Monthly Archives: December 2010

Languages and parliaments

Languages and parliaments: The impact of decentralisation on minority languages. By Heiko F. Marten. (Languages of the world 37.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2009. Pp. 360. ISBN 9783895862984. $106.68 (Hb).

Reviewed by Esther Núñez Villanueva, Bangor University

Minority issues in Europe have attracted a good deal of interest within the last few decades due to the growth of regionalism after World War II. In the process, a considerable number of regions within the European Union have become self-governed. Against this background, this book evaluates the effects of political decentralization on minority languages in Europe. To achieve this, Heiko F. Marten conducts a careful and thorough comparison of two minority languages spoken in communities who have recently established their own parliaments: the Sámi language in Norway and Scottish Gaelic in the UK.

The choice of languages for the analysis is a clever one. The situation of both languages is superficially similar. Both languages are threatened minority languages spoken in remote areas within strong political nations and have received scarce attention from central government. The process of political decentralization in the two areas has occurred within ten years of each other and both regional governments have created specific policies for language protection and revitalization.

The first section of the book is devoted to an overview of the theoretical issues relevant for the ensuing analysis. The topic of the book bridges several fields within linguistics and political sciences and, consequently, this section is somewhat eclectic, touching upon the literature on linguistic rights, theoretical models for analyzing the status of minority languages, and aspects of parliamentary functions.

The book is divided into three more sections, two of which are devoted to painting a detailed picture of the linguistic and political situation of each of the chosen regions. The history of the language, the number of speakers, the domains in which the language is spoken, and the relationship between language, ethnicity, and identity are extensively reported. The opening of the regional parliament and its work on linguistic issues follow, concluding with the assessment of the impact of such events on the choice of language in different domains (e.g. education, politics, business settings). This approach allows M to build a before and after picture of each language situation, which is one of the strongest points of the volume.

The final section is an extensive comparison of both linguistic situations. M’s analysis  reveals that the linguistic rights-approach of the Sámi parliament has been more successful than the linguistic planning carried out by the Scottish parliament. Factors that contributed to the lesser success in Scotland are brilliantly discussed in this chapter.

This volume will be of interest for researchers of sociolinguistics, language planning, and language revitalization as well as for policymakers. Some linguists might find the sections devoted to policy analysis tedious and think that such an amount of detail was unnecessary. It is possible that those interested in the fine detail of policymaking may think otherwise. The tables are extremely useful to follow the discussion. Further inclusions of maps and a glossary of abbreviations would have been desirable and would have made the volume more user-friendly.

Scottish Gaelic speech and writing

Scottish Gaelic speech and writing: Register variation in an endangered language. By William Lamb. (Belfast studies in language, culture and politics, 16) Belfast: Cló Ollscoil na Banríona [Queen’s University Belfast], 2008. Pp. 330. ISBN9780853898955. $54.45.

Reviewed by Thomas Stewart, University of Louisville

In this book, William Lamb has set himself at least two ambitious goals: presenting Scottish Gaelic (SG) both structurally and sociolinguistically, while collecting, tagging, and statistically characterizing a representative corpus of the language. The book constitutes a valuable contribution on each of these counts.

In Ch. 1 ‘Introduction’ (17–22), L provides a targeted overview of register research, including the question of whether endangered languages tend toward reduced stylistic variation (a point that L concludes need not be true). Ch. 2 ‘Spoken and written registers and Scottish Gaelic’ (23–38) fleshes out the relationship between corpus linguistics and the empirical description of putative registers—drawing especially upon the work of Douglas Biber (Variation Across Speech and Writing, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988)—and provides a survey of the few previously published studies on SG registers. Ch. 3 ‘Scottish Gaelic sociolinguistics’ (39–51) presents a concise characterization of modern SG’s status as a living language today, with attention to its limited geographical distribution, its generational decline, and its history of limited outlets in print publication.

