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Linguistics and Language

Linguistics and Language

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A Symptom or a Stage?

When children are late in hitting developmental milestones, parents worry. And no delay causes more parental anxiety than late talking, which is associated in many parents’ minds with such serious conditions as autism and severe intellectual disability. In fact, as children’s speech expert Stephen Camarata points out in this enlightening book, children are late in beginning to talk for a wide variety of reasons. For some children, late talking may be a symptom of other, more serious, problems; for many others, however, it may simply be a stage with no long-term complications.

Camarata describes in accessible language what science knows about the characteristics and causes of late talking. He explains that today’s greater awareness of autism, as well as the expanded definition of autism as a “spectrum” of symptoms, has increased the chances that a late-talking child will be diagnosed—or misdiagnosed—with autism. But, he reminds us, late talking is only one of a constellation of autism symptoms. Although all autistic children are late talkers, not all late-talking children are autistic.

Camarata draws on more than twenty-five years of professional experience diagnosing and treating late talkers—and on his personal experience of being a late talker himself and having a late-talking son. Camarata offers parents valuable guidance on seeking treatment, advising them to get second and third opinions if necessary, and warning them against false diagnoses, unqualified practitioners, and ineffective therapies. He provides information that will help parents navigate the maze of doctors, speech therapists, early childhood services, and special education; and he describes the effect that late talking may have on children’s post-talking learning styles.

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 first edition of this work established Children with Specific Language Impairment as the landmark reference on this condition, considering not only the disorder’s history, possible origins, and treatment but also what SLI might tell us about language organization and development in general. This second edition offers a complete update of the earlier volume.

Much of the second edition is completely new, reflecting findings and interpretations based on the hundreds of studies that have appeared since the publication of the first edition in 1997. Topics include linguistic details (descriptive and theoretical), word and sentence processing findings, genetics, neurobiology, treatment, and comparisons to such conditions as autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, and dyslexia. The book covers SLI in children who speak a wide range of languages, and, although the emphasis is on children, it also includes studies of adults who were diagnosed with SLI as children or are the parents of children with SLI.

Written by a leading scholar in the field, Children with Specific Language Impairment offers the most comprehensive, balanced, and unified treatment of SLI available.

An Essay on the Syntax of Negation

In this book, Chris Collins and Paul Postal consider examples such the one below on the interpretation where Nancy thinks that this course is not interesting:
Nancy doesn’t think this course is interesting.

They argue such examples instantiate a kind of syntactic raising that they term Classical NEG Raising. This involves the raising of a NEG (negation) from the embedded clause to the matrix clause. Collins and Postal develop three main arguments to support their claim. First, they show that Classical NEG Raising obeys island constraints. Second, they document that a syntactic raising analysis predicts both the grammaticality and particular properties of what they term Horn clauses (named for Laurence Horn, who discovered them). Finally, they argue that the properties of certain parenthetical structures strongly support the syntactic character of Classical NEG Raising.

Collins and Postal also offer a detailed analysis of the main argument in the literature against a syntactic raising analysis (which they call the Composed Quantifier Argument). They show that the facts appealed to in this argument not only fail to conflict with their approach but actually support a syntactic view. In the course of their argument, Collins and Postal touch on a variety of related topics, including the syntax of negative polarity items, the status of sequential negation, and the scope of negative quantifiers.

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.

Many semantic theories consider the meanings of words as relatively stable and independent of the communicative context. Gärdenfors focuses instead on how various forms of communication establish a system of meanings that becomes shared between interlocutors. He argues that these “meetings of mind” depend on the underlying geometric structures, and that these structures facilitate language learning. Turning to lexical semantics, Gärdenfors argues that a unified theory of word meaning can be developed by using conceptual spaces. He shows that the meaning of different word classes can be given a cognitive grounding, and offers semantic analyses of nouns, adjectives, verbs, and prepositions. He also presents models of how the meanings of words are composed to form new meanings and of the basic semantic role of sentences. Finally, he considers the future implications of his theory for robot semantics and the Semantic Web.

