Foundations of Language: Brain, Meaning, Grammar, Evolution

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Already hailed as a masterpiece, Foundations of Language offers a brilliant overhaul of the last thirty-five years of research in generative linguistics and related fields. "Few books really deserve the cliché 'this should be read by every researcher in the field,'" writes Steven Pinker, author of The Language Instinct, "But Ray Jackendoff's Foundations of Language does."
Foundations of Language offers a radically new understanding of how language, the brain, and perception intermesh. The book renews the promise of early generative linguistics: that language can be a valuable entree into understanding the human mind and brain. The approach is remarkably interdisciplinary. Behind its innovations is Jackendoff's fundamental proposal that the creativity of language derives from multiple parallel generative systems linked by interface components. This shift in basic architecture makes possible a radical reconception of mental grammar and how it is learned. As a consequence, Jackendoff is able to reintegrate linguistics with philosophy of mind, cognitive and developmental psychology, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and computational linguistics. Among the major topics treated are language processing, the relation of language to perception, the innateness of language, and the evolution of the language capacity, as well as more standard issues in linguistic theory such as the roles of syntax and the lexicon. In addition, Jackendoff offers a sophisticated theory of semantics that incorporates insights from philosophy of language, logic and formal semantics, lexical semantics of various stripes, cognitive grammar, psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic approaches, and the author's own conceptual semantics.
Here then is the most fundamental contribution to linguistic theory in over three decades.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The intellectual journey of one of the most original and creative thinkers in modern linguistics."—John R. Taylor, Studies in Language

"It's a rich mix, but one laid out in refreshingly plain language.... Provides challenging ideas and a fruitful combination of observation and analysis.... My advice is to read the book for the exceptional effort at synthesis that it is."—Merrill Garrett, Science

"A sweeping survey of every major aspect of language and communication. ... He counters the belief that language stems from syntactic structure alone."—Science News

"Jackendoff is certainly right in thinking that the question of why language has come to be as it is is one that linguists cannot permanently ignore... His breadth of knowledge and soundness of judgment, along with just the right amount of adventurousness, make for a book that deserves to be read and reread by anyone seriously interested in the state of the art of research on language."—American Scientist

"Few books really deserve the cliche 'this should be read by every researcher in the field,' but Ray Jackendoff's Foundations of Language does. I think it is the most important book in the sciences of language to have appeared in many years. Jackendoff has long had a genius for seeing both he forest and the trees, and he puts his gift to good use here in a dazzling combination of theory-building and factual integration. The result is a compelling new view of language and its place in the natural world."—Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology, MIT, and author of The Language Instinct and Words and Rules

"A masterpiece.... The book as a whole deserves a wide readership."—Nature

Library Journal
Jackendoff (linguistics, Brandeis Univ.) tackles the substantial tasks of assessing where Noam Chomsky's foundation of research has led linguistics and reinterpreting his theory of universal grammar. While embracing many of Chomsky's ideas, Jackendoff proposes his own overall theory of language. His well-documented discussion covers "combinatoriality" (or grammar rules) and language processing, as well as lexical and phrasal semantics. Jackendoff's inquiry draws on and complements research in neuroscience, psychology, and biological evolution. For example, he examines working and long-term memory in language production and, most important, discusses phonology, syntax, and semantics as parallel, equally productive, or generative aspects of language. Like Lyle Jenkins (Biolinguistics: Exploring the Biology of Language, Cambridge Univ., 2000), he emphasizes connections between language and biology. Lacking a glossary and a list of the numerous abbreviations, this work is scholarly in approach and hence less accessible than works like Trevor Harely's broad, updated The Psychology of Language: From Data to Theory (Psychology Pr., 2001. 2d ed.). It is nevertheless a significant piece of scholarship and is highly recommended for academic libraries. Marianne Orme, Des Plaines P.L., IL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199264377
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/6/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 504
  • Sales rank: 808,784
  • Product dimensions: 9.50 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Ray Jackendoff is Professor of Linguistics at Brandeis University. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, president elect of the Linguistic Society of America, and past president of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology, he is the author of Semantics and Cognition, Consciousness and the Computational Mind, and The Architecture of the Language Faculty.

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Table of Contents

Part I: Psychological and Biological Foundations
1. The Complexity of Linguistic Structure
2. Language as a Mental Phenomenon
3. Combinatoriality
4. Universal Grammar
Part II: Architectural Foundations
5. The Parallel Architecture
6. Lexical Storage Versus Online Construction
7. Implications for Processing
8. An Evolutionary Perspective on the Architecture
Part III: Semantic and Conceptual Foundations
9. Semantics as a Mentalistic Enterprise
10. Reference and Truth
11. Lexical Semantics
12. Phrasal Semantics
Concluding Remarks

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