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Linguistics and Language

Linguistics and Language

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Exploring Language with Game Theory

In Meaningful Games, Robin Clark explains in an accessible manner the usefulness of game theory in thinking about a wide range of issues in linguistics. Clark argues that we use grammar strategically to signal our intended meanings: our choices as speaker are conditioned by what choices the hearer will make interpreting what we say. Game theory—according to which the outcome of a decision depends on the choices of others—provides a formal system that allows us to develop theories about the kind of decision making that is crucial to understanding linguistic behavior.

In The Connectives, Lloyd Humberstone examines the semantics and pragmatics of natural language sentence connectives (and, or, if, not), giving special attention to their formal behavior according to proposed logical systems and the degree to which such treatments capture their intuitive meanings. It will be an essential resource for philosophers, mathematicians, computer scientists, linguists, or any scholar who finds connectives, and the conceptual issues surrounding them, to be a source of interest.

From American Linguistics to Socialist Zionism

In 1995, Robert Barsky met with Noam Chomsky to discuss hiswork-in-progress, Noam Chomsky: A Life ofDissent (MIT Press, 1997). Chomsky told Barsky that he shouldfocus his attention instead on midcentury linguist and activist Zellig Harris,who was, Chomsky modestly insisted, more interesting than Chomsky himself.Intrigued, Barsky began to research Harris (1909–1992) and discovered thestory of a major figure in American intellectual life "sitting in acorner in the middle of the room"—partof crucial twentieth-century conversations about language, technology, labor,politics, and Zionism.

This volume brings together contributions by prominent researchers in the fields of language processing and language acquisition on topics of common interest: how people refer to objects in the world, how people comprehend such referential expressions, and how children acquire the ability to refer and to understand reference. The contributors first discuss issues related to children's acquisition and processing of reference, then consider evidence of adults' processing of reference from eye-tracking methods (the visual-world paradigm) and from corpora and reading experiments.

From Neural Computation to Optimality-Theoretic Grammar Volume II: Linguistic and Philosophical Implications

Despite their apparently divergent accounts of higher cognition, cognitive theories based on neural computation and those employing symbolic computation can in fact strengthen one another. To substantiate this controversial claim, this landmark work develops in depth a cognitive architecture based in neural computation but supporting formally explicit higher-level symbolic descriptions, including new grammar formalisms.

From Neural Computation to Optimality-Theoretic Grammar Volume I: Cognitive Architecture

Pronouns and anaphors (including reflexives such as himself and herself) may or must depend on antecedents for their interpretation. These dependencies are subject to conditions that prima facie show substantial crosslinguistic variation. In this monograph, Eric Reuland presents a theory of how these anaphoric dependencies are represented in natural language in a way that does justice to the the variation one finds across languages. He explains the conditions on these dependencies in terms of elementary properties of the computational system of natural language.

A Study of (Mostly) English Object Structure

In Edge-Based Clausal Syntax, Paul Postal rejects the notion that an English phrase of the form [V + DP] invariably involves a grammatical relation properly characterized as a direct object. He argues instead that at least three distinct relations occur in such a structure. The different syntactic properties of these three kinds of objects are shown by how they behave in passives, middles, -able forms, tough movement, wh-movement, Heavy NP Shift, Ride Node Raising, re-prefixation, and many other tests.

Chomsky showed that no description of natural language syntax would be adequate without some notion of movement operations in a syntactic derivation. It now seems likely that such movement transformations are formally simple operations, in which a single phrase is displaced from its original position within a phrase marker, but after more than fifty years of generative theorizing, the mechanics of syntactic movement are still murky and controversial.

Human communication is grounded in fundamentally cooperative, even shared, intentions. In this original and provocative account of the evolutionary origins of human communication, Michael Tomasello connects the fundamentally cooperative structure of human communication (initially discovered by Paul Grice) to the especially cooperative structure of human (as opposed to other primate) social interaction.

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