Monthly Archives: June 2011

Dialogue in intercultural communities

Dialogue in intercultural communities: From an educational point of view. Ed. by Claudio Baraldi. (Dialogue studies 4.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2009. Pp. viii, 277. ISBN 9789027210210. $149 (Hb).

Reviewed by Francesca Bargiela-Chiappini, University of Warwick, UK

The educational perspective of this book is quite original in its focus on intercultural communication in international villages and camps. These contexts are semi-institutional in regards to their structure, regulations, and routines, yet they are very different from, for example, international schools.

Taking stock of the failure of western cultural presuppositions (e.g. pluralism, individualism, and personalisation) to deliver a working framework for intercultural communication, Claudio Baraldi concedes that our society only admits to a particular version of cultural diversity while still speaking ‘in the name of humanity’ (11). It is against this ethical backdrop that Baraldi proposes a theoretical framework for intercultural communication in the detailed and engaging first chapter in the volume, ‘Empowering dialogue in intercultural settings’ (3–28). His approach pivots on the concept of empowering dialogue as a form of communication that encourages negotiated contributions and positive relational involvement. The application of this framework to adult-child interaction in multicultural educational settings addresses current concerns for the quality of children’s participation and self-expression. Empowering dialogue in turn is based on conditions of equity and empathy in communication and is enacted through dialogic actions that facilitate and promote participation (e.g. confirming and supporting, narrating personal histories, active listening, asking for feed-back, and constructing alternative stories).

From the methodological discussion of the project in Ch. 2, ‘The research project’ (29–46) by Claudio Baraldi, Gabriella Cortesi, and Vittorio Iervese, we learn that the theoretical framework has been deployed in the analysis of a large corpus of video-recorded interactions in eight villages and four summer camps in Italy, as well as questionnaires and group interviews with children, adolescents, and adults. The researchers were particularly interested in isolating cultural presuppositions, which are only enacted and observable in communication, hence the choice of linguistic analysis and the concentration of contextualization cues and the social constructions that they realize. The findings are discussed in eight chapters, some co-authored by Baraldi himself and his collaborators while the final chapter, ‘Conclusions’ (241–64), is by the editor. The careful distribution of the contents and the sustained editorial presence contribute greatly to the overall cohesive narrative and stylistic coherence of the volume.

While my intellectual appetite was sated by the critical and reflexive theoretical and conceptual discussions of Chs. 1 and 2, the findings of the research were a bit of a revelation. Against deeply thought-out and carefully crafted concepts and reflections on the virtues and desirability of empowering dialogue, the controversial, contradictory, and unpredictable, yet infinitely rich reality of multicultural interaction illustrated by the data analysis must have confounded even the more experienced observers. There is much to delve into and enjoy in this book, to the delight of all interculturalists, especially those with personal or professional interest in the promotion of peace and understanding in interpersonal and intercultural relations.

Cognitive pragmatics

Cognitive pragmatics: The mental processes of communication. By Bruno G. Bara. Translated by John Douthwaite. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010. Pp. xii, 304. ISBN 9780262014113. $38 (Hb).

Reviewed by Kanavillil Rajagopalan, State University at Campinas, Brazil

This book is a translation of Bruno G. Bara’s earlier work published in Italian and titled Pragmatica cognitiva: I processi mentali della comunicazione (Milan: Bollati Boringhieri, 1999).  The author’s starting premise is presented in the very opening sentence of the book: ‘Communication is a social activity that requires more than one participant for it to take place’ (1). It is both intentional and conscious. ‘The intention to communicate must be a conscious one: no unconscious intentions exist in communication…’ (ix). Communication is an all-encompassing term here. It covers both linguistic communication as well as nonlinguistic (or extralinguistic) types of communication. Thus, language in the sense of a code is neither necessary nor sufficient for there to be communication.

B proposes a theory of communication and seeks to formalize it with the help of logic and to validate it using experimental data (whether culled from existing literature or his own research). He further correlates it with findings from the neurosciences. For instance, as B explains, ‘… failure comes about either because the partner does not follow the inferential chain when he was meant to, or, conversely, because he follows the chain he was not supposed to, since the actor had proposed a nonstandard mode’ (171–72).

