How is the meaning of natural language interpreted? Taking as its point of departure the logical problem of natural language acquisition, this book elaborates a theory of meaning based on syntactical rather than semantical processes. Hornstein argues that the traditional neoFregean approach taken by Davidson, Barwise and Perry, and Montague, among others - an approach that makes use of semantical notions like "truth" and "reference" - should be replaced by a theory drawn from the syntactical vocabulary of generative grammar. Surprisingly, the book points out that linguistic competence can be acquired despite the degeneracy, finiteness, and deficiency of the environmental stimulus, and it characterizes those innate aspects of the mind which enable a child to develop into a native speaker.
In eight chpaters it investigates the issue of pronoun binding, relative quantifier scope, the treatment of definite descriptions, as well as more technical issues in current theoretical linguistics.
Norbert Hornstein is Assistant Professor in the Linguistics Program at the University of Maryland.