Keith Douglas' Web Page

About me Find out who I am and what I do.
My resumé A copy of my resumé and other documentation about my education and work experience for employers and the curious.
Reviews, theses, articles, presentations A collection of papers from my work, categorized and annotated.
Current research projects What I am currently working on, including some non-research material.
Interesting people People professionally "connected" to me in some way.
Interesting organizations Organizations I am "connected" to. (Some rather loosely.)
Intellectual/professional influences Influences on my work, including an organization chart. Here you can also buy many good books on philosophy and other subjects via amazon.com. I have included brief reviews of hundreds of books.
Professional resources Research sources, amazon.com associates programs, etc.
What is the philosophy of computing? A brief introduction to my primary professional interest.
My intellectual heroes A partial list of important people. Limited to the dead.
My educational philosophy As a sometime teacher I've developed one. Includes book resources.

Book Influences - Linguistics

Title
Author
Purchase / Enjoy Cover
Comment
An Invitation To Cognitive Science, Volume 1: Language (2e) Gleitman and Liberman (eds.) 14 papers of generally uniformly good quality on topics related to language. Syntax, semantics, languages acquisition, neurolinguistics, etc. are all represented. As this is intended as a textbook, there are study questions and ample references for follow-up reading. My only complaint about the selections concerns "Computational Aspects of the Theory of Grammar" by Steedman. Not enough introduction to many of the techniques used in this work is made. Moreover, this work seems to point to some omissions to the volume as a whole: nowhere is there a discussion devoted to automata theory (or the Chomsky hierarchy) and their relevance to theories of language. While I am familiar (loosely) with these topics and hence can fill in a few gaps, other readers might not have this luxury in an introductory context (like a graduate course on interdisciplinary cognitive science). I would also like to learn more about what linguists say about the hiearachies in question and do not find much of that here. These limitations, however, do not detract very much from an otherwise decent book.
Contemporary Linguistic Analysis O'Grady Massive textbook of introductory linguistics.
Everything that Linguists have Always Wanted to Know about Logic but were ashamed to ask (2e) McCawley If the goal (as seems to have been the case) of this book is to have a brief introduction on everything logic-related a linguist might want to know and care about, this book is a good first approximation. However, it is ideosyncratic (to say the least) in some of its presentation and ought to be complemented with a more orthodox text. (Ideally they would encounter orthodoxy first, as this would be one trial by fire for a lot of students otherwise.) Includes exercises and (then) open problems (from time to time) as well as a very welcome list of symbols. Logicians who read the book are advised (by the author and I) to have some knowledge of approaches to natural language syntax and are also warned (by me) that the author is not above "natural language critiques" of logic and his theory of propositions is certainally in the unique category. Disclosure: I have entertained the idea that propositions are not individuated (completely) by truth conditions myself, so perhaps I am more open to the unusualness of the view. Also note that Tarski gets one mention in the entire book, which might shock some. A good book over all, but a very dense and challenging one.
The Language Instinct Pinker The reasonably technical popularization that catapulted Pinker into academic stardom.
Language, Thought and Reality Whorf The famous, but now discredited, classic.
Language, Consciousness, Culture: Essays on Mental Structure Jackendoff Noted heterodox linguist Jackendoff defends a novel semantics-centered view of language, and shows how it has fruitful consequences for exploring mental "content" and "structure" generally. In particular, he is able to produce a very detailed descriptive deontic logic. One noted feature which makes the semantic approach even more heterodox is the insistence on parallelism. This is a monumental work which should be heeded by any who are concerned with logic, semantics, philosophy of mind, psychology, etc. My only source of disagreement arises when it comes time to actually getting the data from language-oriented sources. Almost all the examples are from English; at least the author does not make the mistake of thinking that the (excellent) analysis of language reflects the world. However, he does suggest that it reflects the structure of our thought (a sort of Dummettian move). This strikes me as premature. While I am certain that the strong form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is false, I wonder if any light (or confounding matters) on the issues Jackendoff discusses could be found by attending to other languages. I am wondering about constructions like "... for ..." in English - there is no reason to suspect that all the constructions in English are paralleled in other languages.
Language in History Goad An older book, released just about at the time of the Chomskian revolution of the 1950s and pays it no notice. (This may well because the book was created from a manuscript left by the author after death.) All that to situate this odd little volume of historical linguistics of two emphases. First is the usual (by definition) language over time analysis, which I found rather lacking. Second is a more ambitious thesis, to relate national character to the use of language. A very Fichte-Heidegger-etc. thesis (the former of which he discusses twice or three times), though Goad was English. Here while much is asserted, very little is argued - the national characters (and some are of "cosmopolitian" outlook, such as that of the users of Koine Greek) are just asserted with little evidence. Worse, these are just asserted to be the same character as the writings and oral traditions dimly remembered or set down later. In this way, although there is a lot of interesting data and a lot of speculation to ponder, one has to regard the principle thesis of the book as unsupported. Note also that he makes the (perhaps historically forgivable) mistake of assuming Chinese is one language and that his focus is only on Europe. It might be remarked that I am treating this book as a work in social science, when the author was a literature person. I would rejoin that this is exactly what the subject is about - language and society, and so should be adjudicated in those lights. After all, if the author wrote a vector calculus textbook, one would evaluate it as one would any mathematics book of a similar sort, not try to take it as a piece of literature (at least alone).
Language: Its Structure and Use Finegan Another large textbook of introductory linguistics.
The Connectives Humberstone Parts as much linguistics as logic, this massive (~1400 pages, large paper size) tome is a study of exactly what the title suggests: if, and, or, not and similar words are analyzed according to various logical systems (classical logics, intuitionistic, relevance, modal, etc.) and the systems themselves are studied and interrelated. Data from natural language is used to provoke discussion. All of these factors combine to result in an immense amount of material - to the point that even the author labels some of it as "digressions" or assigns parts to exercises. Amazingly, there is still plenty of material one could include, as one can see from the references and further reading suggestions. An astonishing and in places very difficult book, but one that provides a very comprehensive reference to this important topic. I only wonder if it will spawn a sequel, presumably called The Quantifiers.
The Oxford Handbook of Computational Linguistics Mitkov Hardly a "handbook" due to its rather large size. Varying tremendously in detail and computational discussion, this is basically an annotated bibliography on many traditional topics within linguistics, language studies, etc. with the computational "theme" providing a somewhat tenuous thread. Clear and includes a glossary; however also could use a unified references section.
What is Meaning?: Fundamentals of Formal Semantics Portner Focusing on "possible worlds semantics" (with a brief mention and discussion of alternatives), this is a textbook of semantics. Reasonably clear and (introductorally) comprehensive, except when it came to some stipulative definitions of terms like "properties" which seemed to be very confused as to whether or not they were referring to mental entities or to extra-mental objects. The book also does not address non-referring items either, and hence falls prey to some of what has motivated the distinction in some circles between reference (which is the same, regardless of existence) and extension, which can be nil.
Words and Rules Pinker This popularization of studies on irregular verb formation and other other syntactic features of language is not nearly as popular as Pinker's The Language Instinct.

 

Finished with this section? Go back to the list of book subjects here.