Crucial to B’s theoretical approach is a distinction he draws between standard communication, where all participants ‘consciously and intentionally cooperate to construct together the meaning of the interaction’ (1) and nonstandard communication (exemplified by deception, irony, and so forth). The latter is analyzed as a deviation from the former and the author offers possible solutions. In his analysis, B departs from a cognitive standpoint. He claims that his is not the point of view of an external observer; rather, it is that of the individual, presumably an insider.

The book is presented in six chapters entitled ‘Not just language: A taxonomy of communication’ (1–54), ‘Tools for communicating’ (55–92), ‘Behavior games and conversation games’ (93–130), ‘Generation and comprehension of communicative acts’ (131–70), ‘Nonstandard communication’ (171–202), and ‘Communicative competence’ (203–76).

The last chapter is ‘devoted to the evolution, development, and decay of communicative competence’ (203). B’s approach to the first is confessedly Darwinian-oriented, while his arguments regarding the second is experimental. In regards to the third topic, the decay of communicative competence, he attributes it tentatively to physiological reasons (e.g. old age) and pathological causes (e.g. brain injuries and Alzheimer’s disease). The book ends with a brief but thought-provoking section entitled ‘Silence’, in which the author distinguishes between three types of silence: noncommunicative silence, nondeliberate and aware silence, and intentionally communicative silence.

A method for linguistic metaphor identification

A method for linguistic metaphor identification: From MIP to MIPVU. By Gerard J. Steen, Aletta G. Dorst, J. Berenike Herrmann, Anna A. Kaal, Tina Krennmayr, and Trijntje Pasma. (Converging evidence in language and communication research 14.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2010. Pp. xi, 238. ISBN 9789027239037. $135 (Hb).

Reviewed by Svetlana Pashneva, Kursk State University

Metaphors play an increasingly important role in many areas of our everyday life. They can be viewed as the foundation of human knowledge and even as the prism through which we view the world. In this light it is odd that there has been hardly any sustained interest in the methodological aspects of metaphor identification. This problem lies in the centre of mainstream linguistic research, particularly when there is a need for massive annotation of language data in corpora. This book addresses the problem of metaphor identification, presenting an extensive methodological and empirical corpus-linguistic research in two languages, English and Dutch.

The volume consists of eleven chapters. Ch. 1, ‘Linguistic metaphor identification in usage’ (1–24), is introductory. It pres­ents metaphor identification procedure (MIP), developed by the Pragglejaz Group in 2007, as the first explicit and systematic procedure for metaphor identification in language use to have been tested for reliability. MIPVU (VU stands for Amsterdam’s Vrije Universiteit, where the research was carried out) is a refined and extended version of MIP. This chapter sketches the differences between MIP and MIPVU and points out the reasons for developing the latter.

Ch. 2, ‘MIPVU: A manual for identifying metaphor-related words’ (25–42), presents the complete method for the identification of metaphor in language at the level of word use. This chapter gives a detailed set of instructions for linguistic metaphor identification derived from empirical research; this procedure has been applied to about 190,000 words of English discourse and 130,000 words of Dutch discourse.

In Chs. 3–7, the authors demonstrate the method’s application to four different registers in English (news texts, conversations, fiction, and academic texts) and two of the same registers in Dutch (news texts and conversations). In each chapter they offer a combination of general considerations for finding metaphorical language, technical consider­ations of method, and more specific reflections on relations in the particular register. Chs. 8 and 9 are methodological. They evalua­te the MIPVU and present their findings through a series of successful reliability tests reported in statistical detail and a series of post hoc troubleshooting exercises.

Ch. 10 contains some of the main find­ings of the corpus annotations for the English-language project, spelling out how metaphor is distributed across the four registers (conversation, news, fiction, and academic discourse) and the main word classes (adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, determiners, nouns, prepositions, verbs, and the remainder). The final chapter briefly reconsiders the issues raised by MIP and their proposed solutions in MIPVU to show what this type of methodological attention can mean for research and theory.

