My Top 10 All-Time-Favorite Formal Linguistics Books

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Occasionally I read a good Generative book to balance my thinking in linguistic theory…I am drawn to the ideas of formalism, usually when I am thinking about how to develop anthropological linguistic approaches for Cognitive Linguistics field work in Non-Indo-European languages, but also because I like the feel of generative thought a little.

Here are some of the generative books that I love the best:

  1. Lexical Categories – Baker
  2. Optimality Theory – Kager
  3. Phonology in Generative Grammar – Kenstowicz
  4. Tools for Analyzing the World’s Languages – Bickford
  5. Introduction to Typology – Whaley
  6. Language Form and Language Function – Newmeyer

And then there are a class of books that are in accord with generative thought (i.e., modular mind) that I find to be classic inspiration for the study of conceptualization:

  1. The Society of Mind – Minsky
  2. What Is Thought – Baum
  3. Consciousness and the Computational Mind – Jackendoff
  4. A Prosodic Model of Sign Language Phonology – Brentari

If you are a Cognitive Linguist and you are wondering for some good places to start studying Generative/Transformational/Formal Linguistics this list should be a good primer for you.  It covers all of the modules: the lexicon, phonology, syntax, morphology, meaning/semantics; as well as touching on topics like: theory of mind, compositionality, categorization, typology, rewrite rules, distribution and word order, signed languages, development, and gesture.  Enjoy!

If you are a Generative Linguist stumbling across this post and wonder where to begin reading about Cognitive Linguistics, please go to the menu of this page and select “CogLing 100 Book List” which will get you going in the right direction.  Bon Chance!

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