Ch. 4 ‘Methodology’ (52–72) stands as the core of the book. In this chapter, general and language-specific descriptive issues are addressed, as is the rationale for L’s choice of four spoken registers (conversation, radio interview, sports broadcast, and traditional narrative) and four written registers (academic prose, fiction, popular writing, and radio news scripts) for inclusion in his corpus (81,677 words in all; see also Appendix 2 ‘List of texts in corpus’). In order to identify trends in the corpus, significant text-tagging was undertaken, addressing multiple levels of linguistic structure (see also Appendix 3 ‘Full tag set’). L takes special care in the exposition of statistical tests and computational techniques, which are well explained and motivated.  Appendix 1 ‘A descriptive grammar of Scottish Gaelic’ is also a helpful reference for the reader, not only for this chapter but for the entire book. It consists of a revised SG grammar based on L’s earlier work  (Scottish Gaelic, Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2002),

Ch. 5 ‘Information structure and clausal types’ (73–101), Ch. 6 ‘Morphosyntax and the lexicon’ (102–49), and Ch. 7 ‘Noun phrase grammar and complexity’ (150-–71) report the results for patterns of distribution for the various tags within and across the eight source-types. This identification of tag clusters and correlations feeds directly into Ch. 8, which lays out a systematic summary description of the ‘Profiles of the individual registers’ (172–85). Ch. 9 ‘Conclusions’ (186–96) provides not only reflections on the results and on the inductive and deductive methods employed in the process of discerning registers in SG speech and writing, but also clear evidence in support of the conclusion that SG is not stylistically impoverished, despite its endangered circumstances.

Superb in how it anticipates and supplies what readers may need to know at any given moment, this insightful study of discourse and register is of particular interest to SG and other Celtic language scholars. Additionally, this book serves as a methodological demonstration of corpus linguistic work in dialogue with register theory.

Handbook of intercultural communication

Handbook of intercultural communication. By Helga Kotthoff and Helen Spencer-Oatey. (Handbook of applied linguistics 7.) Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2009. Pp. xxi, 560. ISBN  9783110214314. $59.95.

Reviewed by Eric A. Anchimbe, University of Bayreuth, Germany

This volume is the seventh of nine in the series Handbooks of applied linguistics. One of the aims of this series is to ‘show that applied linguistics can provide or develop instruments for solving new, still unpredictable problems’ (xii). Without purporting to provide only solutions to problems in intercultural communication, the volume uses multidisciplinary perspectives to explore intercultural communication, communication practices and processes, and intercultural competence in different sectors of life and in different discourses. Discourses from multicultural sectors, such as the workplace, healthcare system, legal contexts, schools, media, and business and social relationships, are succinctly investigated with the help of frameworks from linguistic anthropology, cognitive pragmatics, social psychology, cultural theory, and sociolinguistic theory.

The volume adopts a pragmatic approach to explaining intercultural communication, based on the premise that ‘people regard themselves as belonging to different social groups’ and only end up forming communities through contact and socialisation processes. Interaction is at the center of these processes since it is the ‘dynamic process through which people jointly construct (consciously and/or unconsciously) their multiple identities’ (2). The twenty-four chapters of this volume (grouped into five parts) are held together by this stance. Each part is introduced by an informative editors’ introduction.

Part 1, ‘Multidisciplinary perspectives on intercultural communication’, contains six papers that focus primarily on cultural influences in communication (John Gumperz and  Jenny Cook-Gumperz), cognitively-based cultural impacts on communication (Vladimir Žegarac), psychology and intercultural communication (Madeleine Brabant, Bernadette Watson, and Cindy Gallois), emotions and intercultural adjustments (David Matsumoto, Seung Hee Yoo,  and Jeffrey A. LeRoux), and intercultural conflict (Nathalie van Meurs and Helen Spencer-Oatey).

Part 2, ‘Intercultural perspectives on communicative practices and processes’, describes the interconnectivity of cultures through communicative genres (Susanne Günthner), workplace humour (Meredith Marra and Janet Holmes), rituals and style (Helga Kotthoff), meaning negotiation in lingua franca (Christiane Meierkord), and culture and interpreter behaviour (Helen Spencer-Oatey and Jianyu Xing).

