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"Understanding is a three-edged sword."
Ok, here's the beginning of what we hope will become a hyper-text enhanced dialectic on modern linguistic thought - framed for your convenience. We want to stress in advance that this is an experiment. There are, as of yet, no right answers to the questions contained in the study of Natural Language. It is our hope, however, that we can get a better idea of where we are going if we take an integrated look at where we've been. Be sure to let us know if you come to any conclusions. -LEXICON
Saussure and the Linguistic Sign is a small discussion which attempts to outline the origins of modern linguistic theory through an analysis of the lectures of Ferdinand de Sauussure.
A definition of Syntax is a short discussion some of the most basic assumptions in the study of word order.
Rules and Representations is a rough skech of the motivation for the Generative Tradition from the perspective of Chomsky's Rules and Representations (1980).
(And, as long as we are on the subject of Chomsky, this statement is indicative of the more political side of his personality. Relevant here is also the Independent Media Center.
Meaning and Interpretation provides some links to literature in the realm of formal semantics.
After all this talk, I bet you're wondering about the role of the lexicon.
Between syntax and semantics provides some discussions of topics which cannot easily be characterized as purely syntactic or purely semantic.
Atlas of North America (UPENN: Labov, Ash et. al.) is an on-line resource containing
geographically-oriented material related to the "sound system" of English. Some of its contents are linked
A National Map of Regional Dialects (UPENN: Labov, Ash, et. al.) is Map put together by the TELSUR (Telephone Survey) people at The University of Pennsylvania.
The Organization of Dialect Diversity in North Americais an analysis of the PANA data by Labov himself.
We see the fruits of linguistic labor in the engineering endevours of computational linguistics, empirical syntax and empirical semantics. In the next few decades, we will witness the emergence of machine translation and interpretation procedures which will revolutionize both web-search technology and our abilty to extract information from large text samples (in any language). Some of the contemporary work in the field defined by the intersection of linguistics and computer science can be found in this Index of Resources in Computational Linguistics.
Another area of inquiry which overlaps greatly with the study of Natural Language is the adoloscent field of Cognitive Science. Again, my INTENTIONS are more extenive than my ability to code a discusion of this subject - for starters, the The IRCS Homepage (UPENN: Institute for Research in Cognitive Science) is a good source.
Needless to say, Chomsky and Labov are indicative of the problem with the linguistics literature, namely, that the majority of it is written for other linguists and is difficult to read. A notable exception is Stephen Pinker's book, The Language Instinct. This book is well written, easy to read and serves as a very thorough introduction to the scientific study of language. Anyone who is even a little bit interested in how human language works should READ THIS BOOK - it is available almost everywhere.
Largely unrelated, but indicative of the present coders belief in the goals and strucutres of democracy, are these contributions to the Philadelphia Independent Media Center website newswire.