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LINGUIST List 22.616

Sat Feb 05 2011

Review: Cognitive Science; Semantics; Syntax: Jackendoff (2010)

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        1.     Fredrik Heinat , Meaning and the lexicon: The parallel architecture, 1975-2010

Message 1: Meaning and the lexicon: The parallel architecture, 1975-2010
Date: 05-Feb-2011
From: Fredrik Heinat <fredrik.heinatling.su.se>
Subject: Meaning and the lexicon: The parallel architecture, 1975-2010
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Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/21/21-1950.html

Author: Ray Jackendoff
TITLE: Meaning and the lexicon
SUBTITLE: The Parallel Architecture 1975-2010
PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press
YEAR: 2010

Fredrik Heinat, Stockholm University

SUMMARY

'The meaning and the lexicon: the parallel architecture, 1975-2010' is intended
as a thematic/chronological outline of Jackendoff's linguistic theory, known as
'the parallel architecture'. The intended audience is, according to the
publisher, ''linguists of all theoretical persuasions'', and the book should also
appeal to ''cognitive scientists, philosophers, and anyone interested in how
language operates in the mind, brain, and human communication''. It contains 13
chapters, all but the first previously published. The chapters are not ordered
chronologically, but instead around three main themes. The first theme is the
parallel architecture as a linguistic theory, the second deals with the relation
between vision and language, and the third is constructions.

The first chapter, 'Prologue: the parallel architecture and its components',
briefly introduces Jackendoff's parallel architecture and outlines the key
concepts used throughout the book. It outlines how the three generative
components of language -- syntax, semantics and phonology (presumably morphology
should be included) -- interact. The second chapter, 'Morphological and Semantic
Regularities in the Lexicon' (from 1975), attempts to formalize the relations
between lexical items (so called lexical redundancy rules) and at the same time
keep each lexical item's specific meaning intact.

The third and fourth chapters, 'On beyond Zebra: the relation of Linguistic and
Visual Information'(1987) and 'The architecture of the linguistic spatial
interface' (1996), both deal with how the brain encodes (visual) spatial
information and linguistic information, and the interface between the two types.
Jackendoff's proposal is that 3D models of lexical items should be on a par with
conceptual, phonological and syntactic information.

In chapters 5 and 6, 'Parts and boundaries' (1991) and 'The proper treatment of
measuring out, Telicity, and perhaps even quantification in English' (1996),
Jackendoff extends the notion of dimensionality from chapters 3 and 4 to events
and aspectuality. Chapter 5 focuses on the repetitive interpretation of
sentences such as 'the light flashed until dawn' and how important the notions
of path and boundedness are in the conceptual structure of phenomena as diverse
as aspect, compounding and events. Chapter 6 deals with the 'measuring out'
effect that exists in examples such as 'eat an apple' but not in 'eat apples',
or in other words, that the first example is telic and the second atelic. In
both chapters Jackendoff shows how conceptual notions that previously were
thought to be primitives can be reduced even further when the notion of
dimensionality in the spatial domain is extended to the domains of events and times.

The following chapters, 7-13 -- 'English particle constructions, the lexicon,
and the autonomy of syntax' (2002), 'Twistin' the night away' (1997), 'The
English resultative as a family of constructions' (2004), 'On the Phrase ''the
phrase 'the phrase'''' (1984), 'Contrastive Focus Reduplication in English (the
salad-salad paper)' (2004), '''Construction after construction'' and its
theoretical challenges' (2008) and 'The Ecology of English Noun-Noun compounds'
(2009), respectively -- all deal with the notion of construction. In these
chapters Jackendoff provides analyses and arguments for maintaining purely
syntactic principles (in contrast to versions of construction grammar in which
every syntactic construction has a meaning) but at the same time allowing for
meaningful constructions. The last chapter is the most recently published
(2009). Here, Jackendoff argues, on the basis of English noun-noun compounds,
that there is a generative component in semantics, just as there is in syntax.

In addition to these 13 chapters, some chapters have a few pages of remarks
preceding them, in which Jackendoff puts the chapter(s) in context, regarding
both time, and the development of the parallel architecture.

EVALUATION

Even though all chapters (except the first) have been published previously, this
volume has something new to offer the reader.

Firstly, Jackendoff has added notes that either develop alternative analyses, or
simply inform the reader what problems some of his old analyses face in more
recent implementations of the parallel architecture. Secondly, every thematic
section is introduced by a short passage where Jackendoff puts the papers in the
perspective of the research questions that were important at that time. Thirdly,
some chapters have been revised, extended and edited to reduce unnecessary
repetition of terms and technical machinery. Also, the papers contain very
helpful cross-references to each other.

Since I write from the perspective of a linguist, it is difficult to evaluate
how well suited the book is for other intended audiences, but I suppose that
many in the broadest audience named in the blurb, 'anyone interested in how
communication works', would get bogged down in theoretical technicalities and be
somewhat disappointed. But from a linguist's point of view, the book is an
excellent introduction to Jackendoff's parallel architecture. However, anyone
well-versed in Jackendoff's theory would be all too familiar with the present
papers and the issues that are dealt with, and will probably not find the book
an essential read in the development of the theory.

The overall impression is that 'Meaning and the lexicon' is a book that raises a
number of important questions regarding the interplay of syntax and semantics.
Jackendoff clearly identifies linguistic phenomena that pose problems for
several theories, modular as well as non-modular.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Fredrik Heinat holds a research position at Stockholm University. His
research focuses on the interaction between syntax, semantics and
morphology, more specifically in the realization or suppression of
arguments in relation to their licensing predicates. He's currently
investigating agent demoting constructions in Finnish, and light verb
constructions from a broader linguistic perspective. Other areas of
interest are psycholinguistics and experimental methods.
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