Some of the theoretical perspectives described in Parts 1 and 2 are applied to real life situations in the six papers in Part 3, ‘Intercultural communication in different sectors of life’, especially, healthcare settings (Celia Roberts), international business and management (Peter Franklin), Aboriginal legal contexts (Diana Eades), schools (Albert Scherr), media (Perry Hinton), and intimate relationships (Ingrid Piller).

Part 4, ‘Issues and debates’, makes a general appraisal of discrimination in discourse (Martin Reisigl), power and dominance (Winfried Thielmann), communicating identity (Janet Spreckels and Helga Kotthoff), and communities of practice (Saskia Corder and Miriam Meyerhoff).

In the final section, Part 5, ‘Assessing and developing intercultural competence’, the focus is on the intercultural competence and its assessment (Elisabeth Prechtl and Anne Davidson Lund), intercultural training (Martina Rost-Roth), and workplace communication training (Jonathan Newton).

In all, this volume accomplishes the major objective of demonstrating that  applied linguistics uses linguistic knowledge for the purposes of solving real world problems. The multidisciplinary perspectives and the varied sectors of life in which they are applied bring the professional and non-professional, the researcher and student, and the linguist and non-linguist closer to determining the function of communication, interaction, and diversity in intercultural and multicultural contexts. Lastly, the inclusion of articles that focus on many countries indicates that monolingual national boundaries are giving way to multicultural structures. We must continue to adopt these types of interdisciplinary approaches in order to understand the changing realities.

Multidisciplinary approaches to code switching

Multidisciplinary approaches to code switching. Ed. by Ludmila Isurin, Donald Winford, and Kees de Bot. (Studies in bilingualism 41.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2009. Pp. xviii, 364. ISBN 9789027241788. $143 (Hb).

Reviewed by Diana M. Carter, Bangor University

This volume presents the contributions from a multidisciplinary workshop on codeswitching held at Ohio State University in December 2007. The aim of the collection is to promote an interdisciplinary approach to research on codeswitching, which integrates the perspectives of linguistics, psycholinguistics, and sociolinguistics.

The first section of the volume, Part 1: ‘Psycholinguistic studies’, is comprised of seven psycholinguistics chapters. Jeanette Altarriba and Dana M. Basnight-Brown present an overview of current studies that focus on the processing of code switched words in sentences in Ch. 1, ‘Empirical approaches to the study of code-switching in sentential contexts’ (3–25). In Ch. 2, ‘Language selection and performance optimisation in multilinguals’ (27–51), Renata F. I. Meuter provides a survey of empirical psycholinguistic studies that are concerned with the optimization of language performance in multilinguals. Janet G. van Hell and Marijt J. Witteman, in Ch. 3 ‘The neurocognition of switching between languages: A review of electrophysiological studies’ (53–84), discuss the techniques and findings of neuro-imaging studies that have been used in codeswitching research.

Kees de Bot, Mirjam Broersma, and Ludmila Isurin present a framework for triggering in codeswitching and discuss current relevant research in Ch. 4, ‘Sources of triggering in code switching’ (85–102). Their chapter provides a detailed theoretical background that complements the subsequent chapter by Mirjam Broersma, Ludmila Isurin, Sybrine Bultena, and Kees de Bot, Ch. 5, ‘Triggered code switching: Evidence from Dutch-English and Russian-English bilinguals’ (103–28), which is an empirical study that looks at the effects of trigger words on the rate of codeswitching at the lexical level. In Ch. 6, ‘Two speakers, one dialogue: An interactive alignment perspective on code-switchin in bilingual speakers’ (129–60), Gerrit J. Kootstra, Janet G. van Hell, and Ton Dijkstra argue that the main unit of analysis in the study of codeswitching should be dialogue rather than individual utterances, and suggest that interactional alignment is the main cognitive mechanism. Viorica Marian concludes this section in Ch. 7, ‘Language interaction as a window into bilingual cognitive architecture’ (161–85), by exploring the role of linguistic environment and the structural aspects of language during language production, specifically focusing on bilingual switching and transfer.