The method presented in this book is an interesting challenge to the community of linguis­tic metaphor researchers, who are encouraged to be equally explicit and systematic about their procedures of data collection. It can be employed by cognitive linguists, stylisticians, discourse ana­lysts, applied linguists, psycholinguists, and sociolinguists.

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German: Biography of a language

German: Biography of a language. By Ruth H. Sanders. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Pp. viii, 240. ISBN 9780195388459. $29.95 (Hb).

Reviewed by Louisa Buckingham, Sabanci University Writing Center, Turkey

This monograph provides an approachable overview of the evolution of the German language and a history of its speakers, beginning with the prehistoric settlement of central Europe and ending with a brief description of German as spoken in four European countries and as an international language at the beginning of the twenty-first century. While intended for undergraduate students of German, it has parts relevant to students of linguistics and the history of English and is well suited to a general reader with no specific background in history or linguistics. It comprises six chapters, an introduction, and an index; each chapter contains excerpts of texts in Germanic languages or early forms of German and concludes with a timeline of relevant key dates in German history.

In the first chapter, S describes human settlement, agriculture, and social customs in Central Europe, together with a brief introduction to Proto-Indo-European, Proto-Germanic, and the first Germanic sound shift. The second chapter focuses on the survival of Germanic tribes during the expansion of the Roman Empire and their later incursions into surrounding lands, such as the British Isles, with a particular focus on the Goths and the Vikings. Ch. 3 discusses the emergence of high and low German dialects, a product of the second sound shift, which divided Western Germanic languages around 600 AD, and describes the emergence of Yiddish.

This is followed by a chapter on the role of Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible and Johann Gutenberg’s printing press in standardizing German, and the growing literacy of the populace. Ch. 5 describes the impact of German unification in 1871 on the language, the emergence of High German as the standard language and prestige dialect, and its coexistence with a variety of other dialects. Certain prominent phonological characteristics of High German are provided, and S describes the expansion of its vocabulary through the coinage of words for official functions.

The final chapter contrasts the importance of German as a language of scholarship and trade in the nineteenth century with the loss of prestige of German as an international language after the twentieth century’s two world wars. S then describes how twentieth century German literature contributed to a renewed national pride in the German language. She closes with a brief mention of the German spelling reform in 2005 and an overview of the different national standards of the German language existing in Germany, Austria, Luxemburg, and Switzerland.

As S describes social life and mores as they relate to the evolution of language and literacy, she has a general rather than specifically linguistic focus. The careful reader will find a few errors (e.g. the percentage of Germans who voted for Hitler, p.212). It is primarily oriented towards students in the US, as shown by excerpts on German migration to the US and the influence of American English on German, but is also suited to other English-speaking students.

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Companion to empire

Companion to empire: A genealogy of the written word in Spain and New Spain, c.550–1550. By David Rojinsky. (Foro hispánico 37.) Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2010. Pp. 300. ISBN 9789042028661. $87.

Reviewed by Louisa Buckingham, Sabanci University Writing Center, Turkey

This monograph examines the gradual emergence of standardized Spanish, or Castilian, in Spain and Latin America from the seventh to the sixteenth centuries. David Rojinski focuses on the role played by writing and literacy in the exercise of power (e.g. language planning policies), particularly in Spanish overseas territories, where alphabetization was a form of colonial acculturation. The work comprises six chapters, with an introduction, a postscript, and an index.

Each of the first three chapters focuses on a historical figure associated with the transition from Latin to Spanish. R uses the figures of Isadore of Seville, Alfonso X, and Antonio de Nebrija as discursive entities around which textual cultures were shaped. The following three chapters analyze the contributions of seminal figures and texts associated with the transfer of an alphabetized culture to the Americas in the sixteenth century.

Ch. 1, ‘Generating the origins of letters and kingdoms’ (31–58), analyzes aspects of the historiographical approach of Isidore of Seville manifested in his seventh century works Etymologiae, sive Origines and Historia de Regibus Gothorum. This is followed by a discussion of the expansion of vernacular writing during the reign of Alfonso X (1252–84) in Ch. 2. R examines Alfonso X’s work, Siete Partidas, as well as a contemporaneous Latinate text by Jiménez de Rada, De Rebus Hispaniae (1247). During this period of reconquest and repopulation, the author studies the acceptance of Castilian as an official written language of law on the basis of these two texts.

