More New Books in Language interviews

Posted on May 1, 2014 by

George Walkden has been carrying out more interviews for the New Books in Language podcast.

The first is with Aneta Pavlenko on her book The Bilingual Mind. From the interview page:

Aneta Pavlenko‘s book The Bilingual Mind And What It Tells Us about Language and Thought (Cambridge University Press, 2014), covers a range of issues in the relationship between language and cognition, and its core thesis is that study of the monolingual mind in isolation is simply not enough to shed light on all aspects of the human mind. Drawing on a variety of sources, from traditional psycholinguistic experimental work to literary case studies and her own experience growing up as a bilingual, Professor Pavlenko debunks myths surrounding the so-called Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, and argues that even the coldly rational edifice of linguistic theory is shaped by the language backgrounds of the individual theorists involved. In this interview we discuss all of this and more, including some of the big questions that face twenty-first-century research into linguistic cognition.

The second is with David Adger, on his book A Syntax of Substance. Here’s the blurb from the interview page:

Nouns are the bread and butter of linguistic analysis, and it’s easy not to reflect too hard on what they actually are and how they work. In A Syntax of Substance (MIT Press, 2013), David Adger tackles this question, as well as others that are just as fundamental to the way we think about syntax. The book takes nouns to specify “substances”, and Adger defends the view that nouns, unlike verbs, never take arguments. Moreover, he marshals evidence to show that some of the constituents that have been traditionally taken to be arguments of nouns, such as the PP “of Mary” in “the picture of Mary”, are actually not that closely connected to the noun syntactically at all. But the book’s not just about nouns: it presents a radically innovative way of building and labelling phrase structure within Minimalism, denying the existence of functional heads and allowing unary branching trees.

In this interview we talk about the differences between nouns and verbs, and the evidence for this difference from a variety of languages, in particular Scottish Gaelic. After outlining the theoretical machinery that David deploys in order to account for these facts, we then move on to discuss the status of hierarchies of functional categories and the implications of this new syntactic system for cross-linguistic variation, grammaticalization, and the evolution of language.

Manchet previously reported on interviews with Jonathan Bobaljik, John Joseph, Elly van Gelderen, and Peter Trudgill.