Part 2 ‘Sociolinguistic and linguistic studies’ presents studies that discuss codeswitching from a sociolinguistic and linguistic perspective. In their sociophonetic study of codeswitching, Ch. 8 ‘Trying to hit a moving target: On the sociophonetics of code-switching’ (190–206), Barbara E. Bullock and Almeida Jacqueline Toribio compare voice onset times to examine crosslinguistic influences at the phonetic level for Spanish-English bilinguals. In Ch. 9, ‘Which language? Participation potentials across lexical categories in code-switching’ (207–42), Janice L. Jake and Carol Myers-Scotton discuss and test the matrix language frame model and its predictions through the analysis of codeswitching examples from a variety of languages. Katja Francesca Cantone and Jeff MacSwan, in Ch. 10 ‘Adjectives and word order: A focus on Italian-German code-switching’ (243–77), adhere to a minimalist approach in their study of codeswitching within determiner hhrases, based on experimental and naturalistic data.

Donald Winford argues that there are similarities between the processes underlying bilingual speech production and the creation of contact languages in Ch. 11 ‘On the unity of contact phenomena and their underlying mechanisms: The case of borrowing’ (279–305). Ad Backus, in Ch. 12 ‘Codeswitching as one piece of the puzzle of language change: The case of Turkish yapmak’ (307–36), proposes that both psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic methods should be used in the study of contact-induced language change, supporting his argument with a case study of Turkish immigrants in The Netherlands. The final chapter of the volume is provided by Terence Odlin, who discusses the differences between transfer and codeswitching in Ch. 13, ‘Transfer and code-switching: Separate territories but common concerns on the border’ (337–58).

The discursive construction of national identity

The discursive construction of national identity. 2nd edn. By Ruth Wodak, Rudolf de Cillia, Martin Reisigl, and Karin Liebhart. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009. Pp. x, 276. ISBN 9780748637348. $45.

Reviewed by Eric A. Anchimbe, University of Bayreuth, Germany

This second edition of The discursive construction of national identity is a revised and extended version of the 1999 edition (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press), itself a translation of the German original, Zur Diskursiven Konstruktion Nationaler Identität (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1998). It contains a new final chapter, Ch. 8 ‘The “story”continues: 1995-2008’ (203–45), based on ‘new, salient developments that deserve our critical attention’ (vii)

Ch. 1, ‘Introduction’ (1–6), sets the stage for the description of Austrian national identity and its construction in discourse by assuming that ‘discursive constructs of nations and national identities…primarily emphasise national uniqueness and intra-national uniformity but largely ignore intra-national differences’ (4). Ch. 2, ‘The discursive construction of national identity’ (7–48), focuses on the discursive construction of national identity as a general phenomenon that can be studied using critical discourse analysis. Several facets of identity—individual, national, and narrative constructions—are discussed before the authors settle on constructions of nation. A comprehensive review of scholarly literature on Austrian identity follows in Ch. 3, ‘On Austrian identity: The scholarly literature’ (49–69). Historical issues such as Austrian-German relationship (the German-Question), Austria’s socialist past, integration into Europe and her permanent neutrality are discussed. Ch. 4, ‘The public arena: Commemorative speeches and addresses’ (70–105), analyses commemorative speeches and public addresses to show how these discourses construct a common Austrian political history as the speakers ‘drew upon the repertoire of classical rhetorical topoi’ (71).

