aristotle, the interpretation of the verb to be runs through Western linguistic thought like Ariadne's thread. As it unravels, it becomes intertwined with philosophy, metaphysics, logic, and even with mathematics—so much so that Bertrand Russell showed no hesitation in proclaiming that the verb to be was a disgrace to the human race.

The Origins of a Uniquely Human Capacity

Language makes us human. It is an intrinsic part of us, although we seldom think about it. Language is also an extremely complex entity with subcomponents responsible for its phonological, syntactic, and semantic aspects. In this landmark work, Angela Friederici offers a comprehensive account of these subcomponents and how they are integrated. Tracing the neurobiological basis of language across brain regions in humans and other primate species, she argues that species-specific brain differences may be at the root of the human capacity for language.

A Syntactic Universal

This book presents evidence for a universal word order constraint, the Final-over-Final Condition (FOFC), and discusses the theoretical implications of this phenomenon. FOFC is a syntactic condition that disallows structures where a head-initial phrase is contained in a head-final phrase in the same extended projection/domain. The authors argue that FOFC is a linguistic universal, not just a strong tendency, and not a constraint on processing. They discuss the effects of the universal in various domains, including the noun phrase, the adjective phrase, the verb phrase, and the clause.

Children with specific language impairment (SLI) show a significant deficit in spoken language that cannot be attributed to neurological damage, hearing impairment, or intellectual disability. More prevalent than autism and at least as prevalent as dyslexia, SLI affects approximately seven percent of all children; it is longstanding, with adverse effects on academic, social, and (eventually) economic standing.

The Pleasures and Perils of Cross-Cultural Communication

We can learn to speak other languages, but do we truly understand what we are saying? How much detail should we offer when someone asks how we are? How close should we stand to our conversational partners? Is an invitation genuine or just pro forma? So much of communication depends on culture and context. In Getting Through, Roger Kreuz and Richard Roberts offer a guide to understanding and being understood in different cultures.

Conjunction Reduction Redux

In this book, Barry Schein argues that “and” is always the sentential logical connective with the same, one, meaning. “And” always means “&,” across the varied constructions in which it is tokened in natural language. Schein examines the constructions that challenge his thesis, and shows that the objections disappear when these constructions are translated into Eventish, a neo-Davidsonian event semantics, and, enlarged with Cinerama Semantics, a vocabulary for spatial orientation and navigation.

An Introduction to Language and Communication

This popular introductory linguistics text is unique for its integration of themes. Rather than treat morphology, phonetics, phonology, syntax, and semantics as completely separate fields, the book shows how they interact. The authors provide a sound introduction to linguistic methodology, focusing on a set of linguistic concepts that are among the most fundamental within the field. By studying the topics in detail, students can get a feeling for how work in different areas of linguistics is done.

Language and Evolution

“A loosely connected collection of four essays that will fascinate anyone interested in the extraordinary phenomenon of language.”
New York Review of Books

Much attention in theoretical linguistics in the generative and Minimalist traditions is concerned with issues directly or indirectly related to movement. The EPP (extended projection principle), introduced by Chomsky in 1981, appeared to coincide with morphological agreement, and agreement came to play a central role as the driver of movement and other narrow-syntax operations. In this book, Shigeru Miyagawa continues his investigation into a computational equivalent for agreement in agreementless languages such as Japanese.

Semantics Based on Conceptual Spaces

In The Geometry of Meaning, Peter Gärdenfors proposes a theory of semantics that bridges cognitive science and linguistics and shows how theories of cognitive processes, in particular concept formation, can be exploited in a general semantic model. He argues that our minds organize the information involved in communicative acts in a format that can be modeled in geometric or topological terms—in what he terms conceptual spaces, extending the theory he presented in an earlier book by that name.

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