In Ch. 3, ‘The renaissance(s) of the “Companion to Empire”’ (93–136), R examines the function of the written word during the reign of the Catholic monarchs, and discusses different historical receptions of Nebrija’s phrase ‘siempre la lengua fue compañera del imperio’ (‘language has always accompanied the Empire’). In Ch. 4,  ‘Age of iron, age of writing’ (137–76), R uses the work of Martyr D’Anghiera, De Orbe Novo, Decades (1516), to explore manifestations of humanistic rhetoric in the context of early colonization and continued territorial conquest in the Americas. He considers the extent to which this confrontation between different peoples was interpreted as one between alphabetic and non-alphabetic cultures. In the following chapter, ‘The task of translators past and present’ (177–222), R discusses the reactions of different sectors of colonial society to Mesoamerican writing systems. He also examines how a contemporary historian, James Lockhart, viewed the alphabetic transcription of pre-Hispanic writing.

In the final chapter, ‘The violence of the letrados’ (223–260), the author examines the relationship between military expansion of the empire in the Americas and the bureaucratic conquest of the empire, for which language was a fundamental instrument. He challenges previous notions that these two activities were separate. He bases his discussion on his reading of Nuño Beltran de Guzman’s transcription of the Proceso de Cazonci (‘The Trial of the Cazonci’, 1530), focusing in particular on the relationship between the infliction of violent bodily inscriptions on the last Cazonci (‘ruler’) of the ancient kingdom of Michoacán and Guzman’s description of this act in  in the Proceso. This exemplifies the intersection of colonial law-making and colonial violence.

This is an unusual text, both in its approach and breadth of content, and will appeal to scholars of medieval Hispanic and transatlantic studies.

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Acquisition of word order in Chinese as a foreign language

Acquisition of word order in Chinese as a foreign language. By Wenying Jiang. (Studies on language acquisition 38.) Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2009. Pp. xiv, 320. ISBN 9783110216189. $140 (Hb).

Reviewed by Liwei Gao, Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center

Although Chinese is now the fastest growing foreign language, taught in many parts of the world, research on the acquisition of Chinese as a foreign language is still disproportionately scarce. This book tries to fill this gap by conducting research on the acquisition of Chinese word order by English-speaking learners. The book consists of eight chapters.

Ch. 1, ‘Introduction’ (1–22), discusses the current progress of second language acquisition (SLA) research on Chinese, the importance of word order in grammar, and the importance of word order in Chinese. In addition to defining terminology relevant to this study, the research objectives, research questions, and significance of this study are also presented.

Ch. 2, ‘Literature review (1): Theoretical approaches applied in L2 word order acquisition research’ (23–56), examines four different SLA approaches to investigating second language (L2) word order acquisition: the universal grammar, processability theory, competition model, and cognitive functionalist approaches. After comparison and evaluation, J concludes that the cognitive functionalist approach provides the most pertinent framework for her study. Ch. 3, ‘Literature review (2): Chinese L2 word order acquisition, word order errors and word order principles’ (57–110), examines existing word order error taxonomies, through which the author identifies the need for a more systematic analysis of principles of Chinese word order, and points out that taxonomies currently available are too limited for describing word order errors in Chinese as a foreign language.

Ch. 4, ‘Research methodology’ (111–34), explains how data should be collected and examined to address the research questions of this study. Here J argues for a cross-sectional research design and critically reviews the methodology of error analysis used in this study. Ways to overcome limitations of this methodology, as shown in previous Chinese L2 studies, are presented as well. Ch. 5, ‘The study’ (135–40), discusses the procedure of data collection and analysis. Details of research participants, data type, and unit of analysis are also presented.

Ch. 6, ‘A principle-based taxonomy of Chinese L2 word order errors’ (141–84), introduces a new comprehensive taxonomy of word order errors made by students of Chinese as a foreign language  incorporating existing categories from the literature and new categories that emerged from the data. This re-categorization promises a more accurate description and more concrete explanation of Chinese L2 word order errors made by English-speaking learners. Ch. 7, ‘Chinese L2 word errors: Relative frequency of occurrence’ (185–98), presents a quantitative overview of the errors collected by documenting how these errors are distributed among the different categories in the new categorization.