Ch. 5, ‘Semi-Public discussions: The focus group interviews’ (106–45), turns to the semi-private sphere by analyzing focus group interviews with people of various occupations across Austria. Most speakers emphasize the uniqueness and intranational homogeneity of Austria. Ch. 6, ‘Semi-private opinions: The qualitative interviews’ (146–85), analyzes the semi-private opinions recorded in the focus group interviews and shows how Austrian identity is discursively constructed. Ch. 7, ‘Conclusion: Imagined and real identities–The multiple faces of the homo nationalis’ (186–202), reconciles the notions of imagined and real identities used extensively in the book. In the final chapter, the authors summarize events since 1995 and analyze three recent phenomena that confirm their initial hypotheses, albeit with minor differences: in spite of the populist rhetoric of recent EU-integration years, Austria has still not arrived in Europe (243).

This edition lives up to the praise its earlier editions earned as it describes the construction and reconstruction of Austrian national identities, and it remains a major classic textbook and research companion for the study of the discursive construction of national identities. Among its strengths is the use of authentic data to explicate choices and priorities in identity construction at the national level.

Let’s talk turkey

Let’s talk turkey: The stories behind America’s favorite expressions. By Rosemarie Ostler. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2008. Pp. 252. ISBN 9781591026259. $18.98.

Reviewed by Marc Pierce, University of Texas at Austin

This book explores the origins of various expressions found in American English. Rosemary Ostler has published extensively on such topics and maintains two informative and interesting websites ( and It treats over 150 such expressions in four major sections: ‘The natural world’; ‘Business, politics, and society at large’; ‘Culture and amusements’; and ‘The home front’, each of which is divided into various chapters (for instance, the section on ‘The natural world’ contains chapters on ‘The great American outdoors’ and ‘Behaving like an animal’.) Sample entries include both older expressions like ‘build a better mousetrap’ (traditionally attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson) and more recent terms like ‘jump the shark (derived from a 1977 episode of the television program Happy Days in which the character Fonzie jumps over a shark while waterskiing).

The entries briefly outline the meanings of the terms and consider possible etymologies, and often conclude with discussions of current uses of the terms. For example, the entry on ‘be out in left field’, glossed by O as ‘[h]ave an extreme opinion or unorthodox approach, which is probably wrong … [or to] be away from the center of activity’ (162), found in the section on ‘Culture and amusements’, first defines ‘left field’, and then notes that it has been attested since at least the 1930s. (A 1937 article in the San Francisco Chronicle uses the term, indicating that it must have been reasonably well-established by that time.) O then reviews three proposals of the origin of the term: (i) that it originated in the 1920s when Babe Ruth was playing right field for the Yankees, and people who bought tickets to sit in the opposite end of the field from Ruth were both foolish and far from the action; (ii) that it arose from a geographic coincidence, as the left field wall at the West Side Grounds in Chicago, home of the Chicago Cubs from 1893–1915, abutted the Neuropsychiatric Institute of the University of Illinois, so ‘anyone playing near the left field was getting close to mingling with psychiatric cases’ (163); and (iii) that in many early baseball stadiums, left field was farther from home plate (and thus the action of the game) than right field was. The third hypothesis is in fact O’s own proposal; she rejects the first on the grounds that Ruth ‘batted left-handed, so presumably he would have hit the ball into right field as well’ (163), and the second because the Neuropsychiatric Institute did not abut the West Side Grounds during the time the Cubs played there. The entry concludes with a few notes on current usage, considering the parallel expression ‘come out of left field’ and the political implications of the term, among other issues.

This is a very fun book—informative, readable, and a handy guide to numerous Americanisms. It is well worth the purchase price, and the time and energy to read and digest it.

The study of language and translation

The study of language and translation. Ed. by Willy Vandeweghe, Sonia Vandepitte, and Marc Van de Velde. (Belgian journal of linguistics 21.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2007. Pp. v, 200. ISBN 9789027226815. $138.

Reviewed by Taras Shmiher, Ivan Franko National University, Ukraine

This volume contains twelve papers from a conference on 12-14 January 2006 at University College Ghent under the auspices of the Belgian Linguistic Society.

