What is the role of meaning in linguistic theory? Generative linguists have severely limited the influence of meaning, claiming that language is not affected by other cognitive processes and that semantics does not influence linguistic form. Conversely, cognitivist and functionalist linguists believe that meaning pervades and motivates all levels of linguistic structure. This dispute can now be resolved conclusively by evidence from signed languages. Signed languages are full of iconic linguistic items: words, inflections, and even syntactic constructions with structural similarities between their physical form and their referents' form. Iconic items can have concrete meanings and also abstract meanings through conceptual metaphors. Language from the Body rebuts the generativist linguistic theories which separate form and meaning and asserts that iconicity can only be described in a cognitivist framework where meaning can influence form. "Language from the Body will capture the imagination of all readers who are fascinated with the human language capacity. I expect the book to stand as one of the groundbreaking works on sign language, in a line with Klima and Bellugi's The Signs of Language, which opened the field to modern investigation over twenty years ago."
Dan I. Slobin, Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley "In my view, this is more than a major contribution to modern metaphor theory, it's the most substantive advance towards a general account of the nature of the linguistic sign since Saussure and Pierce. Accessible, jargon-free, and yet full of scholarly depth, this book should be read by linguists, cognitive scientists, and by anyone intelligent who wants to know more about language and mind."
Eve Sweetser, Department of Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley "Language from the Body presents an elegant and convincing analysis of iconicity in language, a topic usually swept under the rug, particularly by sign language linguists. This original and perceptive book will be a valuable resource for both linguists and cognitive scientists."
Karen Emmorey, Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies "This book is liberating. It frees ASL from attempts to make it look as much as possible like spoken language and lets it be seen for the magnificent and poetic instrument of expression and communication that it is. In doing so, Taub changes the very idea of what a human language can be."
George Lakoff, co-author of Philosophy in the Flesh and Metaphors We Live By