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The Minimalist Program (Current Studies in Linguistics) 0th Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0262531283
ISBN-10: 0262531283
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

The Minimalist Program consists of four recent essays, including the previously unpublished 'Categories and Transformations, ' that attempt to situate linguistic theory in the broader cognitive sciences. In these essays the minimalist approach to linguistic theory is formulated and progressively developed.

About the Author

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor and Professor of Linguistics (Emeritus) at MIT and the author of many influential books on linguistics, including Aspects of the Theory of Syntax and The Minimalist Program, both published by the MIT Press.
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Product Details

  • Series: MIT Press (Book 28)
  • Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (September 28, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262531283
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262531283
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,095 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Chomsky's theories are complex, but so is the subject matter he deals with. He takes simple sentences of English (and, more importantly, sentences which are NOT part of English) as empirical evidence w.r.t. how the computation of human language works. It is well worth any scholar's (or amateur's) time to criticize his theorizing if he or she thinks a criticism is in order. But there is a right and a wrong way to do this, and unfortunately, people often do it the wrong way. The right way involves dealing with the subject in all of its complexity, and takes far more intellectual energy.

To take an example of the kind of work Chomsky tries to do, consider these sentences (an asterisk indicates a sentence that no native speaker of English would accept as part of his language).

1a) It seems that John is tired.

1b) *It seems John to be tired.

2a) John seems to be tired.

2b) *John seems that is tired.

As speakers of a language, we combine words into sentences in various ways. But there is no a priori reason why (1b) and (2b) shouldn't be acceptable parts of our language. Similar distinctions are pervasive throughout all human languages. The goal of Chomsky's theory is to figure out why the ill-formed sentences are not part of our language. That is, how does our brain combine words to adequately and automatically pair sound to meaning, and why are some ways acceptable and others not?

Keep in mind, any reasonably intelligent person can come up with simple or complex ad hoc rules to account for the distinctions in (1) and (2) above. I could, for example, say something along the lines of:

3) A finite verb needs a subject, and a noun phrase must be the subject of a finite verb.
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Format: Paperback
Like Chomsky's 1981 "Lectures on Government and Binding", this is a book that summarizes and synthesizes an entire research program as much as it breaks new ground. The first chapter, in fact, is itself an excellent textbook on developments in the field of syntax since Chomsky 1981 and before the Minimalist Program developed in this book. But most readers will purchase this book for the last chapter, popularly known in the field simply by the nickname "Chapter 4". This chapter, basically a book in and of itself, sketches an entire architecture for natural-language syntax, and sketches at great length all sorts of connections and consequences in other research domains.
That said, this is not a book for the unprepared. Even those very familiar with the field find Chapter 4 inordinately difficult and, at times, obscure. Fortunately, there are textbooks and papers that can provide the necessary background for this work.
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By A Customer on November 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a very interesting text. Chomsky, asks the following question in his "Minimalist Program": Suppose that we do have a basic language faculty (inherent in all people and by nature--very creative mental faculty), then what can we say about this system? How well designed is it? Can we ask deeper questions about the mind? What is the fundamental nature of human intellectual capacities? Although these of questions might be a bit premature to even pose, Chomsky gives some fascinating responses to these questions.
This book, not only summarizes some previous work, but it also breaks new ground as well. I would suggest it to anyone who is interested in the philosophical and linguistic questions of the mind and language. The only thing one should remember is that the text will be incomprehensible if he/she doesn't have a very strong background in linguistics (esp Chap 4!). If not, there are prep books that will help you understand the basic underlying concepts in the Minimalist Program. Also, Chomsky gives a lot of interviews where he explains, in lay terms, what his work is dealing with.
Lastly, regarding the other reviews, please stick to criticizing the book, and not the author. If one disagrees with what's being said, then refute the argument in an intelligble manner. Don't resort to childish name-calling, bashing and other foolish activities.
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Format: Paperback
If you are looking to learn about the minimalist program, this is not the best place to start. Even if you've had a semester or two of GB, you'll find it much more efficient to pick up a pedagogical book like Understanding Minimalism (Hornstein, et al 2005) first. Then, if you want to see how the MP got rolling (there are a few important earlier papers as well), by all means read this one. You'll find it far more rewarding and less maddening.

As for the merits of the framework itself, there is no point debating it here. Professionals have been debating it for a long time in peer reviewed journals. So ignore the straw man arguments below; if you are interested in responses and alternatives to Chomskyan syntax, look up Lappin and Johnson, Geoff Pullum, Terrence Deacon, Simon Kirby, Michael Tomasello, Adele Goldberg, Martin Haspelmath, Joan Bybee etc. That should get you started. For arguments in its favor, almost any book with "minimalism" in the title should serve. They all put forward pretty much the same justifications.
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