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BOOK NOTICES 217 fourth edition ofRobins's text (1997) brings the story up to Chomsky's government and binding theory, albeit sketcbily. There are also, of course, significant differences in perspective between M's and Robins's histories, even as they address the same facts and events. First, M's central concern is the development of general linguistics, which he sees as having been formally initiated by Saussure while having a prehistory in the evidence oflinguistic reflections ofvarious kinds. He repeatedly probes how different cultures and periods have described languages and differences between languages, endeavoring to situate (for example) Port Royal grammaire générale, or Schleicher's views of the evolution of language, in their relationships to notions about language in general. In addressing eras that left no explicit record of assumptions about language , M attempts to deduce the contents of a culture 's '[linguistic] consciousness' (41) from the properties of its orthography. Second, M's point of view is distinctly French, for instance, his remarks on how nineteenth-century French scholarship was slow to embrace comparative grammar as it developed in Germany or his extensive references to Michel Bréal and especially Antoine MeiIIet or his reliance on concepts like first/second articulation and the arbitrariness of the linguistic sign. In these ways, M offers a different line of sight on the history of linguistics relative to Robins's classic text. Both books would argue that practitioners and graduate students in the field need an infusion of historical knowledge. Some of M's reasons why linguists should learn to value the past of their discipline are worth repeating here (16-18): because it reveals and puts into context basic problems and questions of the field; because historical knowledge brings balance to overspecialization; and because it makes clear how linguists' positions in time and space have shaped, and continue to shape, their mentality and goals and the methodology and epistemology of their work. [Margaret Thomas, Boston College.] Semántica. By Richard K. Larson, David S. Warren, Juliana Freiré de Lima e Silva, D. O. Patricia Gomez, and Konstantinos Sagonas. Cambridge , MA: MIT Press, 1998. Pp. 179 (inc. 2 disks). Semántica is a softwarepackage accompaniedby a user manual that facilitates the exploration of natural language semantics using a modern graphical user interface. It enables the user to construct semantic theories interactively and in conjunction with its sister product Syntactica, which creates phrase-markers for logical analysis. Taken together, these programs are a complete system for exploring the interaction between lexical and syntactic elements in discourse. A semantic theory in Semántica consists of an interpreted lexicon and a set ofsyntactic configurations which comprises the basic referential semantics for words and phrases and which can be expanded to incorporate both spatial and temporal relationships within 'worlds'. These worlds are composed of a set of participants represented by icons in a grid which can be manipulated interactively by the user. The characteristics of these participants can be modified at any time by the user, and new participants can also be added. Truth conditions for phrase markers generated from semantic rules aboutthese worlds can be realized, and truth conditions for phrase markers in particular worlds can be evaluated. Sentences that the user supplies can then be evaluated logically in the world that has been constructed. When more than one set of truth-conditions is available, Semántica displays the entire range of possible interpretations. The system is very flexible in that semantic properties of the participants, and their relationship to each other, can be explicitly declared as can relationships between different worlds and their respective participants . The utilization of task-specific windows is the most important design feature in Semántica, facilitating the exploration of semantic theories in a simple, intuitive way. Lexical items which are associated with a set ofinterpretation statements are interpreted in a 'lexicon window'. These interpretations are then assigned to basic syntactic structures in a 'configuration window'. Truth-conditions for phrase-markers are then tested in the 't-viewer window'. This sequential approach combined with the graphical user interface would make Semántica easy to use by computer novices and experts alike. Semántica was developed as part...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-0665
Print ISSN
0097-8507
Pages
p. 217
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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