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?
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.
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.
This accessible, hands-on textbook not only introduces students to the important topics in historical linguistics but also shows them how to apply the methods described and how to think about the issues. Abundant examples and exercises allow students to focus on how to do historical linguistics. The book is distinctive for its integration of the standard topics with others now considered important to the field, including syntactic change, grammaticalization, sociolinguistic contributions to linguistic change, distant genetic relationships, areal linguistics, and linguistic prehistory.
In A Syntax of Substance, David Adger proposes a new approach to phrase structure that eschews functional heads and labels structures exocentrically. His proposal simultaneously simplifies the syntactic system and restricts the range of possible structures, ruling out the ubiquitous (remnant) roll-up derivations and forcing a separation of arguments from their apparent heads.
In Lexical Analysis, Patrick Hanks offers a wide-ranging empirical investigation of word use and meaning in language. The book fills the need for a lexically based, corpus-driven theoretical approach that will help people understand how words go together in collocational patterns and constructions to make meanings. Such an approach is now possible, Hanks writes, because of the availability of new forms of evidence (corpora, the Internet) and the development of new methods of statistical analysis and inferencing.
Willard Van Orman Quine begins this influential work by declaring, "Language is a social art. In acquiring it we have to depend entirely on intersubjectively available cues as to what to say and when." As Patricia Smith Churchland notes in her foreword to this new edition, with Word and Object Quine challenged the tradition of conceptual analysis as a way of advancing knowledge. The book signaled twentieth-century philosophy's turn away from metaphysics and what Churchland calls the "phony precision" of conceptual analysis.
In No Medium, Craig Dworkin looks at works that are blank, erased, clear, or silent, writing critically and substantively about works for which there would seem to be not only nothing to see but nothing to say. Examined closely, these ostensibly contentless works of art, literature, and music point to a new understanding of media and the limits of the artistic object.