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REVIEWS979 point is that 'the condition for successful science is that nature should have joints to carve it at: relatively simple subsystems which can be artificially isolated and which behave, in isolation, in something like the way that they behave in situ.'(\28) Modules, F says, satisfy this condition; central processes do not. If true, this is bad news for those who wish to study semantics. The burden which F puts on them is that they must demonstrate that computational formalisms exist which can overcome the problems he enumerates. These formalisms will have to be invented, because F maintains that no existing formalisms are capable of solving the problems. Not everyone will agree with all of F's arguments, and many will be unhappy with his conclusions. But his book is important; it should spark much discussion and inspire research. F's theory has advantages insofar as it addresses questions of performance quite explicitly, and provides a clear link between the study of the mind and that of neurological mechanisms. To be sure, I would have liked more explicit discussion of the relation between competence and performance, since F's theory seems to bring this issue to the fore once again; one gets the impression, though, that we will be hearing more on this topic. In F's 1975 work, one got the impression that he had been dragged (kicking and screaming, perhaps) to his conclusions; but here one feels that he likes the place where his arguments have taken him. In any event, with all the loose talk of modules and modularity which circulates these days, Fodor has done us a service by pulling together various views, and attempting to put the notion of modularity on relatively firm foundations. REFERENCES Block, Ned. 1980. What is functionalism? Readings in philosophy of psychology, ed. by Ned Block, 171-84. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Chomsky, Noam. 1980. Rules and representations. New York: Columbia University Press. Fodor, Jerry A. 1975. The language of thought. New York: Crowell. ------. 1981. The mind-body problem. Scientific American 244:1.124-33. McGurk, H., and J. MacDonald. 1976. Hearing lips and seeing voices. Nature 264. 746-8. Meyer, D., and R. Schvaneveldt. 1971. Facilitation in recognizing pairs of words: Evidence of a dependence between retrieval operations. Journal of Experimental Psychology 90.227-34. Miller, George A. 1956. The magic number seven plus or minus two. Psychological Review 63.81-96. [Received 23 September 1983.] The language lottery: Toward a biology of grammars. By David Lightfoot. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1982. Pp. xii, 224. $17.50. Reviewed by Lyle Jenkins, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston With regard to the study of grammar, one can distinguish two quite different orientations. One approach studies grammar as a biological object; thus the theory of generative grammar initiated by Chomsky regards the study of (uni- 980LANGUAGE, VOLUME 60, NUMBER 4 (1984) versal) grammar as part of the study of the genetic bases of human language, and this may be termed the biolinguistic approach. By contrast, some other approaches to universal grammar might be termed abiologic. As a case in point, Thomason (1974:2) notes that Montague regarded the study of (universal) grammar as a branch of mathematics, not of psychology. Again, Bever 1982 (following Katz) has argued for a 'platonic linguistics' in which linguistics has the status of a non-empirical science, like the study of geometry. And in a polemical article in this journal, Gross 1979 takes an even more extreme position : neuro-psychological translation of the formalism of generative grammar comprises a 'new metaphysics', and such work is 'mystical'. Given the current polarization and divergence in approaches in linguistics, as regards the relation of grammar and biology, one can only welcome the timely appearance of Lightfoot's book, which clearly presents and expertly defends the biolinguistic approach of generative grammar. The audience which L has in mind are linguists (including laymen interested in language), biologists, and people from the related fields of ethology, psychology, anthropology, philosophy etc. This book would be an excellent choice as the linguistic selection in an interdisciplinary course setting, e.g. a seminar on the cognitive sciences. Chap. 1, 'The biological view', introduces the traditional...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-0665
Print ISSN
0097-8507
Pages
pp. 979-982
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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