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Philosophy of Language

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The Diversity of Wh-Constructions

This book can be read on two levels: as a novel empirical study of wh- interrogatives and relative constructions in a variety of languages and as a theoretical investigation of chain formation in grammar.

Semantic externalism is the thesis that the contents of some words and thoughts depend in part on properties external to the person who entertains them. In a departure from the widely held doctrine of internalism, externalists maintain that not all mental content is local to the mind. That view, however, seems to some philosophers to be at odds with our ordinary intuitions about self-knowledge.

For the past forty years, linguistics has been dominated by the idea that language is categorical and linguistic competence discrete. It has become increasingly clear, however, that many levels of representation, from phonemes to sentence structure, show probabilistic properties, as does the language faculty. Probabilistic linguistics conceptualizes categories as distributions and views knowledge of language not as a minimal set of categorical constraints but as a set of gradient rules that may be characterized by a statistical distribution.

This collection of articles and associated discussion papers focuses on a problem that has attracted increasing attention from linguists and psychologists throughout the world during the past several years. Reduced to essentials, the problem is that of discovering the character of the mental capacities that make it possible for human beings to attain knowledge of their language on the basis of fragmentary and haphazard early linguistic experience.

This is the first detailed study to explore the little-understood notions of "knowing who someone is," "knowing a person's identity," and related locutions. It locates these notions within the context of a general theory of believing and a semantical theory of belief- and knowledge-ascriptions.

Advances in the Study of Language and Thought

The idea that the language we speak influences the way we think has evoked perennial fascination and intense controversy. According to the strong version of this hypothesis, called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis after the American linguists who propounded it, languages vary in their semantic partitioning of the world, and the structure of one's language influences how one understands the world. Thus speakers of different languages perceive the world differently.

Typology and Process in Concept Structuring

In this two-volume set Leonard Talmy defines the field of cognitive semantics. He approaches the question of how language organizes conceptual material both at a general level and by analyzing a crucial set of particular conceptual domains: space and time, motion and location, causation and force interaction, and attention and viewpoint. Talmy maintains that these are among the most fundamental parameters by which language structures conception.

Concept Structuring Systems

What does our ability to use words—that is, our lexical competence—consist of? What is the difference between a system that can be said to understand language and one that cannot? Most approaches to word meaning fail to account for an essential aspect of our linguistic competence, namely, our ability to apply words to the world. This monograph proposes a dual picture of human lexical competence in which inferential and referential abilities are separate—a proposal confirmed by neuropsychological research on brain-damaged persons.

A Computer Model

The psychologist William James observed that "a native talent for perceiving analogies is ... the leading fact in genius of every order." The centrality and the ubiquity of analogy in creative thought have been noted again and again by scientists, artists, and writers, and understanding and modeling analogical thought have emerged as two of the most important challenges for cognitive science.

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