In ‘Introduction’ (1–10), Willy Vandeweghe, Sonia Vandepitte, and Marc Van de Velde sketch the contribution of linguistics to the development of Western translation studies (e.g. machine translation, corpus studies, text linguistics). They also state the objectives and main ideas of this collection—shaping the corpus approach in translation research.

Within the framework of this corpus-based research in translation studies, Mona Baker (11–21) analyzes the use of idioms in English texts. Explicitation, simplification, normalization, and standardization in the translation of idioms are studied on the basis of the Translation English Corpus and the British National Corpus. Sara Laviosa (123–36) puts forward a corpus-based methodology for the study of anglicisms in business discourse and focuses on the lemma business in Italian. The study by Josep Marco and Josep Guzman (155–70) investigates how five verbs that frequently occur in English fiction denoting bodily expression (i.e. frown, gasp, shrug, sniff, and stare) are rendered into Catalan.

Anna Espunya (67–86) discusses whether the pragmatic-cognitive principles of informativeness, claimed to influence explicitness in monolingual discourse, plays a role in translational explicitation as well. Her report focuses on the use of connectives in rendering complex sentences in English-to-Catalan translation. Patrick Goethals (87–103) explores how parallel corpus research can generate hypotheses that are relevant to contrastive linguistics, translation studies and text linguistics. The data suggest a contrastive difference between demonstrative and non-demonstrative definite determiners in Spanish and Dutch.

Sandra L. Halverson (105–21) studies translation shifts from the perspective of cognitive linguistics and links the shifts posited in translation research to a construal operation. Marjatta Lehtinen (137–54) compares the relationship between clause structures and the construal of subjectivity in English and Finnish.

Andrew Chesterman (53–66) discusses similarity analysis, which entails both sameness and difference in the linguistic form of a translation. Similarity is perceived through its nature as a multi-place predicate and the difference between divergence and convergence. Kris Buyse (23–36) presents the results of a quantitative analysis of the prosodic and pragmatic features of clitic pronouns in French-to-Spanish translation. This can contribute to improving the translation competence of native and non-native translators.

Christiane Nord’s article (171–84) suggests a methodology for comparing intercultural speech acts with reference to a corpus of English, German, Spanish, and French university manuals and textbooks. The paper by Jana Chamonikolasová and Jiří Rambousek (37–52) is dedicated to the use of diminutive expressions in English and Czech original texts and their translations. The study confirms the very frequent occurrence of diminutives in Czech compared to English.

The volume closes with Sonia Vandepitte’s meaning description model (185–200), which starts from Paul H. Portner’s concept of formal semantics (What is meaning? Fundamentals of formal semantics, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005) and includes the propositional content of the message with its truth conditions.

Development of nominal inflection in first language acquisition

Development of nominal inflection in first language acquisition: A cross-linguistic perspective. Ed. by Ursula Stephany and Maria D. Voeikova. (Studies on language acquisition 30.) Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2009. Pp. xi, 448. ISBN 9783110188400. $123 (Hb).

Reviewed by Dimitrios Ntelitheos, United Arab Emirates University

This is a collection of papers focusing on the early stages of the development of nominal case and number morphology, following in most cases the constructivist (non-nativist) theoretical framework of pre- and protomorphology. The introduction by Ursala Stephany and Maria D. Voeikova discusses how the papers in the volume document the transition from a premorphological to a protomorphological stage.

F. Nihan Ketrez and Ayhan Aksu-Koç discuss the emergence of nominal inflection categories in Turkish and provide evidence for three periods of morphological development. Klaus Laalo examines the same inflectional paradigms in Finnish using diary data and finds rote-learned words very early on. An increase in the number of nouns in the output results in individual case-marking patterns, showing early creativity in the production of morphological patterns.

