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Homer recounts how, trapped inside a monster’s cave, with nothing but his wits to call upon, Ulysses once saved himself by twisting his name. He called himself Outis: “No One,” or “Non-One,” “No Man,” or “Non-Man.” The ploy was a success. He blinded his barbaric host and eluded him, becoming anonymous, for a while, even as he bore a name. Philosophers never forgot the lesson that the ancient hero taught. From Aristotle and his commentators in Greek, Arabic, Latin, and more modern languages, from the masters of the medieval schools to Kant and his many successors, thinkers have exploited the possibilities of adding “non -” to the names of man . Aristotle is the first to write of “indefinite” or “infinite” names, his example being “non-man.” Kant turns to such terms in his theory of the infinite judgment, illustrated by the sentence, “The soul is non-mortal.” Such statements play major roles in the philosophies of Maimon, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, and Hermann Cohen. They are profoundly reinterpreted in the twentieth century by thinkers as diverse as Carnap and Heidegger. Reconstructing the adventures of a particle in philosophy,Daniel Heller-Roazen seeks to show how a grammatical possibility can be an incitement for thought. Yet he also draws a lesson from persistent examples. The philosophers’ infinite names all point to one subject: us. “Non-man” or “soul,” “Spirit” or “the unconditioned,” we are beings who name and name ourselves, bearing witness to the fact that we are, in every sense, unnamable.
About the Author
Daniel Heller-Roazen is the Arthur W. Marks ’19 Professor of Comparative Literature and the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University. He is the author of Echolalias: On the Forgetting of Language, The Inner Touch: Archaeology of a Sensation, The Enemy of All: Piracy and the Law of Nations, and The Fifth Hammer: Pythagoras and the Disharmony of the World, all published by Zone Books.
All languages have exceptions alongside overarching rules and regularities. How does a young child tease them apart within just a few years of language acquisition? In this book, drawing an economic analogy, Charles Yang argues that just as the price of goods is determined by the balance between supply and demand, the price of linguistic productivity arises from the quantitative considerations of rules and exceptions. The learner postulates a productive rule only if it results in a more efficient organization of language, with the number of exceptions falling below a critical threshold. Supported by a wide range of cases with corpus evidence, Yang’s Tolerance Principle gives a unified account of many long-standing puzzles in linguistics and psychology, including why children effortlessly acquire rules of language that perplex otherwise capable adults. His focus on computational efficiency provides novel insight on how language interacts with the other components of cognition and how the ability for language might have emerged during the course of human evolution.
About the Author
Charles Yang teaches Linguistics and Computer Science and directs the Program in Cognitive Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Knowledge and Learning in Natural Language and The Infinite Gift, and is currently writing a book on language change.
Can there be such a thing as an impossible human language? A biologist could describe an impossible animal as one that goes against the physical laws of nature (entropy, for example, or gravity). Are there any such laws that constrain languages? In this book, Andrea Moro — a distinguished linguist and neuroscientist — investigates the possibility of impossible languages, searching, as he does so, for the indelible “fingerprint” of human language. Moro shows how the very notion of impossible languages has helped shape research on the ultimate aim of linguistics: to define the class of possible human languages. He takes us beyond the boundaries of Babel, to the set of properties that, despite appearances, all languages share, and explores the sources of that order, drawing on scientific experiments he himself helped design. Moro compares syntax to the reverse side of a tapestry revealing a hidden and apparently intricate structure. He describes the brain as a sieve, considers the reality of (linguistic) trees, and listens for the sound of thought by recording electrical activity in the brain. Words and sentences, he tells us, are like symphonies and constellations: they have no content of their own; they exist because we listen to them and look at them. We are part of the data.
About the Author
Andrea Moro is Professor of General Linguistics at the Institute for Advanced Study IUSS Pavia, Italy, where he is also Director of the Research Center for Neurolinguistics and Theoretical Syntax (NEtS). He is the author of The Boundaries of Babel: The Brain and the Enigma of Impossible Languages (MIT Press) and other books.
