A User's Guide to Thought and Meaning

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Product Description Hailed as a "masterpiece" (Nature) and as "the most important book in the sciences of language to have appeared in many years" (Steven Pinker), Ray Jackendoff's Foundations of Language was widely acclaimed as a landmark work of scholarship that radically overturned our understanding of howlanguage, the brain, and perception intermesh. A User's Guide to Thought and Meaning is Jackendoff's most important book since his groundbreaking Foundations of Language. Written with an informality that belies the originality of its insights, it presents a radical new account of the relation between language, meaning, rationality,perception, consciousness, and thought, and, extraordinarily, does this in terms a non-specialist will grasp with ease. Jackendoff starts out by looking at languages and what the meanings of words and sentences actually do. Finding meanings to be more adaptive and complicated than they're commonlygiven credit for, he is led to some basic questions: how do we perceive and act in the world? How do we talk about it? And how can the collection of neurons in the brain give rise to conscious experience? He shows that the organization of language, thought, and perception does not look much like theway we experience things, and that only a small part of what the brain does is conscious. He concludes that thought and meaning must be almost completely unconscious. What we experience as rational conscious thought--which we prize as setting us apart from the animals--in fact rides on a foundationof unconscious intuition. Rationality amounts to intuition enhanced by language. Ray Jackendoff's profound and arresting account will appeal to everyone interested in the workings of the mind, in how language links to the world, and in what understanding these means for the way we experience our lives. Acclaim for Foundations of Language: "A book that deserves to be read and reread by anyone seriously interested in the state of the art of research on language." --American Scientist "A dazzling combination of theory-building and factual integration. The result is a compelling new view of language and its place in the natural world." --Steven Pinker, author of The Language of Instinct and Words and Rules "A masterpiece. . . . The book deserves to be the reference point for all future theorizing about the language faculty and its interconnections." --Frederick J. Newmeyer, past president of the Linguistic Society of America "This book has the potential to reorient linguistics more decisively than any book since Syntactic Structures shook the discipline almost half a century ago." --Robbins Burling, Language in Society Review "Ray Jackendoff is a monumental scholar in linguistics who, more than any scholar alive today, has shown how language can serve as a window into human nature. Combining theoretical depth with a love of revealing detail, Jackendoff illuminates human reason and consciousness in startling andinsightful ways."--Steven Pinker, Harvard University and author of How the Mind Works and The Stuff of Thought"This excellent book explains difficult topics accessibly. All readers interested in philosophy, from beginners to experienced professionals, will find it of value." --Library Journal "This volume by Jackendoff (Tufts Univ.) is anything but an average user's guide. Instead it is an uncommonly accessible introduction to the considered, and considerable, view of one of the leading thinkers studying the relationship between thought and meaning...Throughout, Jackendoff skillfullyguides readers through both the details of his view and the reasons that motivate it...Highly recommended." --Choice"Ray Jackendoff has an uncanny ability to ask interesting and pressing questions. Anyone interested in language and thought should ask such questions. The asking itself is the primary intellectual act - that, and of course the ordering of the asking, which is by no means obvious and constantlyproblematical