In this book, David Pesetsky argues that the peculiarities of Russian nominal phrases provide significant clues concerning the syntactic side of morphological case. Pesetsky argues against the traditional view that case categories such as nominative or genitive have a special status in the grammar of human languages. Supporting his argument with a detailed analysis of a complex array of morpho-syntactic phenomena in the Russian noun phrase (with brief excursions to other languages), he proposes instead that the case categories are just part-of-speech features copied as morphology from head to dependent as syntactic structure is built.

Pesetsky presents a careful investigation of one of the thorniest topics in Russian grammar, the morpho-syntax of noun phrases with numerals (including those traditionally called the paucals). He argues that these bewilderingly complex facts can be explained if case categories are viewed simply as parts of speech, assigned as morphology. Pesetsky’s analysis is notable for offering a new theoretical perspective on some of the most puzzling areas of Russian grammar, a highly original account of nominal case that significantly affects our understanding of an important property of language.

A Linguistic Analysis

In this book, Michela Ippolito proposes a compositional semantics for subjunctive (or would) conditionals in English that accounts for their felicity conditions and the constraints on the satisfaction of their presuppositions by capitalizing on the occurrence of past tense morphology in both antecedent and consequent clauses. Very little of the extensive literature on subjunctive conditionals tries to account for the meaning of these sentences compositionally or to relate this meaning to their linguistic form; this book fills that gap, connecting the different lines of research on conditionals. Ippolito’s proposal will be of interest both to linguists and to philosophers concerned with conditionals and modality more generally.

Ippolito reviews previous analyses of counterfactuals and subjunctive conditionals in the work of David Lewis, Robert Stalnaker, Angelika Kratzer, and others; considers the contrast between future simple past subjunctive conditionals and future past perfect subjunctive conditionals; presents a proposal for subjunctive conditionals that addresses puzzles left unsolved by previous proposals; reviews a number of presupposition triggers showing that they fit the pattern predicted by her proposal; and discusses an asymmetry between the past and the future among subjunctive conditionals, arguing that the best account of our linguistic intuitions must include an indeterministic view of the world.

The Art of Rogues and Riddlers

Dark Tongues constitutes a sustained exploration of a perplexing fact that has never received the attention it deserves. Wherever human beings share a language, they also strive to make from it something new: a cryptic idiom, built from the grammar that they know, which will allow them to communicate in secrecy. Such hidden languages come in many shapes. They may be playful or serious, children’s games or adults’ work. They may be as impenetrable as foreign tongues, or slightly different from the idioms from which they spring, or barely perceptible, their existence being the subject of uncertain, even unlikely, suppositions.

The first recorded jargons date to the time of the Renaissance, when writers across Europe noted that obscure languages had suddenly come into use. A varied cast of characters — lawyers, grammarians, and theologians — denounced these new forms of speech, arguing that they were tools of crime, plotted in tongues that honest people could not understand. Before the emergence of these modern jargons, however, the artificial twisting of languages served a different purpose. In epochs and regions as diverse as archaic Greece and Rome and medieval Provence and Scandinavia, singers and scribes also invented opaque varieties of speech. They did so not to defraud, but to reveal and record a divine thing: the language of the gods, which poets and priests alone were said to master.

Dark Tongues moves among these various artificial and hermetic tongues. From criminal jargons to sacred idioms, from Saussure’s work on anagrams to Jakobson’s theory of subliminal patterns in poetry, from the arcane arts of the Druids and Biblical copyists to the secret procedure that Tristan Tzara, founder of Dada, believed he had uncovered in Villon’s songs and ballads, Dark Tongues explores the common crafts of rogues and riddlers, which play sound and sense against each other.

Morphemes for Morris Halle

This collection offers a snapshot of current research in Distributed Morphology, highlighting the lasting influence of Morris Halle, a pioneer in generative linguistics. Distributed Morphology, which integrates the morphological with the syntactic, originated in Halle’s work. These essays, written to mark his 90th birthday, make original theoretical contributions to the field and emphasize Halle’s foundational contributions to the study of morphology.

