Foundations of Language: Brain, Meaning, Grammar, Evolution
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From Library Journal
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
"A sweeping survey of every major aspect of language and communication ... He counters the belief that language stems from syntactic structure alone."--Science News
"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
"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
"Jackendoff drastically overhauls linguistic theory...providing for a natural (re-)integration with psycholinguistics and the other sister sciences. Foundations of Language is a monumental scholarly achievement, which should be obligatory reading for any psycholinguist."--William J.M. Levelt, Max
Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
"Ray Jackendoff's Foundations of Language is a masterpiece. If Ray didn't have decades of research time ahead of him, I would call it the culmination of his life's work. The book deserves to be the reference point for all future theorizing about the language faculty and its
interconnections."--Frederick J. Newmeyer, Professor and Vice-President/President Elect Linguistic Society of America; Department of Linguistics, University of Washington, Seattle
"Ray Jackendoff, one of the most influential researchers in cognitive science today, offers a clear and engaging analysis of many of the raging controversies in the language sciences. 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 cognative 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."--Adele Goldberg,
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Publisher : Oxford University Press (March 28, 2002)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 506 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0198270127
- ISBN-13 : 978-0198270126
- Item Weight : 2.19 pounds
- Dimensions : 9.6 x 1.2 x 7 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,644,941 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Also, I would like to take a moment to discuss the three star review by Idiosyncrat. He says that Jackendoff dismisses things he does not understand such as Cognitive Grammar being combinatorial, and anthropological linguistics, as well as that he talks himself into a "soplipsistic" mess because he dismisses these things. First off, Cognitive grammar is combinatorial and he does not dismiss it. Second, he does not dismiss anthropological linguistics. He merely comments that their viewpoint is too shallow (i.e that language is only used for communication and it should only be studied for how it is used in a society) which I agree is true. Language has much more too offer and there is a lot more to it than just "we used it to communicate, end of story." Lastly, Jackendoff does not talk himself into a solipsistic mess. If Idiosyncrat read carefully, he would see that Jackendoff does not dismiss an external world. He merely states that we have perceptions of it (through our senses) and then our brain constructs the conceptual basis of that reality. He does not deny reality, only says that we internalize it to "create" our interpretation of the outside reality. Also, he is not speculating about this philosophically, he provides an abundance of evidence from the neuropsychology of vision and perception to make his point, and I believe, he is very convincing.
To make a long story short, reading this book amounted to the experience of having a premier linguist with decades of professional experience at the forefront of the field say: "Your suspicions are justified, you're not the only one with these questions, here are some possible answers...", and then lay out a theory that convinces through its clarity, descriptive and explanatory power, and psychological and neurological plausibility.
A side effect of reading this book is that I realized it is possible to be a nativist and a proponent of UG in spirit while also embracing advances made in connectionist, probabilistic, and statistical approaches to processing and language learning.
Top reviews from other countries
For those including myself that remain bewildered by mainstream transformational accounts of language, this book provides a clear set of reasons as to why this is.
I only hope that the field of linguistics is eventually led by such thinkers as jackendoff and the others he cites, as opposed to those that clearly take a too narrow and insulated view of language from the perspective of syntax only.
Highly recommended. A blueprint that could save linguistics.
Does Jackendoff live up to these claims? Not entirely, in my view. However, right or wrong, Jackendoff's rich synthesis of some of the distinct traditions of linguistics research is far too interesting to be ignored. For 'post-Chomsky linguisticians', sympathetic to the early Chomsky programme but disillusioned with more recent work, this book is an essential read.
Although linked by a common theme, the book's sections have different orientations. Careful arguments for the overall theme of language involving "multiple parallel generative systems linked by interface components" are accompanied by more speculative thoughts on the evolution of language and proposals for future research.
Although lively and readable, this isn't really a book for someone with no background in generative linguistics (compared to, for example, Pinker's recent "Words and Rules"). But for those with this background, buy and enjoy -- you may want to applaud or protest, but you're unlikely to be indifferent!