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Linguistics

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Linguistics

Postby Zounoko » Wed 12.27.2006 7:50 pm

Does anyone here like to read books about linguistics? What are you reading these days?

I started reading back in grade school when I found one of Mario Pei's books and then tracked down several more. I've read most of Steven Pinker's books, and right now I'm in the midst of Guy Deutscher's first rate The Unfolding of Language.

One thing I've noticed is that linguistics, like every field of social science including philosophy (!) now includes a lot of neuroscience. Also that I can no longer read many primary source articles because they are riddled with what appear to be mathematical formulae. I'm willing to assimilate jargon -- every field needs special words to handle its own concepts. And if the author is somewhat merciful, I can get through summaries of brain experiments. But mathematics?

Anyway, I recently discovered that none of the "regular" colleges around here even offer linguistics anymore, so I can't take a course. But I'd love some suggestions for further reading. (And reading on the linguistics of Japanese would be especially welcome.)

The Elephant's Child
So really, it\'s unfair to say that English spelling is not an accurate rendering of speech. It is -- it\'s only that it renders the speech of the sixteenth century. (Guy Deutcher, from The Unfolding of Language)
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RE: Linguistics

Postby skrhgh3b » Wed 12.27.2006 9:51 pm

the radical leftist in me is more interested in noam chomsky's political books :D

but next semester i'm taking a linguistics class on japanese. i'm really looking forward to that.
♪夢も見たくない 幸せなんか要らない
恋もしたくない お金なんか要らない
ぼくに必要な眠りを眠らせておくれ♪
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RE: Linguistics

Postby Zounoko » Thu 12.28.2006 1:00 am

so..... when you're done..... can I buy the books???

B)

The Elephant's Child
So really, it\'s unfair to say that English spelling is not an accurate rendering of speech. It is -- it\'s only that it renders the speech of the sixteenth century. (Guy Deutcher, from The Unfolding of Language)
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RE: Linguistics

Postby zengargoyle » Fri 12.29.2006 12:05 am

Zounoko wrote:
Does anyone here like to read books about linguistics? What are you reading these days?

Pinker, Steven - Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language
Ostler, Nicholas - Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World
I started reading back in grade school when I found one of Mario Pei's books and then tracked down several more. I've read most of Steven Pinker's books, and right now I'm in the midst of Guy Deutscher's first rate The Unfolding of Language.

One thing I've noticed is that linguistics, like every field of social science including philosophy (!) now includes a lot of neuroscience. Also that I can no longer read many primary source articles because they are riddled with what appear to be mathematical formulae. I'm willing to assimilate jargon -- every field needs special words to handle its own concepts. And if the author is somewhat merciful, I can get through summaries of brain experiments. But mathematics?

yes, mathematics. but really, in most of these cases, mathematics is just another version of jargon. mostly Predicate Logic, and Set Theory. just as jargon is a short-to-long-single-word that has a precise meaning in the domain where it is used, so too the symbols of the mathematics are just very-short-words with precise meaning in the domain. you just need to read the first few chapters of some math books on Logic and Sets and you'll have almost all you need to know.

but it's true, Language -> Linguistics -> Cognitive Science / Psychology -> Neuro Science -> Biology -> Chemistry -> Physics -> Math. math is the language of the gods, the ultimate abstraction. you'll find that with any science, the deeper you go the closer to 'just math' you get.
Anyway, I recently discovered that none of the "regular" colleges around here even offer linguistics anymore, so I can't take a course. But I'd love some suggestions for further reading. (And reading on the linguistics of Japanese would be especially welcome.)

i started oddly. i was a computer geek in the 80s, and then developed a particular interest in Artificial Intelligence which led me to the study of Consiousness which somehow led to the study of the Mind and Language. so some of my list will lean towards the Mind and Consiousness side of linguistics vs the nuts-and-bolts of studying actual languages...

go to your local library and read the 400-419 Dewey Decimal section. start with the old looking books, and eventually when you get to the newer looking books you'll find that a lot of them are just compilations of the older books... :)

mostly language wise:

Hayakawa, S.I. - Language in Thought and Action.
Chomsky (non-political stuff :) ) -- mostly not correct, but close enough and gives good background on grammar production.
Sapir and Whorf -- also not correct (in the strong interpretation of their thoughts), but the softer version of Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is coming back into fashion.

more to the Consiousness/Mind side:

Hofstadter, Douglas -- Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid. a totally *fantastic* book that starts with easy concepts and progresses to the majorly difficult. this book will teach you all the math you will need, and then some (and you may not even notice that you're being taught...). his Metamagical Themas is also worth reading...
Dennett, Daniel -- Consciousness Explained and The Mind's I(with Hofstadter).

web stuff, if you haven't found these already... great places to start reading regularly:

http://www.languagehat.com/
http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/
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RE: Linguistics

Postby Zounoko » Sat 12.30.2006 11:28 am

Hi, Zengargoyle!

I have read the Hofstadter and Dennet you mention, back when they came out. Dennet is in fact the author I was thinking of when I said "if the author is merciful". Consciousness Explained is by no means an easy read, but Dennet is good at explaining at a level that a lay reader can comprehend.

The other things on your list are interesting. I've read the Pinker, but not the Ostler. I'll put that on my list after I finish Deutscher. Have you read that one, btw?

Historical linguistics is definitely my cup of tea, Back when I was studying Talmud, my teacher was an Ugaritic maven. (This was back when the Ugaritic texts were pretty new and exciting stuff, in the late 70's.) So Deutscher's discussion of how the Semitic verb system -- what he calls abstract templates and the tradition calls "houses" -- could have evolved, makes very interesting reading for me. There is also an interesting section in which Deutscher explains the forces that build up and tear down language -- sort of the plate techtonics of language! :) I've reached the final chapter of the book, but there are a series of appendices that add another hundred pages after that...

Anyway, I will also check the library (which is now reconstituted after a year or more of being under construction) and the next time I come across the book on Japanese linguistics that disappointed me so, I'll give it another go.

The Elephant's Child
So really, it\'s unfair to say that English spelling is not an accurate rendering of speech. It is -- it\'s only that it renders the speech of the sixteenth century. (Guy Deutcher, from The Unfolding of Language)
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Joined: Thu 09.14.2006 10:32 pm


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