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Linguistics and Cognition

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.

Impossible Persons, Daniel Harbour’s comprehensive and groundbreaking formal theory of grammatical person, upends understanding of a universal and ubiquitous grammatical category. Breaking with much past work, Harbour establishes three core theses, one empirical, one theoretical, and one metatheoretical. Together, these redefine the data subsumed under the rubric of “person,” simplify the feature inventory that a theory of person must posit, and restructure the metatheory in which feature theory as a whole resides.

In this book, Frank Guenther offers a comprehensive, unified account of the neural computations underlying speech production, with an emphasis on speech motor control rather than linguistic content. Guenther focuses on the brain mechanisms responsible for commanding the musculature of the vocal tract to produce articulations that result in an acoustic signal conveying a desired string of syllables.

Integrating Evolution, Acquisition, and Processing

Language is a hallmark of the human species; the flexibility and unbounded expressivity of our linguistic abilities is unique in the biological world. In this book, Morten Christiansen and Nick Chater argue that to understand this astonishing phenomenon, we must consider how language is created: moment by moment, in the generation and understanding of individual utterances; year by year, as new language learners acquire language skills; and generation by generation, as languages change, split, and fuse through the processes of cultural evolution.

The Brain and the Enigma of Impossible Languages

In The Boundaries of Babel, Andrea Moro describes an encounter between two cultures: contemporary theoretical linguistics and the cognitive neurosciences. As a leading theoretical linguist in the generative tradition and also a neuroscientist, Moro is uniquely equipped to tell this story.

Essays on Language, Music, and Cognition in Honor of Ray Jackendoff

This volume offers new research in cognitive science by leading scholars, exploring different areas of cognition with an emphasis on language. The contributions—in such fields as linguistic theory, psycholinguistics, evolution, and consciousness—reflect the thriving interdisciplinary scholarship in cognitive science today. Ray Jackendoff’s pioneering cross-disciplinary work was instrumental in establishing the field, and Structures in the Mind, with contributions from Jackendoff’s colleagues and former students, is a testament to his lasting influence.

Edited by Jeff MacSwan

Codeswitching is the alternate use of two or more languages among bilingual interlocutors. It is distinct from borrowing, which involves the phonological and morphological integration of a word from one language into another. Codeswitching involves the mixing of phonologically distinctive elements into a single utterance: Mi hermano bought some ice cream. This volume examines the grammatical properties of languages mixed in this way, focusing on cases of language mixing within a sentence.

Word Learning and the Embodied Mind

Ostension is bodily movement that manifests our engagement with things, whether we wish it to or not. Gestures, glances, facial expressions: all betray our interest in something. Ostension enables our first word learning, providing infants with a prelinguistic way to grasp the meaning of words. Ostension is philosophically puzzling; it cuts across domains seemingly unbridgeable—public–private, inner–outer, mind–body. In this book, Chad Engelland offers a philosophical investigation of ostension and its role in word learning by infants.

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.