Ch. 8, ‘Conclusion’ (199–210), revisits the research objectives, summarizing the main findings and contributions, discussing the limitations of the study and its pedagogical implications, and suggesting topics for future study. Following the references is an eighty-five page appendix containing the word order error corpus.

This study will not only contribute to the understanding of the process of Chinese L2 word order acquisition, but also enable teachers of Chinese as a foreign language to teach Chinese, particularly its word order, in a well-informed, more effective and efficient manner.

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Introducción a la lingüística hispánica

Introducción a la lingüística hispánica. 2nd edn. By José Ignacio Hualde, Antxon Olarrea, Anna María Escobar, and Catherine E. Travis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Pp. xiv, 554. ISBN 9780521513982. $63.97 (Hb).

Reviewed by Louisa Buckingham, Sabanci University Writing Center, Turkey

This is the second edition of a university textbook for advanced students of Spanish in the US originally published in 2001. Changes include two new chapters, an extensive revision of other sections, and the incorporation of new exercises. It comprises eight chapters that range from a general introduction to linguistics as a cognitive science to dialectal aspects of Spanish. It does not assume prior knowledge of linguistics. Only two sections, the first introductory chapter and the section on pragmatics, are not specifically related to Spanish; otherwise, all chapters provide insights into varieties of Spanish, as well as such contact languages as Catalan, Basque, and Amerindian languages. In most chapters, examples of contemporary language use are provided that contrast different dialect forms (or different languages).

Each chapter begins with a statement of objectives and ends with a series of exercises (often recommending the use of the internet), a summary, and a brief bibliography. Short comprehension exercises also appear in the course of each chapter. A glossary, a bibliography for each chapter, and an index are provided at the end.

Ch.2, on phonetics and phonology (45–122), introduces the International Phonetic Alphabet with a focus on Spanish phonemes, allophones, and suprasegmentals (e.g. word stress and intonation). Variations in pronunciation are discussed with examples from a wide range of dialects, and reference is also made to current changes in pronunciation as evidenced by the speech of the youth in particular regions. The third chapter, on morphology (123–200), has a rich discussion of word derivation and compound word formation, in addition to the general overview of Spanish conjugation and gender systems. The fourth chapter, on syntax (201–78), covers simple and complex sentences in Spanish with occasional contrasts with aspects of English and Basque syntax.

The following chapter on the history of Spanish (279–339) focuses primarily on the evolution of Spanish from Latin, but includes a mention of pre-Roman languages, such as Iberian Celtic and Basque. Consideration is given to phonological, morphological, and semantic changes. After a brief discussion of the standardization of Spanish, culminating in the establishment of the Real Academía Española in the eighteenth century, and an overview of the lexical contributions from Arab and Amerindian languages, the chapter closes with a discussion of the main dialectal features of Peninsular and Latin American Spanish and a brief look at Judeo-Spanish and the Aragonese dialect.

After a general chapter on semantics and pragmatics (340–90), the penultimate chapter on variation in Spanish (391–444) covers phonological and morphosyntactic features of the more well known sociolects and diatopic variants of Spanish, and some less well documented variants such as Judeo or African Spanish. The final chapter, Ch. 8 (445–503), provides a detailed overview of phonological, morphosyntactic, and sociolinguistic features of Spanish spoken in the US. Of particular interest is the description of different Spanish dialects in contact.

This is an outstanding, professionally produced publication that students will find absorbing and motivating. A comprehensive work of this type offering such balanced and up-to-date coverage of the Spanish-speaking world is a rare find.

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World Englishes

World Englishes – Problems, properties and prospects. Ed. by Thomas Hoffmann and Lucia Siebers. (Varieties of English around the world G40.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2009. Pp. xix, 436. ISBN 9789027249005. $149 (Hb).

