A View of Language

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Oxford University Press, 2001 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 517 pages
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This book collects the best and most influential essays of one of the world's most original linguistic scholars and thinkers. They show Pieter Seuren's remarkable erudition from classical antiquity to current theory, his descriptive and theoretical sophistication, and his beautiful clarity ofstyle. They provide many examples of the cogency of his argument and his willingness to speak out trenchantly against accepted wisdom.In the extensive introduction the author describes the evolution of his theoretical position and its development in relation to Chomskyan syntactic theory and model-theoretic semantics. He argues here and throughout the book that grammar and semantics should be studied as branches of cognitivescience, not as mere formalisms. He propounds, develops, and applies a theory of semantic syntax in which a grammar is seen as a mediating device between propositionally structured thoughts and corresponding surface structures. He rejects conventional notions of autonomous grammar as unsustainableand, in a realist theory of language, unnecessary. He demonstrates that his semantic theory achieves empirically adequate and formally precise explanatory generalizations, developing a theory of discourse semantics as a means of providing elegant accounts of topic-comment structure. The twenty-two essays are divided into four parts dealing broadly with general theory, syntax, semantics, and the linguistics of creole languages. Many of the author's classic papers will be found here, including those on autonomous versus semantic syntax, predicate raising and datives, cliticpronoun clusters, donkey anaphora ('every man who owns a donkey beats it'), serial verb constructions, and many more. Provocative and thoughtful, accessible and entertaining, they add up to a book of real, enduring value.
 

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Contents

Language world and cognitive processing
3
Grammar as an underground process
12
Autonomous versus semantic syntax
30
Doing sums with language
55
Internal variability in competence
88
The paradoxes and natural language
119
Predicate Raising and dative in French and sundry languages
139
Negatives travels
185
an argument
312
Lexical meaning and presupposition
319
Presupposition and negation
333
Why does 2 mean 2? Grist to the antiGrice mill
384
Towards a discoursesemantic account of donkey anaphora
394
A discoursesemantic account of Topic and Comment
409
Semantic transparency as a factor in Creole genesis
421
Serial verb constructions
432

Operator Lowering
209
A problem in English subject complementation
250
Clitic pronoun clusters
267
Presuppositions and the Universe of Interpretation
293
Ocean Creoles
484
References
496
Index
511
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About the author (2001)


Pieter A. M. Seuren was lecturer of linguistics at Cambridge and Oxford universities. From 1974 until 1999 he was Professor of Philosophy of Language and of Theoretical Linguistics at Nijmegen University. Upon retirement in 1999, he became a Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics at Nijmegen. He is the author of, among others, Operators and Nucleus (1969), Discourse Semantics (1985), Semantic Syntax (1996), and Western Linguistics: An Historical Introduction (1998).

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