Reviewed by Katrin Hiietam, Manchester, United Kingdom
This volume contains a collection of articles investigating the linguistic expressions of benefaction and malefaction, both typologically and in detailed language-specific studies. The introduction by the editors provides a thorough overview of the phenomena of benefaction and malefaction and discusses the different definitions of ‘beneficiary’ and ‘maleficiary’ offered by various researchers. For their purposes, the editors define the beneficiary as a ‘participant that is advantageously affected by an event without being its obligatory participant’ (2). They add that beneficiaries are typically animate, as ‘normally only animate participants are capable of making use of the benefit bestowed upon them’ (2).
The editors argue that a relatively loose definition, such as that given above, allows for a better descriptive crosslinguistic comparison. They conclude that beneficiaries are typically optional, unlike recipients, despite the fact that they are often coded alike; they are not agents but beneficiaries of the events, or primary targets of events that they benefit from. For this reason, they are often coded differently from patients and take oblique marking. Furthermore, the effect of the event is beneficial to beneficiaries, and this is a feature that separates them from maleficiaries and the ‘affectees’ (a cover term for both beneficiaries and maleficiaries), if we use the editors’ terminology. However, the editors note that some languages do not differentiate between benefaction and malefaction and treat them both as affectees of the event. Finally, the beneficiaries are usually animate, and this feature distinguishes them from several other non-core participants, such as instruments and locatives.
The introduction lists the formal mechanisms that are used to code beneficiaries. These are case morphology, with dative being a commonly used marker crosslinguistically; adpositions; serial verb constructions if a language possesses no case morphology; and applicativization, whereby a verb takes the applicative affix and the affectee, either beneficiary or maleficiary, takes the direct object morphology and position in a clause. In addition to these, when thinking about the semantics of the beneficiary coding, the said markers can be either specific and occur only in certain types of constructions, or they can be generic and occur in several types of construction expressing benefaction or even malefaction. The editors also discuss the polysemy of beneficiary marking and list the semantic roles that may receive identical marking across languages: recipient, possessor, maleficiary, experiencer, reason/(indirect) cause, goal, and causee.
This book contains seventeen articles, and the majority of them present studies on individual languages. However, four contributions address crosslinguistic issues, such as benefactive applicative periphrases in Eurasia, the semantics of benefactives, morpho-syntactic division of benefactives and malefactives, and the typology of purposive constructions and benefactives. The remaining articles investigate various types of benefactive constructions in a vast variety of languages, such as Salish, Toba, Mapdungun, English, Dutch, French, German, Finnish, Laz, Koalib, Gumer, Chamba-Daka, Tashelhiyt, Thai, Korean, and Japanese.
In sum, this book offers valuable insight into the questions dealing with benefaction and malefaction in languages around the world.