Reviewed by Kanavillil Rajagopalan, State University at Campinas, Brazil

This volume contains a selection of papers from the thirteenth International Association of World Englishes conference, held in Regensburg, Germany, in October 2007. The papers are presented in two parts, ‘Focus on’ and ‘The global perspective’. Part 1 is further divided into four sections: ‘Africa’ (two papers), ‘The Caribbean’ (three papers), ‘Australia and New Zealand’ (two papers), and ‘Asia’ (six papers). Part 2 is divided into two sections, ‘Comparative studies’ and ‘New approaches’.

The papers collected in Part 1 concentrate on peculiarities of specific varieties of English such as the so-called ‘GOOSE vowel’ in South African English, rhoticity in educated Jamaican English, and certain discourse particles in Indian English, as in ‘Where’s the party, yaar!’ Some of the papers report on surveys and bird’s eye views of emerging or already consolidated varieties of English such as Ghanaian English, the role of standard English in Trinidadian secondary schools, Australian English as ‘a regional epicenter’, and the intelligibility of Japanese accents.

Alongside these mostly descriptive studies, some papers address theoretically more challenging issues, such as Lisa Lim’s ‘Not just an “Outer Circle”, “Asian” English: Singapore English and the significance of ecology’ (179–206), which foregrounds the need to take the whole of linguistic ecology into account to capture its inherent dynamicity.

The papers in Part 2 are all meatier theoretically. Of the four papers in the first section, one uses empirical, mostly morphosyntactic, evidence from some World Englishes (WE) to challenge the modern linguistic sacred cow of the ‘equi-complexity axiom’. Another looks at the progressive passive against the backdrop of the tension between the global feature and local norms; and the other two address the issues of the common core of different WEs and differences in word-formation among them.

Finally, the section on new approaches addresses a host of issues like the indigenization of English in North America, English as a lingua franca, the theoretical ‘hot potato’ of the English native speaker, WEs in the context of ‘Peace Sociolinguistics’, and the sensitive topic of WEs and the literary canon.

Ever since Braj Kachru promoted the study of WEs, scholars from all over the world have contributed to its development in diverse ways. Over the years it has also become clear that these and kindred linguistic phenomena, relatively neglected in the past, can nevertheless afford us important insights into the workings of the very object of our research, language. The papers that comprise this volume will greatly contribute to that end.

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Talk in action

Talk in action: Interactions, identities, and institutions. By John Heritage and Steven Clayman. (Language in society series 38.) Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Pp. viii, 312.  ISBN 9781405185493. $39.95.

Reviewed by Richard W. Hallett, Northeastern Illinois University

This book is the result of a conversation analysis (CA) course at the University of California at Los Angeles on the topic of talk and social institutions. Its aim is to offer examples of how interactional practices can be analyzed and explained.

Following Ch 1, ‘Introduction’ (1–3), the main chapters are organized in five parts.  Part 1, ‘Conversation analysis and social institutions’, is comprised of  Ch. 2, ‘Conversation analysis: Some theoretical background’ (7–19), which briefly discusses the contributions of some linguists to CA and lists the basic assumptions of CA; Ch. 3, ‘Talking social institutions into being’ (20–33), which discusses two views of talk and social context and characterizes adjacency pairs; and Ch. 4, ‘Dimensions of institutional talk’ (34–50), which offers the characteristics and distinctiveness of institutional talk.

Three chapters constitute Part 2, ‘Calls for emergency service’. Ch 5, ‘Emergency calls as institutional talk’ (53–68), provides the hallmarks and overall structure of emergency calls. In Ch. 6, ‘Gatekeeping and entitlement to emergency service’ (69–86), the authors note, ‘Calling 911 is not like ordering a pizza’ (69), and examine callers’ practices in ambiguous and marginal cases. Ch. 7, ‘Emergency calls under stress’ (87–100), focuses on ‘hot calls’, i.e. emergency calls in which the caller is highly distraught.

