LINGUIST List 9.415

Thu Mar 19 1998

Books: Psycholing

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <>

Links to the websites of all LINGUIST's supporting publishers are available at the end of this issue.


  1. Kristen Mitchell, New books in PSYCHOLINGUISTICS & NEUROLINGUISTICS


Date: Thu, 19 Mar 1998 11:23:16 -0500
From: Kristen Mitchell <KKMOUP-USA.ORG>

THE ASCENT OF BABEL: An Exploration of Language, Mind, and
Gerry T. M. Altmann, University of York

"Altmann has written a cross between a textbook for beginning
psycholinguistic students and a popular science book for
laypersons.... Altmann explains in lay terms what psycholinguistics
is and how its findings affect what we know of human

Language is one of the faculties that sets humans apart from animals,
the crucial thing which makes our complex social interactions
possible. It is a faculty which demands fantastically intricate mental
and physical coordination, yet babies possess a remarkable ability to
learn its complexities from a very early age. The Ascent of Babel
explores the ways in which the mind produces and understands language:
the ways in which the sounds of language evoke meaning, and the ways
in which the desire to communicate causes us to produce those sounds
to begin with. The "ascent" symbolises different things: the
progression from sound to meaning, the ascent that we each undergo,
from birth onwards, as we learn our mother tongue, and the quest to
understand the mental processes which underlie our use of
language. Gerry Altmann leads the reader on this ascent, which
comprises a fascinating tour: from how babies learn language and how
we discriminate between different sounds, through comprehension of the
sounds and structures of language (and the pitfalls along the way), to
the production of spoken and written language, the effects of brain
damage on language, and finally the ways in which computer simulations
of interconnecting nerve cells can learn language. It is a journey of
discovery, written in an engaging and witty style, at the end of which
it becomes clear that Babel's summit - the secret of language -may
actually lie at its foundations, where babies play and language is

December 1997 272 pp.; 46 linecuts
0-19-852378-5 $27.50
Oxford University Press

Bernd Heine, University of Cologne, Germany

The main function of language is to convey meaning. Therefore, argues
Bernd Heine in these pages, the question of why language is structured
the way it is must first of all be answered with reference to this
function. Linguistic explanations offered in terms of other exponents
of language structure (for example, syntax) are likely to highlight
peripheral or epi-phenomenal--rather than central--characteristics of
language structure. Heine provides a solid introductory treatment of
the ways in which language structure (that is, grammar) and language
usage can be explained with reference to the processes underlying
human conceptualization and communication.

Exploring an area of linguistics that has developed only recently and
is rapidly expanding, Cognitive Foundations of Grammar will appeal to
students of linguistics, psychology, and anthropology, especially
those interested in grammaticalization processess.

November 1997 200 pp.; 11 linecuts
0-19-510252-5 paper $19.95
0-19-510251-7 cloth $45.00
Oxford University Press

Catherine Emmott, University of Glasgow

There has so far been relatively little research by cognitive
linguists on the comprehension of narrative texts. This book draws on
insights from discourse analysis and artificial intelligence to
explore how readers construct and maintain mental representations of
fictional characters and contexts, and goes on to consider the
implications of cognitive modelling for grammatical theory and a
literary-linguistic model of narrative text-types.

June 1997 336 pp.; 5 text-figures
0-19-823649-2 $80.00
Oxford University Press

Edited by Myrna Gopnik, McGill University, Canada

(Vancouver Studies in Cognitive Science 6)

Is language somehow innate in the structure of the human brain, or is
it completely learned? This debate is still at the heart of
linguistics, especially as it intersects with psychology and cognitive
science. In collecting papers which discuss the evidence and arguments
regarding this difficult question, The Inheritance and Innateness of
Grammars considers cases ranging from infants who are just beginning
to learn the properties of a native language to language-impaired
adults who will never learn one. These studies show that, while
precursors of language exist in other creatures, the abilities
necessary for constructing full-fledged grammars are part of the
biological endowment of human beings. The essays that comprise this
volume test the range and specificity of that endowment, while also
contributing to our understanding of the intricate and complex
relationship between language and biology.

June 1997 240 pp.; 44 linecuts
0-19-511534-1 paper $29.95
0-19-511533-3 cloth $60.00
Oxford University Press
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1998 Contributors

  • Blackwell Publishers
  • Edinburgh University Press
  • Holland Academic Graphics (HAG)
  • Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc.
  • Oxford University Press
  • Routledge
  • Walter de Gruyter