Foundations of Language: Brain, Meaning, Grammar, Evolution

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Here then is the most fundamental contribution to linguistic theory in over three decades. The book deserves a wide readership' John C. 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 the forest and the trees, and he puts his gift to good use here in a dazzling combination of theory-building and factual integration.

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The result is a compelling new view of language and its place in the natural world. While embracing many of Chomsky's ideas, Jackendoff proposes his own overall theory of language Foundations of Language is a monumental scholarly achievement, which should be obligatory reading for any psycholinguist. The book offers a point of entry into these issues for neuroscientists, psycholinguists, and philosophers of language as well as linguists from various generative and cognitive backgrounds.

You may not agree with everything he says, but you are bound to appreciate the clarity, precision, depth of analysis, breadth of knowledge and impressive range of data he brings to the debate. The book deserves to be the reference point for all future theorizing about the language faculty and its interconnections. Help Centre. My Wishlist Sign In Join.

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Ships in 10 to 15 business days. These stipulations flag another deviation from standard generative linguistic assumptions about the evolution of the language faculty. Chapter eight is entirely devoted to this theme, where Jackendoff contends that language is by large a consequence of natural selection.

His claim is that the new grammatical machine allows for a well- articulated account of the way the human language kept enriching and adding new structures to accommodate to the increasing pressures of adequately conveying complex thoughts and concepts. The evolution of the language faculty is regarded in the author's own words, as "the successive addition of more and more 'tricks' to the toolkit".

Generative grammar, according to the author has never had a clear understanding of semantics; likewise, semantic theories have also not been very explicit in their definition of linguistic semantics and its relation to human cognition and conceptualisation. Extending on the new grammatical model, the ninth chapter argues against the reduction of semantics to syntax, instead postulating semantics as an independent combinatorial structure.

Linguistic semantics is conceptualised as arising from the interface between conceptualisation and linguistic structures corresponding to syntax and phonology. The concept of semantics is further clarified in the tenth chapter, which focuses on notions of truth and reference and the way language relates to our perception of the world and thought processes. A detailed sketch of the way, language is used to convey names, abstract objects and kinds, imparts vital inputs about the intricacies of human language.

The eleventh and twelfth chapters deal with two very important aspects of meaning, lexical semantics and phrasal semantics respectively. The author deals extensively with issues like lexical decomposition, its drawbacks and prospects, polysemy, and other subtle similarities and differences in meaning arising from levels of cognition. Building up on notions like state and event functions, the author postulates structures conceptual structures and spatial structures within lexical meaning.

The twelfth chapter draws parallels between lexical semantics and phrasal semantics to the extent that both use certain basic conceptual combinations and other principles like variable satisfaction, modification and lambda extraction.

Steven Pinker: Linguistics as a Window to Understanding the Brain

However, phrasal semantics also reflects the extremely rich and complex coordination between grammar, independent well- formedness conditions on conceptual structure and the construal of context. The final chapter presents the concluding remarks.


  1. Foundations of Language: Brain, Meaning, Grammar, Evolution.
  2. Foundations of Language: Brain, Meaning, Grammar, Evolution!
  3. Foundations of language :brain, meaning, grammar, evolution /Ray Jackendoff. – National Library;

In this approach, linguistics is elevated to the standards and sophistication expected from any genuine natural science using higher levels of abstraction to generate principles governing the phenomena under study, against the crudity of mechanistic "physicalism". As Chomsky cogitates, "A naturalistic approach to linguistic and mental aspects of the world seeks to construct intelligible explanatory theories, taking as "real" what we are led to posit in this quest, and hoping for eventual unification with the "core" natural sciences, not necessarily reduction.

The underpinning of the minimalist programme has been that a speaker's internal or individual language I-language consists of a computational procedure and a lexicon, where "language variation appears to reside". Drawing in lexical items from the lexicon, syntax generates a more complex array of features, with the generative engine bifurcating into the Phonetic Form and the Logical Form.

Foundations of Language: Brain, Meaning, Grammar, Evolution | Oxford University Press

This paradigm has come under severe criticisms from various quarters, on various issues. However, one of the major loopholes pointed out has been its undermining of the concept of semantics. Chomsky explicitly states, "As for semantics, insofar as we understand language use, the argument for a reference-based semantics apart from an internalist syntactic version seems to be weak. It is possible that natural language has only syntax and pragmatics; it has a "semantics" only in the sense of "the study of how this instrument, whose formal structure and potentialities of expression are the subject of syntactic investigation, is actually put to use in a speech community".

He goes on to propose a radical re-conception of how the brain processes language.

LINGUIST List 13.1241

This opens up vivid new perspectives on every major aspect of language and communication, including grammar, vocabulary, learning, the origins of human language, and how language relates to the real world. Foundations of Language makes important connections with other disciplines which have been isolated from linguistics for many years.

It sets a new agenda for close cooperation between the study of language, mind, the brain, behaviour, and evolution. The Complexity of Linguistic Structure ; 2. Language as a Mental Phenomenon ; 3. Combinatoriality ; 4.

Foundations of Language: Brain, Meaning, Grammar, Evolution

The Parallel Architecture ; 6. Lexical Storage Versus Online Construction ; 7. Implications for Processing ; 8. Semantics as a Mentalistic Enterprise ; Reference and Truth ; Lexical Semantics ;



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