An essential introduction to the pronunciation of modern German, this unique classroom text is designed to help mid- to upper-level undergraduate students of German produce more accurate and comprehensible German speech. Written in English in a clear and engaging style and employing a minimum of technical jargon, it is the first German phonetics and phonology text to focus on theory and practice, covering topics ranging from the analysis of one’s own speech to historical developments and regional variation. This work includes a wealth of exercises supported by an ancillary website audio program designed to help students perceive and produce sounds and prosodic features more accurately. Addressing topics such as word stress, sentence stress, and intonation as well as the pronunciation of individual sounds, this one-of-a-kind primer provides its users with a solid basis in German phonetics and phonology in order to improve their pronunciation of German.
About the Author
Mary Grantham O’Brien is associate professor of German at the University of Calgary in Canada, where she lives. Sarah M. B. Fagan is professor of German at the University of Iowa, where she lives.
Multiple Voices: An Introduction to Bilingualism provides a comprehensive overview of all major aspects of bilingualism. It is primarily concerned with bilingualism as a socio-political phenomenon in the world and, as such, emphasizes languages in contact, language maintenance and shift, language policy (including educational policies), and language as a social identity marker. Other topics discussed include the grammatical or cognitive aspects of bilingualism, such as codeswitching and convergence, how bilingualism appears to be organized in the brain, and how child bilingualism differs from bilingualism acquired at a later age. Designed for upper-level undergraduate or beginning graduate students, this textbook includes many detailed examples from all over the world and is written accessibly by a prominent bilingualism researcher.
About the Author
Carol Myers-Scotton is Carolina Distinguished Professor Emerita in the Linguistics Program and Department of English at the University of South Carolina. Her numerous publications include Contact Linguistics: Bilingual Encounters and Grammatical Outcomes (2002) and Social Motivations for Codeswitching: Evidence from Africa (1993).
Language is a hallmark of the human species; the flexibility and unbounded expressivity of our linguistic abilities is unique in the biological world. In this book, Morten Christiansen and Nick Chater argue that to understand this astonishing phenomenon, we must consider how language is created: moment by moment, in the generation and understanding of individual utterances; year by year, as new language learners acquire language skills; and generation by generation, as languages change, split, and fuse through the processes of cultural evolution. Christiansen and Chater propose a revolutionary new framework for understanding the evolution, acquisition, and processing of language, offering an integrated theory of how language creation is intertwined across these multiple timescales. Christiansen and Chater argue that mainstream generative approaches to language do not provide compelling accounts of language evolution, acquisition, and processing. Their own account draws on important developments from across the language sciences, including statistical natural language processing, learnability theory, computational modeling, and psycholinguistic experiments with children and adults. Christiansen and Chater also consider some of the major implications of their theoretical approach for our understanding of how language works, offering alternative accounts of specific aspects of language, including the structure of the vocabulary, the importance of experience in language processing, and the nature of recursive linguistic structure.
About the Author
Morten H. Christiansen is Professor of Psychology and Codirector of the Cognitive Science Program at Cornell University. Nick Chater is Professor of Behavioural Science at Warwick Business School, University of Warwick.
Languages differ in the types of overt movement they display. For example, some languages (including English) require subjects to move to a preverbal position, while others (including Italian) allow subjects to remain postverbal. In its current form, Minimalism offers no real answer to the question of why these different types of movements are distributed among languages as they are. In Contiguity Theory, Norvin Richards argues that there are universal conditions on morphology and phonology, particularly in how the prosodic structures of language can be built, and that these universal structures interact with language-specific properties of phonology and morphology. He argues that the grammar begins the construction of phonological structure earlier in the derivation than previously thought, and that the distribution of overt movement operations is largely determined by the grammar’s efforts to construct this structure. Rather than appealing to diacritic features, the explanations will generally be rooted in observable phenomena. Richards posits a different kind of relation between syntax and morphology than is usually found in Minimalism. According to his Contiguity Theory, if we know, for example, what inflectional morphology is attached to the verb in a given language, and what the rules are for where stress is placed in the verb, then we will know where the verb goes in the sentence. Ultimately, the goal is to construct a theory in which a complete description of the phonology and morphology of a given language is also a description of its syntax.
About the Author
Norvin Richards is Professor of Linguistics at MIT and the author of Uttering Trees (MIT Press).