‘Doctor-patient interaction’ is the theme of Part 3. Ch. 8, ‘Patients’ presentations of medical issues: The doctor’s problem’ (103–18), focuses on primary medical care. Ch. 9, ‘Patients’ presentations of medical issues: The patient’s problem’ (119–34), discusses patients’ discourse, i.e. the perceived legitimacy of their medical conditions. Ch. 10, ‘History taking in medicine: Questions and answers’ (135–53), presents four fundamental features of question design. Ch. 11, ‘Diagnosis and treatment: Medical authority and its limits’ (154–69), examines the interactional dynamics of the expression of medical authority.

Three chapters comprise Part 4, ‘Trials, juries, and dispute resolution’. Ch. 12, ‘Trial examinations’ (173–85), focuses on witness examinations and jury deliberations during trial. Ch. 13, ‘Jury deliberations’ (186–99), presents a case study, and Ch. 14, ‘Informal modes of dispute resolution’ (200–12), discusses phases of activity, participant roles, agency, and facilitation.

Part 5, ‘News and political communication’, consists of four chapters and a conclusion. Ch. 15, ‘News interview turn taking’ (215–26), delves into the complexity of the turn-taking system in interviews. In Ch. 16, ‘Question design in the news interview and beyond’ (22744), the authors claim that of all the institutions they present in this volume, ‘the news interview is the most nakedly exposed to the raw processes of social change’ (244). In Ch. 17, ‘Answers and evasions’ (24562), they offer a vice presidential debate as a case study in resistance and pursuit. They discuss the preference for ‘lists of three’ in public speeches in Ch. 18, ‘Interaction en masse: Audiences and speeches’ (263–79). In Ch. 19, ‘Conclusion’ (280–82), the authors claim that ‘Just as the workings of institutions are influenced by the interaction order, so too the interaction order is influenced by the institutional contexts of its implementation’ (280). A set of ‘Transcript symbols’ (283–87) follows the conclusion.

This volume is a good supplement to courses on CA and language and identity.

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Purely objective reality

Purely objective reality. By John Deely. (Semiotics, communication and cognition 4.) Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2009. Pp. x, 217. ISBN 9781934078082. $42.

Reviewed by Kanavillil Rajagopalan, State University at Campinas, Brazil

This volume is the fourth in a series titled Semiotics, communication and cognition, edited by Paul Cobley. It treads a fine line between the Enlightenment-inspired intellectuals who, in John Deely’s view, ‘have not the foggiest idea of what objectivity properly consists in’ (12) and the postmoderns who he thinks hold the key but do not always know where to insert it or when and how to turn it.

The book consists of two parts. Part 1, ‘What objective reality is and how it is possible’, consists of seven chapters of varying lengths. Part 2, ‘Background to the text’, consists of three chapters of roughly twenty pages each. Each of these, as the ‘Foreword’ to the book informs us, ‘derives from lectures’ given by D at the New Bulgarian University of Sofia in 2002. With chapter headings such as ‘What difference does it make what a sign is?’ and ‘The amazing history of sign’, Part 2 might strike the reader as something of an excrescence or at best an afterthought.

In a section called ‘Terminological prenote’, the author asks for the reader’s forbearance in the face of ‘old words used in new ways’ as well as new words being introduced. He acknowledges that the task at hand does call for some word-wringing. With all their enthusiasm and diligence, Enlightenment thinkers failed to properly grasp the character of objectivity, D says, despite Bishop Berkeley’s timely warnings to the moderns that ‘the primary qualities could have no other status than the secondary ones’ (4).

D’s own solution to the mental gridlock is the distinction between coenoscopic and ideoscopic knowledge, originally proposed by Jeremy Bentham and reworked by Charles Peirce, with slight orthographic reformulation at his own initiative. D conducts the reader through a most rigorous discussion, implacably splitting hairs along the way.

Arguably, his style does not always match the seriousness of the content. The opening sentence of the very first chapter is an example: ‘The word itself summarizes the problem today: ”objectivity”. Pray, tell me, what is it you are talking about?’ (14). Such casual interjections jar with such other convoluted locutions as ‘a core of experiential awareness that cannot be gainsaid without denying to the whole edifice of human understanding the status of something more than a solipsistic bubble, wherein the starry heavens that we believe in can yet never be attained through experience and knowledge’ (5). Such stylistic lapses aside, the book does provide stimulating food for thought.

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