Language, Consciousness, Culture: Essays on Mental Structure

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MIT Press, 2007 - 403 pages

An integrative approach to human cognition that encompasses the domains of language, consciousness, action, social cognition, and theory of mind that will foster cross-disciplinary conversation among linguists, philosophers, psycholinguists, neuroscientists, cognitive anthropologists, and evolutionary psychologists.

Ray Jackendoff's Language, Consciousness, Culture represents a breakthrough in developing an integrated theory of human cognition. It will be of interest to a broad spectrum of cognitive scientists, including linguists, philosophers, psycholinguists, neuroscientists, cognitive anthropologists, and evolutionary psychologists.

Jackendoff argues that linguistics has become isolated from the other cognitive sciences at least partly because of the syntax-based architecture assumed by mainstream generative grammar. He proposes an alternative parallel architecture for the language faculty that permits a greater internal integration of the components of language and connects far more naturally to such larger issues in cognitive neuroscience as language processing, the connection of language to vision, and the evolution of language.

Extending this approach beyond the language capacity, Jackendoff proposes sharper criteria for a satisfactory theory of consciousness, examines the structure of complex everyday actions, and investigates the concepts involved in an individual's grasp of society and culture. Each of these domains is used to reflect back on the question of what is unique about human language and what follows from more general properties of the mind.

Language, Consciousness, Culture extends Jackendoff's pioneering theory of conceptual semantics to two of the most important domains of human thought: social cognition and theory of mind. Jackendoff's formal framework allows him to draw new connections among a large variety of literatures and to uncover new distinctions and generalizations not previously recognized. The breadth of the approach will foster cross-disciplinary conversation; the vision is to develop a richer understanding of human nature.

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User Review  - fpagan - LibraryThing

A serious inquiry that reformulates linguistic theory by eliminating syntactocentrism and the lexicon/grammar distinction. He aims to make it more compatible with other cognitive sciences and areas ... Read full review

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Page 156 - While it is possible to say that man has a nature, it is more significant to say that man constructs his own nature, or more simply, that man produces himself.
Page 166 - This means that dominance can't be a purely perceptual relation — it too needs a conceptual basis. In animal societies, dominance relations often fall into a linear order: if A is dominant to B, and B is dominant to C, then A is also dominant to C; and every individual in the group has a distinct place in the "pecking order.
Page 34 - The deep structure that expresses the meaning is common to all languages, so it is claimed, being a simple reflection of the forms of thought.
Page 30 - Grammar] as a toolkit for constructing language, out of which the child (or better, the child's brain) f-selects tools appropriate to the job at hand. If the language in the environment happens to have a case system (like German), UG will help shape the child's acquisition of case; if it has a tone system (like Mandarin), UG will help shape the child's acquisition of tone. But if the language in the environment happens to be English, which lacks case and tone, these parts of UG will simply be silent.

About the author (2007)

Ray Jackendoff is Seth Merrin Professor of Philosophy and Codirector of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. He is the author of many books, including Foundations of Language.

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