The Language Organ: Linguistics as Cognitive Physiology

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Challenging and original, The Language Organ treats human language as the manifestation of a faculty of the mind, a mental organ whose nature is determined by human biology. Its functional properties should be explored just as physiology explores the functional properties of physical organs. The authors argue that linguistics investigates cognition, taking as its object mental representations and processes rather than externally observed grammatical patterns (which constitute evidence, but are not themselves the object of study). Such a view has untraditional consequences for the kinds of argument and analysis that can be offered in understanding the nature of language. The book surveys the nature of the language faculty in its various aspects: the systems of sounds, words, and syntax: the development of language in the child and historically; and what is known about its relation to the brain. It discusses the kinds of work that can be carried out in these areas that will contribute to an understanding of the human language organ. The book will appeal to students and researchers in linguistics, and is written to be accessible to colleagues in other disciplines dealing with language as well as to readers with an interest in general science and the nature of the human mind.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A superb overview of the logic of language and its basis in the human mind." --Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology, MITand author of The Language Instinct and Words and Rules
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521007832
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2013
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 284
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen R. Anderson is Professor of Linguistics and Cognitive Science at Yale University. He is the author of The Organization of Phonology (1974), Phonology in the Twentieth Century (1985), and A-Morphous Morphology (Cambridge University Press, 1992).

David W. Lightfoot is Dean of the Graduate School, Georgetown University. He is the author of eight books, most recently The Development of Language (1999).

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Table of Contents

1 Studying the human language faculty 1
2 Language as a mental organ 18
3 Syntax 41
4 Sound patterns in language 67
5 Describing linguistic knowledge 92
6 Phonetics and the I-linguistics of speech 111
7 Morphology 131
8 Language change 157
9 "Growing" a language 186
10 The organic basis of language 216
References 244
Index 257
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