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Theoretical Linguistics

A Linguistic Analysis


Morphemes for Morris Halle


Norms and Exploitations

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.

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.

How is the information we gather from the world through our sensory and motor apparatus converted into language? It is obvious that there is an interface between language and sensorimotor cognition because we can talk about what we see and do. In this book, Alistair Knott argues that this interface is more direct than commonly assumed. He proposes that the syntax of a concrete sentence--a sentence that reports a direct sensorimotor experience--closely reflects the sensorimotor processes involved in the experience.

Scrambling, Choice Functions, and Differential Marking

In Indefinite Objects, Luis López presents a novel approach to the syntax-semantics interface using indefinite noun phrases as a database. Traditional approaches map structural configurations to semantic interpretations directly; López links configuration to a mode of semantic composition, with the latter yielding the interpretation.

Suppletion, Superlatives, and the Structure of Words

This groundbreaking study of the morphology of comparison yields a surprising result: that even in suppletion (the wholesale replacement of one stem by a phonologically unrelated stem, as in good-better-best) there emerge strikingly robust patterns, virtually exceptionless generalizations across languages. Jonathan David Bobaljik describes the systematicity in suppletion, and argues that at least five generalizations are solid contenders for the status of linguistic universals.

A Study of Pronominal Agreement

Normally, a speaker uses a first person singular pronoun (in English, I, me, mine, myself) to refer to himself or herself. To refer to a single addressee, a speaker uses second person pronouns (you, yours, yourself). But sometimes third person nonpronominal DPs are used to refer to the speaker--for example, this reporter, yours truly--or to the addressee--my lord, the baroness, Madam (Is Madam not feeling well?).

The Natural Semantics of Quantifiers

In Taking Scope, Mark Steedman considers the syntax and semantics of quantifier scope in interaction with negation, polarity, coordination, and pronominal binding, among other constructions. The semantics is “surface compositional,” in that there is a direct correspondence between syntactic types and operations of composition and types and compositions at the level of logical form.

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.