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LINGUIST List 20.3718

Sun Nov 01 2009

Books: Neuroling/Semantics: Fortescue

Editor for this issue: Hannah Morales <hannahlinguistlist.org>

Links to the websites of all LINGUIST's supporting publishers are available at the end of this issue.
        1.    Jennifer Tighe, A Neural Network Model of Lexical Organisation: Fortescue

Message 1: A Neural Network Model of Lexical Organisation: Fortescue
Date: 27-Oct-2009
From: Jennifer Tighe <jtighecontinuumbooks.com>
Subject: A Neural Network Model of Lexical Organisation: Fortescue
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Title: A Neural Network Model of Lexical Organisation
Series Title: Continuum Studies in Theoretical Linguistics
Published: 2009
Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd

Book URL: http://www.continuumbooks.com/books/detail.aspx?BookId=134253&SearchType=Basic

Author: Michael Fortescue
Hardback: ISBN: 9781441111432 Pages: 248 Price: U.K. £ 75.00

"Michael Fortescue sets forth "to provide a bridge between neurology and
theoretical linguistics" and a patient reader can only conclude that he
accomplishes this rather daunting, synthetic task exceptionally well.
Neuroscientifically, the author is very well-informed, building on the work
of established authorities such as Deacon and Pulvermüller, but mostly on
the relatively less-known model of Yves Burnod. As an established
cognitive-functional linguist, however, he far surpasses such work in
linguistic coverage, rigor and theoretical sophistication.

In the first part of the book, Fortescue develops a neurologically
plausible model of the mental lexicon, distinguishing systematically
between sensori(motor) affordances, and what he calls 'mirco-functional
affordances' (of key importance for grammar) and 'macro-functional
affordances' (related to pragmatics and context), and at the same time
shows how they are integrated in speech production and comprehension. An
important contribution is a three-dimensional graphic representational
format, which may at first appear complicated, but is clearly worth the
effort, since it possesses considerably more structure than alternative
(connectionist) models, and therefore possibly for the first time shows how
language could be neurally realized. In part 2, the model is applied to
phenomena that have concerned linguists for quite some time: semantic
fields, compositionality, grammatical constructions, polysemy (including
metaphor and metonymy) and cross-linguistic variation (typology), both
casting new light on them theoretically, and showing how they could be
treated neuroscientifically. The third and final part is reserved for the
most difficult issues: the relations between lexicon, grammar and context
in language use and acquisition, and concludes by specifying predictions
that can be experimentally tested. All this makes this book truly deserve
the rather overused epithet 'ground-breaking'".
- Associate Professor Jordan Zlatev, Centre for Cognitive Semiotics, Lund
University, Sweden

"Ambitious and thought-provoking: finally, a book that bridges the divide
between neurology and theoretical linguistics. Professor Fortescue provides
an important contribution to neurolinguistic modelling in the area of
lexical organisation. This is set to be required reading for anyone
interested in the nature of language and how it is represented in the brain."
- Professor Vyvyan Evans, School of English and English Language, Bangor
University, UK

This is an engaging study of the mental lexicon: the way in which the form
and meaning of words is stored by speakers of specific languages. Fortescue
attempts to narrow the gap between the results of experimental neurology
and the concerns of theoretical linguistics in the area of lexical
semantics. The prime goal as regards linguistic theory is to show how
matters of lexical organization can be analysed and discussed within a
neurologically informed framework that is both adaptable and constrained.
It combines the perspectives of distributed network modelling and
linguistic semantics, and draws upon the accruing evidence from
neuroimaging studies as regards the cortical regions involved. It engages
with a number of controversial current issues in both disciplines. This
text is intended as a tool for linguists interested in psychological
adequacy and the latest advances in Cognitive Science. It provides a
principled means of distinguishing those semantic features required by a
mental lexicon that have a direct bearing on grammar from those that do
not. A Neural Network Model of Lexical Organisation is essential reading
for researchers in neurolinguistics and lexical semantics.

Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science

Written In: English (eng )

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