Barbara Pfeiler provides data from Yukatec Maya, a language with optional plural marking affected by animacy restrictions, with regard to whether plural marking is acquired in the same way as in better studied languages with obligatory plurals. Reili Argus focuses on the early development of case and number in Estonian. Rote-learned words with variations in marking appear at around 1;0, as well as patterns of deletion during a trochaic stage. Melita Kovačevoć, Marijan Palmović, and Gordana Hržica focus on the emergence of the nominal inflectional system in Croatian. Children show similar patterns of case development very early, mostly in restricted contexts of use.

The discussion moves to Russian, with Natalia Gagarina and Maria D. Voeikova, who establish criteria for statistical measures of development and especially the establishment of developmental stages. Ursula Stephany and Anastasia Christofidou show that children construct different inflectional paradigms for different gender classes of Greek nouns. Number distinctions develop first within each noun subclass. Nominal inflection starts with unmarked final vowels, but as the children seem to learn them as frames within specific contexts, the authors consider them uninflected. Katharina Korecky-Kröll and Wolfgang U. Dressler discuss the acquisition of number and case in Austrian German nouns and show that the frequency of inflectional units in the input plays an important role in the early stages of morphological development. The emergence of nominal number in Italian is discussed by Sabrina Noccetti, who shows that children go through four stages of morphological development.

Carmen Aguirre and Victoria Marrero discuss the acquisition of Spanish number morphology and show that plural paradigms develop first in nouns, then in adjectives and determiners. Marianne Kilani-Schoch focuses on the development of fusional number marking (e.g. liaison and portmanteau forms) in French nouns and verbs. Finally, in one of the few studies of the acquisition of Arabic, Dorit Ravid and Rola Farah deal with plural marking in early Palestinian Arabic. Arabic plurals can appear in two patterns, a linear affixal pattern and a nonlinear root-template pattern, which the authors show are acquired in a non-uniform way subject to frequency effects.

Those who are interested in language development or in morphology and its emergence as a grammatical system will gain numerous insights from the papers in this collection.

A morphosyntactic analysis of Surinamese Dutch

A morphosyntactic analysis of Surinamese Dutch. By Christina Mary De Kleine. (LINCOM studies in Germanic linguistics 25.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2007. Pp. vi, 184. ISBN 9783895863882. $100.38.

Reviewed by Elly van Gelderen, Arizona State University

Suriname is linguistically well known for Sranan Tongo, an English-based creole that serves as a lingua franca for the South American country. However, many other languages are also spoken in Suriname, including Javanese, Chinese, Arawak, Carib, Maroon, and a variety of Hindi. Dutch is the official language, and although it has been spoken in Suriname for at least 300 years, very little research has been done on the linguistic features of this variety. Well into the twentieth century, it was argued that Surinamese Dutch was identical to the Dutch spoken in The Netherlands. Furthermore, Surinamese Dutch has not been mentioned in the major grammars, even those that investigated varieties other than Standard Dutch. Therefore, Christina De Kleine’s study is a welcome investigation into the language.

The data come from spontaneous speech of Creoles (i.e. descendants of West African slaves and Europeans), who make up about a third of a population. The Creole’s variety of Dutch was selected because it is the closest to European Dutch and because the Creoles are politically and educationally dominant (5). Ch. 2 reviews previous studies on Surinamese Dutch and discusses the controversies that surround its acceptance as a genuine variety. Ch. 3 provides a history of the use of Dutch in Suriname, and Ch. 4 reviews the current sociolinguistic situation of the country.

Chs. 5, 6, and 7 discuss the verb phrase, the noun phrase, and the clause, respectively. The main differences between Surinamese and European Dutch concern valency and the tense, mood, and aspect system. For example, although the future auxiliary gaan ‘go’ is quite common in Surinamese, it is used in very limited ways in European Dutch. The Surinamese Dutch phrase ga je natuurlijk toestemming moeten hebben [go you naturally permission must have] ‘you are of course going to have to have permission’ (51) is ungrammatical in European Dutch, which would instead use moet je natuurlijk toestemming hebben [must you naturally permission have].

