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Foundations of Language: Brain, Meaning, Grammar, Evolution 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 858-0000623093
ISBN-10: 0199264376
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Jackendoff (linguistics, Brandeis Univ.) tackles the substantial tasks of assessing where Noam Chomsky's foundation of research has led linguistics and reinterpreting his theory of universal grammar. While embracing many of Chomsky's ideas, Jackendoff proposes his own overall theory of language. His well-documented discussion covers "combinatoriality" (or grammar rules) and language processing, as well as lexical and phrasal semantics. Jackendoff's inquiry draws on and complements research in neuroscience, psychology, and biological evolution. For example, he examines working and long-term memory in language production and, most important, discusses phonology, syntax, and semantics as parallel, equally productive, or generative aspects of language. Like Lyle Jenkins (Biolinguistics: Exploring the Biology of Language, Cambridge Univ., 2000), he emphasizes connections between language and biology. Lacking a glossary and a list of the numerous abbreviations, this work is scholarly in approach and hence less accessible than works like Trevor Harely's broad, updated The Psychology of Language: From Data to Theory (Psychology Pr., 2001. 2d ed.). It is nevertheless a significant piece of scholarship and is highly recommended for academic libraries. Marianne Orme, Des Plaines P.L., IL
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"The intellectual journey of one of the most original and creative thinkers in modern linguistics."--John R. Taylor, Studies in Language

"It's a rich mix, but one laid out in refreshingly plain language.... Provides challenging ideas and a fruitful combination of observation and analysis.... My advice is to read the book for the exceptional effort at synthesis that it is."--Merrill Garrett, Science

"A sweeping survey of every major aspect of language and communication. ... He counters the belief that language stems from syntactic structure alone."--Science News

"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

"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


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 504 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (November 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199264376
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199264377
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 1.2 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #781,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Britta Brandt on September 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover
On almost every page of this book, I encountered an something which caused my to spontaneously exclaim "exactly!" or "Wow!". I'm wrapping up my masters degree in Linguistics, and had still not found a theoretical framework within which I would have wanted to do research. My exposure to mainstream generative theories (mostly GB and Minimalism) had left me with an empty feeling inside as well as a great number of nagging suspicions that something was fundamentally wrong here. I was starting to turn into a boring anti-Chomskian and was reading up on every lesser-known grammar theory I could find in hopes of finding confirmation of the ideas of language that were starting to take shape in my head. I was also totally perplexed as to how grammar theory was supposed to integrate with psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics, and evolutionary questions.
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.
Thanks Ray!
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Format: Paperback
This is an extremely good book on the various branches of linguistics, and cognitive linguistics, and their interrelations. While this is not my field and I cannot judge how fairly Jackendoff characterizes particular lines of theory and research (mindful here of an earlier review), never have I learned so much from a single book, and I left it with a profound respect for the care with which scholars of language go about their work, and the quality of the ideas resulting therefrom.
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By S. Dardon on November 25, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is simply one of the best books I've read on linguistics ever. It has completely changed my perspective on linguistics and has convinced me I should do graduate school for it. I recently finished my BA in Linguistics but was becoming disillusioned with minimalist theory and the (in my opinion) pointless, dogmatic way of thinking on all sides (Lakoff and Chomsky come to mind). Jackendoff's book provided a breath of fresh air integrating so many facets from other disciplines in cognitive science and making linguistics relevent, if not at the forefront, of this multi-disciplinary field. I love his take on making linguistics a discipline more geared towards the sciences and setting a whole new agenda for linguistics (discovering the rules and ways the language interfaces interact). If you are intersted in linguistics, language, or just science in general, this book provides a decent intro to linguistcs and other disciplines such as cognitive psychology and neuroscience. It is one book crammed with food for thought concerning the nature of language, thought, and meaning.

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.
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