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Archive for 'language'

new book – ‘The Origins of Language: A Slim Guide’ by James R. Hurford

April 21, 2014

Origins of Language

Origins of Language: A Slim Guide by James R. Hurford (Oxford University Press, USA, 2014)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

Origins of Language: A Slim Guide offers a concise and accessible overview of what is known about the evolution of the human capacity for language. Non-human animals communicate in simple ways: they may be able to form simple concepts, to feel some limited empathy for others, to cooperate to some extent, and to engage in mind-reading. Human language, however, is characterized by its ability to efficiently express a wide range of subtle and complex meanings. After the first simple beginnings, human language underwent an explosion of complexity, leading to the very complicated systems of grammar and pronunciation found in modern languages.

Jim Hurford looks at the very varied aspects of this evolution, covering human prehistory; the relation between instinct and learning; biology and culture; trust, altruism, and cooperation; animal thought; human and non-human vocal anatomy; the meanings and forms of the first words; and the growth of complex systems of grammar and pronunciation. Written by an internationally recognized expert in the field, it draws on a number of disciplines besides linguistics, including philosophy, neuroscience, genetics, and animal behaviour, and will appeal to a wide range of readers interested in language origins and evolution.

Google Books preview:

See also: Author’s homepage

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new book – ‘I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey Through the Science of Sound and Language’ by Lydia Denworth

April 17, 2014

I Can Hear You Whisper

I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey through the Science of Sound and Language by Lydia Denworth (Dutton, 2014)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk)

Book description from the publisher:

An investigation into the science of hearing, child language acquisition, neuroplasticity, brain development, and Deaf culture. 

A mother notices her toddler is not learning to talk the way his brothers did… Is something wrong?  Her search for answers is a journey into the mysteries of the human brain.

Lydia Denworth’s third son, Alex, was nearly two when he was identified with significant hearing loss that was likely to get worse. Her sweet boy with the big brown eyes had probably never heard her lullabies.

Denworth knew the importance of enrichment to the developing brain but had never contemplated the opposite: Deprivation.  How would a child’s brain grow outside the world of sound most of us take for granted? How would he communicate?  Would he learn to read and write—weren’t phonics a key to literacy? How long did they have until Alex’s brain changed irrevocably? In her drive to understand the choices—starting with the angry debate between supporters of American Sign Language and the controversial but revolutionary cochlear implant—Denworth soon found that every decision carried weighty scientific, social and even political implications.  As she grappled with the complex collisions between the emerging field of brain plasticity, the possibilities of modern technology, and the changing culture of the Deaf community, she gained a new appreciation of the exquisite relationship between sound, language and learning.  It became clear that Alex’s ears—and indeed everyone’s—were just the beginning.

An acclaimed science journalist as well as a mother, Denworth interviewed the world’s experts on language development, inventors of ground-breaking technology, Deaf leaders, and neuroscientists at the frontiers of research.  She presents insights from studies of everything from at-risk kids in Head Start to noisy cocktail party conversation, from songbirds to signal processing, and from the invention of the telephone to sign language.

Weaving together tales from the centuries-long quest to develop the cochlear implant and simultaneous leaps in neuroscientific knowledge against a tumultuous backdrop of identity politics, I Can Hear You Whisper shows how sound sculpts our children’s brains and the life changing consequences of that delicate process.

Google Books preview:

See also: Author’s website

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new book – ‘Metaphor’ by Denis Donoghue

April 7, 2014

Metaphor

Metaphor by Denis Donoghue (Harvard University Press, 2014)

(amazon.co.uk)

Book description from the publisher:

Denis Donoghue turns his attention to the practice of metaphor and to its lesser cousins, simile, metonym, and synecdoche. Metaphor (“a carrying or bearing across”) supposes that an ordinary word could have been used in a statement but hasn’t been. Instead, something else, something unexpected, appears. The point of a metaphor is to enrich the reader’s experience by bringing different associations to mind. The force of a good metaphor is to give something a different life, a new life. The essential character of metaphor, Donoghue says, is prophetic. Metaphors intend to change the world by changing our sense of it.

At the center of Donoghue’s study is the idea that metaphor permits the greatest freedom in the use of language because it exempts language from the local duties of reference and denotation. Metaphors conspire with the mind in its enjoyment of freedom. Metaphor celebrates imaginative life par excellence, from Donoghue’s musings on Aquinas’ Latin hymns, interspersed with autobiographical reflection, to his agile and perceptive readings of Wallace Stevens.

When Donoghue surveys the history of metaphor and resistance to it, going back to Aristotle and forward to George Lakoff, he is a sly, cogent, and persuasive companion. He also addresses the question of whether or not metaphors can ever truly die. Reflected on every page of Metaphor are the accumulated wisdom of decades of reading and a sheer love of language and life.

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new book – ‘Words as Social Tools: An Embodied View on Abstract Concepts’ by Anna M. Borghi and Ferdinand Binkofski

March 31, 2014

Words as Social Tools

Words as Social Tools: An Embodied View on Abstract Concepts by Anna M. Borghi and Ferdinand Binkofski (Springer, 2014)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

How are abstract concepts and words represented in the brain? That is the central question addressed by the authors of “Words as Social Tools: An Embodied View on Abstract Concepts”. First, they focus on the difficulties in defining what abstract concepts and words are, and what they mean in psycholinguistic research. Then the authors go on to describe and critically discuss the main theories on this topic with a special emphasis on the different embodied and grounded theories proposed in cognitive psychology within the last ten years, highlighting the advantages and limitations of each of these theories. The core of this Brief consists of the presentation of a new theory developed by the authors, the WAT (Words As social Tools) view, according to which both sensorimotor (such as perception, action, emotional experiences) and linguistic experiences are at the basis of abstract concepts and of abstract word representation, processing and use. This theory assigns a major role to acquisition: one of the assumptions the authors make is that the different ways in which concrete and abstract words are acquired constrain their brain representation and their use. This view will be compared with the main existing theories on abstractness, from the theory of conceptual metaphors to the theories on multiple representation. Finally, the volume illustrates recent evidence from different areas (developmental, behavioral, cross-cultural, neuropsychological and neural) which converge with and support the authors’ theory, leading to the conclusion that in order to account for representation and processing of abstract concepts and words, an extension of embodied and grounded theories is necessary.

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Kindle Daily Deal for March 3 – $1.99 for ‘The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us’ by James Pennebaker

March 3, 2014

Comments (0) - language,psychology