"As far as I am concerned, Lamb's stuff is the hottest thing in our field today. What impresses me is that it is a realistic approach to the whole business of language-in-action (as over against some abstract theory), providing not only for what we have learned about the workings of language in our long tradition but also apparently matching the way we suspect the brain works."

Charles F. Hockett, Gladwin Smith Professor Emeritus of Linguistics and Anthropology, Cornell University; author of Man's Place in Nature, The View from Language

"Lamb ... has now come into his own. His Pathways of the Brain is a major work of linguistic scholarship that is fully compatible with the new thinking in neuroscience. It also brings out how essential it is to model the linguistic system as a whole if linguistics is to be taken seriously among the sciences ...."

M.A.K. Halliday, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, University of Sydney; author of An Introduction to Functional Grammar, On Grammar

"This treatise is a modern classic. It should be essential reading for anyone involved in disciplines ranging from philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience to neurology and neurosurgery. Dr. Lamb goes to the epicenter of controversial and elusive concepts such as ‘memory’, ‘mind’, and ‘language’ with a masterful correlation and application of linguistics to neuroanatomical interpretation. This is sadly lacking in the training of professionals who apply current concepts of cognition in research projects and in patient care on a daily basis. Reading the book has changed the way I think about cerebral function and dysfunction."

Richard M. Hirshberg, M.D., FACS; Academic Chief (ret.), Neurosurgery Section, St. Joseph Hospital, Houston, Texas

"In this fascinating and beautifully written book, Sydney Lamb takes the novice reader step by step through what we know about human language, building gradually more complex models of what the brain must be like in order to account for our linguistic capacities. He then turns to evidence from neurology, in order to test these predictions devived from the study of language. Lamb invites his readers to work through the arguments themselves; reading the book is thus a journey of exploration. ... In a fascinating chapter near the end of the book, Lamb makes a powerful critique of illusions about language which are common among both linguists and educated laypeople. If you have ever wondered what there is in the brain which makes us able to learn to understand and produce spoken and written language, this book is a must read."

David Hitchcock, Professor of Philosophy, McMaster University; author of Critical Thinking

"... I've gone through [Pathways of the Brain] and enjoyed every chapter. Refreshing interlinkages galore! Clear thinking, vivid and aposite graphics, and wonderful quotes."

Harold C. Conklin, Crosby Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Yale University; author of The Study of Shifting Cultivation, Ethnographic Atlas of Ifugao

"I've realized recently how much my thinking about language has been influenced by my reading of Lamb's earlier work. I've come to the conclusion that language is a cognitive network (just as he said) in which the labels are optional extras (just as he said), and in which processing involves spreading activation across the network (just as he said). Now he presents the theory in a new form and with further elaboration, including a learning hypothesis and an attempt to relate the networks of the theory to actual brain structures."

Richard A. Hudson, Professor of Linguistics, University College London; author of Word Grammar, English Word Grammar

"If there is one Cognitive Linguist who is widely known for having succeeded in capturing the biological reality not just to some extent, but (in my view) to a very considerable extent, and to present that reality, in its full complexity, to his fellow linguists in a relatively easy-to-follow way, it must be Sydney Lamb. ... In his newly published Pathways of the Brain ..., he provides a fascinating neurocognitive account of the workings of language (and other cognitive abilities). He builds bridges to other disciplines, instead of isolating linguistics from other scientific endeavours, as ignorance of those other scientific endeavours often compels individual scholars to do."

Bert Peeters, Senior Lecturer in French and Convenor of the French Programme, University of Tasmania; author of Diachronie, Phonologie, et Linguistique Fonctionnelle

"I am going over this book again and again and it gives me the same pleasure and excitement as the first time I read it. I am neither a linguist nor a neuroscientist, but I am a language teacher and a voracious reader. Dr. Sydney Lamb's Pathways of the Brain is the most fascinating book I have read in a decade. Dr. Lamb takes our hand and leads us gently in the exploration and in the discovery of another reality, that of our brain's powerful and fantastic connectivity. The author, a scholar and celebrity in his field, is also a poet in his own right. Indeed he has a special way of developing hypotheses and of dealing with complex matters by using beautiful metaphors and highly effective comparisons, blending it all with wit and charm. This is a book you cannot put down. It is difficult to imagine anyone who would not find something of interest in it. It is as exciting as a work of fiction while being a scholarly treatise on linguistic knowledge ... a thorough investigation in this vast field, full of human interest."

Anna Caflisch, Lecturer in Italian Language and Culture, Rice University

"What a great book!  I...found it to be an intellectual adventure, a tour de force of seminal ideas and expository writing."

Andrew Yiannias, retired businessman

"Lamb's approach is convincing and certainly inspiring; he provides new insights into the connection of language and the brain and, at the same time, challenges some key assumptions of linguistic theory, thereby making Pathways of the brain illuminating reading."

Zoltan Dornyei, linguist, University of Nottingham


My mind is woven of fine thread
infinitely finer than the spider’s web,
filaments fine enough to knit the texture
and elusiveness of my thoughts.
Invisible hands reach from my senses
and from my body
to interlock and intertwine in myriad ways
with thoughts already born
and thoughts waiting to be born.
Unceasing involutions
of the new and old
create new paths in my brain
melding with other pathways
and pathways of pathways
numbering beyond the atoms of the
visible universe.
My mind has grown from a few stars
into hierarchies of stars,
then galaxies and clusters
and daily reaches upward.
It sees a leaf as an instance of life,
a work by Michelangelo
as an epiphany,
DNA and the design of the eye
as the workings of someone
whose pathways encompass mine.

A.J. Yiannias

This poem was inspired by my reading of Sydney Lamb’s book "Pathways of the Brain."

Contents | Preface | Excerpts from Chapter One | Author

Pathways of the Brain Homepage