The noun phrase of the two varieties differs, for example, in the use of die: it functions as a demonstrative in European Dutch but as an article in Surinamese Dutch. In contrast to European, Surinamese plurals are often not marked on either the noun or by agreement on the verb and pronouns are losing grammatical gender. Additionally, word order in Surinamese Dutch is not strictly verb-second and subordinate clauses are not strictly subject-object-verb. Surinamese clauses are introduced by zeg ‘say’ and van ‘of’ and relative pronouns are replaced by dat ‘that’.

Ch. 8 discusses the differences between Surinamese and European Dutch in terms of internal and external change, and Ch. 9 provides a summary and conclusion. A lengthy glossed transcription of interviews with three of the Creoles offers a glimpse of the language and the method of interviewing.

This book provides fascinating data on Surinamese Dutch, especially on auxiliaries, demonstratives and articles, word order, and complementizers. It also offers a nice overview of the sociolinguistic situation and history of Dutch in Suriname.

Classifying the Austroasiatic languages

Classifying the Austroasiatic languages: History and state of the art. Paul Sidwell. Munich: Lincom Europa. Pp. vi, 158. ISBN 9783929075670. €112.

Reviewed by Dimitrios Ntelitheos, United Arab Emirates University

This book serves as a reference to and brief historiography of Austroasiatic linguistics, the study of around 150 languages that are spoken in South and Southeast Asia. In the introduction, Sidwell discusses the emergence of Austroasiatic as a distinct language family and how constituent branches relate to each other. The book is divided into two main parts. The first part looks at the language group as a whole historiographically. The second part looks at each branch of the family in detail and surveys the literature devoted to each branch.

The section ‘The Austroasiatic phylum’ starts with a look at the first stage of scholarship on the language group in the years 1850-1950 with early works by James Richardson Logan, Francis Mason, Friedrich Max Müller, Robert Needham Cust, Augustus Henry Keane, Charles Forbes, and others. These grammarians wrote the first grammatical sketches of languages spoken in the region, by which they were the first to recognize their common characteristics and group them into a family, initially termed the Mon-Anam family.

A neogrammarian approach arose in the period 1900-1950 with the work of Wilhelm Schmidt, who proposed a classification of Austroasiatic composed of three main groupings: group 1 with Semang and Senoi; group 2 with Khasi, Nikobar, Wa, Palong, and Riang; and group 3 with Mon-Khmer, Munda, and Tscham. Schmidt’s ideas were not well received at the time, most notably by Charles Blagden, who proposed a different classification with Mon-Khmer dominating. Others, like George Grierson, were more sympathetic to Schmidt’s proposals and adopted his classification.

Comparative studies emerged in greater numbers in the second half of the twentieth century. One of the first classifications in this period came from Heinz-Jürgen Pinnow, who proposed nine main groups for the family. The new field of lexicostatistics also appeared during this period, which led field workers to collect survey word lists. They applied these lists to lexicostatistic methodologies that relied on arbitrary universal sets of meanings and ignored geography. The results obtained indicated a new way of dividing the larger groups into subgroups and caused a new wave of classification attempts based on statistical data. Thus, Gérard Diffloth published a classification in the 1974 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica recognizing the three main groups of Munda, Nicobarese, and Mon-Khmer, each with a number of subgroups. As S summarizes, the field is far from settled as scholars continue to revise the classifications

The second part of the book discusses in more detail each of the branches that are widely accepted. There are long sections on the Aslian, Bahnaric, Katuic, Khasian, Khmeric, Khmuic, Monic, Munda, Nicobaric, Palaungic, Pearic, and Vietic branches. Each section discusses the languages that are held to belong to the branch, their geographical distribution, and the scholarship dedicated to these specific languages. It also provides maps and color plates that illustrate the geographical organization of the branch and its internal classificatory structure.

This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the linguistic diversity of South and Southeast Asia, the Austroasiatic family, or any of the different subgroups or individual languages within the family. The literature review is thorough and researchers can find their way easily amid the rich work in the field.