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David Adger

Language Unlimited

The Science Behind Our Most Creative Power

Oxford University Press 2019

New Books in AnthropologyNew Books in LanguageNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in PsychologyNew Books in ScienceNew Books in Science & Technology February 4, 2020 John Weston

David Adger is Professor of Linguistics at Queen Mary University of London. He has served as President of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain...

David Adger is Professor of Linguistics at Queen Mary University of London. He has served as President of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain since 2015, and has authored a number of monographs on syntactic theory, in addition to the widely used undergraduate textbook Core Syntax: A Minimalist Approach (Oxford University Press, 2003).

In his book, Language Unlimited: The Science Behind Our Most Creative Power (Oxford University Press, 2019), Adger brings foundational ideas in the cognitive science of language to a popular audience. The book moves quickly from an engaging call to linguistics to the three deep explanatory features of human language that frame the rest of the book, namely: our “sense” of syntactic structure; compositionality; and recursivity. Adger explores these deep aspects of language in areas such as how children learn languages, why some kinds of languages are unlearnable, and the apparent uniqueness of human linguistic ability, but also in less familiar territory such as constructed languages, the relationship between formal linguistics and sociolinguistics, and the difference between human learning and machine learning. In typically infectious and energetic style, the book even devotes two chapters to making binding theory and Merge accessible to a general audience.


John Weston is a University Teacher of Academic English in the Language Centre at Aalto University, Finland. His research focuses on the relationships between language variation, knowledge and ethics. He can be reached at john.weston@aalto.fi and @johnwphd.