The authors primarily focus on the issues of locality, exploring the tight connection of morphology to phonology, syntax and semantics that lies at the core of Distributed Morphology. The nature of phases, the notion of a morpho-syntactic feature, allomorphy and exponence, the synthetic/analytic alternation, stress assignment, and syntactic agreement are all shown to link to more than one grammatical module.

Animated discussion with students has been central to Halle’s research, and the development of Distributed Morphology has been shaped and continued by his students, many of whom have contributed to this volume. Halle’s support, advice, and enthusiasm encouraged the research exemplified here. In the Hallean tradition, these papers are sure to inspire all generations of morphologists.

Contributors
Karlos Arregi, Jonathan David Bobaljik, Eulàlia Bonet, David Embick, Daniel Harbour, Heidi Harley, Alec Marantz, Tatjana Marvin, Ora Matushansky, Martha McGinnis, Andrew Nevins, Rolf Noyer, Isabel Oltra-Massuet, Mercedes Tubino Blanco, Susi Wurmbrand

The Acquisition of Argument Structure

Before Steven Pinker wrote bestsellers on language and human nature, he wrote several technical monographs on language acquisition that have become classics in cognitive science. Learnability and Cognition, first published in 1989, brought together two big topics: how do children learn their mother tongue, and how does the mind represent basic categories of meaning such as space, time, causality, agency, and goals? The stage for this synthesis was set by the fact that when children learn a language, they come to make surprisingly subtle distinctions: pour water into the glass and fill the glass with water sound natural, but pour the glass with water and fill water into the glass sound odd. How can this happen, given that children are not reliably corrected for uttering odd sentences, and they don't just parrot back the correct ones they hear from their parents? Pinker resolves this paradox with a theory of how children acquire the meaning and uses of verbs, and explores that theory’s implications for language, thought, and the relationship between them.

As Pinker writes in a new preface, "The Secret Life of Verbs," the phenomena and ideas he explored in this book inspired his 2007 bestseller The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature. These technical discussions, he notes, provide insight not just into language acquisition but into literary metaphor, scientific understanding, political discourse, and even the conceptions of sexuality that go into obscenity.

Exploring the Evolution of Mind and Brain

Scholars have long been captivated by the parallels between birdsong and human speech and language. In this book, leading scholars draw on the latest research to explore what birdsong can tell us about the biology of human speech and language and the consequences for evolutionary biology. They examine the cognitive and neural similarities between birdsong learning and speech and language acquisition, considering vocal imitation, auditory learning, an early vocalization phase ("babbling"), the structural properties of birdsong and human language, and the striking similarities between the neural organization of learning and vocal production in birdsong and human speech.

After outlining the basic issues involved in the study of both language and evolution, the contributors compare birdsong and language in terms of acquisition, recursion, and core structural properties, and then examine the neurobiology of song and speech, genomic factors, and the emergence and evolution of language.

Contributors: Hermann Ackermann, Gabriël J.L. Beckers, Robert C. Berwick, Johan J. Bolhuis, Noam Chomsky, Frank Eisner, Martin Everaert, Michale S. Fee, Olga Fehér, Simon E. Fisher, W. Tecumseh Fitch, Jonathan B. Fritz, Sharon M.H. Gobes, Riny Huijbregts, Eric Jarvis, Robert Lachlan, Ann Law, Michael A. Long, Gary F. Marcus, Carolyn McGettigan, Daniel Mietchen, Richard Mooney, Sanne Moorman, Kazuo Okanoya, Christophe Pallier, Irene M. Pepperberg, Jonathan F. Prather, Franck Ramus, Eric Reuland, Constance Scharff, Sophie K. Scott, Neil Smith, Ofer Tchernichovski, Carel ten Cate, Christopher K. Thompson, Frank Wijnen, Moira Yip, Wolfram Ziegler, Willem Zuidema

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