Review of Cambridge encyclopedia of language sciencesposted October 30th, 2011
Reviewed by Engin Arik, Isik University
This excellent resource book consists of a list of entries, a note, preface, acknowledgements, eight color plates of brain images, seven chapters, around 483 entries, a list of contributors, and a sixty-eight-page index.
In Ch. 1, ‘Language structure in its human context: New directions for the language sciences in the twenty-first century’ (1–11), William Croft proposes that in addition to mainstream linguistic analyses such as phonological, morphological, and syntactic structures, linguistic research will focus on the question of how context constrains language structure and use, which is fostered by theories originating in philosophy, psychology, and sociology, as well as subfields of linguistics.
In the following chapter, ‘The psychology of linguistic form’ (12–22), Lee Osterhout, Richard A. Wright, and Mark D. Allen argue that while most research supports linguistic representations distinct from motor movements, sensation, memory, and conceptual knowledge, some of these play a significant role in language processing at all levels.
In Ch. 3, ‘The structure of meaning’ (23–34), James Pustejovsky focuses on how meaning is carried in linguistic expressions, starting with lexical meaning supplemented by introductions on semantic classes, argument structure, decomposition, noun meaning, and polysemy. He also deals with sentence-level meaning focusing on compositionality and noncompositionality, quantifiers and their scope, semantic modification, arguments versus adjuncts, presupposition, and meaning at discourse level.
Florian Coulmas covers writing in a global context in Ch. 4, ‘Social practices of speech and writing’ (35–45). The author starts with technological aspects of writing from invention to digitization and ends with institutional aspects of literacy such as government, cult, schooling, and economic organization.
In Ch. 5, ‘Explaining language: Neuroscience, genetics, and evolution’ (46–55), Lyle Jenkins reviews research on left-right asymmetries and language areas in the brain, genetics and speech disorders, genetics and evolution, and studies on the DNA of hominids.
Barbara Lust takes on the field of language acquisition in Ch. 6, ‘Acquisition of language’ (56–64), beginning with a discussion on innateness, and provides an overview of the findings on language acquisition, including cross-species comparative methods and future directions.
In the final chapter, ‘Elaborating speech and writing: Verbal art’ (65–74), Patrick Colm Hogan introduces theories of language and of literature, and then focuses on topics such as indirect address, side participation, play, the purposes of verbal art, the maximization of relevance, interpretation and the uses of texts, and Shakespearean indirection.
In addition to providing excellent chapters that include suggestions for further reading, the encyclopedia covers a variety of traditional topics such as aspect, babbling, and conversational implicature; relatively new topics to the language sciences, such as brain and language, genes and language, gesture, and sign languages; subfields of linguistic study, including morphology, phonology, pragmatics, semantics, and syntax; and other subfields such as corpus linguistics, forensic linguistics, historical linguistics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, text linguistics, and typology.
Also included in the encyclopedia are theories such as cognitive linguistics, construction grammars, functional linguistics, generative grammar, head-driven phrase structure grammar, lexical-functional grammar, and usage-based theory; and theory-specific concepts such as blended space, c-command, compositionality, core and periphery, embodiment, metaphor, and representations. Each entry is very helpful because it is detailed enough to provide sufficient information about its topic (approximately 2000 words on average).