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Theoretical Linguistics

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The Dynamic Interpretation of Tense and Aspect

Alice ter Meulen integrates current research in natural language semantics, with detailed analyses of English discourse, and logical tools from a variety of sources into an information theory that provides the foundation for computational systems to reason about change and the flow of time.The topic of temporal meaning in texts has received considerable attention in recent years from scholars in linguistics, logical semantics, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence.

Essays on Mental Representation

Over the past two decades, Ray Jackendoff has persistently tackled difficult issues in the theory of mind and related theories of cognitive processing. Chief among his contributions is a formal theory that elaborates the nature of language and its relationship to a broad set of other domains.

The Theory of Generalized Conversational Implicature

When we speak, we mean more than we say. In this book Stephen C. Levinson explains some general processes that underlie presumptions in communication. This is the first extended discussion of preferred interpretation in language understanding, integrating much of the best research in linguistic pragmatics from the last two decades. Levinson outlines a theory of presumptive meanings, or preferred interpretations, governing the use of language, building on the idea of implicature developed by the philosopher H.P. Grice.

Languages differ in the types of overt movement they display. For example, some languages (including English) require subjects to move to a preverbal position, while others (including Italian) allow subjects to remain postverbal. In its current form, Minimalism offers no real answer to the question of why these different types of movements are distributed among languages as they are.

The Theta System

One of Tanya Reinhart’s major contributions to linguistic theory is the development of the Theta System (TS), a theory of the interface between the system of concepts and the linguistic computational system. Reinhart introduced her theory in a seminal paper, “The Theta System: Syntactic Realization of Verbal Concepts” (2000) and subsequently published other papers with further theoretical development. Although Reinhart continued to work on the Theta System, she had not completed a planned Linguistic Inquiry volume on the topic before her untimely death in 2007.

A Theory of Linguistic Computation and Storage

Language allows us to express and comprehend an unbounded number of thoughts. This fundamental and much-celebrated property is made possible by a division of labor between a large inventory of stored items (e.g., affixes, words, idioms) and a computational system that productively combines these stored units on the fly to create a potentially unlimited array of new expressions. A language learner must discover a language’s productive, reusable units and determine which computational processes can give rise to new expressions.

This book revives and reinterprets a persistent intuition running through much of the classical work: that the unitary appearance of Obligatory Control into complements conceals an underlying duality of structure and mechanism. Idan Landau argues that control complements divide into two types: In attitude contexts, control is established by logophoric anchoring, while non-attitude contexts it boils down to predication. The distinction is also syntactically represented: Logophoric complements are constructed as a second tier above predicative complements.

When two categories merge and a new syntactic object is formed, what determines which of the two merged categories transmits its properties one level up—or, in current terminology, which of the two initial categories labels the new object? In (Re)labeling, Carlo Cecchetto and Caterina Donati take this question as the starting point of an investigation that sheds light on longstanding puzzles in the theory of syntax in the generative tradition. They put forward a simple idea: that words are special because they can provide a label for free when they merge with some other category.

Noam Chomsky’s Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, published in 1965, was a landmark work in generative grammar that introduced certain technical innovations still drawn upon in contemporary work. The fiftieth anniversary edition of this influential book includes a new preface by the author that identifies proposals that seem to be of lasting significance, reviews changes and improvements in the formulation and implementation of basic ideas, and addresses some of the controversies that arose over the general framework.

In his foundational book, The Minimalist Program, published in 1995, Noam Chomsky offered a significant contribution to the generative tradition in linguistics. This twentieth-anniversary edition reissues this classic work with a new preface by the author.

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